Jonna & Kelsey's garden party wedding with stepmom vows

Updated Mar 15 2021
Photos by: Curt Youngblood
Photos by Curt Youngblood Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Jonna, Gymnastics Coach and Communications Editor

Her offbeat partner: Kelsey, Sales Manager

Date and location of wedding: Friend's garden/backyard in Shreveport, Louisiana — March 19, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our relationship has been somewhat offbeat from the start. We met through Facebook after finding out our former partners were having an affair. Our first year of getting to know each other and eventually dating happened primarily over the internet.

Our wedding was mostly offbeat lite, and had some really special moments. We created our ceremony, utilizing passages and inspiration from Offbeat Bride. On my wedding day, I became not only a wife, but a step-mama to Kelsey's daughter, Emma. I worked with my friend Irina on a custom design for two necklaces, and after Kels and I exchanged rings, I surprised Emma with vows and a necklace matching mine.

Matching necklaces

We saved a fortune by accepting any help offered. A friend gifted us our amazing photographer, Curt Youngblood, and another friend brought sound equipment and ran the show for us. Another friend became ordained and married us, while another thoughtfully selected hours of music to play during the reception.

You can make this paper heart garland.


We married in a friend's garden. We borrowed all of the chairs, tables, chair covers, table cloths, and glassware from church. I bought my dress on eBay for $80, and had it tailored to fit for $35. We ordered all of our flowers from Sam's Club, and bought all of our food from there as well. My dad and I cooked and baked practically everything served at the wedding. Many amazing women who have known me my whole life contributed to the gardening and decorating the day before the wedding. I am pretty certain we spent less than $2,000 total.

Sweet Daddy

Tell us about the ceremony: We chose non-traditional wedding music. Kels chose "When I'm 64" as the processional; I walked down the aisle to "Blackbird," which is very special to our little family. Our recessional music was the theme song from The Office, which is our absolute favorite TV show. People really perked up hearing it.


Here is an excerpt from the end of the ceremony:

(Officiant:) If there is anything you remember of this marriage ceremony, may it be the love that brought you here. Today, your separate lives with your individual memories, desires, and hopes merge into one. You are adding to your life, not only the affection of each other, but also the companionship and blessing of a deep trust as well. You are agreeing to share strength, responsibilities, and love. I pray that you may always be a blessing and comfort to each other.

The Office theme

Our biggest challenge: One of the biggest challenges was convincing others how little I was concerned with the specifics. People want to help, but tend to be so afraid of ruining the bride's vision. My family made all of the food, but we hired a woman to bring it outside at the very end of the ceremony. She was so worried about the arrangement of the fruit trays.

Sam's Club lost my bouquet, and one of my bridesmaids fought with them for hours before I convinced her I was really okay making my own. The only way you can have as much help as we did with our wedding is to truly empower friends to handle tasks. Tell them you are confident in their abilities, and be prepared to be blown away by the result.

Holding hands

My favorite moment: When you decide to handle everything in your wedding, it can be easy to get lost in the hustle. When I got to the wedding location, seeing everything accomplished, seeing people who loved us so much that they all contributed their time and abilities in support of our relationship… it was truly one of the most humbling, meaningful experiences of my life.


The vows I made to my step-daughter were pretty special to me, too. Here was what I said to her: "Emma, I promise to always love you, listen to you, learn from you, and teach you what I know. I promise I will be good to your daddy."

I cried basically through the whole ceremony, but when I knelt down and made the promises to her, everyone joined me.

She got really shy once all the attention was on her, so afterward I said "Is that cool?" (something people still tease me about) and she nodded and immediately hung on her daddy's leg.

Shy moment

Steam incident

My funniest moment: I never realized that I needed to explain the clothing steamer to the guys. My husband laid his wedding clothes out and held the steamer over them, so a bunch of water poured out on to them. All of the guys were scrambling to get his pants dry, which made the ceremony late.


Oh, and we almost forgot to sign the papers! This was our friend Brett's first wedding, and as he and his wife were getting ready to leave town, she said "Wait! Did y'all sign the license?" They had to come back during our private photo session so we could make it official.


My advice for Offbeat Brides: While my friend Allison did my hair for the wedding, she said, "People are going to try to pull you two apart throughout the reception. Cling to each other, and don't be afraid to sneak off if you need it." I thought this was strange, but she was totally right. Any time I saw a friend alone, I wanted to go visit and introduce him or her to others. After a while, I realized I hadn't seen my brand new husband in a long time. I frantically searched for him, and kept him by my side the rest of the reception.


Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?
Kels had been married before, and it was really important to me that he give me input. I had thought we would write vows to each other and say them in front of everyone, but he is introverted and knew that would be difficult. We ended up having our officiant say the vows and we only said "I do," which was fortunate since I was crying almost the whole time.


With my husband being introverted and the majority of the wedding guests being from my huge family, we decided that in lieu of a receiving line we would serve dessert to everyone. This was great because we could visit from across the table and had something to do with our hands, and if nothing else, dessert as a topic for discussion.

Rainbow Cake
This looks familiar!

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Serving people desserts was a great idea, but for the love of God, have someone make you a plate! You will be starving, and you don't want to miss out on all the goodies.

Photo shoot

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Catering: Sam's Club
  • Matching necklaces: My friend, Irina Schaffer of Peapod Treasures
  • Photography: My friend, Curt Youngblood, for being our photographer when I thought we didn't need one. I know we will cherish these photos the rest of our lives.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. Lovely, lovely wedding! I love the flowers and the fact that so many people came together to make it happen. It is really so very pretty. Great job!

  2. Thanks to everyone for your kind comments; and thanks to Offbeat Bride for featuring our sweet ceremony.

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