hanging over the rail

The offbeat bride: Pamela, RN student, housewife, and self-proclaimed crafting queen

Her offbeat partner: Danny, Marketing Assistant for local credit union

Location & date of wedding: Local coffeehouse in Riverside, CA — November 10, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: When my now-husband proposed to me on my birthday in March 2010, the second thing he told me after I said “yes” was that he wanted to get married in the same year and already had ideas to share. Whaaa? He was really the brains of the idea of having a non-traditional wedding filled with live performances.

We stayed under a $5K budget, including the rehearsal dinner, and kept the total guest list at 100. We had an intimate, pre-ceremony dinner with 40 immediate family members, musicians, and singers before the rest of guest arrived. Our venue was a local coffee house which used to be an old train depot.


2nd set of shoesI had two sets of bridal dresses and shoes. The bridal party was given colors and allowed to choose their own outfits, in the hopes it would be reusable, or something already owned. Although I did encourage my bridesmaids to wear some sort of leopard-print flair in their outfit since it's my absolute favorite print!

For music, we had talented family and friends as musicans, singers, speakers, and poets who created an entertaining evening show. Our friends also helped with the DIY. This included décor items such as terrarium centerpieces, sewn fabric pillows and table runners, and the construction of two photo booths (a life-size gold frame and a faux wall).

photobooth 2

We baked cupcakes, made handkerchief invitations with decorated envelope liners, and had house-designed wedding programs. I also had a handmade bouquet which was a surprise from my bridesmaids.

Love this!

Tell us about the ceremony: Our wedding schedule included couple-only pictures with a “first look,” bridal party photos, pre-ceremony dinner on location with our immediate family for about two hours, and an appetizer hour for the remaining guests as they arrived later.

first look

Once the ceremony began, we presented a series of six acts going through the history and special dates of our relationship. We kicked off the night with a choregraphed dance with just my husband-to-be and I to an “I Got Rythym” remix from the Take The Lead soundtrack (an ode to our first meeting at a night club, and it is one of his favorite movies).

Act 1: They Meet

“Act 2: They Fall In Love” began with a Ms. PacMan video game intro (we have a cocktail arcade game table in our home) and a video of a spoken word performance of our favorite poem from ShiHan, since Danny is a poet himself. This was followed by a poetry reading from an original work by my sister-in-law.

here comes the bride

“Act 3: Sacramento” was a slideshow of various trivia regarding our frequent trips in the five years of our long-distance relationship. One year after we started dating, Danny moved to Sacramento, which began the travels.

ceremony“Act 4: The Proposal” was a video of the actual proposal Danny had filmed.

“Act 5: Home Sweet Home” was a slideshow of photos of the new house we had just purchased earlier that year.

The final act, “Act 6: Marriage,” showed a snippet of the wedding scene from the movie “Muppets Take Manhattan” (my favorite) as we prepared for our traditional aisle walk.

The rest of the evening included the traditional ceremony with ministers, vows, unity candle, etc., but all intermixed with live musical performances of three favorite songs performed by our friends and family. Our kiss was a twirled dance dip, as per our first meeting, to a recording of “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo, one of our favorite songs to dance to.


After the kiss, we left the room and it was transitioned into a dance floor as we mingled with guests in the lounge area. Then we returned back to the stage area for speeches, mother/son, and father/daughter dances. The first dance was to “If I Ain't Got You” by Alicia Keys.

First Dance

We tried to keep the details of our wedding somewhat hidden to guests in the hopes that they would be able to enjoy the evening with a fresh outlook. It was a bit tough since everyone kept asking questions and didn't understand the scope of everything until that night. That was the best decision we made because they were all able to be surprised.

laughing in driveway

Oppa!Our biggest challenge: Planning a wedding with my then long-distance fiancé. It made it so much more important to be very organized so we could share information over the phone and through email. I found a free, online wedding planning site where we both uploaded information and thus were able to access it online at any time. This tool was the most useful — better than a heavy bridal binder! We also used it for our wedding website and online RSVPs.

Decorating was a small challenge. We chose the coffee shop because we loved the setup. It incorporated a stage area perfect for the ceremony but also a couple of lounge areas with couches, tables, bookshelves, and chairs that resembled a living room. As much as I wanted to keep the original atmosphere, I still wanted to decorate it to make it more personal.

musician rehearsal

We decided to integrate various photos from our engagement session, printed in various sizes, in frames that we displayed all over the lounge. We also incorporated sewn pillows and table cloths that my bridesmaid created for us in vibrant wedding colors that added a pop of color. We also transfered the terrarium centerpieces used during dinner downstairs to the main lounge area to give an organic feel. It ended up looking like it was our house, making it a very personalized space. The framed photos were then given away to specific family members as an extra wedding gift/favor.

