Heather & Ben’s intimate cactus garden wedding

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The kiss

The offbeat bride: Heather, high school Yearbook/English/Photography teacher (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Ben, Grand Canyon River Guide and part-time substitute teacher

Location & date of wedding: BeDillon's Restaurant and Cactus Garden, Casa Grande, Arizona — October 30, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: It all started when I proposed to Ben on Christmas Eve of 2009. As a public school teacher with a small salary, I knew we had to keep things small, simple, local, and DIY. Our venue is owned by my dad's best friend and it was an instinctual choice to have it there. Most people don't get married in a cactus garden!

love the light

My Uncle Steve got ordained online to marry us which made it cost-effective, but more importantly, more personal. We had only 75 guests and it was the perfect number. I DIYed a photobooth from Becca's tutorial and had a scrapbooking set-up complete with a hard-won vintage cursive typewriter for the guest book.

One of my top five faves

Our ceremony took place under a very old, huge mesquite tree in a cactus garden surrounded by over 80 varieties of cactus. We had no bridesmaids or groomsmen, and we walked down the aisle together. We had cupcakes instead of cake and did no formal “cutting” of any baked product. We also didn't have a first dance because we're both pretty shy about too much attention.

adult pinata {it was filled with mini plastic liquor bottles & chocolate liqueurs}

Tell us about the ceremony: Ben and I each took our turns with vows that we spoke in the moment. We didn't script even one word for ourselves. Only Uncle Steve had a basic script of the order of events. We asked my cousin Arianna to read a selection we comprised from Rainer Maria Rilke's “Letter's to a Young Poet.” The document she read follows below:

the super short ceremony officiated by Uncle Steve

“It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.

That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and therefore loving, for a long time ahead and far on into life, is — solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves.

Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distances. Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves, may young people use the love that is given to them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough.

Only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn't exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being.”

Cousin Arianna doing a reading

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was keeping the day positive and making sure my relatives and friends understood not to mention my deceased father. I wanted this day to be everything my mom had always envisioned for her daughter and only child. I also knew that my dad would be on all of our minds no matter what (especially hers) so it was, in my opinion, unnecessary to continually mention him or bring him up.

In short: I was lucky. I asked some of my closest relatives to pass on my request. They did and everyone respected our wishes.

he's funny :)

OneLovePhoto=Pure Genius

My favorite moment: The most meaningful moments included seeing my mom's face during our vows, and sharing a laugh with my husband and Uncle Steve during our very “us” ceremony. It couldn't have been any more perfect with the ribbons billowing from the huge old mesquite tree and the candles shimmering in the hanging candleholders. It was magical.

wide view of venue

down by the tracks

My funniest moment: The funniest moment was getting Ben's ring on. His ring finger was broken when he was a teenager. The bone on his knuckle is so big his ring is actually a size bigger than needed just so it can make it over the joint. I cracked a joke or two while I struggled to get it on, and everyone else laughed with us.

5311032612 79e527e76a alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

My advice for offbeat brides: Prioritize big-time with your budget. Ben and I are both photographers and once we sat down and rated how important things were we decided it was okay to spend more than half of our budget on our dream photographers. BEST DECISION EVER!

In the pickle

it's all in the details

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? That our families fit together perfectly and having them all in on place proved how perfectly they join together.


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Comments on Heather & Ben’s intimate cactus garden wedding

  1. I love this. Is your wedding car a green VW Vanogon Westie?
    Our wedding car was a green VW bus Westie. We are still married (17 years) and we still have the bus too.

    • It sure is. Coolest part is that it used to belong to my in-laws. Every trip we took to Laramie, WY to visit them I would drool over the Westie affectionately known in their family as “the pickle”. They surprised us & drove the pickle all the way down from Laramie to give it to us as a wedding present! The pickle is officially ours & we can’t wait to take tons of family vacays in it! 🙂

      • We call our bus The Olive, someday I’m going to make a red vinyl cover for the front mount spare tire so she’ll look like a proper Spanish olive.
        We drove her from NYC to south central Texas when we to get married way back in 1994. Right after the wedding , she wouldn’t start (common) and we had to “pop” the clutch with a roll start provided by some of our guests.

  2. Its been ages since I rushed to read a featured wedding.

    The page simply couldn’t load fast enough!!! there’s something magical about your evening that totally resonates with me.

    wow! where to begin… the trees, the cacti, the floaty dreamy ribbon above you both, the shiny glass baubles, the simple and effective lighting tricks, the outdoors all around you both…. what a beautiful, breathtaking wedding!

    totally agree with you on the photos – love love love! 😀 its totally worth every spare penny to get a good photographer.

    congratulations to you both!!!!! wohoooooo!

  3. what a gorgeous couple! You two look amazing and spending money on the photographer paid off-the pictures are spectacular!

    • Thanks! Heather & Jon of One Love Photo are incredible. Amazing photographers & amazing human beings. By the end of the night the four of us felt like old friends! 🙂

      • Right back at you Heather & Ben! We just loved our time with you and hope to float a river or camp in a rainforest or desert with our vans at some point together. Thanks for asking us to capture your wedding day. Huge honor!

  4. Where, oh where did you get those glass baubles in the first picture? Stunning photography, and I love all the smiles in all the pictures – they make me smile too!

  5. OMG LOVE IT!! I’m from Casa Grande and have to Bedillions billions of times it’s so pretty there, gotta be pretty careful getting around though, been poked a few times.


  6. Oh, so beautiful… fantastic photography, gorgeous wedding. You’ve made this former Arizona girl ache for a wedding in her home state (and not far away in the midwest).

  7. Wow, these photos are stunning, especially the second and third ones on this page.

  8. Absolutely amazing wedding! The cactus garden gave some awesome effects in the photography. I love the simplicity of your wedding- the simplest weddings are always the most beautiful and memorable. All the best 🙂

  9. I looooove your wedding! I looooove the cactus garden – what a great way to have a sophisticated-looking venue without spending a lot of money! And the groom is too cute in that suit!

    Oh and the reading – Letter to the young poet – I’d never heard it before, but I love this! I think it’s exactly what my fiance tries to express to me!

  10. What a gorgeous location and you’re right, the photographs were worth the extra money. 🙂

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