Her offbeat partner: Christopher, graduate student
Location & date of wedding: June 21, 2008 in a friend's wild back yard and forest, near Montreal, QC
What made our wedding offbeat: We made up our own ceremony to be exactly what we wanted it to be, which meant throwing out most traditional elements. Being part of a Pagan community, this wasn't so surprising to our friends, but what may have surprised them was that we threw out most of the Pagan handfasting traditions as well, since they didn't really speak to us either.
Most importantly, however, we wanted the ceremony to be participatory. Our 50-or-so guests were in a circle around us, and we had songs that everyone sang (including one to which we walked into the circle, accompanied by both of our parents). We enlisted several friends and family members to help with various parts of the ceremony, and let them decide how they were going to do it. This took pressure off of us, because we weren't trying to micro-manage the whole thing, but rather we were allowed to be surprised and to enjoy the ceremony as it was unfolding around us.
The most important thing to us was that we take advantage of our communities and use resources that were already available, rather than paying strangers to do things for us and producing unnecessary waste.
Our invitations were in the form of a website, and we sent email updates to the guests when we needed to give them more information about anything. We got married on a friend's land, in a ceremony officiated by another friend; one of my best friends took the pictures (and we encouraged others to bring cameras as well); my multi-layered dress was made by the good friend of our landlady and neighbour, who is an amazing clothing designer. We made all of the food ourselves the day before (with the help of our families of course!), and we made the–sparse–decorations and fixed up the location.
The only thing that we really ended up paying a stranger for was the school bus that we rented to get everyone to the site, since it was about an hour's drive from Montreal and we wanted to reduce the number of cars on the road and make it accessible for our friends who don't have cars, as well as for our family members who had flown in and would have had to rent cars otherwise.
For our post-ceremony feast we had a vegan barbecue, with marinated tofu and tempeh, portobello mushrooms, lots of grilled vegetables, and a smattering of various salads and side dishes. The majority of the food we used was recovered, that is, food that was saved from being thrown out because it wasn't pretty enough to be on display at the supermarkets. Not only did this mean we were reducing waste, but it was all free. We also made all of our own beer and wine, which was an amazingly fun process and saved us a whole lot of money. The feast was followed by a bardic event around a bonfire, at which stories were told and music was played.
Neither of us felt like we wanted wedding rings, because of their history and symbolism, but also because we don't like wearing rings all the time. So instead, we made bracelets for each other that symbolize the various facets of our relationship, and exchanged these in the ceremony. I also surprised my partner by serenading him with a song that I had written, which brought in another element that is important to us, polyamory, which we have practiced for most of our relationship, and which we will continue to practice. The song was about blessing other people who have and who will come into his life, and about thanking them for contributing to him being the person he is.
Since we've already been living together for a while, and have a household full of the things we need, we didn't register for gifts and asked that no one give us traditional wedding gifts either. We recommended various organizations, such as Oxfam, to which you can make a donation for a specific cause in someone else's name as a gift to them. We received several of these, and I hope they made an impact in the communities for which they were intended. We also had asked that everyone coming to the wedding bring us a bead of some sort that had some significance to them or was symbolic of something that they wished to bestow upon us. We received some beautiful beads and some fascinating and touching stories!
So, to sum it up: community, low ecological impact, saving the world, making music, and having fun!
Our biggest challenge: I think our biggest challenge was also our biggest help: having our families around in the week before the wedding. They did so much to help us out, but it was really exhausting having to constantly think about delegating tasks, which meant actually thinking about what still needed to be done. One morning, two days before the wedding, my partner and I just stayed in bed all morning, hiding out while our parents kept trying to call us from their B&B to ask what we wanted them to do. I felt a bit guilty, but having a few extra hours of private, lazy together-time gave me the energy boost I needed to get through the next few days!
My favorite moment: This is a hard one, as there are so many! But one thing that was so wonderful to see was the way our families bonded over all the preparation work they were doing. Although he had spent time with my family and I with his, our parents and siblings had never met each other before they got off the plane 5 days before the wedding. And we certainly put them to work, running errands, cooking, helping with the set-up of the site. The day after the wedding I overheard them making plans to visit each other! And considering that my family lives in Oregon and his in France, that's quite a serious commitment!
Another really wonderful thing was that so many people told us how interesting, meaningful and authentic our wedding was; that really validated all of the hard work we had put into making it that way!
My offbeat advice: Don't just do what you want. Work together as much as you can to come up with what is the most meaningful and authentic thing you could do. Enlist the help of your community, whether that's a religious group of some kind, co-workers or colleagues, your family, neighbours, or a few friends. Chances are they will be happy to help as much as they can.
Honeymooning is one tradition I wish we hadn't thrown out!
I would also recommend going on a honeymoon. We didn't, for two reasons: we had some friends from out of town who stayed around for the week after the wedding, and we're both trying to finish up our degrees in the next few months and couldn't afford the time off. However, seeing as we were utterly exhausted for about two weeks after the wedding, I really really wished we'd been able to go away, far from everyone we knew, and just have time to be together and to explore what getting married meant to our relationship. We'll probably take a trip later in the year, but it still won't be the same. Honeymooning is one tradition I wish we hadn't thrown out!
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: To see tons more photos, click the image below: