Laura & Jim's vintage gazebo wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015

2719496623_941225b76fThe Offbeat Bride: Laura, history detective

My Offbeat Partner: Jim, army captain

Location & date of the wedding: Gazebo in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lovingston, Virginia — July 26, 2008

What made our wedding offbeat: When Jim and I made the decision to get married in May, we knew we weren't going to have the luxury of a long engagement; Jim had recently received orders for a 400-day mission overseas and we knew we would have to have everything done and in order before he had to report for training in mid-August.

I knew that I wanted a dress that was a bit informal and cocktail-length. I went to a chain store that shall remain nameless and tried on a couple to get a feel for the whole thing and discovered that white and ivory made me look like pale death. Hmm, not quite the look I was going for.

A few cute touches of pink.
A few cute touches of pink.
It was about then that I realized that I had what could be a potential ace up my sleeve; my awesome and insanely talented friend, Julianne! I rounded up some pictures of 50s and 60s style cocktail dresses from the interwebs and asked if she could make a dress for me. She sketched out a plan and then we met to discuss fabric choices and colors; I chose pale aqua blue silk with an ivory chiffon sash and pink taffeta netting underskirt.

I've got to say, having a dress made for you is the way to go. I didn't have to worry about fit or my boobs falling out and I could customize every aspect of it. The best part was that Jim already had the perfect suit and suspenders combo that was especially suited for what was shaping up to be our vintage-style wedding.

I love the pics of the men in the family helping to decorate!
I love the pics of the men in the family helping to decorate!
There were just so many other details to consider that hadn't even crossed either of our minds at that point, like, should we have a sit-down dinner or buffet, indoor or outdoor reception, and the absolute worst — deciding who would make the cut to be invited. It was all just too much and with time running out, I was getting a bit frantic… okay, more like hysterical. It just wasn't what I had envisioned at all and then I realized that was because I had always wanted to elope and then have a big party for everyone afterward. I asked Jim how he felt about running off somewhere to get hitched and he was all for it!

Check out the cute mini-gazebo cake topper!
Check out the cute mini-gazebo cake topper!
We found a woman by the name of Frankee Love (how appropriate!) who was a licensed officiant for the state of Virginia and has a business creating elopement packages for couples who simply wanted to get married without the stress that tends to come with planning an out-and-out wedding. She took care of everything from the flowers, to the cake, our stay in a local bed and breakfast, a couple's massage, even the photography!

She set us up for a gazebo wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Lovingston, Virginia, on July 26, which was just around the corner. The best part was that we would be able to involve our immediate families in the ceremony, which is something that Jim and I both wanted to do.

Such a gentleman

As the date got closer, all of the details fell into place, from my awesome custom-made fascinator/veil combo, the wedding ring that I had made for Jim, my 1920s wedding band from eBay, to finding the perfect classic car in which to make our post-wedding getaway. I even found a vintage hat box to safely carry my hat to and from hair appointments and the actual wedding! In the two weeks prior to the wedding, I busied myself making decorations for the gazebo and making preparations for the "rehearsal dinner" that we decided to have at our place the night before the wedding so that our families could have the chance to meet each other.

The bride in her vintage pearl jewelry.
The bride in her vintage pearl jewelry.
The day of the wedding went just as planned with everyone convening at the bed and breakfast before heading over to the gazebo to decorate and prepare for the ceremony. My mom helped me get ready and gave me a pair of earrings made from pearls that had belonged to my great grandmother; I also wore my late grandmother's pearl necklace and her awesome rhinestone brooch from the 60s on my sash. I definitely had the something old aspect covered in spades! My dress was my something new and something blue and for my something borrowed, my grandmother lent me a hankie with her initial embroidered on it in pink into which I folded Jim's ring and placed in my pocket for safe-keeping.

Everyone was outside enjoying the breeze and beautiful natural scenery when we started our wedding at 5pm. I walked myself down the lawn and met Jim in the gazebo, where we were surrounded by flitting butterflies throughout the entire ceremony. It truly was perfect and we were so glad that we were able to share this special moment with our families.

MOB lighting a candle.
MOB lighting a candle.
After the requisite round of pictures, the entire group of us headed over to the Lovingston Café where we had a fun and laid-back family dinner followed by some champagne toasts and wedding cake. Once everyone had their fill, they headed off to their overnight accommodations and Jim and I took the Skylark for a sunset ride through Nelson County before heading to the Orchard House Bed and Breakfast (a circa 1879 residence) to partake in some more champagne toasts; it was the perfect way to end a perfect day.

When Jim gets back from overseas next fall, we plan to get weddinged at a big "welcome back/oh hey, we got married so lets par-tay" party so that the rest of our friends and family can celebrate our marriage with us. I know I'm definitely looking forward to wearing my dress again!

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was realizing that it was okay to be a little bit selfish in making the call to keep the whole to-do simple and small. With Jim's impending deployment, we were already under enough stress; a traditional wedding and all of the expectations that tend to accompany it would have been the straw on this particular camel's back. We figured if we're going to get married, we're going to do it our way and enjoy it. And fortunately for us, our friends and family were supportive and understanding of our decision.

My favorite moment: It's hard to pinpoint a favorite moment, but I'd have to say that going for a drive in our classic convertible following dinner was pretty amazing. Dressed in our wedding finery, driving down the country road at dusk, other drivers honking and waving at us; it felt like we were in a movie straight out of the 60s!

Then again, I will always remember the look on Jim's face when we saw each other for the first time in the gazebo… its so hard to pick just one.

My advice for other offbeat brides: I know it's probably been said a million times before, but my advice is to keep it simple and don't get lost in the details. Our short time frame kept us both focused on taking care of the things that were most important to us. Once the basics were covered, everything else was an unexpected benefit!

Also, don't throw out the option of a wedding or elopement package deal because you think it might be too cookie cutter; they're great for those couples who are short on time (like we were) plus you can totally customize them to fit your particular needs and add some personal flair. I know we definitely enjoyed the couples' massage that we added to our elopement package!

Enough talk — here's the wedding porn:
Click the photo below to view all the shots!
jim-lau 024

  1. way to go! I've often thought (ok more like once every 5 minutes) that elopement is the best choice, and look how beautiful and happy you are in your pictures! Thanks for showing us that you don't have to give up all the glam for an elopement, you just have to make it bitesized!

  2. I'm the offbeat bride from this post. 🙂 It's such an honor to be able to share my wedding with the fabulous readers of offbeatbride.com; thanks for your lovely comments and best wishes to those about to embark on the adventure of marriage!

  3. Cute!!!! Kinda reminds me of my aunt & uncle (also Laura & Jim, lol), who got married atop a giant chicken-wire-and-plywood wedding cake!

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