It be Talk Like a Pirate Day again, me hearties, and Offbeat Bride readers can always be counted on to give us amazing pirate-themed weddings. Here's one of our favorites.


The Offbeat Bride: Dawn, Middle School English Teacher

Her offbeat partner: John, Student

Date and location of wedding: Godric Grove, Elings Park, Santa Barbara, CA — July 1, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: I love having fun and keeping things a little silly. On a whim, in the midst of planning for another wedding, I declared that, rather than try to please everyone and make a traditional wedding work for me, I would have a pirate wedding. I do medieval reenactment, so this was not too much of a stretch. When John proposed, I knew there were pirate flags in our future.





We definitely charted our own course: the entire wedding party and almost all the guests dressed up in fantastic pirate attire and performed a historical dance, we had coed crews instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, necklaces instead of rings, a pirate ship cake and fondue for dessert, and kids' games.

The Adventures Of, our stunning cinematographer, captured the feeling of it in our gorgeous video:

If you are getting married and you haven't thought seriously about a good cinematographer (and can afford it), DO. Between The Adventures Of and our photographer Candice, our day was captured perfectly. I almost skipped this part, and am so unbelievably glad I didn't.

This wedding was seriously a group effort. In proud pirate tradition, I press-ganged the crews into showing up in Santa Barbara the day before the rehearsal to do all kinds of crafty things, and I had others not on the crews at the park on the day of the wedding to help get it all going.


To say that we had fun with our outfits is not to say enough. We designed our own outfits, and, except for the groom's coat and jacket, my first mate Vivian, a professional historical sewer, patterned them for us. We shopped in LA's fabric district for two days to find all the fabrics. I love the brocades we found.

I think my favorite part of wedding prep was making the gifts for the bridal party (aka “the crews”). John and I bought them each a glass for their favorite kind of adult beverage and then I etched a symbol to represent them on the glass.


Our friend Rachael made fantastic signs for everything. She was a crafty queen, and caught our style perfectly. My favorite example was the bathroom signs. We'd asked for labels with pirates on them, and figured she'd print us something with clip art and a funky font. Instead, she tea aged paper and used these amazing ink pirate silhouettes. We loved them enough that they are now mounted and hanging in our guest bathroom.



Our friend Jean made us a beautiful rum cake. Initially, we'd asked for a small cake or two cupcakes, maybe with plastic ships on them, since the main dessert was to be fondue. Jean had other ideas thought, and made a layered diorama cake with rolling ocean waves and a ship, complete with actual mast, sails, rigging, and flags. To top the cake, my brother-in-law James hand-painted pirate miniatures to match our outfits, even putting in details like the brocade on our coats.

At the start of our reception we did historical dances, led by my friend Robin. Our first dance was Amoroso, a 15th century Italian dance, livened up by the groom who suggested that we do each chorus with a different style. Our crews learned two English country dances, one of which they danced as a performance piece, and one of which they danced with audience participants. This was so much more fun for us than waltzing.


The craziest thing about wedding prep was acquiring all the little details. Where does one get nine pounds of shells? Many things were acquired here and there, like the ship's wheel that we draped with a net and pinned the place cards to. The groom and best man found that in a garage they were cleaning for a friend.

I am a teacher and I couldn't ignore the kids at my wedding, so I set up some games for them. We had a bocce ball set, a rubber band gun target range, and a scavenger hunt with treasure chests of prizes for each winner. I especially enjoyed escaping after the receiving line to run off and play bocce ball with two high school friends and my younger cousin.


Tell us about the ceremony:
We looked at many options for venues, but with our guest list, we decided to go for a large venue. After touring parks across Orange, San Diego, and Santa Barbara counties, my first mate (maid of honor) Vivian brought me to Elings Park, and I knew I was in exactly the right place. The ceremony took place in a natural stone amphitheater, overlooking the harbor, with the foothills of Santa Barbara heading down into the ocean, where the sailboats of Santa Barbara were docked.


Writing the ceremony and vows was fun and took a lot of thought. We were really careful about what we included. We wanted to use pirate lingo, but we also wanted to convey our seriousness in this undertaking. It was hard, but I think we walked that line. John isn't religious, and my family is, so we allowed moments for prayer, but emphasized that they were also for reflection. We like symbols and stories, but neither of us is really the type to moon over romantic speeches, so we had to research appropriate selections and found some gems. We used “Love Is Friendship Caught Fire” by Laura Hendricks and a selection from “The Irrational Season” by Madeleine L'Engle.



