Wendy & Tom's joyful community-made Heathen mini-festival

November 6 2014 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Les McConnaughey Photos

It's getting colder here in the northern hemisphere, so this week we're celebrating woodsy, outdoor weddings while we can. Get ready for majestic mountains, placid lakes, and gorgeous forests for days.

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Photos by Les McConnaughey Photos

The Offbeat Bride: Wendy, Spreadsheet Wizard (and Offbeat Bride member)

Her offbeat partner: Tom, Maker of Things

Date and location of wedding: Camp Pleasant, Prince William Forest National Park, Triangle, VA — May 31, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: When we started talking about getting married and whether or not we wanted a wedding at all, we considered eloping to the courthouse. However, we realized that the public presentation of ourselves and our oaths to our family and community was something that was important to us, so we decided to completely throw ourselves into a celebration of our relationships — both with each other and with all of those who have loved and supported us.

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We chose the cabin campground because, first, we knew we needed to have the ceremony outside and, second, for 1/5th of the price of other local places we could have the place to ourselves all weekend and have somewhere for guests to stay for free. We made guests the priority and decided to take a the-more-the-merrier, don't stress about the guest list kind of approach. We encouraged people to bring their children and dates and to stay both Friday and Saturday night if they wanted.

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Tom was in charge of decorations and crafting, and I was in charge of logistics and organization. All of our vendors were people we know, and very nearly everything was made by us and our amazingly talented friends and family. We looked at each wedding tradition that struck a chord with us and twisted it around until it fit our style and personality. And any ones that we didn't care for we tossed — or didn't, in the case of the bouquet!

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We walked down the "aisle" (a path through the woods to the fire circle) together. Our flowers were sourced and arranged by Tom's mother and aunt. My sister made the (beautiful! delicious!) cake. My dress was designed and made by Tom's sister. His pants and vest were made by his mother and sister. Our friends helped us make the invitations that were Tom's design, as a thank you for helping them do crafts for their wedding the previous year. We are lucky enough to have an amazing caterer friend who providing a delectable buffet that satisfied everyone from the vegetarians to those eating Paleo.

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My kinsman got a one-time civil celebrant license and officiated. Tom's sister was his Best Woman while I had my Best Chick. We had everyone in the wedding party play a part in the wedding ritual, which we wrote ourselves and was an ADF/Heathen ritual. Tom comes from a Quaker family, and so drawing from that we had a wedding certificate that all the guests signed that I designed and Tom watercolored and lettered.

Beer Canoe

We had carefully curated Spotify playlists for dinner and dancing music at one end of the dining hall for the reception, and a collection of board and card games at the other end and a beer canoe outside. A friend made us our wedding rings out of a hunk of meteorite we got off eBay. Instead of a traditional registry, we had a honeymoon registry towards a trip to Greece. We spent our year and a half engagement crafting like crazy people, and dragging those who loved us into our insanity. It was a great time.

ceremony space

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Tell us about the ceremony:
We are heathens and I have been involved with ADF for a long time. Despite worrying what our family might think, we decided that our wedding ritual should really reflect our beliefs in order for it to be meaningful to us. We had my kinsman officiate the ceremony (his first!) and collaborated with him to write the ritual exactly the way we wanted it, then printed it all up and put it in a three-ring binder that we had covered with leftover fabric from the decorations to make it pretty.

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We had everyone in the wedding party, as well as kinswoman, take a part in the ritual. We processed in to "Baba Yatu" (the Civilization IV theme song) proceeded by my two nieces carrying streamers. We then had a hammer rite, followed by a brief overview and explanation (as we didn't have a ceremony program) which also asked everyone to silence their cellphones and refrain from taking pictures during the ceremony.

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We then had the bridesmaid read the poem, "A Prayer for Marriage" by Steve Scafidi, which I found thanks to the Offbeat Bride Tribe. We then had the Best Chick give an offering to the nature spirits, and a charge to us to be responsible to them. The Best Woman made an offering to the ancestors:

A marriage is the creation of a new family. It is the joining of two established families made up of both the people here and those who have come before. We welcome our forbearers to be with us here today. We ask that they look upon this new family with love and grant it their blessings. Remember, your ancestors are behind you. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.

Then my kinswoman made an offering to the Gods of all those present and asked them to bless us. Our officiant then specifically asked Odin and Frigga to bless the marriage.

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Our biggest challenge:
The budget was probably the biggest challenge. I still have only a somewhat fuzzy idea of what we spent. Craft supplies get unexpectedly expensive (and always take about three times as long as you think they will)! I know it was more than I had originally intended, but we ended up with the event we wanted and we didn't go into debt over it. I was stressing about it until I realized that there was no point and I just had to let it go to some extent and scrimp in other areas. And we did. And it was fine.

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My favorite moment:
Wendy: Oddly enough it wasn't just the big things — making the vows, the toasts, cutting the cake — although they were all meaningful and amazing. We got ready together so there was no first look, but I was walking across the campground and saw Tom coming towards me all dressed up at one point and thought, "Damn, he looks hot as hell." It was taking a few minutes before the reception and going back to our cabin to have a minute to ourselves. It was watching my dad sing along to "I'm a Believer." It was all the touching, funny, sweet conversations, hugs and well-wishes.

