The offbeat bride: Shana, online producer
Her offbeat partner: Jessica, non-profit development assistant
Location & date of wedding: Our backyard in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA — October 10, 2009
What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted a wedding that felt just like our lives — shiny, silly, loud, musical, glittery and full of the people we love. There were a few guidelines: no worrying over headcounts or typical traditions, plan our own massive party, briefly interrupted by a ceremony, and only spend money when we needed to and on things that truly mattered. We also wanted to make the most of our gorgeous three-tiered terraced backyard, even if we had to light every inch of it so no one fell down the precarious brick stairs in the dark.
The offbeat twist we didn't expect was as soon as we announced a date, everyone started asking to help. They offered to make hundreds of cupcakes, throw a burlesque double-bachelorette party, run point the last week before so we didn't have to sweat last-minute details, and just about everything else. The entire wedding ended up crowdsourced by our friends – including, to everyone's surprise, the vows. Our roommate/officiator delivered a mash-up of our favorite pop lyrics, and midway through our guests started singing along! Then everyone blew bubbles, threw glitter, and kept toasting “yay best day ever!”
We also had a live soundtrack all night, from Shana's mom and brother singing as we came down the “aisle” of stairs, to three bands that got progressively louder. The cops even showed up to ask us to turn it down a little.
Tell us about your ceremony: The ceremony part of the party was probably the least planned. We had gotten tattoos on our arms on the day we got our domestic partnership paperwork done, and two lines were such a perfect fit that we used them during our ring exchange: “Bind me as a seal upon your heart / A sign upon your arm.” That was a rare serious moment during the brief ceremony.
The lyrical mash-up which we had asked our officiant, Chris, to prepare was half-spoken, half-sung. He began with Prince and “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called LOVE!” Then cruised through Moulin Rouge, Madonna, Cobra Starship, and more. When he got to “Going to the Chapel” everyone in the crowd just joined in. No one asked them to, but it was the most beautiful indication to us that everyone felt welcome and involved and necessary.
Our biggest challenge: As much as we love live music and knew we wanted it to be a part of our ceremony, up until about three weeks before it didn't seem possible. The band we'd first asked to perform (whom we'd seen on our second date) had booked a european tour, and our brief-lived idea of doing the whole event at a nearby rock club was way too expensive. We were trying to put on brave, happy faces about the fact that we were going the iPod dj route – and then a series of coincidences and acquaintances all fell into place. The band's tour was postponed, their manager was eager to make it work, and Shana's coworker negotiated with a friend to set up sound in our yard for a really reasonable price. Because we suddenly had that much in place, we decided to call one of Shana's friends, already attending, and ask him to perform as well. Then another two friends in a punk band simply asked what time they should show up.
My favorite moment: The entire night was a beautiful, overwhelming blur. Fortunately we have a lot of pictures to help us remember. A number of our friends are great photographers, so in lieu of hiring one we asked everyone to shoot as much as they wanted, and post everything on flickr under the tag yaybestdayever.
We had three of our favorite bands playing in our backyard. Dozen of friends had prepared food and desserts. Our family had spent days making the house and garden look beautiful. Because so many people had helped, the overall sense of love, community and generosity was incredibly humbling and awe-inspiring to us. We kept turning to each other and wondering what we could have possibly done to deserve such an amazing group of people who were so happy for us.
My funniest moment: Definitely when the cops showed up and one of our friends said, “What's up, officers?” Though they were very mellow and simply asked us to turn the music down (the last band had already played), having the police bust your wedding always makes for a great story.
Runner up: we asked friends what they'd liked most about weddings. Almost all answers boiled down to: alcohol. We only had a few kids and no older relatives, so we definitely took that to heart. In addition to MANY cases of wine and champagne, and two kegs of beer, Jessica designed four custom punches, each with their own flavored ice rings. While we heard many, many stories of people getting very, very drunk, it wasn't until MONTHS later that we realized none of the 300-some pounds of ice we ordered had been served WITH the punch. Meaning that most guests were drinking very potent eight ounce servings. Which explained a lot.
My advice for offbeat brides: While we had a very excited and hands-off family it definitely helps when you pay for most/all of it yourselves. The OBB advice and examples really helped us stake out our offbeat ground early on, articulate our excitement in a way that was definitely catching, and then not freak out too much about all the moving and unknown pieces.
We started with a blank slate and only added traditions we liked. We decided NOT to limit our guest count, we invited everyone we knew. It made some planning a bit tough but helped us avoid feeling like we had to exclude anyone or rank people's importance. We knew some people wouldn't be able to come, but we were able to focus on those who did make it. (There were even a few farflung online friends we met in person for the first time that day!)
Having a handful of close friends who essentially took over from our plans the week of the wedding meant we had more time to spend with out of town guests, and the ability to escape for quiet/alone/together time when we needed. We made a very light schedule (mostly to time the vows before sunset) – If you haven't planned every minute, you never have to worry about things being late.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? We had only been dating a few months when California legalized same-sex marriage and we had no idea there would be such a short window of time to decide we were ready to get engaged and get married. We missed it.
But all the politics and awful heartbreak when Proposition 8 passed – thus outlawing gay marriage again – helped put into perspective how important it was to us that we get married. We knew that, no matter what state law of the moment was, we wanted to say our vows in front of our friends and family and to include our community in that life-long commitment. We knew our wedding wasn't about waiting around for strangers to ratify our right to live happily ever after. It was about celebrating love, about throwing open our doors and our hearts.
Or, as the song goes: “Love is a many splendored thing! Love lifts us up where we belong! All you need is love!”
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- This wedding was entirely organized on google docs!
- Dresses: Jessica found her pink/purple dress by accident at Nordstrom's. Shana's blue dress is from Unique Vintage. Both were then covered in rhinestones until they seemed more custom/matched. Shana's mom and Amanda did all the work by hand. (We also wore them again to a lady gaga concert, and are planning to use them in halloween outfits and possibly a quilt.)
- Hair: Jessica bought princessy extensions at sally's beauty supply and had them put in at Rudy's. Shana did her own hair.
- Makeup: We both got our makeup done at MAC .
- Champagne: Trader Joe's Blanc de Blanc, $4.49/bottle. We tasted many more expensive brands and none were as good. (Call ahead in case they need to order more.)
- Music: Dylan Rice – Bryan Wright & The Waco Tragedies – Roll the Tanks
- Burlesque Bachelorette Party: Kiss Me Kate and the ladies of Oakland's Hubba Hubba Revue – and Bar Lubitsch gave us their back “red room” for free!
- We wish the rest of our friends would take their cupcake-making and photo-taking talents and turn them into businesses we could list here!
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!