Diana & Dale's horror movies meets zoo wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
First Look
Photos by Concept One Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Diana, Customer Service Specialist

Her offbeat partner: Dale, Aquatic Specialist/Reptile Breeder

Date and location of wedding: Brookfield Zoo, Brookfield, IL — October 31, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Due to my awkwardness and social anxiety, we first thought about having a courthouse wedding and then just a small get together with our immediate families. But that really wasn't us, ultimately, and there were out-of-town/state relatives who we really wanted to celebrate with as well. A love of animals, horror movies, and Halloween are what started this relationship in the first place, and we had always spent a lot of time at Brookfield Zoo as children and adults. Brookfield Zoo was also where we had our first date and where he proposed a few years later.

Buffalo

Bride Necklace

Til Death

Friends and family were awesome about coming up with ideas and even our more uber traditional family members got behind us and supported our ideas. A few key things we did that were special to us include using Reptile Calcium Sand (used in reptile desert terrariums) as the sand in our ceremony. A few months prior to the wedding, we went with his family to church for their Easter basket blessing (a Polish tradition, if I'm not mistaken) and we had our ceremony sand blessed along with my "something blue," a rosary that belonged to and was given to me by my great grandma before she passed away. We also included the pictures of his grandparents and my great grandparents who have passed on but had reserved seats at our ceremony.

Wedding Shoes

Zombie themed Cupcakes

We used blood spatter on any decor that we could. I used paint to spatter the silk white roses for bouquets and a few centerpieces, we used stamps to blood spatter the invitation envelopes and place cards, and used little white plastic vampire fangs as the place card holders. We had cupcakes that were blood-spattered or had brains and eyes on them.

Place cards

Flasks

Bridal Party

Dale is not a tux kind of guy nor am I a white dress kind of girl so our attire turned out to be the hardest part of all the planning. We finally found him some decked out pinstripe Tripp pants and an awesome tie, and I found a woman on Etsy to make not just my dress but the bridesmaid dresses and ties for the groomsmen as well, all decked out with skulls and roses.

First Look

Hey

Kisses

Tell us about the ceremony:
Our ceremony was held in the Underwater Dolphin Viewing area of the zoo. We had our friend Jessica officiate, which was a detail that was important to us both. We didn't want a stranger who didn't know us or anything about us to speak about our love and commitment to each other — we wanted someone who knew about our mutual weirdness.

This was her first wedding as an officiant and she did a wonderful job performing our sand ceremony and kept everything short and to the point. Dale wanted to incorporate some kind of metal in our ceremony so we used the Djali Zwan cover of the Iron Maiden song "The Number of the Beast" as the groom and wedding party entrance. My cousin Michael escorted me down the aisle to Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" which was playing in the car the night Dale asked me to be his girlfriend.

Living on a Prayer

His vows were really sweet and included things that really mattered, like promising to always let me watch Law and Order SVU and The Golden Girls when they're on television, and letting me become a crazy cat lady with as many kittens as I want. My vows would have been sweet if I wasn't so choked up and could actually speak, but the second I opened my mouth I about burst into tears and my throat closed up. I included lines about how he taught me what it truly means to have unconditional love, and how he taught me about forgiveness. But the only words I could get out were that I'd make him dinner and love him forever, which is all that really mattered to him anyway.

Gift Bag

Gift Bag

Our biggest challenge:
Total and complete social anxiety. Dale and I are both kind of the "loner" types (we are happiest when it's us and our animals) but with one huge difference… Dale can actually talk to anyone about anything and is really awesome with people where as I have social anxiety and completely lack social grace. Neither of us particularly enjoy being the centers of attention and it wasn't until we began planning with the zoo coordinator and our DJ that we realized just how many situations all eyes were going to be on us.

