Ragani & Will's Cinematic Gala & Music Spectacular Wedding

November 5 2009 | arielmstallings

This is sort of an Offbeat Bride family wedding. Not only is it the wedding of longtime OBT member Ragani — but it was the first wedding that Managing Editor Megan ever photographed. Kudos to Ragani & Will for taking a chance on an a newbie wedding photographer.

husband & wife! 

The offbeat bride: Ragani, Art Director & Henna Artist

Her offbeat partner: Will, Paralegal & Performing Artist

Location & date of wedding: California Ballroom, Oakland, CA — May 2, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: Having a traditional wedding was never really an option. We wanted it to be a reflection us and celebrate our eclectic community, so following "tradition" was not the best way to achieve that. Once we decided on having the wedding in a theater-like setting, the rest spun off that.

The bride & groom's table.

Our overall theme was inspired by movies we love and, the many fantastic friends who perform. Knowing that we had a theater we wanted to take full advantage to allow friends and family to take the stage. We ended up with five official bands, four other individuals or groups performing musically, three readers, two dance instructors, a speech, an emcee, and an officiant who is also an accomplished actor.

Each table was themed after a different movie, with centerpieces crafted by friends and family. Guests received tickets that directed them to their table. A friend posing as a high society reporter went around "interviewing" people with several paparazzi in attendance, another was a candy girl.

There was a photo-booth where guest could take photos wearing props we provided. We encouraged guests to dress in-theme, and many did. I wore a glamourous red gown, he dressed as Rick from Casablanca. Our cakes were a box-of-popcorn and a root-beer-float (which tasted like one too).

I had a Maid of Awesome, he had a Best Band. Instead of having my dad walk me down an aisle, we asked him to perform for our entrance, which Will and I did together.

first danceOur biggest challenge: The first real problem was when the dress I ordered did not show up because the manufacturer was never able to provide the dress in my size, so the vendor simply cancelled my order without telling me. When I followed up with them about it I was only able to get the dress two sizes smaller than I wanted, so I talked them into taking 20% off the price for my pain (which mostly covered the alternations I had to get done to make it fit). Fortunately I had a good friend who altered it to work even better for me.

The other big logistical issue came up with the kitchen, or lack-there-of in the venue. Because it was an old building, the kitchen was not designed for more than keeping food warm. Since my chefs were good friends who were working out of their own kitchens, they were concerned they did not have enough room to cook chicken for 150 guests and have it ready to eat all at the same time.

The only "cheese topper" I've ever seen!

By thinking outside the box we found a rotisserie chicken vendor that could deliver enough chicken to the venue pre-cooked, allowing the chefs to add their sauce and serve close enough to on time.

The other snafu (still kicking myself) was that I never printed a bar menu to have on-site, so many of the drinks we purchased did not get requested at the bar and people asked for things we did not have enough ingredients for.

My favorite moment: My favorite moments are all seeing all of our planning come together.

The first was when I arrived at the venue. While I had been at a hotel room getting dressed with Offbeat Managing Editor Megan and my bridal entourage, a team of friends and family had been setting up the venue based on instructions and supplies I had provided them. I was not there to oversee any of it, and had to trust my Maid of Awesome, my day-of-coordinator, and a bunch of volunteers to interpret my vision. To walk into that room and see everyone having figured it out, and all the guests dressed up, and many in costumes, was thrilling!

dance lessons
The very popular swing dance lessons.

The next moment was when informed dinner was running late, I realized that it was the perfect time to have my friends give the swing dance lessons I had requested. We had both been unsure how that was going to work, and had not really thought it through, but when I looked up after she got started to see the dance floor crowded with guests from all walks of our lives, I was so excited.

Another moment for me was when I saw people enjoying that I used music from each movie to call the tables up to the buffet. Will was skeptical that guests would get it, but some people dance to the music as they went to get food, and there were entire tables (often people who only met that day) playfully debating which song I chose.

IMG_9962a
Ragani & Will with the "best band."

My offbeat advice: Create a core values list together early on to help you manage the challenges along the way. When we were faced with a decision that we were having a hard time figuring out we would check the core values. If we were choosing between options (say, a vendor that would make things "easier" vs. a friend that might mean we'd have to do more work; or doing something traditional vs. something that might seem odd) we chose the one that fit our core values. Community and fun were core values, so our friends got the business, even if it was more work for us and tradition often lost to fun.

