The Offbeat Bride: Melissa, Middle School Librarian (and Tribesmaid)
Her offbeat partner: Scott, Systems Engineer
Date and location of wedding: The Calvin Center, Hampton, GA — April 6, 2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Whenever I see the show Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, I'm always bemused as the salon owner, Lori, dictates what Southern brides love, do, and want. What “Southern mamas expect and demand. What Southern grooms look for and find beautiful.” This Southern bride, her Southern family, and her Southern groom can tell you that we're not all the cowboy boot-wearing girls depicted on TV and not all of our weddings look like a scene from Steel Magnolias.
Our wedding was a celebration of love, books, games, friendship, bubbles, lavender, the outdoors, our pets, and the first steps in the next chapter of our lives. We really wanted to reflect our personalities in the decorations while keeping it simple. Because I'm a librarian and we're both avid readers, the bouquets, boutonnieres, and kusudama balls were created with book pages based on the favorite books of members of the wedding party.
Neither of us like dancing, and we don't really enjoy many traditional reception activities, so we centered our reception around games. Scott's an avid gamer and we spent many of our early dates playing games together. We had board games at each table (like Mystery Date, Operation, Mad-Libs, and Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots), and lawn games like Cornhole outside. Plus there was a playground with a pirate ship!
I never wanted a white dress, so I was surprised when I fell in love with a very traditional white lace gown. My bridesmaids spotted it and made me try it on because it reminded them of Downton Abbey, my favorite show. The saleswoman at the salon had a brilliant plan to make the dress more “me.” It had two pieces, and she swapped the ivory underdress for a lavender bridesmaid dress. I loved it. I wound up wearing the dress as it was originally intended for the ceremony and then wearing the lavender version for the reception.
Our after party was held in the evening following the reception. We had a Low Country Boil and enjoyed the musical stylings of our friends, who perform under the name “Beard Science.” They play silly cover songs on accordion and guitar and were hilarious and wonderful. My particular favorite was their cover of “Treat Your Mama Right,” which they did in honor of my love for all things Mr. T.
We didn't buck all traditions, but we examined each one and thought about its meaning in relation to our lives and value systems. Did I want to have a bouquet toss? No. I spent many years being happily single and I don't want to insult my single female guests by suggesting they need to get married. But did I want a bouquet? Yes. I instead gave the bouquet to the couple at the reception who had been married the longest, my in-laws.
I think everyone's favorite moment of the day was when my 95-year-old grandmother posed for pictures with her 97 and 93-year-old sisters. They insisted that the boys had looked so dashing in their hats that they wanted to try them on as well.
Tell us about the ceremony: All of the musical selections in the ceremony were pre-recorded bluegrass and folk songs. The wedding party walked down the aisle to “I'm Glad I Hitched My Apple Wagon to Your Star” by The Boy Least Likely To and “Live and Die” by The Avett Brothers. The bridal procession was “Yours Alone” by The Brothers Bright, and we used “I Will Wait” by Mumford and Sons for the recessional… after my mom nixed our initial plan of using “Let's Get it On.”
Our wedding party consisted of four of Scott's friends as groomsmen, my two good friends as bridesmaids, and my brothers as my “men of honor.” Scott wanted to work his good friend Haley into the ceremony, but we couldn't think of a good role for her. It finally dawned on us that she would make a perfect flower girl (who says your flower girl has to be a little girl?).
I'm a seminary graduate, so the ceremony structure and wording was really important to me. I carefully weighed each word and symbol before deciding to make it a part of the wedding. As I'm a (progressive) Christian and Scott essentially considers himself a Deist, our belief systems aren't at odds with each other, but we had to be careful to choose scriptures and other elements that reflected both our faiths. Because we wanted to use the wine box ceremony as something of a focal element in the ceremony, we chose Song of Solomon 8:6-7 and John 2:1-11 for our scripture readings. For us, they symbolized the shift from water to wine and using the mundane to create miracles. We can find and create the miraculous in our lives at all times if we can only see the potential in everyday things and people.
