Walking in the meadow

The offbeat bride: Jacqueline, database and website specialist (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Louis, credit report specialist

Date and location of wedding: Tissington Hall, Derbyshire, UK — June 11, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We thought about everything we did to see whether we wanted it because that's what we were “supposed” to do, or whether we wanted it because that's what we actually wanted. We're both adults and don't need anyone to stand up for us or walk us down the aisle. So there were no bridesmaids, no best man, no ushers, and no escorting down the aisle. We entered our ceremony together.

First kiss

There is no way on earth I'd wear white, as I look terrible in it. So my dress was purple (fabulous, awesome, wonderful purple) and designed specifically to show off my tattoos. We had an extremely traditional venue: a country manor house in Derbyshire. But we rocked our offbeat lite wedding in it to the max, and the contrast between the two worked fantastically well.

The venue: Tissington Hall, Derbyshire

But as well as tossing out some traditions, we kept others that we truly liked or wanted. For example, I adore flowers, so had a quite traditional floral bouquet (which is currently being dried so that I can keep it forever). Choosing to have real flowers was quite difficult for me, as they are such an integral component of the traditional wedding. But I realised that having flowers because I love them, and not because I thought I had to have them, is exactly what Offbeat Bride is all about.

Bride

Similarly, my groom wore a suit as he felt it was the right thing for him to do, rather than what he should be doing because tradition says so. He did top it off with some decidedly offbeat, bright blue snakeskin shoes though!

Groom and sibling

Our reception also had us written all over it. Neither of us like formal, sit-down, waiter-served meals, so we opted for a barbecue buffet instead. Our caterers provided the most amazing food for our guests. I just wish I'd been able to eat more of it — stupid corset! We had a cupcake tower and cheese and biscuits in the evening.

Cake cutting - note cute tortoise cake topper

We rejected cheesy disco music for the party and played all our own favourite music instead. With our guests, Abba and YMCA would have resulted in an empty dance floor, but Pulp, Iron Maiden, and Led Zeppelin filled the floor.

All the guests

Tell us about the ceremony: Civil wedding ceremonies in England don't give you much leeway for creativity, so we opted for simple vows and I wrote a single line for us to say when we exchanged rings, promising love, respect and fidelity. The ceremony was short and sweet, but I remember every second of it — from us walking in clutching each other because the floor was so slippery and we both nearly went arse-over-tip as soon as we set foot in the room, to being declared married, to the applause of our loved ones.

Jac holds back the tears

My sister, Sally, really stepped up to the plate with her reading, however. I asked her to read “Us Two” By A. A. Milne, as my family has a long tradition of loving old school Winnie the Pooh. Not only did she do a wonderfully dramatic recital of it, she actually did recite it. She'd memorised the whole thing and performed it flawlessly! And as an extra special touch, she brought her own Pooh teddy bear all the way from Germany with her to hold during the reading. She was given Pooh on the day she was born (38 years ago) and he is now in a very delicate condition, but he made it all that way safe and sound.

Unfortunately Pooh is so old that he is mostly a threadbare brown bag with dust inside rather than a recognisable teddy bear. I'm sure half the guests wondered why on earth she was clutching a tatty rag while doing her reading, but it touched my heart so much and brought a tear to my eye.

Bride and sibling

Our biggest challenge: My dress! It was always intended that my lovely mum would make it. She made her own wedding dress when she married my father, as well as her going-away outfit, her two bridesmaids' dresses, her mother's outfit and her aunt's outfit! But a worryingly short time before the wedding, she lost all her dressmaking confidence for something so important (to her) as my wedding dress, and so with six weeks to go I had to hunt for a dressmaker to create my dress for me.

I tried and tried to get Mum to overcome her worry, as having her make the dress was more important to me than having a perfectly-fitting frock, but she wasn't to be persuaded. In the end, the wonderful Reeta and Tony Brack from One BC in Nottingham created a fabulous dress for me in less than four weeks.

Bride

My favorite moment: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the most meaningful moment of all was the ceremony itself, the act of marriage, the act of joining two people together in the eyes of the law and society. But having our nearest and dearest there was wonderful as well, and the love we felt from our guests was simply indescribable.

