Mini-Chuck & Tara cake toppers!

The offbeat bride: Tara, Nonprofit Work

Her offbeat partner: Chuck, Ph.d Candidate

Date and location of wedding: Wild Goose Creative, Columbus, Ohio — August 13, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: Our venue was a nonprofit space called Wild Goose Creative that does artistic ventures. That night it included an awesome exhibit by adult artists with special needs. I wore a short, royal blue dress with a 1940s-meets-contemporary aesthetic. Chuck was more mid-1960s. Our ceremony was short, sweet, and sentimental. It involved a reading from Rainer Maria Rilke, a ring warming, the vows we wrote and recited together (“We do” at once instead of “I do” separately), and a very sweet officiant, Obie.


Venue art

We had a shared “best person,” Chuck's little brother, who played an important role. We also eliminated all gendered pronouns, “bride/wife” and “groom/husband” from the proceedings. Our wedding “cake” was a buffet of sweets broken up into a bridal party (Strawberry Dacquoise as “best man,” Passionfruit Chamborde as “Maid of Honor,” mixed fruit macarons as “Guests,” and Chocolate Bombe as “The Wedding Cake.”) Overall, it was a simple urban affair that was meant to look sophisticated but feel fun and casual. Including catering, alcohol and rental, our budget totaled around $1,500.

Tara, on the way to the hitching

Additionally, my family is very traditional and Appalachian, and thus this was not the wedding for them. We did a second reception back home that was very traditional: white cake, church-looking dress, fried chicken, and absolutely no alcohol. It was awesome because we got to have the fun, hip hitching we wanted in Columbus, then a family-pleasing, warm, and loving affair back in Eastern Kentucky. We had 36 guests total at the Columbus gathering.

Oh, and did I mention we decided to get married in June of this year? And we got married in August? That's right. After almost eight years together, we got engaged, planned the hitching, and married in less than two months. It was a production.


Tell us about the ceremony: We started off with no ceremony. We were so uncomfortable being this publicly expressive, then we got over it. Obie started by thanking all of our friends and family for their travels, their investment in our lives, their errands and help in preparing, and so on, which meant a lot to us. We really wanted to treasure other people in the ceremony. He then explained our ring warming, which was started by Michael, Chuck's little brother. Our guests really enjoyed it and, funnily enough, were holding onto the rings for a long time and whispering into them.


After that, Michael (“shared best person”) read a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke. Then we had another reading, “The Irrational Season,” about the meaning of marriage and the choice to marry. This was important, because we struggled with the choice for almost a decade. We weren't comfortable taking advantage of a privilege or normalizing the institution, etc. But we still wanted it. We just wanted to acknowledge that process for ourselves and for others.

Our vows:

Do you take each other to be your friend, lover, and partner in life, (We do) to respect each other in your successes and in your failures, to nurture you, and to grow with you throughout the seasons of life. (We do) Do you vow to love what you know of each other, and trust what you do not yet know. (We do) Do you promise to cherish and respect each other, to care for and protect, to comfort and encourage, and to travel life alongside one another, for always? (We do).

After the vows, we exchanged rings, and agreed to take each other as spouses. Then Obie pronounced us as “wedded partners” and we got on with the smooching!


Our biggest challenge: We had several. Our first challenge was just figuring out how to strike a balance between what we wanted and what our families wanted and what, in the end, we also wanted that differed from our initial plans. It went like this:

Plan #1: Elope + honeymoon. Problem: Family wanted to attend something.
Plan #2: Courthouse + reception a few days later at a bar. Problem: Our parents wanted to be right there when we got married, and in Columbus that meant we'd be getting married with a bunch of other couples. Ergh. It wasn't going to work.
Plan #3: Fine! Tiny wedding + potluck reception. Problem: Now it felt forced to everyone, parents and us. And we couldn't do the potluck because half our guests (all friends, for the most part) were traveling from out-of-state!
Plan #3: Small wedding + casually catered reception + honeymoon later. Problem: None, really. This is what we did.

Strawberry Dacquoise

Catering was also a challenge. We had been catering-phobic because we thought it would be too expensive and stuffy. We found an awesome place that did magnificent pasta dishes. But initially, we really struggled to find something good and on budget. No one knew how to do our event. We tried to avoid the word “wedding” because people would immediately plan these elaborate menus that cost thousands of dollars. They'd always drag it out of us at the end, then they got confused when we didn't want what they proposed. Because we wanted casual, small and self-serve, a lot of folks were just too baffled by it.

We had known since day one that our cake(s) would be from Pistacia Vera, a local French pastry shop in Columbus, because nothing is better.

The kiss!

My favorite moment: The way Chuck looked at me. Our ceremony was on a small stage and at the end, we just hopped off and started hugging our family. He pulled me away and just gave me the sweetest, most meaningful look and a very special smooch. It epitomized why I married him. Also, seeing all our parents weepy after the ceremony was kind of sweet and special. I hadn't expected it, especially granted that we didn't do the kind of traditional wedding that I associate with those reactions.

