The Offbeat Bride: Mel, Park Ranger
Her offbeat partner: Tevis, Physics Instructor
Date and location of wedding: ThorpeWood Inc, in Thurmont, MD — September 28, 2014
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We decided our wedding would be space-themed almost immediately after we announced our engagement. We both have an intense love for the physical sciences, and astronomy specifically sparked our imaginations. I did a hell of a lot of crafting: the tables at the reception were named after the objects in the solar system, and each one had a painted glass planet as its centerpiece (except for Pluto/Charon, which had two glowing moons).
We also made an activity book which functioned as both a wedding program and reception entertainment (and it was FULL of ideas from Offbeat Bride!). The books had an “achievements” page inspired by this post, and I made custom rubber stamps for guests to reward their progress.
Then I made 93 personalized gift boxes to act as guest favors and seating arrangements. We created ten custom rubber stamps and used a chemical wood burning process to put a celestial body/table assignment on each box. Thankfully for the guests who hadn't studied their planets beforehand, the tables also had the same stamped images on their menu cards for easy matching.
Our guestbook was a puzzle cut and dyed by the talented Robert Askren. I designed it to look like two cockatiels, because we're bird nerds, and we have parrots at home.
We asked our best friends to be our Man of Honor and Best Woman, and they were delighted to accept, although it sort of threw our families for a loop. My Man of Honor and friends took point on the tricky task of explaining to my family that I truly didn't want a bridal shower (and kindly kept me none the wiser to their struggle, which definitely saved me a lot of stress). As the wedding approached, we learned we had to constantly remind vendors that my Man of Honor wasn't a groomsman, and the Best Woman wasn't a bridesmaid. Between the two of them, they couldn't decide who should carry that third bouquet, and it ended up getting passed between them quite a few times over the course of the wedding day. This worked out well, as when the Best Woman was holding it during the ceremony, it left my Man of Honor free to hold onto my bouquet.
Tell us about the ceremony:
We all walked down the aisle to the George Winston adaptation of Pachelbel's “Canon in D” (which just so happens to be my favorite song, so it was an easy choice). We felt that sharing a processional song united us as a group and as the close family of friends that we are (and the song ended up being the perfect length, too!)
We each had both of our parents walk us down the aisle. I was adamantly opposed to any sort of “giving away,” but with all of our parents involved, it felt much more like a celebration of our families.
Our officiant, Hugh, is our friend and a leader at the Baltimore Ethical Society, where we're members (it's not exactly a church; it's a congregation of secular people). The traditional Ethical Society wedding was already beautifully written, so we didn't change much, but Hugh helped us really make it our own, which included making the language gender-neutral and adding our own promises to each other alongside our vows.
I promise to try not to wake you when I draw or write at two AM
I promise not to fudge my Pathfinder die rolls, even if my character's life hangs in the balance
I promise to hold up your kite so it can catch the wind
I promise to start projects with you, and even–sometimes–finish them
I promise to listen for as long as it takes for you to feel heard
I promise to appreciate your incredible mind and your unique talents
I promise I will always believe in you
I promise to silence the smoke detector's false alarms when triggered by your crafts and baking experiments
I promise to include a res quest, should your honest die rolls fail to save your Pathfinder character.
I promise to follow you on letterboxing quests, no matter how strange the destination.
I promise to make you tea and soup when you're feeling sick.
I promise to adventure with you, whether across the country or through our minds.
I promise to cherish your warmth, intelligence, and creativity.
I promise I will always believe in you.
At the end, our officiant pulled out his guitar and played “Nothing More” by The Alternate Routes for our recessional.
Our biggest challenge:
Getting married is extra weird when you're genderqueer. Becoming “a bride” brought a lot of awkward pressure to be feminine. I hated dress shopping. I wasn't even comfortable with being called a bride, much less the complexities of picking out a wedding gown. Vendors and family members alike had a lot of expectations about the way I should look, and tactfully dealing with their disappointment (or even disapproval!) while standing up for myself was often difficult.