We had Scott's sister read the children's book, “I Like You,” which really encapsulates us and our relationship.
My favorite moment: One of the most meaningful aspects of our wedding was our ceremony site. As a child, I attended summer camp at The Calvin Center every year. Exactly twenty years ago, I became fierce friends with one of my bunk-mates, Hannah. Hannah and I rarely saw each other during the school year, but we exchanged letters and attended camp together in the summers. Over time, we grew apart and lost touch with each other. Fast forward a couple of decades and Hannah and I reconnected on Facebook. We had both recently moved back to Atlanta after living thousands of miles away, and discovered that we were now living just a block away from each other.
Shortly after we reconnected, Hannah told me that she had to introduce me to her friend Scott because he was the nicest person she had ever known. Long story short, she was absolutely correct in her assessment of him, and there's no way you can let a guy like that get away. We felt that there was no place more appropriate to hold our wedding than at the summer camp where Hannah and I had met so many summers ago because if not for it, we wouldn't be celebrating our wedding at all.
My favorite moment on our wedding day arose from my strong desire to create a ceremony that was as egalitarian as possible. I felt uncomfortable with being “given away,” and even being escorted down the aisle by my father didn't feel right. Scott and I decided that instead of a traditional procession, our parents would precede us down the aisle and we would each follow as individuals, indicating that we were coming to the relationship on our own but following in the steps of our parents' 30+ year marriages.
I was thrilled with the plan until I realized that this left me standing at the back of the worship area with no one to help me with my train. And to be honest, it almost felt lonely as I stood there by myself after all our friends and family has processed down the aisle. Scanning the crowd, I caught sight of our usher John, my dear friend since high school. I hissed his name and beckoned him over. He ran up and I explained that I needed someone to help hold my train. He obliged and stood by me as I waited. As we stepped forward, he leaned forward and whispered, “You know, we've known each other for half our lives and I can't imagine you making a better choice than this one.” Then, as he let go of my train to let me walk, he whispered, “Good luck.”
If I thought I could keep from crying after that, any hope was dashed as I began walking down the aisle and watched as each of the guys in our wedding party solemnly removed his hat and placed it over his heart. Those hats that we had searched all over town for. Those hats that were the only clothing detail Scott cared about. Those hats that had been such an integral part of our planning process. I looked at the faces of our friends, my brothers who were acting as my “men of honor,” and my sweet soon-to-be husband and knew that I was taking exactly the right steps for the next part of my journey.
My funniest moment: Scott and I had decided from early in our planning process that we wanted to do a wine box ceremony. We planned to write letters to each other to be opened on our fifth anniversary as we shared the wine together. As we climbed into bed the night before the wedding, I suddenly sat up and looked at him in shock as I realized we hadn't written our letters. We both turned and stared at the clock, which indicated that we had all of five hours before I needed to be out the door to get my hair done.
“Don't worry,” Scott told me, “I'll take care of it.” He returned with two envelopes and some pieces of scrap paper. “Here!” he announced, as he sealed the blank pages inside the envelopes. “These are our letters!”
The next day, as our officiant explained the significance of the wine box and the letters we were placing inside it, I absolutely lost it and started giggling. Scott, who had been holding it together until that point, couldn't help himself and started laughing as well. I'm not sure what our guests thought we found so funny, but we managed to get it together and lock the fake letters in the wine box. As of today, we still haven't written real ones. In some ways, I think I like it even better with our blank letters. Maybe we'll get around to writing real letters, but to me, the blank ones show just as much about our relationship: our flexibility, our ability to work together, and our willingness to laugh at mistakes instead of getting upset.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Love Like Weddings
- Officiant: Reverend Kate Ester Johnson
- Bride's dress: J. Andrew's Bridal
- Bride's shoes: Mohop Shoes
- Jewelry: RiRi Jewelry by Naoko
- Bridesmaids' dresses: Modcloth
- Flowers and decorations: Tree Town Paper
- Cake topper: Lynn's Little Creations
- Signs: The Paper Walrus
- Venue and catering: The Calvin Center
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!