The offbeat bride: Shanna, Sexuality Educator
Her offbeat partner: LP, Social Justice Rockstar
Date and location of wedding: The Holiday Inn, Lakewood, CO — October 9, 2011
our offbeat wedding at a glance: We are a queer couple choosing to have a “Celebration of Love” aka “wedding” in a state that does not support same-sex marriage or civil unions. This led to our making a social justice statement as part of our ceremony by using LGBTQ or ally-identified vendors and location, as well as choosing to donate money to four local and national non-profits that support causes we care about in lieu of favors.
It just got more offbeat from there. I am a fat feisty femme, making me a plus size bride that wanted a burgundy gothic Victorian-style dress. This meant getting LP a similar style outfit: a buttonless tux that gave the image of a frock coat. Then, to convince LP to wear the top hat I so desperately wanted, my mother gave LP a sword cane (yes, a cane that unscrews to reveal a sword) to go with it as a birthday present. In keeping with the gothic Victorian theme, I collected wrought iron candleholders from garage sales, thrift stores, and antique shops.
We placed a locally grown, organic baby pumpkin and a black marker at each place setting to allow guests to decorate.
In keeping with our queer, social justice theme, our attendants were given the gender neutral title “wing people,” and our main wing person was our “wing captain.” They could choose between a black dress with white accent, or black pants, black shirt, and white tie; whichever best fit their gender presentation that day.
We had a collaboration candle instead of a unity candle. We both stepped on the glass, and we chose to walk down the aisle together, as a couple, instead of having one of us being walked down to the other. Our DJ had a rainbow mohawk and looks like a hipper, modern-day Boy George, and our flower girl (aka “femme de fleurs”) was a full-grown woman who liked to chuck rose petals and leaves. For 85 people, we spent around $5,000.
Tell us about the ceremony: My former boss, Michael, who is an amazing man and great friend of ours, agreed to be our officiant. He is a fabulous gay man who went to seminary school for a while, and is incredibly well-spoken. Our ceremony was custom-created, and included a variety of elements. From my Jewish background, we had the chuppah, which represents the roof and four open walls of a home, and the stomping of the glass, which indicates that the love will last until the pieces of the glass come back together. We found the glass at a thrift store, and our friend made the chuppah cover by hand.
We chose to use rings, and did an epic fist pound when our officiant asked if we had them. Two of our friends did readings; one read a gothic love poem, and the other mixed an anthropologist's view of love with lyrics from Alix Olson, to represent her looking at love with both her head and her heart. We had each of our mothers light a candle on either side of our collaboration candle, and then we lit our own candle from these. Then we lit the top candle together, building a pyramid of flame to illustrate the support going into our relationship.
Michael led a beautiful ceremony, and was on his way to tears by the end, which almost set LP off in tears. We started with the mothers and the candles, then the chuppah came down the aisle (carried by four friends and family members), then our wing people (to “In the Mood” by Glen Miller Orchestra), our femme de fleurs, and then we walked ourselves down the aisle together to “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes. After the ceremony, we walked back to “My Best Friend” by Queen.
Our biggest challenge: The month before the wedding was incredibly tough and heartbreaking. I was laid off from my job, and then took a bad fall while walking, resulting in scraped up and infected elbow, scraped knees, and heightened chronic pain issues. Then, two and a half weeks before the wedding, LP's nana passed away unexpectedly. They were incredibly close to each other, and she had just made the decision to come to the wedding. Not only was this a huge emotional hit for us and all of LP's family, but we flew to New York that night, and were there for a week.
Trying to support my partner, look for jobs, plan the wedding from New York, and do all that while on painkillers was physically and emotionally draining. It got even worse when, two days before the wedding, LP's uncle (on the other side of the family) passed away from a fast-moving cancer. Not only were we financially unable to make it out for the funeral in New York, but this meant that many of LP's family members pulled out of attending the wedding, understandably.
All of this in the four weeks prior to the wedding was an incredible amount to deal with, but we were able to support each other through it, and really got amazing support from our friends. Because much of LP's family was not able to attend, we were able to invite some of our newer friends, who we hadn't been able to invite before due to budget restraints. LP made a beautiful book with pictures of them both, which we place on the guest book table, along with a photo album of my deceased father.
My favorite moment: We both wrote our own vows to read to each other, and they contained both serious statements as well as humorous ones. We talked about being a good kitty momma and kitty daddy to each other's kitties (blended cat family!). We joked about dinosaur noises and stuffed uterus/vulva puppets. But we also talked about working towards social justice together, supporting each other through gender struggles, my chronic pain, and so much more. Writing them for ourselves made them feel so much more personal and real to both of us.
