The offbeat bride: Stephanie
Her offbeat partner: Charlie
Date and location of wedding: The Abita Mystery House, Abita Springs, Louisiana — April 30, 2011
What made our wedding offbeat: The Abita Mystery House, in Abita Springs, Louisiana, is a quirky spot we wanted to share with friends and family on our wedding day. It has been described as a folk art museum and roadside attraction, just outside of New Orleans. It's full of evocative items such as automatronic fortune tellers, taxidermied Fiji mermaids, multi-headed chickens, and Darrell the Doggigator.
Being that it originated as a gas station many decades ago, it's not exactly your run-of-the-mill event space. However, our hearts were set on the place. The founder of the Mystery House, our dear friend John, thought it was a smashing idea and graciously opened his doors after hours for our celebration. So many things about this place speak to us, from the alligator snapping turtles on exhibit, to the largest paint-by-numbers painting collection in the world, to the early '80s video games and even earlier pinball machines.
The Mystery House embodies the sentiment of delightfully odd, and we thought that this would be an ideal setting to begin our journey through married life. We got the ball rolling a few months prior to the wedding by producing our Save the Date video with a Doggigator theme, setting the tone for the upcoming event while saving money on postage!
Other elements that made our wedding offbeat included colorful fashion choices, a not-so-serious wedding ceremony officiated by John (who kept us smiling the entire time), and ecelectic rainbow-hued vintage decor elements that added fun and zinginess to the day.
Tell us about the ceremony: We arranged the chairs in a semicircle in the courtyard in front of the exhibit of the Airstream trailer that had been crashed into by a UFO. The ceremony music began with “Emma Blowgun's Last Stand” by Beulah, and I walked down the aisle to “Stephanie Says” by The Velvet Underground.
We passed the rings around for a ring warming, and John told everyone there how much it meant to us that they were all there to share our special day. The ceremony included a reading from Jonathan Safran Foer's “Everything is Illuminated” by our friend Josh. Cathy read “The Story of Stephanie and Charlie,” which we had written the previous day, that outlined the evolution of our relationship. Both readings had our wedding guests simultaneously scratching their heads and nodding knowingly.
We kept our vows (which included promises about flowers and kitty cats and loving each other unstoppingly) short, sweet, and full of personal meaning. After exchanging rings and a kiss, we ended the ceremony while playing “Go Do” by Jonsi.
Our biggest challenge: It was quite a challenge having our wedding and reception in an unconventional venue. Since we had first visited the Abita Mystery House in 2005, we have considered this place a sort of home away from home. Each time we would pass under the “Have Your Next Next Wedding Here” sign, we would point and giggle.
We had a fair amount of trepidation regarding logistics before we decided to rent a large tent to place outside of the courtyard. This doubled our space and ensured we'd have plenty of room for tables and dancing.
There was no place for food prep, so initial plans to save money and prepare some of the food proved impractical. About two weeks before the wedding, we decided to hire a caterer (whose rates proved to be surprisingly affordable) who prepared some of the tastiest jambalaya I've ever eaten, in addition to a full menu of southern yumminess! It was one of the best decisions we made.
My favorite moment: We chose to give John free reign to spice up the ceremony and he delivered! He added his own brand of humor as every line included a chuckle and some zingers, too. We wanted to involve our guests in the ceremony as well, so we included a new tradition that we experienced at our friends' wedding last year — the ring warming. We were taken with the concept of all of our friends and family instilling their love and wishes into our rings.
After the ceremony, Charlie and I spent a few minutes with our lovely photographer, Bonnie Heath. We were able to take a breather to regroup away from the bustle. As we headed back into the courtyard, we were greeted by our friend Josh with two glasses of our Wedding Day Brown Nut Ale, exactly what we needed at that point.
We had gotten together with our friends Brian and Kip several weeks prior to homebrew a commemorative ale. The small keg of Wedding Day Brown Nut Ale was walnutty, sweet, and super refreshing! It was served up to our guests as well, in glasses that served as wedding favors. This eliminated the need for disposing of plastic cups and creating trash.