Pre-Ceremony dinner decor

One of our goals was to stay under budget. We had just bought a house in the spring and even if extra funds were available, we both decided on a set number and stuck to it. This meant lots of DIY, which I was planning to do anyway, and also creative negotiating with vendors.

Cupcake Bar

Another of our goals was to only invite guests that we both have met and are close to us both. We gave each other one wildcard, and that helped with the decision of not having “plus ones” for single guests. As difficult as that decision was, our venue space was very limited and we didn't hear any negative feedback about it. It was the best decision to keep our guest list in order, but left extra room to invite the people who were special to us. Everytime I went through the guest list, I would repeat in my mind, “Who do I want to look out and see during our wedding vows?” and went from there.

On train tracks

A few family members were very concerned that we were leaving out some traditions like cake cutting and favors. Since both my husband-to-be and I had already made our decisions on these items, that's the answer I gave them. I took into account their suggestions, but replied that it just wasn't us and we were really trying to keep our day filled with our wants, rather than what is typical. In the end, all these voices were silenced when they finally experienced what we were planning.

bridesmaid shoes

My favorite moment: I loved how helpful and willing our friends and family were to help create the DIY projects. We also got married on the same day we met, six years to the day. I loved walking down the aisle and seeing my husband hold back tears and flooded with emotion even though we spent the majority of the day together. That moment can never be taken away.

looking at eachother

My funniest moment: Getting ready at the hotel with my Maid of Honor and watching Saved By The Bell the whole morning, my favorite show. I brought my copy of SBTB Seasons on DVD and the last episode on as I was leaving the room for the wedding photos was “Jesse's Father's Wedding in Palm Springs,” completely unplanned.

shoes on

Walking down the street to take couple photos and getting cat calls, even though I was hand-in-hand with my husband! My husband was also so nervous during the ceremony. He is usually the more outspoken and relaxed one, but kept stuttering during vows and giggling nervously throughout the ceremony. It broke the ice during serious moments and provided a bit of comic relief. To this day, we still joke about his mistake of “till death does it's part” during our vows.

walking across the street

playbillWas there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I had decided to design and print the wedding programs as a “Playbill” to go along with the show theme myself. Yet with everything else I had to do, it got left on the back burner. I actually took my home printer to the hotel to print them out the night before the wedding, and the printer completely broke. All that hard work and it wasn't going to be seen. I was so disappointed. But one of my bridemaid's husbands and a groomsmen volunteered to take the file to a local office supply store to get printed. Luckily, there was one just down the street from the venue. They totally did it in time and I was so grateful.

whole invite

My advice for offbeat brides: When beginning to plan, make a list of a few top priorities of what is really important for the both of you. We labeled this our “Wedding Mission Statement” and wrote it before starting any planning. With me being an eco-nut, reusuable/sustainable resources for as many aspects of the wedding was important. Refer back to this list when making serious decisions and if you ever get lost in the planning mess, it helps to guide you back to the focus of your day.

something blue

Consider alternative sites for weddings. Don't close off your dream wedding to just traditional wedding venues. Also, consider a weekday. Not only did this help with cost, it also helped with the guest list. If guests really feel it's important to them to attend your wedding, they will make it a point to be there.

with veil

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Comments on Pamela & Danny’s music and poetry coffee shop wedding in six acts

  1. Absolutely beautiful. Riverside never looked so good. I love the mason jar cupcakes. Do you bake them in the jar?

    • Yes! The plan was trying to find something that we could bake the cupcakes in and allow guests to take home to reuse. The beauty was that these mason jars not only did that but allowed us to bake directly in the jar itself, sealed with top for added freshness (I just popped one open lady week, 7mos after we bake date and surprised to find it was still tasty) but also allowed us to transport these bad boys so easily. So baking them was a bit easier. We made 2 custom flavors.

    • Thank you! Me too 🙁 Sadly, te one thing we didn’t think of was videotaping so we just have a few snipets from guests’ phones and digital cameras. You don’t know how much I kick myself thinking we should have set up someone’s video camera to record it since hiring a videographer was waaay too expensive.

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