Tom: Our wedding really took place over the course of a weekend as so many people camped. Many people helped set up and clean up and we worked really hard and also had a lot of fun. This is a wonderful gift. Kari, the Best Chick and a long-time friend of mine, gave a very moving toast which I can't really remember in detail now. And at the rehearsal dinner, I got to sit and drink a beer with three of my cousins who are in their early '20s. It was really neat to relate to all of them and with their mother as a group of adults.

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My funniest moment:
During the ceremony, at the very solemn and emotional moment when I went to take Tom's ring to put on him, I dropped it and it started to roll away. I sprang into action and scooped it up before it had a chance to get lost, and then stood up with my arms up in victory. Everybody laughed and it made the atmosphere immediately more jovial.

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Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?
This is my second marriage and third wedding. The first was a fairly informal handfasting at a local ADF grove and the second a more-or-less self-uniting ceremony in our backyard. This time around I went all out. Last time I was constrained more financially, but also by my partner's expectations. This time I figured out what was important to me and make a point of making it happen. For example, for some reason what says "bride" to me is a bouquet of flowers. So despite the fact that our decorations were not flower-centric, I made that something I prioritized. Partly because I'm older now and partly because it's a more balanced relationship, but I was able to be clear about what was important to me in a way that I wasn't before, and it made the event much more soul-satisfying.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
First, people usually want to help you. You should let them. You'll pay them back another time. It's really hard for me to let other people do things for me, but I couldn't have done it all alone, and when I let people help, I realized that it was because they wanted to show how much they cared.

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It was perfect because of all the things that went wrong, not in spite of them. It was perfect because it was my wedding, not my wedding because it was perfect.

Second, I am a self-confessed perfectionist, which caused me no small bit of stress during the planning process. However, after the wedding all I could say was that it was perfect for us. And it was perfect because of all the things that went wrong or not according to plan and forgotten, not in spite of them. It was perfect because it was my wedding, not my wedding because it was perfect. It was a unique, irreplaceable moment in time where I made huge promises in front of people I love to my favorite person in the world.

The lesson I learned was that despite all my worries, all this love is all that matters.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

  1. An absolutely beautiful wedding, that looks like it was a true reflection of who you both are, not to mention so much fun! Is your sister a professional baker? That is one of the most gorgeous cakes I have seen!

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    • Thank you so much! It really was all our favorite things ๐Ÿ™‚ She isn't, although she has taught cake decorating classes. This was her first wedding cake! She's so talented, it blows me away.

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  2. I think these guys are in the running for the Cutest Couple Award her on OBB!!

    What a fun wedding – loved reading about it!

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  3. Those shoes are GORGEOUS! Would you mind telling me where you got them? I am having the hardest time choosing shoes, which is very abnormal for me.

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    • Thanks! I got them on Amazon. They come in a bunch of different colors also. They are pretty minimal — just leather and cloth with the beading. When they arrive they aren't even left and right, you have to break them in. But I wore them all day with lots and lots of dancing and they held up really well and were comfortable for me. So I'd recommend them. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thank you! I adore the way the dress came out. I got to see the whole process of it being made, from the draping and design to the finished product. I have zero experience with clothes making and it was such an eye-opening experience to see how much goes into it. My sister is law is like a magician with scissors and pins. I can't gush about it enough.

  4. Hello there, i am a bride to be in may of this coming year, my fiance and i are planning an asa tru wedding, we are fairly new to the religion and have yet to find a kindred near us( we live in nw ohio) at the moment we have a family friend officiating the wedding for us but she knows nothing of the ceremony, i was wondering if maybe you had some advice or a resource that would guide us with our ceremony, also i was wondering how you handled the hammer ceremony?
    Thank you, and your wedding was beautiful

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    • Hey, congrats on your upcoming wedding! May is the best month to get married in ๐Ÿ˜‰

      There's a lot of directions you could go with the ceremony. We considered more of a sumble format (passing a horn with each person giving a toast), but we both have family members who don't drink and wouldn't understand what was going on, plus with a big crowd it would take a really long time. So our format was more based on the ADF structure, which you can get more information on here: https://www.adf.org/rituals/explanations/core-order.html. But I could see either one working really well depending on your group.

      And I would also say, one of my favorite things about our ceremony was that we delegated out parts. My sister in law, who is Quaker, did the call to the ancestors, because that's something that means something to her. Getting people involved who seem appropriate for the different "parts" not only takes the pressure off of one person running a whole ritual when they are unfamiliar with it, but it lets you get people involved. You then have the bond of that person playing a part in your wedding ceremony. And I think that's really nice.

      For the hammer rite we asked the groomsman to do it because he's my kinsman and I've seen him do many of them before and like his style. We had him launch right into it once we had processed up and everyone was there. It made for a very clear delineation into more "sacred" time, if you will. I definitely think it took some people a little off-guard though. As you can see in one of the pictures above, we had a hammer on the altar.

      Let me know if you have any other questions or if I can help some other way. I know there's not a lot of resources out there for Asatru weddings, and mine is certainly not the only way to do it. Good luck, have fun and congrats again! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • You are so right when you say there aren't many resources out there when it comes to Asatru weddings! But, I'd like to say, your wedding created one for me! I absolutely love the idea of hosting the ceremony at a camp ground. We've been at a loss as to where our shindig is "going to go down." Blessings to you!

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