A tropical backyard circus wedding from the aerialist minds of Gorgas & Jason

April 27 2015 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Ingrid Bonne Photography
Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride
Photos by Ingrid Bonne Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Gorgas, group exercise instructor and aerialist (and Offbeat Bride Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Jason, advertising operations manager, flying trapeze catcher, and magician

Date and location of wedding: Bride's parents' backyard in Miami, FL — 02/21/2015

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

We decided early on that we wanted our wedding to be an immersive experience filled with surprises. To that end, we went overboard with decor and handmade just about everything that could be handmade, with the understanding that if at any point we didn't want to do something, we could drop it. Luckily we had a year to get everything done, which is how we ended up with a ton of little details that probably nobody noticed, but that added together to create the mood we were going for, which was casual, intimate, quirky, and fun.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Having the wedding at my mom's place meant that we could set everything up on our own time frame, rather than worry about a venue's time restrictions. Since Jason and I met at our circus training facility (and were trapeze partners before we started dating) we included a surprise circus theme to the reception by hanging strips of fabric to the side of my mom's house to make a circus tent, building midway games, making marquee letters, and using vintage circus poster postcards as a guestbook.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Since we felt strongly that all our communities were important to us, we handed out postcards instead of formal invitations and decided that if someone wanted to come out we would make room for them somehow, figuring worst case we'd make a pizza run if we ran out of food. It meant we had a bunch of day-before RSVPs and no official headcount (we may never know who all was there) but we wouldn't have had it any other way!

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tell us about the ceremony:

We started with a cocktail hour, so that everyone could get to know one another. My mom squeezed fresh lemonade that served as our signature cocktail and we hauled all her furniture outside from inside the house, to give the space an intimate feel. We wanted everyone to feel as cared for and loved as they made us feel by their presence. We had icebreaker activities like a stereoscope, typewriter, and DIY music box.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

We walked down the aisle together, carrying boxes Jason had made which contained our rings, as my maid of honor sang "Somewhere Out There" a cappella. Our officiant has known me since I was four and actually married my mom and stepdad 17 years ago, so she was able to give us a really beautiful, personal ceremony that reflected us and what we stood for.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

At one point we invited our communities to offer words of "intentions" for our marriage and they really got into it, offering advice and encouragement, like "hold hands even when you don't feel like it" and "laugh everyday." Everyone sang us out, clapping and throwing the confetti my mom and I had hand cut (stupidly, in a DIY fog where it totally made sense at the time, but later we turned to each other and were like "you know, we could have just bought confetti??"). Those who were too far to throw it ran to meet us at the end of the aisle and pelted us good!

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

When we went for our private walk around the neighborhood, just the two of us, we spent most of the time shaking the paper out from our hair and clothes and laughing.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tell us about your reception:

The main reception area we decorated to look like a fair. Jason made an epic, eight-foot-tall paper moon for the photo booth, which wound up being a huge hit. I told a friend to plan on taking photos for two hours and after that people could use their phones, but he wound up taking photos for the whole night!

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Since I'm obsessed with skeeball, Jason made me one for the midway, which was so much fun. To set the mood, our music was all swing and big band songs that I had collected into an iTunes playlist. Instead of cake, we had pie that was mostly all made by friends and family, that we served ourselves, which was an idea we stole from Offbeat Bride and a nice way to get a chance to chat with everyone.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

We also had a "Key West" area that was more low-key for the introverts to hang out in away from the main reception, with a firepit, s'mores, bourbon, and sparklers. As favors, we had cinnamon rolls from Knaus Berry Farm, which is a local place that South Floridians are obsessed with. There were NONE leftover once word got out the favors were cinnamon rolls.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

A funny moment came when we were goaded by our friends to do something "circus-y." We aren't a ground act, but we decided I should stand on Jason's shoulders, which went pretty well until I had to dismount. Ordinarily I'd come down the front, but I was worried my dress would hook his neck so long story short we wound up in a pile on the grass. Super graceful, lemme tell you!

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Any other advice for Offbeat Bride readers?

Compromise. I wrote a post for Offbeat Bride about taking off my ring when we were facing a lot of issues surrounding his family's wedding expectations. We compromised by having two weddings, the traditional Chinese one and one that could be totally and authentically us. In the end it wound up being the perfect decision, and made the drama disappear since nobody felt that their idea of "wedding" wasn't heard and respected.

What worked for us, too, was making our wedding a true community affair. Our crew for the day were my mom's former high school students, who were so excited to be there. The only real "vendor" we had was our caterer, who was so taken with our decorations we wound up giving them to him to use for his son's upcoming birthday party. I spent a fair amount of time just standing in my mom's yard, savoring the sight of it all. Walking in my parents' backyard is now such a treat, since you never know what memories will come.

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Tropical circus wedding from @offbeatbride

Vendors

  1. I saw a sneak peek of this wedding in the Forum and I am still floored! Love how happy everyone is and all the cute personal touches.

    • Thank you so much- I can't tell you how wonderful everyone in the forum was, my year of wedding planning was made all the better for all the fab people on there!! I'm beyond thrilled to see our wedding up here!

  2. The food looks yummy!
    Like the other poster stated, the personal touches are great (and so is the photographs).
    While I am not a fan of circus (creepy clowns), I like the subtle circus theme and the moon photo shot is awesome.
    I wish more Chinese wedding photo's were shown 🙂 Maybe you can post some.

