Rhiannon & Alex’s communal home-brew camp wedding

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 | Photography by Daniel Adams
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The Offbeat Bride: Rhiannon, Middle School Science Teacher (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Alex, Software Developer

Date and location of wedding: Camp Westwind, Lincoln City, OR — November 30, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We included as many people as possible in the planning and implementation of the wedding because community and the melding of the two families was the most important part of the wedding for us.

Alex's family has been celebrating Thanksgiving with six other families for the past 60 years, forty of which have been at Camp Westwind. To say this is a special place to him and his family would be an understatement. On our hike down from Wind Mountain, where Alex proposed, the first thing I suggested was that we get married during the Saturday of their multiple-day Thanksgiving celebration, and luckily we were able to convince the group (everything is done by consensus) that it would all work out.

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One of the most important things we did as a couple together was a visioning discussion where we figured out what we really wanted our wedding to have: good food, good drink, good partying, community, and love. We also decided during that discussion what we would battle our family members on (out of control spending, things that would create a lot of waste, etc.) and what we just did not care much about (decorations, boutonnieres, etc.). We then assigned “Czars” and gave them (almost) complete free rein on how they did their part of the wedding.

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As a teacher, I have the summer off, so I DIYed like crazy during that time. I spent 75 hours on the 1000 origami crane ring under which we were married. I also created the chalkboard pint glass favors and had fun with a chainsaw during the creation of the wood pillar candle centerpieces. Alex created our wedsite from scratch (he's a software developer) and dealt with all the food.

We home-brewed two of the beers we served: Strawberry Wheat made from the strawberries from our summer garden and Holiday Brown, which totally tasted like Thanksgiving and Christmas put together. Alex made all the syrups (Ginger Pomegranate, Pear Rosemary, and Orange Spice) that went into the cocktails. We also bottled the wines ourselves from a local winery.

We also got rid of anything we didn't find any meaning in or were straight up against: no wedding party, bouquet, garter, “giving away,” sides of the aisle, or specific dances.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We asked Alex's aunt to play a wedding-like song on her guitar as we walked down the aisle and she gathered a few other musicians who happened to be at Westwind to play with her. My older brother and Alex's sister walked in together with the items we were using in the ceremony, followed by my younger brother. Then Alex walked in with his parents on each arm and I walked in with both my parents. Everyone was sitting in a horse-shoe shape within the main room of the lodge, and the first row was barely three feet from us as we stood underneath the crane ring.

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My brother, who has been the officiant at five weddings previously, wrote the entire ceremony himself and included the vows we wrote for us and the community during a camping trip that summer. As both Alex and I are atheists, my brother did not include anything that was religious. The ceremony he did write was amazing and had me both laughing and crying. He told of us growing up together and my dating of “creepy, science-loving nerd boys,” of which Alex was another.

As part of the ceremony, he asked for each of our parents' blessing, even though Alex and I don't believe in the patriarchal “giving away,” by saying:

The two couples that raised you, shaped your individual personalities, and walked you down this aisle today have a combined 71 years of marriage between them. They know what a successful marriage takes, and while you don't need their permission to enter into this marriage today, their support will be an undeniable resource for your own success in the years to come. Therefore we are asking them, your parents, for a vow of support.

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We asked Alex's Grandpa to find and share a reading during the ceremony, and he decided to read Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 and his own translation:

Original:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Modern Translation:
I hope I may never acknowledge any reason why minds that truly love each other shouldn't be joined together. Love isn't really love if it changes when it sees the beloved change or if it disappears when the beloved leaves. Oh no, love is a constant and unchanging light that shines on storms without being shaken; it is the star that guides every wandering boat. And like a star, its value is beyond measure, though its height can be measured. Love is not under time's power, though time has the power to destroy rosy lips and cheeks. Love does not alter with the passage of brief hours and weeks, but lasts until Doomsday. If I'm wrong about this and can be proven wrong, I never wrote, and no man ever loved.

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Alex's grandfather also hand-made a beautiful wooden box and we did a “Beer-Box” ceremony or, as my brother put it during the ceremony, the “I Love Beer and Love and Handcrafted Wooden Boxes” ceremony. Instead of a traditional guestbook, we had people write us notes of well-wishes, advice, or kind words that we then put into the same box that we will be reading five years from now while we enjoy that beer.

