Amy & Jess' glittery rustic barn wedding

Updated Mar 15 2021
Photos by Craig Volpe

The offbeat bride: Amy, Music Teacher

Her offbeat partner: Jess, Video Game Designer

Date and location of wedding: McMenamins Cornelius Pass, Hillsboro, Oregon — August 6, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We raced each other in a Rubik's Cube competition in lieu of a first dance. It's something we regularly do at home, so it fit us much better than dancing, which we'd done maybe twice in our four years of dating. We tricked the guests, too. My sister/maid of honor/emcee called us down to the dance floor, and we assumed the dancing position while she started the music ("Anyone Else But You" by The Moldy Peaches). The music was our cue to reach over and grab two Rubik's Cubes from our friends at the nearest table, who had previously been assigned the task of messing them up. Despite the fact that I'd been the one who taught Jess how to solve a cube when we first met, he won the competition. We gave Rubik's Cubes as wedding favors too, and it was fun watching our guests play with them during the reception.


After falling in love with the idea of making firefly jars as centerpieces (or rather, having my mother-in-law make them), the vision of a beautiful wedding with no flowers became a really fun framework in which to search for craft projects. My favorite project was collecting brooches for brooch bouquets. I spent a fair amount of time on eBay and at the flea market, and also got to include several that belonged to my grandmother.



Our vows also started with the appearance of tradition, but then took a sharp turn into such territory as "with sushi or without," "in allergy season or in health," and "to love your cat as my own."


Our biggest challenge: We really wanted to keep the wedding small, and this was tough with most of our guests coming in from out of town and many of them having children. Upon the urging of some friends who were eager for an excuse to leave their kids with a babysitter, we ended up not inviting any children and therefore keeping the wedding around 80 people. We did, however, get to visit with some of those kids by blocking rooms in one hotel and staying there ourselves for a few days before the wedding. The hotel lobby was one big pre-wedding party for four days straight.



My favorite moment: Our moms gave speeches during the ceremony. They talked about how wonderful their kids are, and recounted some of the key moments that brought us to where we are now. The dads got their moment during the reception, so we wanted to give our moms a turn. They did a beautiful job personalizing the ceremony and successfully got some tears flowing right off the bat.



One of our favorite things about the wedding was that with the exception of the venue and food, all of our "vendors" were friends. A friend married us, another did hair and makeup, another ran the iPod, another took video, another nine sang the "Wedding March" and "Here Comes the Bride," another two provided reception entertainment with an impromptu acro-yoga routine, and we had the good fortune that one of Jess's best friends is a fabulous photographer. So we got to hang out with our friends for every portion of the day.


Another thing that made the day intimate was that our siblings were the extent of our wedding party. I have one sister and Jess has one brother, so it was just too perfect to do it any other way. My mom also had her sister as her maid of honor and no other bridesmaids, so it felt kind of sweet to follow that tradition. We loved the simplicity, and we just asked friends to help with specific things when we needed more manpower.

'Alright Jess, no talking about cats at all tonight. You can do this.'

My funniest moment: As the night wore on, Jess's image as "crazy cat man" became increasingly solidified. His mom's speech in the ceremony included several stories about how much he loved cats growing up, we had included some cat-themed clues in a crossword puzzle in the program, there were cat pictures scattered throughout our slideshow, and his friend gave a speech during the reception that revolved largely about Jess's relationship with cats (the punchline was that ever since he had met me, his house had started smelling better). We hadn't realized the extent to which cats would be featured throughout the wedding, and it gave Jess a bit of a complex, but it was perfectly fitting.


The funniest moment of the ceremony was my dad's hand-off of the bride as we reached the altar: he and Jess did a fancy circle-around-and-meet-at-the-bottom high-five. They had come up with the idea during the rehearsal that morning.