Our friend officiated, and many of our friends got to be there on stage with us. We also used the ceremony to explain our unusual unity symbol. I dislike rings, so John and I asked our friend Amy make us necklaces. We sent her a basic design and she sent back amazing, beautifully wire-wrapped stones. In our ceremony, we explained what the stones and metals symbolized and put them on each other. John gave me a necklace with a teardrop-shaped silver and serpentine pendant, symbolizing health, clarity, and insight. I gave him a round copper and carnelian pendant on a copper chain, symbolizing protection, courage, love, and good cheer.




Our biggest challenge:
Things would have been a lot less stressful in those last few days if I'd planned a little better ahead of time. I was focused on my new job teaching at a charter school in San Bernardino, so it took until school was out for me to make a final list of everything that needed to be done. This meant I'd done a lot of less important work early, and left key things for later. Luckily for us, it turned out well because I had the last-minute help I needed, but O.M.G. I wish I had done more planning sooner; It would've saved everyone some stress.

Some of the last-minute things turned out to be awesome. For example, I hadn't decided to include the banners that were the central decoration for our ceremony until weeks before the wedding and they only got made days before. Another one of those last-minute decisions was the location for the couples portraits. We ended up using the backyard of the house we were staying in, which was lush with beautiful vegetation and vines, perfect for a pirate's cove hideaway.



My favorite moment:
We were surprised by how many people put so much into our bash. My best friend let us take over her house for two weeks, so many people spent so much time crafting, and when we had open mike time for the toasts, it was truly touching to hear what everyone had to say. Embarrassing, but touching.



My funniest moment:
One of the crew brought their baby with them, dressed in the most adorable octopus outfit. We had small ship cut-outs set up as a shooting range with rubber band guns, upon which, when the shooting was done, we “released the Kraken.” She was the cutest Kraken ever!


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
The one big mistake we made was not hiring a DJ. I was concerned about the expense and worried that a DJ might not understand our particular group or be sympathetic to our offbeat ways. I had arranged for friends to come up with playlists, and had rented DIY DJ equipment, but everything went downhill from there. The DJ equipment was not in complete working order and was definitely running a user interface from the early '90s. Then the crew member I'd tasked with making the final playlists had a personal emergency, leaving me and some of my dedicated crew making playlists the night before and the morning of the wedding. Even then, things would have been a disaster without my crew member Amanda's husband Steve. Even though he was on his vacation and not on anyone's crew, he spent the entire reception DJing and making it all work. We couldn't have gotten through it without him.

Props are also due the AV guy who dropped off and picked up the speakers and amp. He helped make sure that those things were working wonderfully, and when he came back to pick things up, he'd even changed into a pirate t-shirt. How awesome is that?


Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

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filmmaking: The Adventures Of

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Comments on Dawn & John’s elegant and pirate-y wedding

  1. This wedding looks so cool, fun, AND elegant! Y’all look amazing and I LOVE your dress!

  2. I must just be emotional today. This is the second wedding related thing I’ve cried over today, and I had to share your video with my friends. Wishing you both the best and a well done on your wedding! Wonderfully beautiful.

  3. This be the most arrrressting wedding I’ve seen in many moons!

    Those outfits are fab, the necklaces literally made my breath catch, MINI KRAKEN OMG, the ship’s wheel is so cool…

    I just…you know…yarrrrrr. <3

  4. Can you tell me where you got that awesome mini chest? It is so beautiful!

    • Hi there!

      All our chests were from Michaels or Joann’s and stained or painted by us and our minions. The only exception was the chest we used to carry the necklaces in when we went up to the altar. For that we used the Davy Jones chest that came with my brother’s Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy set, with some added padding and some leftover fabric for pillowing. I’m glad you enjoyed it!


  5. Great outfits! Very well done! I am planning my own pirate wedding and this has really helped me to visualize some details and show people what I’m thinking of! Congrats on an amazing wedding!

  6. I’m so glad I found this post! I’ve been so anxious (and wickedly excited) in the formulating stages of planning our pirate wedding!
    Thank you so much for sharing! I may have to pilfer an idea or two from ye.

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