The Offbeat Bride: Becky, Social Worker
Her offbeat partner: Shannon, Registered Nurse
Date and location of wedding: Von Braun Playhouse Theatre, Huntsville, Alabama — June 8, 2013
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: One of the first things that Shannon and I agreed on was that life would be perfect if it could be lived like a musical. When we began to plan our wedding in Huntsville, Alabama, we knew that music would be our most prominent theme. And what's the best place to have a music-themed wedding? A theatre, of course! We joked that instead of a wedding planner, we needed a stage manager!
We used the front part of the stage for our ceremony and our guests sat in the audience. When the ceremony was over, we opened the curtains and invited our friends and family on stage where tables and chairs were set up for our reception.
We have many talented friends and family, and we enlisted their help with performing during the ceremony as well as during the reception. Instead of a traditional wedding program, we had a Playbill, and we posted headshots of our wedding “cast” on a wall in the lobby of the theatre.
Shannon and I do enjoy fresh flowers, but we love paper flowers even more. Shannon spent months making paper flowers out of old sheet music and coffee filters (representing two of our prized loves!). There were zero fresh flowers at the wedding. Even our table centerpieces were made of paper flowers which were placed in jars filled with coffee beans.
We added little details of music everywhere. My twin nieces wore music-print flower girl dresses (made by my mom). Shannon's twin nephews wore music print bow ties, which we found on Etsy. Votive holders were Mod Podged with sheet music. Our favors were CD mixes we made of music from the wedding along with other faves. We also gave our guests M&Ms with a music heart logo imprinted.
Our cake topper was a super cute treble clef heart we also found on Etsy. My cufflinks (a Christmas gift from Shannon) also had our music heart logo imprinted on them.
We carried our rings on a book that Shannon recovered and labeled “The Book of Love” (which was the song we walked into). Our rings were tied with red ribbon on a pillow inside the book.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Shannon and I belong to a local United Church of Christ, and our pastor, Robert Hurst, officiated. However, I also have a Buddhist/Taoist meditation practice. Before our pastor began the first prayer, he invited my sister to ring a bell, which was blessed by a Buddhist monastery and is very meaningful to me. She rang the bell three times to clear the spiritual space.
My sister also performed a hilarious reading of “Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog” by Taylor Mali. The poem is so funny but also very sweet and poignant. Shannon's mother (who was a back-up singer for Tammy Wynette!) sang a beautiful rendition of the Lord's Prayer, and I accompanied her on piano.
Shannon and I exchanged musical vows. She sang Sleeping at Last's “Turning Page,” and I played a song on the piano which I wrote for Shannon.
We lit candles with Shannon's daughters to symbolize the joining of our family. A string arrangement of Ben Folds' “The Luckiest” played during the ceremony.
We ended the ceremony with Frank Sinatra's “How's About You?” which was a nod to the fact that we would be leaving the next day for a week-long honeymoon in New York City: “I like New York in June. How's About You?” We were also legally married while we were there! And now that DOMA has been partially overturned, we are joining a class action lawsuit in Alabama to have our marriage recognized at home as well!
Our biggest challenge:
Being gay in a small, Southern town can be terrifying at times. We really didn't know what to expect as we began to contact vendors for the wedding. Would they hang up on us or refuse to help us? Would they be judgmental? We were actually pleasantly surprised. We searched for gay-friendly vendors and were pleased to find very nice people who were very happy for us. If anyone did have a problem, they hid it very well. But then again, this is the South, where stuffing in your true feelings is an art form! The folks at the Von Braun Playhouse (Huntsville's main theatre) could not have been friendlier or more helpful.
Our second biggest challenge was the day of the ceremony. The theatre was booked with a different show the day before our wedding, so we couldn't enter the theatre until the day of the ceremony. We arrived early that morning and had to figure out exact placement of our arch for the ceremony as well as some technical requirements for a pre-wedding video we showed. Thankfully, our light and sound technicians also arrived very early, made some amazing recommendations and pitched in to make everything come together. We also had several friends come to the theatre early, which helped tremendously.
My personal challenge was finding an outfit! Shannon knew she would wear a dress, but even though I seriously considered it, I just couldn't do it. I spent HOURS looking online for a non-dress wedding outfit that was not technically a man's suit just cut for a woman. I don't feel butch enough to wear a tux, but I'm too butch to wear a dress. I was caught in a semi-butch quandary! My final solution was a white button-up shirt and pants with a tan-colored vest. I went to a salon for my hair and a good friend helped me with makeup, which helped to femme up my outfit a bit. All in all, I was pleased with the look, but I still hope that someone, somewhere, someday invents a formalwear line for women who don't want to wear a dress. [Editor's note for other butch brides: try Duchess Clothiers or The Butch Clothing Company!]
My favorite moment:
Our musical vows! Shannon is a classically trained soprano, and I am a pianist. We both felt like words alone could not convey the love we feel for each other, and we were both excited to use music in our promises to one another. We both agreed that even if there are times when our life together is not in tune, we would still give each other our best song.
My sister plays the piano and sings beautifully. She played and sang “To the Moon and Back” by Dolly Parton for our first dance. The song is a waltz, and we did our best box step complete with turns and twirls!
My funniest moment:
A few weeks before the wedding, Shannon and I had a blast shooting a pre-ceremony video. We knew we would have a lot of straight friends and family coming to the wedding, so we shot a scene of the two of us talking about some ideas for the ceremony and wondering if they would be too over the top for our guests (stuff like an Indigo Girls sing-along, staring into each other's eyes for an hour, etc). The video also included us running around getting ready for the wedding (all set to the Bruno Mars song, “Marry You”) and ended with us running through the theatre parking lot. When we opened the doors to the theatre in the video, the lights went out and our entrance music began to play. See the video here and a video of the beautifully sung processional.
Have you been married before and if so, what did you do differently?
Shannon and I both had very traditional church weddings for our first marriages. Even though we feel connected to our local church community, we knew that we wanted to have our wedding in a space that would be un-traditionally spiritual. We've both spent so much of our lives getting ready for musicals, plays, or other performances on stage, we felt a deep spirituality inside the theatre space. We knew that God would find us and celebrate our Love with us in that space. My mom painted a beautiful picture of a country church that Shannon and I both love. We used that painting like a set decoration, and it held the space of a church for us.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
So many couples say the same thing: make the wedding your own. It's simple to say but hard to do. We agree, however, that you have to stick to your guns. If you are really clear about what you want, that will help others to help you, instead of trying to steer you in another direction. For example, even though the day was really busy, I had promised myself that I would play the grand piano set up in the theatre for at least an hour. Some people go for pre-wedding massages. I wanted some pre-wedding piano time! I did get my time playing the piano, and it really helped me to settle down emotionally before the ceremony.
But remember to be patient as well, especially if you are having a same-sex wedding. Some of our guests needed some basic education about how a same-sex wedding “works.” They had just never experienced it before and didn't want to say or do the wrong thing. Keeping the tone light and not taking stuff too personally helps everyone to feel safe enough to be open and have a better time.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Shannon's dress: Outlet for David's Bridal
- Cake topper: Crosswiredesign
- Matrons of honor gifts: McLaughlinCreations
- Photography: White Rabbit Studios captured some great moments without ever being intrusive. She anticipated our moves and made our day look as beautiful as we remember.
- Venue: Von Braun Center is a wonderful event facility. We were the only wedding they had hosted, but I hope that after seeing how ours came together that other couples will consider them. The facility team was amazing and the food was fantastic!
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!