IMG_0148Figure out what your friends/family love to do and delegate that to them. We asked a lot of friends to work our wedding, but wanted them to have fun too. The emcee and bar tender had a conversation where each of them thought the other was doing a lot of work, only to realize they enjoyed what they were each doing so much they were having a blast. My mom got so into
crafting the centerpiece she was making she nearly missed the rehearsal dinner!

Once you delegate, know when it is time to step back and trust them to handle the job. Will regrets getting so caught up in the load-in that he didn't give himself enough time to relax while getting dressed. It is not worth the stress to fuss anyway.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Venue: California Ballroom
  • Bride's dress: Victoria Trading Co. (cool stuff, CSR's all use cute pseudonyms from fiction, but are not so good at calling back even when they promise to)
  • Bride's alterations & fascinator: Katherine Becvar
  • Bride's shoes: Fluevog Operettas Malibran in Wine (with the perfect quote: "Hey Minstrel, Your love makes me sing…" Perfect because Will is in a band called The Naughty Minstrels)
  • Groom's jacket: Bogart Dinner jacket from Zoot Suite Store
  • Best Band's bowling shirts: BowlingShirt.com
  • Cake: my friend, and sister to the Maid of Awesome, Rebecca Niedbalec
  • Food: my friends, Richie Dawkins and Michael DeWeil
  • Candy girl's candy: Old Time Candy
  • Sound system: our friends at Live Music Center
  • The bands: Brass Farthing, The Naughty Minstrels, 5 Cent Coffee, Hobohemians Boxcar Band, Plasterkatz (check out our Now Playing page for info and links on our bands.)
  • Swing Dance instructor: my friend Malaika Finkelstein
  • Our officiant: Robert Young
  • Our photographers: Gar Travis, Sam Coniglio and of course, Megan Finley
  • Day of Coordinator: Sara Weglinsky

Enough talk — show me the gala porn!:

  1. Very nice wedding!! I loved how you did some old movies decoration design at your wedding. Never even thought of doing that and thats unique. Your wedding dress is very different and Beautiful.. fits with the theme. Also the cool idea of having popcorn and soda as your wedding cake!! All of your pictures are great!! Congrats to couple!!

  2. I am absolutely positively in LOVE with your venue! I love the grandeur, just the plain awesomeness really! I wish both of you lots of grandeur and awesomeness in your continued walk through life together ^_^

  3. I was a guest at this wedding. Truely to see how awesome it was, you had to be there. The cakes were amaaaaazing. The entertainment was great, too. The food was just mouth watering, with a varied selection and consideration for different appetites. It was a wonderful experience I am honored to have shared with them. The Ragani nad Will are fantastic people and I'm very happy to know them.

  4. Absolutely love this — especially the Best Band! We had a small wedding party (best woman, maid of honor, best dog & all of our kid cousins) but we included all the people who would have traditionally been our groomsmen & bridesmaids in our "Volunteer Folk Choir", which performed in our ceremony. It was a great way to include everyone.

  5. LOVE your cakes! What a great theme. Your party looks like it was very fun. What a wonderful way to celebrate your lives together!

  6. Thanks everyone! I am excited I finally got my profile sorted out and sent in so I can see it here!

    Monika, seeing your profile posted so quickly reminded me that I had been slacking. Even with Megan gently nagging me to get my profile sent in, I was still putting off rewriting the entry. I had it all written fairly early on, but lost it when my computer crashed and did not have the heart to fill it all out again that day (inertia being what it is). This time I got Will to sit down with me and include some of his thoughts too.

    And Rachel B, with you sending our your thank you cards less than a week after your own wedding (which was only this last Saturday!!!) Will and I are both feeling shamed about not having finished our Thank You cards. Sigh…

  7. what a fun wedding!!! we just got married this weekend and we did swing lessons too! it was a blast and went over really well with the guests. 🙂

  8. I was highly surprised to see in your list of photographers 'Gar Travis'. He is highly respected among his peers as both a CPS and asmp photographer and as I have heard tell does not “do” weddings. By count of what I have heard, he has imaged only four in his entire career as a professional photographer. It is my understanding he only images weddings for close friends. How lucky you are to have him image yours.

    • Thomas, you are correct that Gar does not "do" weddings. We were surprised and delighted when he offered. Each of the photographers really had very different styles, so each captured very different aspects of the wedding. Gar's best shots are of the bands performing and of individuals or small groups interacting while doing non-wedding specific things. Megan's photos (featured here in this post) are the more wedding related photos, including the bridal prep photos. Sam's captured the event as the guests saw the event.

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