During the reception, we had a Daddy Remembrance Dance, since my father died when I was 13. We both put on Hawaiian shirts (my father wore them daily) and danced to “Dream On” by Aerosmith. Everyone came together and really rocked out to the song in my father's honor, which brought me to tears. Right after that, we played “I'll Be Seeing You,” by Billie Holiday for LP's grandmother.
The biggest thing was that we planned everything ourselves, and made sure that everything fit out personalities. We had friends and family from seven different states all come together in one place to help us celebrate, and it meant so much to us to have that, on our own terms, regardless of what legal marriage might look like.
My funniest moment: LP and LP's dad decided to have a special father/offspring dance to the Beatles song “Blackbird.” What made it so completely hilarious was having genderqueer LP in a full on tuxedo standing next to their father, dressed up in a suit, trying to vie for who got to lead during the dance. Both of them presented in a very masculine way, and the two of them wound up sort of taking turns leading. It was on the borderline of being awkward, but it wound up coming off as really sweet and funny.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? One of my close friends was making the chuppah canopy for us, but she lives in Seattle. Saturday morning she was gluing the grommets into the corners, and we were crossing our fingers they would dry in time so that we could figure out how to attach the canopy to the four bamboo poles I had. Because we didn't really have a lot of time, we were really hoping that the first try would be successful. All in all, it wound up looking great, and we've put the canopy on our bedroom wall because it is so beautiful. We're so thankful to Anne for creating such a stunning piece for us.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? While Googling wedding stuff and attending a few bridal shows, it can be tough not to get caught up in the (very expensive) idea of what a perfect wedding looks like. I am so glad I was able to push that aside, and plan the perfect wedding for me and LP. No white dresses, no giant cakes, no getting walked down the aisle, no random favors, and a very little carbon footprint.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
We tried to use all queer/LGBTQ identified vendors, or at least strongly allied ones:
- Our DJ: DJ Rockstar Aaron is not only freaking amazing at DJing, but also has a fabulous rainbow mohawk. He plays a HUGE variety of music too.
- Corset and skirt: Burleska is a UK lingerie/fetish wear company. They are plus size-friendly (corsets up to 5x).
- Photography: Jesse Hernandez has photographed Pride parades and festivals around the country.
- Cupcakes: The Shoppe is a Denver cupcake shop that offers a huge selection of delicious cupcakes in addition to tasty gluten-free and vegan cupcake options.
- LP's outfit: Al's Formal Wear was incredibly friendly to us as a queer couple, and they provided great suggestions on which tuxedos would look best on a genderqueer body (read: hiding chest and hips).
- Wedding website: MyWedding provides a free website which served as a place for RSVPs, saving us the cost of return postage, as well as being easier on the environment by needing to print less.
- We had one of my best friends make the chuppah cover for us, and another close friend made the cupcake topper of our three kitties. Another friend sewed my garter, and my wing captain made the program poster.
- Shoes: LP's shoes we rented from Al's, mine came from Famous Footwear.
- Hairstylist: a local queer friend of ours who is awesome at doing hair.
- Pumpkins: The pumpkins were purchased from a local organic farmer at the Southwest Plaza Farmers Market.
Comments on A queertastic gothic Victorian celebration of love
it looks like a perfect wedding to me! love your fashion, the sword-cane, top hat and spats are awesome, but it’s really your whole story that makes this so fantastic. I’m happy to hear you found supportive vendors, even though your state won’t give you the stamp of approval.
your chuppa is so beautiful!
wishing you a long and joy-filled marriage!
Thank you; we really wanted a wedding that fit us; our love, our passions and our values. We were really lucky to find such wonderful vendors, as well as have such amazing friends!
Reading your “biggest challenge” section helped me remember that, even if it feels like everything is falling down around your ears, you can still have a wedding that you will remember forever…in a good way! I also love the way you two chose to honor your loved ones who had passed on. We’ve been thinking about that a lot with our wedding and your idea is a great one. Finally, there are few things I love more than a bride in a kickin’ corset and a CAPE (yours deserves the emphasis)!! Congratulations 😀
Yeah…losing such amazing people so close to the celebration was a hard blow, but it also put everything else, like what hairstyle I wanted and how many pumpkins we needed in perspective.
The dances wound up going really well; we each said a few words before the song about that person, and why we chose the song. People really got into it, even though only about 4 had known my father, and just a few had known LP’s nana. We also made photobooks on Shutterfly for pretty cheap for my father, and for LP’s grandparents, and put them out with the guest book, and some albums of us. I thought no one would look through them, but almost everyone spent time at the picture table, getting to know our families who weren’t there. That meant a lot to us.