We didn't even think about entrance into reception and cake cutting and parent dances and garter/bouquet toss, etc. I had several small panic attacks throughout the year as we planned more and more and I was finding that we were going to be in the spotlight a whole bunch. Bless our vendors, seriously. Our DJ worked with us to minimize some of these things, so we didn't do the garter toss or bouquet toss and he edited our first dance song to make it shorter. Dale was the most helpful part, though. He can handle the spotlight, and he knew I was super nervous so he held my hand all day, literally all day. He'd give me little squeezes here and there when he saw the panic starting and he made me laugh all through the ceremony and every time we did something in the spotlight. He can always break my tension with his smile and pull me out of any funk with his laughter and I love him so much for it.

Reception Hall

Cake

My favorite moment:
It may seem sort of weird, but the moments that really meant the most to me happened more the day before and the morning of the wedding and not necessarily at the actual wedding. The day before was very hectic and emotional for both of us and our family and friends really stepped up and helped us get everything together. I had my Maid of Honor grab my face every once in a while and say, "Calm down, tell me what I can do." During the morning of, I got to spend bonding time with my maid of honor and mother-in-law getting our hair done by a family friend.

Viper

Cocktail Hour

Safety Dance

My funniest moment:
During the ceremony I was nervous and couldn't get my sand bottle open and everyone had a good laugh watching me try. During the reception the groomsmen requested "Safety Dance" and reenacted the scene from Bio-Dome. We also had guests request "Closer" by NIN which I thought would be okay at low volume while everyone was eating. But they definitely noticed and everyone who knew the song started singing very loudly while everyone else looked pretty confused. It was awesome.

First Dance

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
We learned that when your family and friends say that they love and want to help you, they mean it and you have to trust them. I am the type of person who doesn't like to ask for help partly because everyone has stuff to take care of and I didn't want to burden my loved ones with everything. The other thing we learned is that you have to take time to breathe and really enjoy the day. I read blogs and magazine articles about brides who would say that they didn't get to eat dinner or hardly saw their partner and I promised myself from day one I wouldn't let that happen to me. But it did. I felt scrambled all day, and lots of things were forgotten. I sometimes felt like I was missing out on moments instead of getting lost in them. No matter what goes wrong, at some point you HAVE to take a breath and just soak up the day.

Serious air guitar skills

Don't Stop Believin'

Rings

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. This was a beautifully awesome wedding. I love the darker theme and how happy you both look. One thing I'm personally relating to is I'm getting married in just over a week and I have mostly everything done, but I'm dealing with a large amount of anxiety. I too dislike a lot of social situations and being the center of attention and as I get closer to the day I'm freaking out more and more about how I'm going to deal with this. I wanted to elope for the longest time, but after having a talk with my future MOL I decided against it for the sake of others. I sacrificed a lot for my fiance' and the feelings of our friends and family and now I'm trying to deal with my own feelings. It's hard to know what to do to calm myself at times.

    • Mariah, Thank you for your kind words 🙂 I'm sorry that you're going through the anxiety, it's tough to keep your emotions in check during your wedding anyway but to feel like this on top of it all can be really draining …I wish I could tell you that I had tricks to help myself calm down, but I didn't. The entire day I always felt at least a little bit awkward but it was easier to handle than I thought it would be because we were surrounded by so much love and support. I think when you look back at your special day and to your significant other, everything you went through and felt will have been worth it. Good luck to you guys and Congratulations!

      • Thanks for the reply, Diana. I appreciate your kind words. I think I'm just going to do my best to take this day by day. If I need a break during the wedding (which I anticipate I will) I'll just step out for a few minutes. I want to be able to enjoy my wedding day even if it wasn't something I initailly planned on.

  2. Gorgeous! I cannot say much more than that, as I have been made nearly speechless by how beautiful you both are.

  3. Um, hey- way to go making your wedding your own in spite of the challenges you shared. You both clearly had a great time! Congrats on your marriage.

  4. I love everything about this! I feel like the bride and I could be best friends, if not for mutual social awkwardness, haha. Seriously, I love everything about this wedding!! Congratulations!!

  5. I love your outfits and the blood splatter details…very cool! It sounds like you have found your soul mates in each other and I wish you a very long and happy life together.

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