How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

Guest post by laterose
us blue eyes jc

About a year ago, I attended a friend's wedding. It was a perfect May day, the flowers were just so, and the bride herself was stunning. Even still, my fiancé and I got into his car at the end of the night, and spent the whole ride home wondering why the wedding had felt so… not them. It was as if we had walked into anyone's wedding, and aside from some very sweet vows, it felt like we were celebrating a watered-down version of the geeky, gamer couple that I knew and loved so much.

Since my fiancé proposed, this one experience has given us a mantra: that is not how we want our wedding to feel. We have decided to get married on the stage of an old theater (since we both majored in theater in college), followed by a reception at a planetarium, where we can dance under the stars as we celebrate our love of sci-fi and fantasy with little touches like a TARDIS and a Firefly suspended above the giant moon-bar in the lobby. We want to pull colors from Tom Baker's famous scarf, and name each table after one of the geeky things we love to do together. We want to dance to Weird Al and Jonathan Coulton, and quote every geeky thing we can think of. Needless to say, we've been really excited about it!

Enter an awkward conversation two weeks ago…

I was gushing about my ideas to my sister (one of my bridesmaids) over a birthday dinner when one of my mother's friends jumps in and asks if I am ready to have some of my guests not understand the references I'm making.

“It's not necessary,” I smile. “If even a few people get them, I'll be happy.”

She responded, “So, you want to invite people to your wedding, and then make them feel left out because they don't understand the reference you're making?”

I am thrown. I want to make this wedding about us, and these are the things that brought us together. The idea of a glossary has been discussed, but how could you make something that wasn't clunky? And it's not like I can give people homework in the invitation! (“Go and watch at least one season on Doctor Who, all of Firefly, and read the following Shakespearean sonnets before attending.”)

Basically, can we [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing our guests?

Comments on How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

  1. We did guidebooks instead of programs that basically outlined everything that was going to happen for the day and everything that people might not get. Our tables had a super hero theme. The escort cards were a hero nd they and to match the hero to the villain to find their table. Not everyone had the slightest idea what hero went with which baddie, so we had people on hand to help out those that were clueless in that department. Only a few people gave us the impression of being ostracized at all (and we were expecting them to be. They’re just like that), while everyone else a so impressed that we did such a stellar job of representing us in our day that if they had questions, they just asked. The wedding is about you nd and celebrating you as a couple. Do your thing, and the guests will be on board. If they’re not, it’s really they’re loss.

  2. If you’re concerned that explanations of geekery (or really anything non-traditional) will take up too much space in a program, or if you just want to save paper, I’d suggest creating an “FAQ” section on your wedding website. You can use it to explain anything your guests might not understand, and even include links to helpful material (show episodes, movie clips, wikipedia articles, whatever) if they’re interested in perusing further. An “FAQ” section can also be useful for other sorts of information related to the wedding (for example, my boyfriend and I have been discussing a camp-out sort of wedding, so one of our questions may end up being, “Where can I take a shower at the campground?”). You can also use it to direct people to when you get sick of explaining and re-explaining your various choices, or anticipate questions people might have. All around a pretty useful thing, I think. 🙂

  3. I totally get this. TOTALLY. We’re doing a Route 66 themed wedding, but it will have plenty of Chicago, California and a few geeky references in there since he proposed in front of the Route 66 sign in Chicago with a TARDIS ring box in hand.

    After that, we went to a wedding that seemed so impersonal- from the pastor who clearly didn’t know the couple, but they felt they HAD to have a pastor from their faith do the ceremony (tradition) to the cookie cutter centerpieces and “safe” and recognizable wedding music that “everyone would get and like,” (literally what the groom told us… he felt that same pressure to be all inclusive).

    We don’t want songs that are only played at weddings (YMCA, Celebrate and anything Michael Jackson or pop that we don’t like) and we don’t care if someone doesn’t appreciate the Blues Brothers singing “Sweet Home Chicago” at our California wedding, or the noise the TARDIS makes when the party starts.

    Uh, what?? “make them feel left out.” So..with that line of thinking, if your friends aren’t Jewish, you shouldn’t invite them to your Jewish ceremony? Or if they don’t drink wine, you shouldn’t serve it at all, to anyone? If they don’t speak Spanish, you shouldn’t allow someone to speak it during the ceremony or party? To me, that is so silly…

    The only time I’ve ever felt left out at a wedding when was I couldn’t enter a temple because I wasn’t baptized in that church, because well, I was literally left out. For all other things, like funny references, songs or faith- you share that moment with the couple..you get to know them as a couple. You may not share their favorite colors (like we’ve all been to weddings and not dug the decorations personally) or their taste in music, but you’re stepping into their world for a day, and celebrating THEM. If you’re not of their faith, you learn about their faith..you don’t have to attend mass beforehand just to “get it,” you experience it and savor their way of celebrating…truly!

