The Offbeat Bride: Rachel, Homelessness Support Worker
Her offbeat partner: Bethan, Stage Manager
Date and location of wedding: Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, Wales, UK — October 17, 2015
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
We got engaged at Halloween when Bethan carved four pumpkins to spell out “Will You Marry Me?” to surprise me after work. We decided to carry on the autumnal theme with orange, gold, pumpkins, fallen leaves and, of course, hedgehogs.
We met when we were 17 and our first conversation was about books so we decided to name our tables after our favourite couples in literature. We picked characters from Trumpet by Jackie Kay, Harry Potter, Americanah by Chiamanda Ngozi Adiche, Jane Eyre, and a few of our other favourite books. A lot of the wedding was centered around things that were important to us and our families. For example, we booked a ceilidh band because both Bethan’s parents and Rachel’s godmother are active in the Swansea folk music scene and our venue is close to both our family homes.
We wanted an inclusive, informal vibe where no one had to worry about rigmarole or doing the wrong thing. We purposefully chose a reception venue that was only five minutes walk from the ceremony venue to help make the day easier for our guests.
Tell us about the ceremony:
We had three readings and took a long time choosing them. We went for “Valentine” by Carol Ann Duffy, “Having A Coke With You” by Frank O’Hara, and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. The Frank O'Hara poem was read so beautifully by Rachel’s dad that the line, “it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary” made us cry.
We walked down the aisle to “Pachelbel's Canon,” I came down first with my mum and then Bethan with her brother. It was important to us to make both of our families part of the ceremony. Neither of us wanted to be given away in the traditional sense and we had our mothers as our witnesses and our dads reading poems, which suited them best.
We’d only met Margaret, our registrar, once before the ceremony and we weren’t quite sure what she was going to say. But she was wonderful and her words about marriage being about growing together and marriage being a changing institution really resonated with us.
We wrote our vows ourselves in the same café that we took over to do the seating plan (their iced coffees deserve a special mention). We wanted them to be quite short and serious, a series of real promises rather than whimsical.
Tell us about your reception:
Our reception was in the Patti Pavilion, a feature of Swansea's seafront for many years. All the decoration was done by us and our friends the afternoon before. Bethan's stage management colleagues did an amazing job of putting the fairy lights up for us.
Our favours were wildflower seeds in autumnal envelopes we decorated. We also rented a badge maker and got a stack of illustrated books for people to make badges with. It certainly kept the children busy, and lots of the adults, too.
We had curry as our wedding breakfast. We both ate Indian food with our parents as kids and go for Indian food on our date nights. Our cake was made for us by our friend Dani. We asked her to incorporate autumn flowers and books and she went beyond our wildest dreams.
Our first dance was to one of my favourite songs, “Heroes” by David Bowie. We practiced by learning merengue. We hadn't heard of merengue before but our dance teacher reassured us that it was the most appropriate beat for our song, and a dance of equals.
We did more dancing with our ceilidh band later on. They did a fantastic job of encouraging guests on to the dance floor, and it was great to see people who didn't know each other dancing together. The funniest moment was when I slipped on my heel, fell back, but bounced onmy enormous dress.
After the ceilidh band, we put together our own Spotify playlist. Some of the segues between songs were so random; Jolene into 212 into Debaser into Hungry Eyes!
- Photographer: Pippa Carvell
- Cake: Dani Bish at Bish Bash Bakes
- Reception Venue and Catering: Mabs Noor at Patti Pavillion
- Ceilidh Band: Cat's Claw
- Alterations: Cardiff Alterations