Thanks for the CAPE compliment. I made it in a college theatrical costuming class almost a decade ago, but it turned out to match my dress perfectly, so I just had to wear it!
This gives me such hope. I will be having my fiancee look at this when she gets home tonight. I’m pretty much a trans guy who isn’t out… I’m what you’d call transmasculine, I’d be happy being ‘butch’ but I’m not female identified… I’m 6ft tall with short hair, but my mother makes it clear I’m very much her little girl. So when people use words like ‘they/their/them’ it’s perfect for me, as my chosen pronoun, to see someone successfully have a wedding where people aren’t criticizing the language used is amazing. I’m worried about words like ‘bride’ for me, because I very much want this wedding and to spend my life with the girl I’m in love with… I don’t look forward to being called ‘future wife, bride, lady’ otherwise this piece seems to mirror our own dynamic, right down to the glasses. We’ve tentatively decided to be a bespectacled couple on our big day.
I’m so glad this rang true for you as well. LP isn’t female or woman identified either; while I am ok with the idea of being a bride, LP was neither a bride or groom. They were just the person I was wedding/queer celebration of love-ing. One bonus of using LGBTQ identified/friendly vendors is that they often had “partner” as an option on their forms, and that worked best for us. Even almost 6 months post-wedding, we still use “partner” for each other almost exclusively, and occasionally spouse when it is important for a non-queer person to understand the intensity of our committment. When someone calls one of us “wife” (me or LP), we gently correct them and let them know that “partner” works best of us.
If it helps, we put some definitions for queer, genderqueer, etc on our wedding page, so those family members (and a few friends) who didn’t know what that meant had a way of learning before the wedding.
Yay for glasses! I only wear glasses, and think LP looks like Clark Kent when they wear them, so that was part of my outfit request. Happy to hear there will be more glasses awesomeness.
In comment closing – whatever your gender identity/presentation, make your wedding work for it. Don’t feel like to have to wear anything in particular or identify with traditional or even “same sex wedding” language. It’s YOUR event; make sure it feels authentic to you and your partner’s identities.
Rockstar Aaron is arguably the most incredibly dressed person I have ever seen. I remember at a Scissor Sisters show once Ana Matronic told a little story ended with “every time you wear a fucked up outfit into a truck stop, you save a child” then pointed to him and said, “And THAT is a child-saving outfit.”
Agree. He looks AMAZING at all times. I think my now Mother-Out-Law (haha) was anxious when she saw the rainbow hawk, make up and tux, but he won her over in no time with his awesome music selection!
What a wonderful set of photos and story, I really have no idea why same sex marriage is illegal, these two make the cutest couple! By the way, if you want to get rid of that sword cane i’ll take it!
Thanks 🙂 I’d love to see marriage equality (or just Civil Unions for EVERYONE), along with job, housing and health care security for LGBTQ folks.
LP probably won’t part with it, but my mother said she got it on Amazon, you know, if you want your own 🙂
OMG! My friend (who is doing our wedding photos) has worked at the Shoppe for years!!
Also, your wedding is super lovely =)
The Shoppe is super fabulous. We had dozens of pumpkin chocolate chip, a dozen lemon, a dozen banana cream pie, a dozen samoa, a dozen strawberry rhubarb and assorted gluten free and vegan ones. Yum!
And thanks 🙂
I love EVERYTHING about this! So much fun! 🙂
Shana- I’ve already thoroughly stalked your pictures via Facebook but seeing them along with your description really made it come to life. What a beautiful celebration.
Thanks Alison. I really appreciate Offbeat Bride letting me share our celebration, reasoning, awesome vendors, etc 🙂
Thank you for sharing, and thank you especially for this: “They could choose between a black dress with white accent, or black pants, black shirt, and white tie; whichever best fit their gender presentation that day.”
My brother and sister got married the same summer, both very loving and great allies, but I had some tough conversations with them about what I’d be willing to wear as part of their ceremonies. Your way of doing it is beautiful and I imagine felt great to the particpants – not having to sweat and wonder if a dress is going to feel comfortable when you wake up that day. Love, love, love it.
That was really important to us. We had a very butch presenting friend wind up in a dress for her sister’s wedding (or she’d be disowned), and didn’t want to make ANYONE feel uncomfortable because of how we wanted the wedding to “look.”
I found this wedding six months after mine occurred and was shocked at how similar it is to my own! I love this wedding so much that I have it linked to my phone for when I am having a bad day, I can pull it up and the pictures make me instantly happy. I can’t believe in all the wedding planning and obsessive Offbeat Bride wedding searching that I never came across this wedding till it was all over! If weddings/events had soulmates than this one would be my weddings!
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