    Sounds to me like this person just personally didn’t dig your awesomeness and wanted you to go cookie cutter…but maybe that’s just me?

    I think you should do what you want. This sounds like it was THEIR issue..not yours. If it was cultural, like faith or religion, they wouldn’t have said it- but because you have a taste for something fun and funky that’s kind of “not cool” to them, it shouldn’t be included? How insulting!

  4. I think this is a non-issue. As long as the wedding is fun and happy, I don’t think guests are going to be annoyed at missing a reference. Even if they are, it hardly matters. Everyone who knows me well enough to be invited to my wedding (aside from a few relatives I am not in touch with and would get courtesy invites) know that I am a huge nerd, and will probably accept that they are not going to “get” all the references. I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s your wedding… do what makes you happy!

  5. If you have a wedding website, I think you could *totally* give people homework. I think it could be hilarious. You’d have write it up with the right tone – no implying that people will be shamed/turned away/etc if they haven’t watched or read your references. But giving people advanced warning is a good way to be extra-inclusive. You could give a little explanation of why you love each thing, as other commentors have suggested, and some people probably would do the homework (my dad definitely would, I probably would, my husband probably wouldn’t even look at your website, etc, etc). If your description is compelling enough, it will make people want to join in the geekiness. Then, the people who watch your shows and read your poems (or who watch and read just some of them) will not only understand the references, they’ll also love to be the hero and explain it to the rest of their table mates who didn’t do the reading.

  6. I think this is like so many issues: all things in moderation.

    It’s okay to dig Star Wars for example, have some themed decor and a light sabre fight. Most people will have a vague idea what it’s about, the rest will just enjoy the pretty things. Having your entire ceremony celebrated in wookie? Um, NO! Too intense there, you will leave everyone feeling left out.

    Just remember as a bride that your guests have their own passions and interests, which may or may not be your own. Don’t be disappointed if great-aunt Josephina doesn’t get your Hunger Games theme. Make sure she can appreciate the love and fun and I’d say you’re good.

  7. One potential compromise could be to focus on aesthetics. Non-Browncoats might feel left out if the ceremony is full of quotes and Chinese swear words, followed by a promise to fight the Alliance together, but if you had a mix of Chinese prints and bluegrass music, with a tiny parasol cake topper and plates full of Kaylee’s beloved strawberries, I can’t think of a soul who would complain. Even if they didn’t get it, they’d find it beautiful. Readings are another good place to throw in geekiness (this blog has featured Mal’s speech about love at the end of Serenity before.)

    By that same token, I don’t think we should judge people whose interests are different from their aesthetics. Someone could love Mystery Science Theater but prefer an ivory sheath dress to a Gizmotic Institute jumpsuit (as adorable as that would be!) and consider their vows to be sacred and solemn things that jokes don’t fit into. That doesn’t make it not a reflection of who they are.

  8. Why not make sharing the reasons part of the fun? You could put out labels and when you flip the label over it could include a story about why that object or theme means something to the wedding couple. Although you would hope that most people at your wedding know you well enough to get some of the references, this would allow these people to get them all.

    Or you could make it into a game – a scavenger hunt of the 17 references, and have explanations as part of the game. It doesn’t have to be alienating for your guests if you make it into an opportunity to share the stories of your life together. You could even invite guests to share their own stories about those same references with you in the guest book.

    If you make it about sharing your life rather than “getting it” or being “in on the joke” people will feel included.

  9. I would go into this asking myself the question, “What will my guests be missing out on/feel excluded from if they don’t understand this reference?” and work from there. For example, if you’re including really specific references in your vows or readings, you may want to find a clever way to explain those in your program or through your officiant before the ceremony so that your guests can understand the significance of those things, and how they relate to your marriage. They want to be a part of your celebration and support you, so in that case I think it’s really important that guests understand the significance of the vows your are making and the readings/values that will form the foundation of your marriage.

    On the other hand, if the only consequence of a guest not understanding an obscure reference made through decorations is that they might miss a random joke or “nod” to something, it probably doesn’t really matter. I realize that since you love these things and they’re important to you you want your guests to be able to share in the joy and everything, but let’s be honest – if they aren’t familiar with the nuances of your subcultures, they won’t fully appreciate it even if given some dictionary style explanation. It reminds me of that episode of 30 Rock where Tracy is upset that he wasn’t present for the “smooth move, Ferguson” inside joke; by the time the group had gone to all of the trouble to explain and re-create the context of the joke, it wasn’t even funny anymore. As a previous commenter said, they will just move along and enjoy “all the pretty things!”

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