We made people giggle in the reception by giving a joint speech to thank the guests for coming. We'd been unable to agree on which of us should talk, or whether we needed to talk at all, so we solved it by speaking together in unison into the microphone.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Our beautiful four-tier tree-slice cupcake stand fell apart as we were assembling it that morning. It was supposed to screw together, but the screws shredded the holes and we were left with big, bulky tree slices with ugly holes just hours before the cupcakes were being delivered. My mother-in-law's partner spent a long time with various tools and glue guns to try to repair it. We ended up placing the two bigger stumps flat on the table and covering the holes with some sparkly fabric flowers that I'd made for table decoration. At the time, I was consciously aware that this was my test of whether I was going to panic or go with the flow. I passed!


I'd been cautiously optimistic about a puzzle game we'd planned for people to find their tables. Everyone got a puzzle piece with their name, plus the names of two people next to whom they would be sitting at the reception. They then had to locate these people, and when everyone had done that, there would be a group of eight people who could put together a puzzle and reveal their table number. It seemed like it would either be a great idea or it wouldn't work at all, but it totally worked.


My advice for Offbeat Brides: Allot plenty of opportunity to interact with the people who are sharing in your day. For us, that meant shortening the guest list, staying at the same hotel as many of our guests, and planning some extra events in the days leading up to the wedding.

A Month of Mixbooks:
As part of our partnership with Mixbook, this couple has been given a free wedding photo book to show off their wedding photos. We'll be featuring some of these Offbeat Bride Mixbooks in a few weeks!

In the two days before the wedding, we did a welcome meal for out-of-towners at a sushi restaurant (mid-afternoon to keep costs down), some smaller meals with subsets of family and friends, an afternoon hanging out at the Portland Rose Test Gardens, and a decorating party the morning of the wedding. By the time we got to the actual wedding, we had already had the chance to catch up with everyone, and we didn't feel that pressure to make rounds and greet everyone. It also gave many of the guests a chance to meet and get to know each other before the wedding, which made the evening so much cozier.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I confirmed that I had picked the right guy to marry. Jess was the perfect blend of offering advice when I was indecisive, going with the flow when I felt strongly about something, and staying true to what was important throughout the process. He is wonderfully grounding.


Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. This bride is GORGEOUS. I love your dress and shoes!! SO MUCH!
    And, I think a man who is not afraid to show his love for kittehs will make a great husband 🙂
    Beautiful wedding!

  2. Hey, this wedding was in my town! McMenamins is so very cool, and I've often thought it'd be a fun place for a wedding.

  3. I get this in my lj feed and most of the time it works, but I thought you might like to know that this one shows up as html, oddly enough. I might be the only one who still uses lj though. lol. 😉

    • Yeah, we're happy to still have our feed on LiveJournal, but given the small number of active subscribers, we're not really able to support or troubleshoot posts that don't format correctly. :/ Sorry 'bout that.

  4. So many things to love about this wedding!! My fav is the photography, which is amazing and inspirational. Also, the time spent with loved ones before the wedding, and the venue rock. Congrats!

    • Hey, thanks for the kind words, everyone! For the firefly jars, we collected mason jars, moss (we went with green spanish moss), 20-light battery-operated string lights, purple wire, and little wooden hearts. My mother-in-law stuffed the moss and lights into the jars so the lights were toward the glass and the battery packs were reachable near the top. She used a wood-burner to put table numbers and our initials on the hearts and wired those around the top of the jars, and voila! Done! The tricky part is making sure that the battery packs will fit into the style of jars you find. We ended up with the kind that takes 3 AAA's. Also, we got ones that had green wires and a green battery pack so they would hide more easily among the moss. I found them online somewhere for a few dollar apiece shortly after Christmas. 🙂

  5. Beautiful wedding! I'm curious about the wording you used on your invitations about no children allowed. I'm struggling with it! I don't want to sound like a jerk-face, any ideas?

    • We just made it clear who we were inviting by listing their names on the envelope and also asking them to list on the RSVP card the names of the people coming. That way if we got back any cards that listed the kids' names, we could call them and have The Conversation. We also casually mentioned it to some people who I think might have otherwise brought their kids, to preemptively avoid awkwardness. Good luck! 🙂

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.

Biz owners & wedding bloggers

Please just use your real name in your comment, not your business name or blog title. Our comments are not the place to pimp your website. If you want to promote your stuff on Offbeat Bride, join us as an advertiser instead.