The Offbeat Bride: KB. nurse
Her offbeat partner: Fran, journalist
Date and location of wedding: Unitarian Church & the Garden House at Look Park, Northampton, MA — Octover 21, 2011
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Both my partner and I lost our parents and wanted to honor them during our ceremony. We also both share Irish heritage and knew that we wanted a handfasting ceremony and wanted to use the ancient tradition of the Caim to step into a circle that symbolizes our shared love, life, and home. The Caim was made of Bittersweet vines that we harvested ourselves, reflecting the symbol of our wedding which was the Tree of Life.
The tartan we both wore symbolizes the Irish Diaspora, representing the people who have left Ireland but still hold it in their hearts. (A year before they died, our two fathers brought Fran and me to Ireland – so it was a natural choice for our honeymoon to return to the land that our fathers so honored.)
I wore earrings made from a necklace that my mother’s mother gave to her, which she wore at her wedding years before. Fran wore many of her father’s accessories. We had thistles of lavender (love, loyalty, and devotion) and rosemary (remembrance) in our flowers. We created the favors — rosemary and lavender bundles tucked into the guests’ napkins), and the seating stones that we plucked from the beach in Rhode Island where we first professed our love.
We made the handfasting cords. We laid them out on a pillow, and had the children pass them along to every wedding party member and then to our respective brothers, who then presented them to our officiant, Leigh, for the ceremony. I also made charm bracelets and other jewelry for everyone who was in the wedding party, all featuring the Tree of Life (for the Jewish members of our wedding party, we also included a Star of David).
Our reception featured a local Irish band — Fran even joined them on stage and played the bodhran (a traditional Irish drum) and the accordion. (But we also played some disco too!) We wanted to do everything as local and eco as possible. We chose local vendors and local flowers. We sourced ceremony materials and crafted many elements of the wedding ourselves. The result felt very authentic and in line with our values.
Our biggest challenge: Because there was so much storm activity that year, the flowers we had selected from the organic farm didn’t all grow! So our florist from the farm had to supplement the arrangements with gourds, which turned out very nice. We also had to very carefully dispose of the Caim vines, because Bittersweet is very invasive! I remember crawling around on the floor of the church the next day picking up Bittersweet berries so they wouldn’t end up outside.
We had planned a very elaborate entrance to the reception (Fran taught ballroom dance for many years), and the choreographed dance depended upon a very particular cue — we made our entrance and then segued into a waltz. (The timing was off, but we did it!) And then we went right into the Irish Hora, which was incredibly fun!
Also challenging: because our wedding took place on a Friday night in downtown Northampton (a college town) during Homecoming Weekend, the traffic was so bad that a few guests missed the ceremony!
My favorite moment: We featured pictures of our beloved parents at the entrance to the church, and my best friend lit a candle in remembrance of them and called them by name during the ceremony. One of the most amazing moments during our wedding was when we realized how loved and blessed we were despite having felt, in some ways, so alone after the deaths of our parents. We realized we were surrounded by family.
In addition, Fran met her niece for the first time at her wedding — Fran’s older half-brother had died many years ago and she and her niece had never had the opportunity to meet. (The niece eventually tracked Fran down on ancestry.com!)
My funniest moment: There were several!
1. Our good friend Leigh married us. She is Jewish and gave us Hebrew blessings (the genesis of the “Goyish Gay” wedding joke). The funniest part was that she forgot her notecards and she ended up referring back to the ceremony notes on her smartphone!
2. Another funny (or should I say WTF) moment was looking at our cake and realizing it wasn’t ours. Our original cake had collapsed, and one of our bridesmaids had to run out to a local supermarket to replace it, and told us about it after we had arrived at the reception (with a note of fear in her voice that we would freak out!). We didn’t!
At that point, we were happy that we got to eat it. It was absolutely delicious, and even though it never made an official appearance, we really enjoyed it!
3. We knew we couldn’t make the girls walk too far in their heels so one of our bridesmaids rented a van — it turned out to be a white cargo van! Very amusing to step out of in a wedding dress.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I have had alopecia (hair loss) since my teens, but identify strongly as a femme and wanted natural-looking makeup with eyelashes and eyebrows to match my gorgeously styled wig. I have always been hesitant about turning over control of my face, but was very happy with the results of my professional makeover and I felt like myself (and like a “real bride!”)
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I really felt my parents’ presence that day, particularly as I held my father’s rosary beads, and I know Fran felt the same way. It’s not about who’s not there, because they are in spirit.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Ceremony venue: Unitarian Society of Northampton & Florence
- Reception venue: The Garden House at Look Park
- Dress: David’s Bridal
- Makeup: Liz Washer, Makeup Artistry by Liz
- Hairstyling: Barbara Ween, Visage Salon
- Bagpipes: Frank Toscanini
- Bakery: Cakes by Deb, Hatfield MA (best-tasting broken cake ever!)
- Flowers: Red Fire Farm
- Band: Last Night’s Fun
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!
makeup: Makeup Artistry by Liz