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We wrote our own vows to each other, three of which were the same and two which were individual which we kept secret from each other until we said them in the ceremony.

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Our biggest challenge:
My family works by orders: understand who the expert is, give them the leadership position, tell them the basics of what is expected, though they will decide what exactly needs to be done and then assign the leader some minions to accomplish the task. Alex's family works by consensus: have a discussion about what is needs to be done, have a bunch of people volunteer to do the work, and it gets done. This clash of styles made planning and coordinating the wedding sometimes quite difficult. Additionally, by choosing this location, we were very much bringing my family into his family's space. We needed to find a way to bring equally from both sides.

We overcame that (for the most part) by assigning my family to the decorations and his family to the food. We also held meetings with his family to discuss what traditions would be changing or altering to accommodate the wedding and what they could do to help. I've heard of brides who assign people the task of running interference so no one will bother them with small questions while she is preparing the wedding. I did the exact opposite: I was the one who ran interference between family members so everyone could do their jobs without anyone getting into each other's way and our goals could be accomplished with minimum drama.

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My funniest moment:
A couple moments stand out to me as particularly hilarious:

  • When my brother asked us near the end of the ceremony: “With your parents', community's, and your own vows taken to heart, do you proclaim each other as your lover, partner, and confidant, and, before this community, your husband or wife?” Alex responded with “I do” while at the same time I responded with “We do.” After a few giggles from the audience, I said “I do, too.”
  • During the reception, I was approached by two sisters from one of the families that attend the Thanksgiving get-together every year and they told me how happy they were that I married Alex since now their mother could no longer keep “suggesting” that one of them marry Alex.

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My favorite moment:
Walking into the ceremony was probably the most meaningful moment for both of us. Our Decoration Czar (my sister-in-law) made sure that we did not go into or see the lodge before the ceremony so we could be surprised by what we saw and boy, were we! Not only had the lodge, which we visit every year during Thanksgiving, been utterly transformed into a beautiful space, it was full of all of our friends and family surrounding us. Alex burst into tears as soon as he entered, overwhelmed by the sight of how everyone had come together to support us.

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Another meaningful moment was the sharing of community vows. My brother was the officiant and wrote this section describing the importance of community:

The culminating moments in our lives are nothing when enjoyed alone. Culminating moments are meant to be celebrated with all of your close family and friends… your community. Alex and Rhiannon have invited all of you present today, their community, to witness their vows, because collectively, you have taught them, inspired them, supported them, and stood beside them as their friend. A marriage cannot survive on the shoulders of these two alone, and they understand that they'll need the support of their community as they move forward as life partners. Before we wish this couple success on their marriage, I need everyone to rise and take this pledge to assist them in upholding their vows. And a simple “I or we do” will suffice. So, Alex and Rhiannon's community: Do you promise to give Alex and Rhiannon strength as they build happiness, wisdom, & love through this union?

Alex and I stood back-to-back to watch people rise and make this vow to us. After we ran out of the ceremony space (yes, we literally ran), the only thing we kept saying to each other through tears is we how lucky we are.

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dresses: Wai-Ching

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Comments on Rhiannon & Alex’s communal home-brew camp wedding

  1. I’m a bit disappointed this wasn’t a Doctor Who wedding — I mean look at this guy! (David Tennant, hello.) That said, love the cranes and the colours.

  2. This wedding is so powerful. I love it when whole communities come together to support a couple. “Lucky” is not a strong enough word. 🙂 All the best to you two!

  3. Firstly, what a beautiful wedding. I really love the focus on community and blending families. Secondly, Rhiannons unite! I very rarely see somone with my name “in the wild” and it always makes me feel like part of a secret club.

  4. Beautiful just so beautiful! I love all the snippets from the vows and readings. Can I borrow the modern translation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116? Your Grandpa did such a wonderful interpretation of the reading. I am moved by everything.

  5. Oh you know. Just casually sitting in a bar, enjoying a whiskey and Coke, trying not to bawl my eyes out. Everybody here probably thinks I’m upset, but I’m just so happy to feel the love coming from this post.

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