Zoe & Gary's fantasy Quaker snow-covered wedding

Updated Mar 15 2021

We've seen peeks of this wedding before. Gorgeous wintry bliss incoming. Enjoy!

<Slippy steps
Photos by Jim Poyner

The offbeat bride: Zoe, Arts Officer (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Gary, Number Cruncher

Location & date of wedding: Quaker Meeting House and Merchant Adventurer's Hall, York, UK — December 4, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We wanted a wedding that was a gift to our wonderful family and friends and one that celebrated who we are. We are both Live Action Role Players (LARP), and family is very important to us. I also love DIY.

ZGBlake_075

All my invitations, Save-The-Date cards, table names, and signs were designed by my sister, a talented artist. All the boutonnières, brooches for the bridal party, and the cake were made by one of my Best Women, Laura. All the buns and mince pies were made by my mother with a few more brought by her friends. The flowers at the service were assembled by my father.

Groom gets his hand sewn boutonniere

I made Christmas stockings for each of the children and filled them with tangerines and books from my childhood.

To give a fantasy feel to the reception, my friend Laura and I made faux-grass centerpieces and ivy garlands covered in chilis and dried fruit.

Kissing by the reception hall

We celebrated our love of LARP and fantasy subtly through the invitations. They were painted in the style of children's fairy stories of the early 19th century, with twisting vines and fairies. Gary's LARP character is called Sionnach which means "fox" in Irish. I play a Fae, so there was a fox playing with a fairy throughout the invitation book.

The only other nod to LARP was the "Spot the LARPer" game, including wonderful pictures of our friends in full costume. We challenged our friends and family to spot who they are in real life.

Fox - for Gary
A fox to represent Gary!

We welcomed our guests to the Quaker Meeting House and had a Quaker service. We had no priest, no "giving away" of the bride, and no hiding the bride and groom from each other. Everyone signed our wedding certificate, even the children.

Everyone there is asked to sign

We offered mince pies and cakes at the Meeting House and then all walked through the snow to our reception at the Merchant Adventurer's Hall in York.

We all walk to the reception

There we had mulled wine and played games including Ker-Plunk, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Connect Four.

Ker plunk

Tell us about the ceremony: We had a Quaker wedding (Religious Society of Friends). I am a Quaker and Gary is a lapsed Catholic who has strong sympathies for the Quaker path, so we felt this would best speak to our beliefs.

A Quaker wedding is seen as the same as a Quaker service. This means no prescribed things to say except for the vows and people should only speak if they are compelled by God, the divine, the inner light, or all of the above.

First look

Some friends had gone into the hall before us and had sat down in meditative silence, so when we entered the hall, the silence was powerful and palpable. Gary and I sat with our hearts thudding while listening to the silence for fifteen minutes.

I could hear Gary's breathing and thought one of us might faint. We can make only tiny amendments to the vows to follow the law that legally allows Quakers to get married without an officiant. Our vows were:

"Friends, I take this my friend Gary Blake to be my husband, promising, with God's help, to be unto him a loving and faithful wife, so long as we both on Earth shall live."

Afterwards, other friends and family stood and spoke, including Gary's brother. This was surprising since they hadn't really gotten along in the past. It was a beautiful speech. The silence left time for reflection after each speaker.

It was snowy and cold. There were walking boots and leg warmers.

Our biggest challenge: The snow, the snow, the thrice-cursed snow!

I once or twice thought how nice it would be to have snow at our wedding. Snow before Christmas is almost unheard of in December. Snow settling for any length of time is incredibly rare.

On our way to get portraits

As the snow fell, we started to get the heartbreaking news that friends and family would not be able to come. It was especially hard as almost all of Gary's family lives overseas and the airports were closing. We had also done so much work to make the children welcome and it was the people with the youngest children who could not afford to risk the drive. We invited people who lived nearby to attend in their stead.

Cake of CHEESE
A cake made of cheese!

Gary's family's flight was cancelled and Gary's brother had been on the only flight going into Dublin airport that night from Australia. Gary's oldest sister organized their passage on a cargo ferry from Dublin to Liverpool. The five of them and their luggage piled into one small car and drove the whole way.

In the end, it was those stories that stuck with me and made me so grateful for our incredible friends and family.

The hall and dress

My favorite moment: The service was incredibly meaningful for both of us. It felt as if some wounds were healed, our contribution and support to our friends and family were addressed, and our relationship was celebrated by the people who made us who we are.

Mim's speech

The speeches were incredibly moving as well. My sister Miriam and I got tearful at my father's speech. Then she was still tearful during her speech and that made it worse. But she had us laughing by the end.

Both families

My funniest moment: My father mentioned that as a lawyer for a council, he sometimes wiles away the afternoons imagining that he was sent on a dangerous mission involving firebreathing dragons or zombies. He would imagine who he would take with him on the mission. He said that he would choose both his daughters for their different talents. It was so funny.

By the time Gary and I spoke, people were more comfortable. There was heckling, lots of laughter, and a bet on how long Gary's speech would last. Thankfully, he only went four or five minutes over our three minute limit.

Yay

ZGBlake_410

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was really worried about the Quaker service. I was concerned that our friends would speak for the sake of speaking. Because of this, I included a very clear explanation of the service in the invitation booklet.

In fact, although perhaps a few people spoke who were not compelled to, everything said was beautiful.

We also travelled around collecting signatures on our wedding certificate book. It cannot be signed to witness the ceremony, but we added a bit saying, "Although we were unable to attend the service, we affirm our support of Zoe and Gary's wedding." We caught up with a lot of friends that way.

Olivia leaves a handprint

My advice for offbeat brides: Get a good team. I asked my sister to paint the invitations well in advance. Then I asked one of my best friends to be another Best Woman. She came down and stayed with my parents and me a week before the wedding. She kept us all sane and was a whiz with the DIY projects as well as making the cake.

ZGBlake_224

Then I had my third Best Woman, who organized all calls on the day and was a God-send. My mother and father were awesome. My husband's Best Men also really helped out on the organizing.

Then thank them. Regularly and often.

Yay

Also seriously consider whether you are happy with a good service provided with a bad attitude. I chose to contract my dressmaker because her work was so good, but I knew she had a negative attitude. I can't help wishing I had shopped around, as I think I could have found a nicer person who was just as good.

Still running through snow

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. On a (sort of) sunny day in York, remembering the snow makes me feel all fuzzy. Love the fact that overcame the issues with family not being able to come with the wedding certificate book catch up.

  2. Woohoo fellow a Yorkshire offbeat lass! Now I get why others get so excited when they see local weddings.

    I love the pictures of you all wandering through Coppergate in the snow.

  3. Something about this snow-filled wedding gives me the warm fuzzies. I love that you gave great detail in including children at your wedding/reception. And your dress is divine.

  4. What a beautiful wedding! I am a Quaker convert, but since neither my fiance nor my family are Quakers we're not doing a Quaker ceremony since it would just be confusing for all of them. But I might have to incorporate a bit of that vow into our ceremony since we're writing our own vows. Congrats to you and your husband; I hope my wedding will be half as beautiful!

  5. Adore your post – one of the most gorgeous things I have ever read!
    Would Love to have made your outfit!
    Wishing much happiness and joy forevers x

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