Our officiant, Hugh, offered so much valuable moral support, advice, and help keeping our wedding about us — and keeping our ceremony gender-neutral. Our friends also really stepped up to the plate, too, whenever we got stressed out about the intensely gendered expectations the Wedding Industrial Complex threw in our path.
Eventually, I found a dress I totally loved and actually felt great wearing (even if the fact that it wasn't snow-white was shocking to a few people). After nine months of acquiescently growing my hair long, I cut it short again, and immediately felt way better about the way I looked. I stuck to my guns and, after dodging what felt like infinite attempts to outfit me in a veil, garter, and/or headpiece, I got some star-shaped twist-ins on eBay which I arranged in a constellation (the Pleiades, more or less). All the criticisms that people brought to me about not looking a very particular way were totally meaningless by the time I walked down the aisle. I felt like myself, and I felt awesome.
Our parents worried that having an entirely vegan wedding would be a challenge, but it turned out to be No Big Deal. The in-house caterer wasn't the least bit intimidated by our request, and we chose to have the dishes served “family style,” which encouraged our friends and family to try everything (and to talk to each other).
My favorite moment:
My grandmothers and my great-uncle passed away in the months leading up to the wedding, and they had all been so excited about attending. My mom made three pendants, each of them containing a photograph of our loved ones, and sewed them onto my bouquet on the day of, which I thought was really touching.
Our rings were family heirlooms: mine is my grandmother's from her arranged marriage, and Tev's belonged to my great-grandfather.
One of the best things about the wedding was seeing the people we love most have a great time. We had NO IDEA that so many of our friends could tear up the dance floor! We were certain we'd be surrounded by wallflowers, but instead we were surrounded by an actual dance circle.
My funniest moment:
One of our favorite moments of the wedding was during dinner, when my uncle Ron tapped a fork against his wine glass and we beckoned him over. We said we had noticed him tapping his glass and he responded, “I was just wondering, since this isn't a strictly traditional wedding, what would happen.”
The best woman pulled out a 20-sided die and handed it to my uncle while we explained, “If you roll 18 or higher, we agree to kiss. But if you roll a 1, you have to find someone to kiss you.” Uncle Ron took the risk, but only rolled a 16. We told him to try again later. So the best woman decided to try her luck … and rolled a 1. The man of honor agreed to help her out and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
A stinkbug somehow found its way deep into the folds of my dress right before the ceremony. I had to gently coax it down a tube of fabric spanning the entire length of the dress before the bug was free to go on its stinky, merry way.
Tev would like to add that when we made our entrance to the reception from the upper floor of the lodge, we overlooked several tables, and my only comment when descending the stairs was “I can see Uranus.”
Don't let anybody tell you that you need to “hide your hips” with a fuller dress. Your hips are great.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
Our friends and families are what made our wedding not just possible, but awesome. From my man of honor helping our officiant learn to play the recessional, to our best woman surprising everyone with matching space socks, to all the love and support we were offered while we navigated difficult decisions and weird cultural obstacle courses. We absolutely needed our friends to keep us sane, and their involvement affirmed that our wedding was not solely about us. We wouldn't be who and where we are without the people that love us.
That said, if I had to do it again (and I'm glad I don't), I'd tell myself to be less stressed out about disappointing other people. Tev and I happily shrugged our shoulders at a lot of decisions we thought were inconsequential, but I wish that I'd been louder about our right to self-expression when people accused of us trying to make a “political statement” with gender neutrality. Our wedding was a celebration of who we are and what we mean to each other, and we're the only people who should get to define those things.
Also? Don't let anybody tell you that you need to “hide your hips” with a fuller dress. Your hips are great.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Nony Dutton
- Venue: Thorpewood
- Dress: Rizik's
- Attendant's dresses: Nordstrom
- Invitations: Miller's Minuteman Press
- RSVP form: Jotform
- Puzzle: Robert Askren
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!