The Offbeat Bride: Stephanie, media manager at National Geographic
Her offbeat partner: Joe, audio engineer at Discovery Communications
Date and location of wedding: The Castle at Maryvale, Lutherville, MD — January 11, 2014
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
“Question all the rules” was our motto, and that's exactly what we did! We tried to make every aspect our own (not the easiest endeavor when having a Catholic ceremony), by drawing from my graphic skills and DIY side, and from his musical and technical talents. Ultimately, I'd say we had a book-themed wedding, set to our music, in a gorgeous castle.
We used cut-out book table numbers/book centerpieces, paper bouquets, large atlases as a cake base, a “dark & stormy night” custom cocktail, and a custom-designed book logo.
For the rock theme, we used bass guitars as a guest book, custom music arrangements, Joe performing a little “Humpty Dance,” using the “Power of Love” to exit it all (and play off our new last name), and matching Joe's “infamous” blue Doc Martin boots with my own new blue boots. The coolest aspect of our Catholic ceremony was the instrumental secular music. We had a string trio and clarinet playing custom compositions of our favorite songs.
For our centerpieces, I spent months collecting just the right books. I quickly opted for free book options, but for a “Harry Potter table” or an “Agatha Christie table,” I realized I'd have to purchase more books. Instead, my goal was to find books with beautiful/old hard covers and interesting titles (“The Case of the Curious Bride!” or “Your Move, JP” [Joe's initials]). This gave me a lot of spare books, but plenty from which to choose.
I LOVE desserts, so I couldn't have just one. So on top of our delicious, no-fondant cake, we decided to have cotton candy. And the holy grail of cotton candy for me (whenever we go to the fair or a ballgame) is purple cotton candy. I think most flavors just taste like sugar, but when they switch batches between pink and blue, you get a little bit of purple cones coming out of the mix. Our caterer nailed it with what they made for us. Some friends started putting it in with cotton candy vodka at the bar, and so there was even a spontaneous cotton candy drink at the wedding (it kind of tasted like a grape Jolly Rancher). Using square marshmallows for easy packing and Ghirardelli chocolate squares, we made “gourmet” s'more packages as our favors, too!
I designed and made the wedding invitations. The logo from it was in all print materials (programs, tags on table favors, etc.), and on the GOBO projection light on our dance floor.
My sisters came up with a fun picture, and I truly think it is an epic Sister picture. We were acting like the sisters from Cinderella. Them tearing at my dress and jewelry. Kudos to my sisters for such a fun idea!
Tell us about the ceremony:
We decided to have a Catholic ceremony as we're both Catholic and our parents would be ecstatic. Plus, I liked the longer service as 15-minutes-and-done ceremonies always felt a little quick to me, especially after all the planning. But to say we are in perfect harmony with everything in the church would be a stretch, so we struggled to keep the traditions of the ceremony we liked while finding our own voice within it. I think the key was finding a priest that really spoke to us in ways that related directly to the church and to what we feel are the core facets of a marriage. Luckily Fr. Enzler is someone Joe's family has known for ages (he was at Joe's confirmation), and as the head of Catholic Charities in DC, he was available and one of the easiest priests with whom I've ever had the pleasure of talking! I was glad he was willing to say “rainbows and unicorns” as he read my statement about how I fell in love with Joe.
Our biggest challenge:
I think by far it was the guest list. Due to one of Joe's jobs, we needed to get married in the off-season, making it a winter wedding near Baltimore. This meant picking an indoor location, so we used that to help keep costs down, as indoor locations have a firm guest limit. The Castle at Maryvale has an indoor guest count of 125. I have a large family, and we are both blessed with a large number of friends, so it was hard to exclude anyone.
Our fail-safe plan for all of those who couldn't make it was a live feed of the ceremony! Neither of us had ever streamed anything live before, so there was a large learning curve along with special equipment needs. We ended up having two iPads and one behind-the-altar camera record the wedding. We used a streaming service called Looxcie which was an app added to the iPads.
My favorite moment:
There were so many! While the gals and I were waiting at the top of the stairs to be told to walk down and enter, our music started. The string trio with clarinet played the arrangement of “Ho Hey” by the Lumineers, and standing in front of me, my three gorgeous ladies started bopping to the music!
Joe's vows and mine were meaningful because they were kind of expected. They were things he says to me on a regular basis and things we constantly say to each other. While we kept our personal vows a secret, it was really touching that we both ended ours with words from one of our favorite love songs by the Avett Brothers, “The Ballad of Love and Hate.” We both ended with “I love you. That's it. Forever.”
Having my father walk me down the aisle and do the father/daughter dance was really special. I wasn't big on these traditions, but he is like some fathers… reserved and not one to talk about his feelings much. So I wanted to ask him what HE wanted to do for my wedding. I could barely finish asking when he said he absolutely wanted to walk me down the aisle and he wanted to pick out a song to dance to. He doesn't dance… I figured he'd want to skip that! I think the best part was seeing him light up when we actually started to walk.
I love greeting cards, and sometimes buy them before I know what to do with them. I bought one at a local shop while living in Vancouver that was a picture of a cat jumping on a trampoline. It was simple line drawing kind of art, but I thought it was the epitome of happiness. I always thought I would frame it and not give it to anyone. I never expected that it would be the card I'd use to write a note of happiness and love to Joe before the ceremony. I wrote it out in the bride's ready-room and had his sister deliver it to him before the ceremony.
My mom is actually a really talented seamstress, but living far away from her wasn't going to make it conducive to making something complicated with lots of fittings. I decided that a cape would be perfect for a wedding in winter! My mom really outdid herself with the gorgeous cape, and I will always cherish hearing all of the compliments for it and bragging that my mom made it!
My funniest moment:
We had a “Hair Bar” with stick-on mustaches and clip-in hair extensions that turned out to be a hit! I love Joe's mustache and was happy to play off of that, so I thought we'd buy some stick-on mustaches to just have available for people to grab at the wedding. I planned to get them on clearance after Halloween and have more than enough for everyone since people love his mustache so much. But it wasn't fair for the mustaches to get all of the love. I buy some colorful extensions to wear from time to time…so it hit me: colorful hair extensions! People went NUTS for it.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
We desperately didn't want to make our friends and family work on the day. We wanted to be respectful and most importantly, we wanted them to come and enjoy a great party in thanks for the love and support they've given us over the years. If we spent money on anything, it would be to alleviate work that could fall on them.
However, due to the unforeseeable twists and turns in the last week before the wedding, namely the polar vortex hitting the Midwest forcing my family to arrive an entire week early, I learned that accepting help can be another beautiful expression of that love and support. It was a stressful change of plans, and I worried about us getting on each other's nerves, or them being bored, but it turns out they had plenty of things to do. I think they had some fun, and I was so thankful for their help.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Maggie Winters Photography
- Lighting, DJ, ceremony musicians: Washington Celebrations
- Dress: Love Couture Bridal
- Dress alterations: Sheryl Kelm Designs
- Bride's earrings and necklace: Weber's Jewelry
- Custom wedding bands and engagement ring: Dealers in Dreams
- Cake: Mary Elliott
- Hairpiece and shoe clip-ons: Wee Gardens
- Bouquets: Dana's Paper Flowers
- Groom's vest: It's Not Pajamas
- Venue: The Castle at Maryvale
- Catering: Peerce's Landing
- Boutonnieres: Peacock Pixys and Dana's Paper Flowers
- Books: The Book Thing
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!
photography: Maggie Winters Photography