Ashley & Josh's home-brewed prison wedding with a rap video

Updated Oct 12 2015
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Photos by Beatrice Katcher and Michelle Awe

The Offbeat Bride: Ashley, Nanny/Crafter/Chocolate Maker

Her offbeat partner: Josh, Caterer/Rapper/Producer

Date and location of wedding: Armory Arts Village (formerly the first state prison in Michigan), Jackson, MI — September 22, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: As a crafter, I knew early on that our wedding would be deep in the DIY. I did not realize I would still be crafting half an hour before the ceremony! From the 1000 paper cranes, to the hand-cut chair ties, to painting Josh's shoes, I had my hands in just about everything.

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All the flowers (except the baby's breath) were made from coffee filters. The cake topper was made out of found objects, and the objects used represented who we are as people. He was made from technology and food, I was made of craft supplies, and we were surrounded by music. I also designed and sewed my bridesmaid's sashes and my hair do-dads.

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My amazing brother and sister-in-law home-brewed all the beer, wine, and soda for the event. My father-in-law built our altar/photo booth. More good friends handled the lighting, DJing, and catering. It was a day that everyone built together. It still warms the cockles of my heart to think about how hard everyone worked.

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Our venue, The Armory Arts Village, was the first state prison in Michigan, dating back to the Civil War, and is now an artists' community. The space where the wedding was held is what the artists' now use for their gallery showings, but was once the original prison. The walls are the original stone, and you can still see the holes where the bars used to be. The chandeliers in the venue are made from old wagon wheels, also dating back to the Civil War, that were made in the old carriage wheel factory that is next door. The venue was redone during World War II, and now boasts a '40s-era bandstand stage, and an amazingly fun wallpaper border with caricatured bullets and American flags. On top of it all, the place was a STEAL at $100 an hour.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Since Josh is a rapper and I'm into theater, we decided our processional should be a bit theatrical as well. Our processional song was Queen's "Somebody To Love" and each member of our wedding party danced down the aisle alone, including myself. Once they all had made it to the altar, the crescendo of the song had begun, and they all stamped and clapped along with the build-up. When Freddie finally sings his "SOMEBODY TOOOOO" I stepped out and lip sang along into my bouquet.

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The official, accidental dropping of the rings

Josh's aunt officiated. We had a ring warming, and my mom and aunt performed "Naked As We Came" by Iron and Wine. Josh's best friend Sayrd, who he has known since he was two weeks old, read "A Lovely Love Story" by Edward Monkton. Our other good friend Paul read a version of Aristophanes's speech from Plato's Symposium.

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At the end, we personalized the vows to say, "Do you Ashley, take this tall, beardy, food-obsessed, beer guzzling, white rapper to be your husband, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad? And Josh, do you take this tiny, fiesty, overly-emotional, chocolate-addicted, craft explosion to be your wife, whether times are good or bad, happy or sad?"

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Our biggest challenge: I think it was learning to let go of the many DIY projects for which there wasn't time. A perfect example is our invitations. There was a mix-up with the size at which I designed them, so they wouldn't fit into the envelopes I really wanted to use. So i had to compromise on that particular project. There was also a whole big balloon installation that was supposed to go up in the venue that never happened, even though Josh and his groomsmen spent the morning of the wedding trying their hardest to make it work. At the end of the day, balloons or no balloons, I was no less married.

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My favorite moment: Josh and I have not had an easy road to the altar. Four and a half years ago we lost our newborn son, a week after he was born. We had only been together six months before getting pregnant, so this was yet another shock to our young relationship. We named him Miles Davis, and about a year after he passed we found this sweet toy trumpet in a vintage shop. At the ceremony, we had a tiny chair with his trumpet on it. There was also a piano in the venue that we set up as a memorial for him, with his pictures, the cast of his feet, a baby blanket I had crocheted, and all the trumpets we have been collecting over the years. Being able to acknowledge him, and the gifts he'd given us, meant so much. We know that he's the one who taught us what love is. This was our tribute to him in our vows:

In one mere summer, I learned more about love and the power of friendship and family than I had ever hoped to know. I learned that love can be just one comfortable moment in a ragged and tortured day. I learned that love is, in its simplest form, true friendship. It is the breaths through the silences, and the peace in the night.

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It was also really special having some family members cross the pond from England to be with us. In addition, I had reconciled a four-year silence with my dad's side of the family. It felt so good having them there, and being able to dance and laugh with them.

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My funniest moment: The funniest moment was when I presented Josh with his wedding present. He is a rapper, and years ago he wrote a song for me called "Dancin' Girl." As his gift, I remixed the song he wrote for me, made it all about him, called it "Rappin' Man," shot a music video, and projected it on the wall of the venue at the wedding reception for all to see. His reaction was priceless.

Here's the video:

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Plan out the day's schedule with every step. I don't just mean your projects or your general timeline, I mean your whole day. We didn't, and had a supremely awkward moment right after doing our entrance, where we all just stood at the head table not knowing what to do. Eventually someone waved the caterer over and asked "Okay, now what?" It was so awkward! Think about those transitional moments.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned that love is an overwhelming and all-encompassing thing. It makes you do things you'd never think you'd do, and it makes people come out of the woodwork to help in ways you never thought imaginable. I learned that forgiveness is key, panic gets you nowhere, and that sometimes, when you really need one, a hug can feel like being squeezed by a rainbow made of kittens.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. Its too early for these happy tears you've induced! The tribute to your son was beautiful, and so were the visuals.

    • I am all cried out for the day, and I will NOT cry because of that beautiful tribute to their sweet baby. *sniff*. Seriously, that's one of the sweetest things I've seen in a long time, especially the picture of Josh reading to their son.

      • Thank you! I love that picture, too. At the time Josh was obsessed with Anthony Bourdain books, and I had gotten him three for Father's Day, which was just a few weeks before Miles was born. He hadn't stopped reading them since he opened his gift, and that moment made me smile, because his whole world had just changed, and yet there he was getting right back to his life. 🙂

    • Thank you! People seemed a bit skeptical at first when I would say my "colors" were gray, white, and florals, but when the day came they were all blown away. I still can't believe it all came together!

  2. Ok, I cried. So, so beautiful.

    Also, I think I love the dancing groomsman in the third to last photo. Hook a girl up.

  3. This wedding touched me beyond words. The crafting was beyond amazing and the tribute to your son…well, I am still shedding tears as I write this. That quote, "In one mere summer, I learned more about love and the power of friendship and family than I had ever hoped to know. I learned that love can be just one comfortable moment in a ragged and tortured day. I learned that love is, in its simplest form, true friendship. It is the breaths through the silences, and the peace in the night." If only I were so eloquent. Good luck to you. My condolences for your loss and my happy wishes to you for your future. This is truly inspiring. Thank you for sharing your special day!

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