Red, white, and Lord of the Rings: Marlene & Graham's sweet handfasting

Updated Oct 12 2015
 
Photos by: Holly Redmond Photography
Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride
Photos by Holly Redmond Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Marlene, paralegal by day, law student by night

Her offbeat partner: Graham, Artificial intelligence engineer

Date and location of wedding: Ceremony: Le Meridien Cambridge, Reception: Catalyst Restaurant, Cambridge, MA — October 12, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

Our overall goal was to keep things small. Personally, both of us would have been happy with just donning our best and skipping to City Hall to get married then jetting off on an extended honeymoon. But we recognized immediately that our wedding was also about our families and wanted to give them a chance to share in an important day of celebration. We ended up with 60 guests and chose a hotel rooftop garden for the ceremony and a nearby restaurant for a lunch reception, both in the MIT area. We tried to make sure we didn't do anything just because "that's how it's always done." Our focus was family, comfort, class, and awesome food.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Our colors were red, grey, and white and we had a running theme of book pages throughout, with references to The Lord of the Rings, Bioshock Infinite, Star Wars, Portal, and of course, our cat. I made book page kusudama flowers to line the ceremony aisle, and my sister made awesome centerpieces out of book stacks and wine bottles covered in book pages filled with pretty branches. I also followed Offbeat Bride's instructions on making our own Portal companion cube card box. Etsy vendors saved the day, and from them I purchased a number of nerdy dictionary prints and had all of the bouquets, corsages, and boutonnieres made out of paper. We also bought Graham's ring through Etsy, it's the only one made out of dinosaur bone, meteorite, and katana sword metal that we could find.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

We chose a family member to marry us and wrote our own ceremony which turned into a handfasting just weeks before the big day. We didn't select a bridal party but asked each of our sisters to stand with us. You'd better believe that if we could have managed it, our cat Count Rugen would have been our ring bearer. We cut corners by using an iPod for all of our music, I walked in to the barbershop version of "God Only Knows" from Bioshock Infinite, and I unexpectedly found my papery dress for a steal.

We tossed out most of the traditional structure for a reception. We wanted it to be more of a fancy dinner party, where everyone felt connected and not like an audience. We didn’t have a special entrance or head table (everyone was grouped at three long tables), and we abandoned the bouquet toss, garter toss, and any kinds of games. We felt very strongly about having no dancing, so we used every suggestion to curb people’s expectation for it. We ended up with a delicious, daytime three-course meal with jazzy music, speeches, and a photo booth, and it didn’t feel like anything was missing to us. Mission accomplished!

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Tell us about the ceremony:

We wrote the ceremony ourselves and our officiant, Graham’s cousin, pulled everything together with a Celtic theme, including Irish blessings and the handfasting. Rather than writing vows, we made six mutual promises to each other, and tied the handfasting cord with each one. We are both allies of the LGBTQ community and wanted to express our support for marriage equality, so one of our readings was from the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. Then naturally, when it came to the ring exchange, we had a few Lord of the Rings references. Exchanging rings, we each said “I’m glad to be with you, until the end of all things.”

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Our biggest challenge:

Our biggest challenge was one that I’ve heard from many other brides: balancing people’s expectations and suggestions with grace while sticking to your own plan. I’m a serious Type A personality and tried to have rigid control over every detail. So I was stressed whenever people would gift me something to wear, or offer to make some food or decorate, because they threatened to change the plan. I had to learn to relax and let people help, but also politely decline some things. We learned that the best response is, “thank you, but it’s already been planned and paid for.”

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

I was also told that I was creating a "reverse bridezilla effect" (bridechilla?). Graham and I were aiming for minimalism in a lot of ways: the decorations, the structure for the reception, and especially our expectations of others. We know that weddings are just a bunch of fluff surrounding the important bit of two people committing themselves for life, and we didn’t want to burden friends and family with guidelines and responsibilities for participating in the day. Hence, I had zero opinion about what people wore and could only muster up a red and grey color scheme for our families to work with. This created a lot of follow-up from people wanting more guidance as to what was acceptable. I ended up working just as hard to give everyone my approval as I would have done if I had dictated each aspect of everyone’s outfit to begin with. I thought that having fewer plans about certain things would save us time and effort, but families, guests and vendors came after me asking for more structure. There’s a happy medium somewhere between staunch bridal bitch and apathy.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

My favorite moment:

It was important to me that both my mother and father walk me down the aisle. You just can’t have one of them without the other, and the arrangement was special for all three of us.

Graham’s gift to me while we were getting ready also bowled me over. I’m a little more than obsessed with The Lord of the Rings and he gave me a beautiful picture frame inscribed with Arwen’s promise to Aragorn: “I would rather share one lifetime with you than face all the ages of this world alone.” Cue the waterworks.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Our first look with our photographer also turned out to be one of the best parts of the day. I can’t overstate how helpful it was to see each other, just the two of us in a quiet place, before the busy day began. It both calmed us down and pumped us up and gave us a solid hour for the reality of "holy crap we are really doing this now" to settle in. We both had nervous jitters before we saw each other, but after the first look we just floated through the day like buttah. I highly recommend first looks to those who are worried about nerves!

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

My funniest moment:

It was actually two nights before the wedding when we were putting all the music on iPods. I accidentally played the song I was walking down the aisle to at full volume in front of Graham, when I had been keeping it a secret for over a year. I was crying over spoiling the wedding day reveal, but he couldn’t stop laughing at me and told me the song was perfect. After this fiasco, when I did walk down the aisle and the song was playing, it was an inside joke twice over, and I laughed and cried.

Also, wedding dresses do not breathe — or mine didn’t. TMI warning. Even though it was a pleasant 60 degrees, after our outdoor ceremony I was a bit pungent. Immediately after this discovery, of course, was a receiving line for all of our guests. I was so nervous that everyone would think I reeked. I confided in close friends and they all insisted they couldn’t smell me. Truth or obligatory wedding day courtesy? I deodorized thrice but was still self-conscious. I imagined myself to be many things on my wedding day: nervous, happy, blissful, but not stinky.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?

Planning a wedding is a master class in diplomacy. It’s okay and probably advisable to have opinions and to ask for help, in a polite way of course. You will not burden people by giving them guidelines when they ask for them. Doing so will save you both grief. Your wedding is not an imposition! Just remember that the people trying to get involved in planning are doing so because they are genuinely excited and because they love you.

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Geeky handfasting from @offbeatbride

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

They ♥ OBB; we ♥ themThis post features Offbeat Vendors! Check out their vendor listing to see how they cater to Offbeat Brides:

  1. Adorable pics! I must ask if you got a pattern for that companion cube card box or if someone was just that AWESOME!!! It's AMAZING!

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