    • Thanks so much! And I hear you, when I was a kid I was *terrified* of clowns, which my mom still teases me about every time I go train at our circus facility, lol
      Are you a forum member? If you are, go look at my past entries. I posted a whole long thing on there with tons of Chinese wedding photos a little ways back (that wedding was in January)

  3. I remember seeing your journal posts and photos and I am LOVING seeing the whole thing together now! Fabulous wedding and you guys look SO happy!!! Congrats and blessings!

    • Thank you so much! I can't tell you how wonderful it was to have so many wonderful people rooting for this wedding (and to get to root for everyone else's too!) this past year. xoxo

  4. I saw some of your journal entries and loved reading them and seeing all the pictures. Seeing your wedding featured on the main blog is fantastic! Your wedding has such an overall deeply happy vibe to it, I love all about it. The paper moon is AMAZING! You guys look so cute, I also love your dress and the red shoes! Thanks for sharing!

    • HI ARIEL!!!
      We did it!!!!
      It was awesome to get to meet you at LoveSick, but even more I'm forever indebted to you for creating such a wonderful, positive, and thoughtful nook in the wilds of the internet. Thank you for building this place so that we could have an amazing wedding planning experience

  5. This is all very inspiring! I have so many new ideas, thank you for sharing 🙂

    PLEASE explain that awesome checker dance floor!?!? Did you rent it? I am figuring out venues for my (hopefully) outdoor wedding and need to reconcile my simultaneous desire for a dancing area.

    • I'm so glad we could inspire you! We had a blast dreaming up little touches and projects (so many that weren't even photographed, my photographer was nearly in tears that she couldn't take photos of all the details, lol, so we had to tell her our philosophy about everyone noticing different things and if not everything was documented we were totally fine with that)

      We *did* rent it! The place we used to rent from had black floors and white floors, and we rented half and half and alternated squares. Talk to your company about it since there were some logistics that had to get figured out on their end (which parts of the floor fit into which other parts) but it's totally do-able! Also, we cut corners by knowing that we would have so much going on we wouldn't need a huge dance floor, since there wouldn't ever be a point everyone would be on there dancing at the same time. We had a smaller dance floor than would have been recommended for our guest count, but it worked.

      Good luck with your wedding!! I'm sure it'll be a blast!

  6. Where should I start, this is such a wonderful idea….all the small touches really set it all together. The sparklers I thought were a great idea along with the key west area for the low key peeps. What a beautiful couple you are. Congrats! <3

    • Thanks so much! The great thing about everything being DIY was that there was a story behind everything we had at the wedding. The sparkler story is this: my mom lives about an hour's drive from Key Largo, where there is this huge fireworks warehouse. So, the week before the wedding we decided to take a quick trip down there to buy some sparklers and run back home… long story short: there was a huge massive traffic jam we got in the middle of, decided to grab dinner and wait it out, realized it was Valentine's Day and all places on the key needed reservations for dinner that night…. yeah, by the time we got back it was like five hours later. But. We had sparklers, by god! lol. And we had a good time amongst all the crazy wedding prep to just sit in a car going nowhere and talk, it was very bonding.

  7. I read your other entry and I'm struggling to help a friend with the same issues you faced – how did having two ceremonies end up resolving itself? Did the in-laws back off and foot some of the bill for the extravagant demands they were making? A friend is going through a similar thing and I'm going to point her this way and would love your advice. Congrats on throwing one epic reception and best wishes to you and your partner, my dear!

    • Aw man, well, let me start by saying I'm sorry to hear your friend is dealing with something similar. It's no fun to negotiate family expectations (in laws or otherwise) with your own and your partner's. For us, it wound up being a long, long process of negotiations and re-negotiations. Ultimately, what worked for us, was that I told my husband what my limits were and then let him handle his own family. I know it was hard for him to stay firm with his family, but we found a lot of great conflict resolution resources here at OBB and I think his relationship with his family has changed (for the better) now that he knows how to be more assertive.

      As for the cost of the thing, we decided how much of our total wedding budget we were willing to allocate to the second wedding and it was his job to stay firm on how much we were willing to give toward that wedding. All the rest came from his family and then the money we were given from that wedding's guests (since they are Chinese, his family's guests only gave money as wedding gifts) we just gave back to his parents for what they had spent.

      We also instituted a policy where I was a total ostrich when it came to the second wedding. All the details and the drama that went on between his family went to my husband and– unless I specifically asked what was happening with something for logistics– *stayed* with him. If his mother wanted my opinion on something I'd say "whatever Jason wants" and keep my head buried in the sand. On the day-of it was actually a lot of fun to just wear what they had bought me, show up where they needed me, and be pleasantly surprised by everything they had planned. We had a lovely time. I think if it had been our one and only wedding we wouldn't have, but since we knew we had the one that we'd been planning for so long on the horizon, it was easy to let his family have their day.

      The other piece of advice I'll give you is something I kept repeating to myself every time some drama *did* seep my way. I told myself the reason his family was so insistent that we do things their way was because they loved him and they loved me and this was how, in their eyes, they could show that to their community and to us. That they wanted to make sure we were married as well as they could was proof they were glad I was joining their family and wanted us to succeed. Now, I don't know your friend's particulars and every family is crazy in its own way, but as long as I told myself that his family was coming from a good place, it did help my perception of their demands.

      Good luck! <3

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