Annie & Johnny’s wild animal and fencing honor guard wedding

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The offbeat bride: Annie, Research Chemist (and OBT Member)

Her offbeat partner: Johnny, Tutor

Location & date of wedding: San Diego Wild Animal Park — March 13th, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: For starters, our guests were distracted during the ceremony because the lemurs behind us were chasing each other. Our ceremony was held at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. It's absolutely gorgeous and since the ceremony was at sunset, all of the animals were waking up, running around and being loud, which made everything even better. Ceremony

Since Johnny and I met on the University of Southern California fencing team, we asked our teammates from the year we met to be our honor guard. It was a great way to involve a lot of people in the wedding and get some amazing pictures in the process!

Family and friends sang, read and played music during the ceremony, which made it feel amazingly personal and celebratory. I was much more emotional during the ceremony than I expected, mostly due to that.

In addition to every guest getting free park admission for the day, the park brought six animals to the reception. They did a short presentation about each, let Johnny and I pet them. I even got to have one on my shoulder! honorguard

We had awesome stuff on our music playlist. I remixed Muse and Nina Simone's versions of “Feeling Good” for our first dance; the instrumental/eating food part of the playlist contained orchestral video game music; we rickrolled the wedding and our last song of the night was a cover of the Mario 3 ending theme.

Tell us about the ceremony: We had tons of family and friends involved in the ceremony, which was wonderful. Everyone sounded beautiful. My mother wrote a poem for our ceremony, the entire poem won't fit here but I had to include a couple verses: hyrax2

Here we are again, sundown San Diego, night
About to fall and every animal at hand-
As if to witness a marriage in Eden!
In the kingdom or wing and sonar, you
Two Are beginning: as love comes round again.
These animals come round you two
Who stand at the gates opening slow
On the grassy plain, the marsh: great blue
Heron, ibis, antelope, gazelle and panther,
Chimpanzee and the great tusked ones:
Dream-like, the dappled tribes gather.

Our biggest challenge: I am too flexible for weddings. In an effort to avoid annoying people, I made things easy. However, this kind of backfired and people panicked because they didn't have enough guidance. steph_annu_reena

Eventually, I figured it out, but the worst case was for my MOH's dress. I sent her a swatch of the fabric we were using for the honor guards' sashes (made by Johnny's mom and aunt!) and told her to find a dress similar to this shade. However, this didn't help. She went to tons of stores and couldn't find a thing, and every time we talked she sounded more panicked. Fewer than thirty days before the wedding, she still didn't have a dress, and was having nightmares about it! birds

The worst part was that after she told me about the nightmares, I started looking and within five minutes found an Alfred Angelo within two blocks of her house that had a perfect dress. Unfortunately, it was too close to the wedding to order it. Luckily, she was able to find a dress that was lovely (she actually ended up wearing it for a formal function before the wedding), but I think that if I'd started out by sending her a few links to specific dresses, it would have been much less stressful. anteater2

My favorite moment: Two meaningful moments relate to dancing, which is odd, since I'm terrible at dancing and generally avoid it. The first amazing moment was when Devil's Dance Floor by Flogging Molly started playing. Over twenty people swarmed the floor and started a dance circle. We were jumping, stomping and yelling the lyrics. Then one guest jumped into the middle of the circle and started doing amazing moves. It turned out she used to be a competitive Irish dancer! It was so much freaking fun and so liberating to just rock out with my friends.

But the last dance of the night was the most meaningful. Things were winding down, so I wasn't as panicked as I was for our first dance. People were kind of milling about, so I didn't think anyone was paying attention to us. Johnny offered to teach me the cha cha to the last song (Tokyo Cuban Boys cover of the Mario 3 ending theme), and we were just off in our own little world. Johnny was whispering the steps to me, I was holding him, and we were just… together. As the song ended, I looked around and realized that everyone was on the edge of the dance floor, quietly watching us. Initially, I was embarrassed but all anyone could talk about was how great it was to watch.dancegroup2

My funniest moment: All the animals were really lively during our ceremony, and whenever people were singing or reading, they would start squawking, loudly. The best moment was when they squawked right on cue during the line of my mom's poem about a “marriage in Eden!” We also spent the whole pre-wedding day making as many Anchorman jokes as possible, to get it out of our system. rockband2

My advice for offbeat brides: Make a list of things you need to bring to the ceremony. I came dangerously close to forgetting to wear my Grandmother's necklace. I also lost track of the converter cable to hook up the laptop for our video at the reception, which had everyone in a panic. Luckily, we found it in time.

My second recommendation: put a space on your RSVP card for people to request songs. This turned out to have multiple benefits. We were able to expand our songlist, people were excited to dance when the song they requested came up and we were able to use the songs in our mixed CD favors. The mixed CDs worked really well as favors, since most people needed something for the drive home! bamboo

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? People will try and get along to make the wedding go well. There were some friends and family, who we were nervous about having in the same area together, but nothing happened. That was a huge relief.

Overall? Organizing a huge get-together like this was worth it, just to have so many people who are important to us all in the same place.

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Comments on Annie & Johnny’s wild animal and fencing honor guard wedding

  1. Your wedding looked fabulous! I can completely relate though as a MOH to a wedding where I’m simply given a color to look for. It can be too stressful, you want to make everything perfect for your friend’s day.

    I loved your story about the last dance of the night, it seemed so intimate and sweet. Very touching.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion about letting guests RSVP with a song they’d like to dance to! I want to be sure the songs are all danceable 😀 and I know there are people out there who know a lot more about music than I do.

  3. Congrats on the beautiful wedding! 🙂 I love it!! I saw a lot of what I’m hoping for in my wedding when I was reading through this profile. I was wondering what you did for a sound system? The music is really important to my fiance and I and I’m worried if we get a DJ we will be disappointed because we have SO many songs we want to play and a lot of them are unusual/geeky but I worry that doing the music ourselves might be too stressful… do you have any advice on that aspect? Thanks so much! 🙂

    • Hi Sue,

      The main post just got edited with the link to our sound rental guy. We got the speakers (for ceremony and reception), keyboard and music stand from him and it worked beautifully. For live music my main advice is to make sure the equipment is there are rehearsal so everything is balanced properly.

      For the reception we had an iPod and set up two different playlists, one for dinner and one for dancing. The dinner playlist was mainly instrumental with a few mellow foreign language pieces as well. Songs that provide background noise but aren’t going to get in the way of dinner conversations.

      The dancing playlist was trickier to figure out. We started out with one huge playlist of everything in our music libraries that we liked and just made cuts from there. And like the main post says, I highly recommend putting song requests on RSVP cards, that helped immensely. Other than that I picked the brains of friends who swing dance for good songs (Movits! is tons of fun, for example). I do think it was the biggest project in the entire wedding, though.

      What I think helped us the most was sitting down and listening to the entire playlist and making notes of what things worked well together, if we had a block of songs that sounded similar and should be broken up, etc. We had to drive from Oregon (where we live) to California for the wedding, and this ended up being a great way to use time on the drive down.

      Oh, and have a backup iPod if possible!

      Hope that helped!

  4. Congratulations!
    I love love love Devil’s Dance Floor that is a great dance circle song!
    It sounds like you had a great time, which is really exciting!

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