Signing the register with our witnesses

Mr Norris crashes the reception

My funniest moment: Our feline wedding crasher, Mr. Norris, was a big hit. She (despite the name, she is a she) is a regular wedding crasher at the hall, and put in several appearances throughout the day. First, she wandered into the bridal suite where we were getting ready and rolled about happily on the flowers, then she showed up for the photos, and what sane cat refuses a barbecue when there's so much tasty meat going around?

Mr Norris, world famous wedding crasher

My sister's partner made the mistake of going back to the buffet table for seconds, and when he came back to his chair, Mr. Norris had taken residence and refused to move. She then proceeded to wander around all the tables at the meal, scrounging tidbits and cuddles wherever she went.

Each person got a chocolate Space Invader and two temporary tattoos as a favour at the meal. I was correct in my prediction that Louis's friend Lenny would be the first one to stick one on his face. He did, in fact, stick three on his face, before he'd even touched a drop of booze! Bless him. Everyone had great fun with them and even my tattoo-hating mother ended up with one on her wrist. There was a memorable moment when one of our guests dropped his pants so his wife could apply them to his backside, right in front of my very staid mother.

Favours! Chocolate space invaders and temporary tattoos

RObbie made creative use of his tattoo

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was very worried about the music for our evening reception. We were relying on our laptop and an iTunes playlist to get us through as we decided we couldn't trust a DJ to stick to our indie/house/Britpop/heavy metal/classic rock/dubstep requirements.

I was certain the laptop, which is not the most modern of devices, would conk out halfway through, or the speakers wouldn't work, but it was absolutely perfect. Louis showed great foresight in password-protecting it as well. A couple of guests at one point decided they didn't like our music choices any more and tried to get into the computer to change it, but they couldn't.

World's most awkward first dance (tm)

My advice for offbeat brides: Don't give in to what other people think you “should” be doing, but also don't dismiss their ideas out of hand. It was my mother who made me really think about whether I wanted real flowers, and it turned out she was right that I would have regretted not having them in the end. Generally, you can't please all of the people all of the time, so settle for pleasing yourselves first and as many people as feasible second.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Personally, it is that my in-laws are awesome. They may have (what I think are) funny ideas about stuff, but they really showed their mettle and were super-wonderful.

Walking in the meadow

<3

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Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

Comments on Jacqueline & Louis’ rockin’ country manor barbecue wedding

    • My shoes for the ceremony were from Faith, and my evening flats (which I ended up putting on as soon as the ceremony was over!) were from Dune 🙂

  1. Just GORGEOUS! I love Mr. Norris crashing your wedding! Hilarious. And the location–breathtaking. It really looks like you guys had a wonderful time. Also really love the purple dress and the tattoos. 🙂 Big congrats.

  2. “Generally, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, so settle for pleasing yourselves first and as many people as feasible second. ”

    THIS! So much. That is the most awesome attitude when it comes to weddings that I have ever read. I mean, yes, it is you special day, but if you can make YOU happy and some other folks that matter to you too, why not?

  3. Your wedding reminds me so much of mine. My dress was also purple (and blue) and I picked it out because it showed off my back tattoo really well. And I also hate how I look in white. We even had a little wedding crasher too, except it was my friends’ 2 month old son instead of a cat (even though I really wanted to bring my fur babies!)

  4. i love the grooms boots!! those are just awesome!!!! you looked awesome! love the tattoos and your dress is gorgeous!! congrats!!!

  5. I am loving Mr. Norris. I would love to have a cat wedding crasher at our wedding! You look lovely …. congrats!

  6. I love the way her dress matches (tonal) his shoes and flower lapel pin. Digging his low key peaked lapel too. Great wedding!

  7. If only the cat were named MRS. Norris, the wedding in a castle with a cat crasher would have been epically Harry Potter-esque.

    Also, your husband’s shoes are awesome. My boy is a much more conservative (and casual) dresser, so it’s always fun to see guys who express a bit of a wild side in their clothing!

    • I do believe that Mr Norris was named after Mrs Norris, but was found to be female later on 🙂

  8. password protection *DOH*
    and your playlist sounds right up my alley can’t imagine why ANYONE would possibly want to change it lol

    a beautiful wedding as well…but the password protection blew my mind with sheer geniussness!

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