The offbeat bride: Shannon, future social worker
Her offbeat partner: Brad, student and Navy dude
Location & date of wedding: St. Elizabeth’s, Cincinnati, OH — December 31, 2010
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We started as best friends. Then the whole world turned upside down when Brad told me he loved me and I realized I felt the same way. We started dating in April, got engaged in August, and got married on New Year’s Eve. And then he shipped out for a year of active duty on January 6th. We planned our wedding from another state and managed to pull it off for $8,000, which was still a bit more than we budgeted.
My mom and I made the invitations, Brad and I made four playlists and had our friend run sound, we asked our favorite restaurant to make and bring the food, and put my mom and aunt in control of making sure everyone was fed. We cleaned the church for an entire day (and decorated for five days), and set up all the tables and chairs and covered them with cloth and wrapping paper. My bridesmaids and I made all the decorations and the bouquets and boutonnieres.
We wrote the ceremony and our own vows and had Brad’s godfather officiate. My professor opened the night with a poem he had written. We had friends from St. Louis come to do our photos, while Brad’s brother drew our wedding tree, my dad compiled hour-long videos of us growing up to play on the walls during the dancing, and it was just the most amazing thing I’ve ever had a part of creating.
We did have some traditional things for a NYE party including 130 hats, noisemakers, and champagne.
One of my favorite things was asking everyone to wear the colors of the wedding (blues, gold, silver, gray, and black) and getting a group picture of everyone who came.
In lieu of gifts, we asked that each of our guests bring their own plate and cup…. We kept 20 of our favorites, and donated the rest to the local refugee resettlement program.
Right after getting engaged, we were bombarded with advice and negative feedback about what we wanted to do. We were told “you have to rent tuxes, you have to involve your family and have live music, you have to have more alcohol, you have to invite so-and-so, you have to have a family member do your photos, your plate idea is dumb, you have to have a caterer and a DJ, and you have to use real flowers.” While we completely ignored most of this, we did have to take into account what was really important to our parents.
We are atheists and really wanted a ceremony that showed we were making a rational, adult commitment to each other. We believe that ink lasts longer then jewelry and therefore chose to get each other’s initials tattooed on our ring fingers.
Tell us about the ceremony: Brad’s godfather Phil read a poem by Hafiz:
Our union is like this: you feel cold, so I reach for a blanket to cover our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body, so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.
You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance, and I quickly kneel by your side offering you a whole book as a gift.
You ache with loneliness one night so much you weep, and I say here is a rope, tie it around me, I will be your companion for life.
He then had our parents come to the stage and promise to support us in our lifetime together, and then asked the audience to promise the same. Then Brad read his vows to me, and I read mine to him. It was the most beautiful moment of my life so far.
Our biggest challenge: Brad was a full-time student and part-time Navy guy during our four-month engagement, and at first it hurt that he didn’t have more of an opinion and wasn’t as involved. But then he told me that it was because he trusted my vision and knew that I was a better planner then he was. He told me that he just wanted it to be unique and fun and he knew that I would be able to accomplish that.
Come wedding week, he was down in the trenches with me, putting up decorations, tweaking playlists, and getting excited. He had more pressure than I did to make the wedding a certain way, and I know it pleased him to see how happy his family was with the outcome.
My favorite moment: Brad is a scientist studying physics, a trained athlete, and a disciplined and stoic person by nature. To hear his beautiful vows and watch as he got choked up was the most intimate moment for me. We both loved the toasts from all the friends we made in high school and college, and counting down the new year and dropping the disco ball at midnight with all these people who love us is something I’ll never forget.
My funniest moment: Our friend Joe from high school gave a toast:
“Brad, you asked her to senior homecoming? Well. I asked her to FRESHMAN homecoming.” Pause. “And she shot me down so fast, you would not believe. Well, here’s to the best decision you ever made.”
My advice for offbeat brides: Become good at making lists. At one point I had 35 DIY projects that I wanted to complete, and my mom told me to make a list of the most important five and do those first, and then work my way down. I got to number 18 before I ran out of time and I’m so glad I did the important things first. I also bought four dresses because I couldn’t decide what kind of style to go with, but the total for all four was $140. It’s completely possible to stay on a budget and look good. Lastly, make sure you have a good rehearsal and everyone knows the complete plan for the wedding day so you aren’t being asked over and over.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? To let go of the things that went wrong and to focus on the pictures as proof that everyone had a good time. I don’t think I realized that for most brides the wedding becomes about other people, but that’s okay. The wedding really IS for other people — it’s to show the people in your lives that you are choosing someone to love and live with permanently. The marriage is what’s for us, and we’ve got to remember that.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Andy and Beth Carrettto of Free Love Photography (our friends)
- Dress: Chicken Lays an Egg
- Cake: Jannette’s
- Mexican food: Acapulco
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!