Find out how this zoo wedding convinced us to love “garbage plates”

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 | Photography by Blue Jar Photography
Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride
Photos by Blue Jar Photography

The Offbeat Bride: Lyss, graphic designer and dog walker

Her offbeat partner: Geoff, cloud storage and data recovery

Date and location of wedding: Seneca Park Zoo in Rochester, NY — September 5, 2015

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

The zoo wedding was in and of itself a theme, so we went all out with that: animal print shoes for the ladies, animal-themed gifts for the bridal party, and animal print linens and decorations at the reception.

Shoes at this zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Tell us about the ceremony:

Confession time! We got legalled over two years before the wedding but only told our closest friends and our parents. No one else knew and we still wanted to have a wedding celebration with friends and family. So we sort of kept that a secret because we didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and people can be weird about that stuff. Moving on!

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

The ceremony was in front of the polar bear tank, and Mr. Polar Bear lumbered over when we started our vows. I got very distracted. We REALLY wanted an unplugged ceremony, so before we started, we had our officiant go through and ask everyone to hold up their phones and cameras, and all shut them off together. It was done with a firm but humorous tone, which seemed to work.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

We are both atheists, so we wanted a completely secular ceremony. We had my brother officiate, and wrote everything ourselves. Our reading before the vows was about Boy Meets World. It's a favorite show in our family, and Geoff is definitely the Cory to my Topanga and vice versa.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

We based our vows off of one of the “Steal These Vows” examples from Offbeat Bride, the really realistic ones and promised each other things like “waiting until the last minute to do the laundry” and “making puns at every opportunity even though you hate them.” We high-fived before kissing.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Tell us about your reception:

We had the run of the zoo — the entire zoo. It was amazing. For dinner we served “Garbage Plates,” a local “delicacy” that consists of fries, baked beans, and macaroni salad all mixed together then topped with bun-less hot dogs or (cheese)burgers and a variety of condiments. It sounds gross, but tastes delicious.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

For dessert, we had cupcakes made by a local baker, with totally custom flavors like “The Sloth,” an apple cake filled with Nutella, frosted with vanilla bean frosting, and topped with a chocolate hazelnut candy. We also had “The Tree Frog,” a chocolate cake, filled and topped with mint chip frosting, and “The Baboon,” a banana cake filled with peanut butter and topped with milk chocolate frosting.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

We split our time between two areas of the zoo: the lion exhibit for the cocktail hour, and a beautiful pavilion for dinner and dancing. We used an iPod playlist, and it worked out great! We decorated the tables with little toy animals, and gave out pressed pennies from the zoo as favors.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

What was your most important lesson learned?

The best advice I can give couples is this: it's your day, so do what you want — not what the in-laws or your family wants. Geoff's Grandmother HATED our vows and actually cried over them, and not in the good way. But we were not going to make promises we knew we couldn't keep. I know I will go to bed angry. I know I will not always think before reacting. I wasn't going to start off my marriage with lies. So we made promises we knew we could keep. We just had to reconcile ourselves that we couldn't please everyone.

Zoo wedding as seen on @offbeatbride

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Comments on Find out how this zoo wedding convinced us to love “garbage plates”

  1. My wedding will also be at a zoo, so it is great to see how awesome they can really be. I really liked how the polar bear decided to attend the ceremony 😛

  2. Your advice is awesome! We did the same and I think we disappointed or even shocked some people with our totally secular, Monty Python inspired, ceremony. But, it was us! Those who know us best said that they didn’t know exactly what to expect but after seeing it they said it fit us perfectly. We wanted it to be light, funny, and entertaining and it most certainly was! In the end we were happy with it and at the end of the day (sorry family and in-laws) the happiness of the couple is what matters most!

  3. I love how very personal this wedding was. I’m sure that no one who attended will ever confuse this celebration with any other they ever attend. May I suggest that those vows be showcased in a unique work of art that can be displayed and enjoyed every day? People don’t think about preserving their vows but they are arguably the most important part of the day. Especially when you take the time to make them personal and meaningful. Congrats!

    • It’s on our to do list actually. This is going to sound stupidly vain, but I love that dress and it was a pretty penny so I can’t justify just preserving it and packing it away. Instead we are going to build a large shadow box for the bedroom and put in the flowers, dress, shoes, etc, and hang a copy of the vows in it as well.

      And yeah, a lot of people don’t think of that. But aren’t the vows the ENTIRE point? The way I see it is I invited all those people to bear witness and hold us accountable for those promises.

  4. Thanks so much for posting this. I’m from near this area and am planning a wedding. I was going to get married at another local zoo but was disappointed that you didn’t get the zoo vibe with how they ran their weddings. I left a meeting with them saying this would be great if it was a banquet hall but for a zoo I’m disappointed, but I thought it was better than nothing and almost booked. Then I saw this post and reached out to the Seneca Park Zoo. I’m so glad I did. It’s exactly what we were looking for. My groom to be and I mentioned your wedding and the staff knew what we were talking about and understood more of what we were looking for. During the tour we fell in love with this place and if it hadn’t been for this post we’d have been stuck with the other venue that just didn’t match what we wanted. Thank you so much!

    • Since you’re local, if you need help or run into logistical things with a wedding there (lord knows I had hundreds of them) feel free to ask them for my contact info. I’ve given them permission to have brides reach out for references and stuff.

      The staff there is LOVELY. They will make it perfect I promise. Congratulations!!

  5. The pink hair and your handsome long-haired husband. A wedding at a zoo!!!
    Can you tell, as I am interested/curious what the tattoos are on the front of your feet?? Are customized versions of you and your husband?? P.S. LOVE the dress so much!!!

  6. I was so tempted to have a zoo wedding myself. So cute! Congrats for standing up for yourselves in planning! It’s so important to make sure you have the wedding you want because otherwise…regrets.

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