The couple: Suki and Anthony

Location and date: Texas Falls, Vermont 10/13/18

Give us a few offbeat highlights from your Vermont fall micro-wedding: The most offbeat thing about our wedding was that it was a super secret commitment ceremony. We wanted a wedding with our family present, but we knew that day (and the process leading up to it) would be filled with drama ka flama.

We accepted that our family's behaviors weren't going to change just because we were getting married. It was important for us to protect our peace and have an experience that was filled with positive memories from start to finish.

So, we decided to focus on what was within our control and planned an intimate weekend getaway with 10 friends who made up our “chosen family”. We leaned into the “super secret” aspect, so our theme was “super secret spies”. Instead of invitations we sent dossier packages with code names for our guests and GPS coordinates for the location of our ceremony. Our plan was to have a small secret commitment ceremony, then get “legalled” later with our families present.

Tell us about your Vermont fall commitment ceremony micro-wedding: We rented a lakefront VRBO that could house the 12 of us for the weekend. It almost felt like a big bachelor/bachelorette party.

The night before the ceremony, we had a private event chef cook for us in the VRBO while we made fancy drinks and played “getting to know you” games like scavenger hunts and show-and-tell. It was a fun way for guests to learn more about each other and for all of us to relax and catch up.

Instead of a guest book, we had everyone sign the bottle of rum that would be used in our unity ritual the next day.

The next morning we woke up early and headed to Texas Falls. There was an unexpected cold drizzle, so I had some rum to warm me up before our first look.

After Anthony and I finished first looks, our photographer led us to the ceremony location where our friends were standing in a semi circle waiting for us. It was really surreal to see all these different folks from various parts of our life come together under the trees to celebrate our commitment.

My friend Carolyn “officiated” the ceremony for us.

Our mutual friend, Brett, who had been there when Anthony and I got together in film school, made a speech. This was especially meaningful because we didn't have a wedding party, so it was powerful to have someone who knew us deeply as individuals and together as a couple say a few words.

We had also asked each of our friends to come prepared to share their favorite quote about love. Some of them surprised us with little speeches. I once heard from a wedding podcast “If people want to make a speech at your wedding, LET THEM.” I now understand why! It's still one of our favorite memories from that day, and it wouldn't have happened with a much larger wedding.

Anthony and I exchanged our vows. Honestly, they've gotta go in their own post because they're hella long (but also hella good if I do say so myself).

After our vows, we performed a unity ritual that involved all of our guests. Not only did Anthony and I exchange vows with each other, we wrote individual vows for all 10 people. We were inspired by this post on including guests in your ceremony and this post about using drinks as a part of your vows.

Our unity ritual went like this:

Carolyn asked everyone to take out their drink glasses (which we had engraved with the GPS coordinates of our ceremony).

Rituals are important. Putting a physical act with words reinforces the memory of the event. I know a lot of us have very fond memories of rum, wine, or other forms of beverages with Suki and Anthony. Today, we are going to use rum to reinforce our commitment and memory of this event. Suki and Anthony have made vows to each other and they are now asking that each of us make a vow to them. These vows were written by them. After the vow is read to you, respond with “I Will” and then I will pour your rum. Please hold the rum until all the vows are spoken and then we will drink the rum together.

We loved seeing the look on our guests faces as they totally did not expect to be making vows to us, too! Here's how they went:

Carolyn: Dylan, do you promise to keep your strings tuned in case Anthony needs a basement jam session or Suki requests a spontaneous sing-a-long?

Dylan: I will.

Then Carolyn poured the rum! We did this with everyone in the circle. This unity ritual was our way of celebrating the community of people who helped shape Anthony and I as individuals. Our guests were delighted to take part in the ceremony. It's been a few years since our commitment ceremony and even today our guests still express how memorable this ritual was for them.

Here's the ceremony script for the rest of the unity ritual:

In our social media age, secrets are often not kept. We all know the challenges in life of pursuing our desired life even when important people in our life might not support that decision. Suki and Anthony have chosen to invite us to participate in a cairn in their life by making vows and committing to each other. Let this secret bond us all together in being champions for their relationship and the start of the next phase of their life together. I ask you all to raise your shot glasses. To friendship! To secret ceremonies in the forest! And finally, to love. Cheers! Suki and Anthony, you are now partners in life!

And with that, we all drank our rum together!

What'd you do at your reception? Immediately after, we enjoyed cannolis, champagne, coffee, and hot chocolate by a waterfall. Our guests got to explore and hike around Texas Falls while Anthony and I had our portraits done.

We drove back to the VRBO and had a few hours to relax before a group reservation at Farmhouse Tap & Grill in downtown Burlington. Following that, we hopped all over downtown Burlington and ended the evening back at our VRBO eating leftovers. It was a goofy, casual night filled with food and all our favorite people.

What advice would you like to impart to Offbeat Bride readers?

First, can we normalize having two weddings? When I tell folks we had a commitment ceremony prior to the wedding, they usually look at me like I have two heads. Having our commitment ceremony took a lot of pressure off trying to get everything right on our actual wedding day. We were able to go into our “legal” wedding with reasonable expectations and clear eyes, knowing that whatever happened, we had already had a secret wedding completely untouched by family drama. Plus, there is so much freedom with a commitment ceremony–no real rules, rituals, or structures to bind you! Make this day whatever you want it to be.

Second, I'm a huge stan for micro-weddings. Because we had an intimate 10 person ceremony, this meant we could allocate more of our budget towards what we considered “nice to haves” like a wedding planner, private event chef, a scenic VRBO, and florals. These were things we knew we couldn't prioritize for our 80 person “legal” wedding.

Finally, I think a lot of folks worry that people will judge them for having two weddings. Everyone who attended our wedding 100% understood why we did it, no questions asked. The people who love you will support you and not force you to over-explain yourself. So make decisions that are right for you, even if they don't make sense to anyone else! Your community's got your back and that's whats most important.

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