As a bonus to everyone, they doubled as time machines! Embossed with “Time and Space Transport Machine — Instructions: Drink from this glass to transport to Abita Springs, April 30, 2011.” The thought was that each time our guests use our glasses from now on they will think back to our wedding day and hopefully smile!
My funniest moment: While being introduced as a couple after our entrance into our reception tent, we had requested “Parties in the USA” by Jonathan Richman to be played. Upon our arrival, I was so excited by the moment and seeing everyone smiling and clapping that I just grabbed Charlie's hands and started dancing! After about a minute, we realized we were having such a great time that we wanted all of our friends to join in, so we waved our friends on the dance floor then and there. We spontaneously sparked a dance party right from the start of the reception.
The next day our friend was telling us that in her dancing glee, she bumped the wedding cake table pretty hard and thought it was going to topple. Now THAT would have been quite a wedding memory!
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Red is my favorite color, but it can be overpowering at times. I knew I wanted a multicolor theme, but my color choices would continuoulsy default to red, even though I didn't want it all that same hue. That being said, I could not have been happier with how the color scheme played out. Some of my favorite elements of the decor were the red ribbon curtain (made from ribbon that we calculated as equaling the length of over 3 football fields) that served as a backdrop at our reception, and my gerber daisy dominated bouquet. I was especially tickled when Charlie chose his red tie. This man knows what excites me!
Another thing that we were unsure of was our cake. As we live six+ hours from Abita Springs, my stepbrother and his partner were lifesavers at wedding planning. They had heard of a bakery in town that could fulfill my wishes of a multi-tiered, white-frosted cake with a rainbow fruit surprise element.
They met with the baker and explained the rainbow tiers and the fruit filling I pined for, plus my need to surprise Charlie with a geeky comic book-themed groom's cake. My highest expectations were surpassed. The cakes were both wowzamatic! The rainbow tiers even had the fresh blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries I had dreamed of. And the groom's cake was a 3D extravaganza!
My advice for offbeat brides: Too much DIY makes for one frazzled bride. There was a point before the wedding where I had a teary breakdown, running out of time to put the finishing touches on the reception area. When planning the wedding and reception, I initially had the idea that almost EVERYTHING could be done the DIY way. I'm crafty, right?!
In the end, I was able to release my fervent grip of control. Without some generous help from unexpected sources (our photographer's husband even jumped in to help!), I doubt everything would have come together as amazingly as it did. My advice would be to save yourself this anxiety and limit your DIY elements to what you know one person can accomplish. None of our guests even knew or cared that I ran out of time before setting up a Yoko Ono-inspired wishing tree!
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned a lesson that I should have probably known beforehand: timelines are important. I was half an hour late arriving to the Mystery House, and my tardiness pushed our start time. Hence, we lost some good “magic hour” light for photographs, making our photographer's job harder than it should have been.
With so many of our favorite people to visit with and spontaneous dances to dance and friends to high-five, it was way later than initially planned when the fireworks display began. We might have awoken some early-to-bed types. Then we knew that had been the case when the local police showed up and advised there had been reports of loud music and unexpected fireworks. We turned the music down low and began the painful process of hugging our guests goodnight. If we did it all again, I'd stay on track and do the fireworks right after sunset, and all the townspeople would cheer.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photographer: Bonnie J Heath
- Venue: Abita Mystery House
- Cake: Zoe's Bakery
- Catering: Chad Landry
- Bride's Shoes: Irregular Choice
- Groom's shoes: Stacey Adams via Zappos
- Veil, headband, and ribbon: Hobby Lobby
- Ties: Cyberoptix TieLab
- Flowers: obtained from Cut Flower Wholesale and artfully arranged by my dear friend, Kip
- Glasses: Discount Mugs Online
- Vintage tablecloths: Antique mall and eBay finds
- Dress: designer is Sally Crew, an off-the-rack sample sale dress with rainbow tulle hand-sewn by me
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!