Love him.

My funniest moment: By far, the “death flower theme,” which wasn't real. I'm not a flower person, nor is Chuck, but we thought corsages and boutonnieres might be a meaningful way to recognize our families' presence at the ceremony, so we ordered them. The day of, we picked them up from the florist and dropped them with our families at their hotel, telling them to put them in the mini-fridge, which they did. And the day went on.

We arrived at the wedding, began to greet our parents before the ceremony, and, holy shit, their corsages! They had all put them in the top of their mini-fridges, which froze them. Then they'd all walked out into the hot August air, and that shit looked like wet toilet paper pinned onto their chests. Chuck's parents had thrown theirs away, recognizing how sad they looked. My parents felt terrible and wore them anyway. When I walked in and saw half of them sans the so meaningful family florals and half with dead/mushy florals, I was shocked. They all felt so guilty. It was hilarious, and cracked me up before the ceremony.

Best of all, I later talked to my cousin who had tried to be really cool and open-minded about everything. She said, “Oh, I thought maybe you had a ‘Death Flower' theme.” (What?)

Wedding Favors

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Granted that the whole thing was pulled together in less than two months, I thought everything might be a disaster. The decorating was kind of pulled together from cheap buys and borrowed things. The food was picked up by one friend, the cakes by another, while another was doing photography and another was hosting. I was just terrified someone was going to forget something, be late, etc., but everything happened just fine.

Paper lanterns

My advice for offbeat brides: Nail your budget down. It can grow easily. Buy online and look up discount codes. I got most of my purchases super cheap. Start figuring out the catering/food options as early as you can. They were our biggest stress. Tastings are FUN! (Upside? See?) Do them. Know that, in the end, your family will be happy and they'll get over anything they didn't look forward to. They'll just be crying and hugging and happy for you.

Trying on the veil

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? It went so fast! Even with only 36 guests, we didn't see each other a lot that night because we were tied up chatting with folks. I wish we'd spent more of the hitching actually together. Otherwise, though, folks really enjoyed themselves and said that the vibe was just what we wanted: nice, but relaxed and fun.


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Comments on Tara & Chuck’s intimate art gallery budget wedding

  1. I was curious about the first photograph in the slideshow. It looks a favor of some sort, but would love more information. Is that a rolled up canvas bag?

    Thank you!

  2. I think that your marriage was gorgeous. I love looking at photos of people who seem genuninely nice and well suited to each having a great time surrounded by friends and family. Congrats on the great deals you got and I love, love your wedding outfits. Dead flower theme indded, lol! I can only imagine what that would look like!

    Thanks for sharing.


  3. I SO love this idea! In fact, after Karma or some other force kicked my matrimonial candidate and I in the financial faces (several times), this is almost exactly what we are planning on doing! Except I’m Martha-Stewarting everything and the whole thing is a surprise to most of our families. 😀 Glad to see this turned out well for you!

  4. I hardly ever get over here to check out the awesomeness that is OB bride anymore, but of course I stumble on the Columbus wedding! Congrats on a gorgeous/unique celebration! I’ve shot a wedding that had Obie as the officiant before and he is really fantastic. I bawled like a little baby during the entire thing. 🙂

  5. Truly wonderful that you managed to make everyone so happy with a small budget, shows it can be done without breaking the bank!

  6. I love that you guys got married at WGC! I’m friends with a couple of the people that run it. I never considered a wedding being there. Awesome. I might steal that idea.

    And I scrolled through the pictures to see if anyone used the bathroom chalkboard strip. Fan-freaking-tastic!!

  7. I can’t believe you pulled together such a beautiful and personal wedding in just a few months!

    Are the custom “cake toppers” DIY or are they available somewhere?

    • Thanks so much! Well, a lot of credit was due to OBB.

      The cake toppers were DIY. I bought the little wooden doll shapes on Etsy for around $2.50 each. I painted them myself.

  8. Tara,
    My fiance and I are currently building a house. We have to bring quite a hefty sum to the table at closing. My dad just took a major pay cut. We could have major elaborate wedding if we held off the wedding for one more year. Problem is, neither of us want to. You venue/wedding warmed my heart. It seems that you can have everything that you want and need on a minimal budget. Thank you. I will be referencing this page frequently.

  9. My dude and I both work in food service and are pursuing dreams beyond that. I am a restaurant manager and writer/musician, and he is a delivery driver/rock musician. We’re dead broke. We’re also sentimental, we love to host get-togethers with our friends and have a great time, and we really like our lives together. Thus, your entire wedding is a dream and is something to be admired and respected.

    You guys absolutely rock. You have amazing and mature attitudes toward marriage and it’s more refreshing than cold beer to see something real amidst the billion-dollar, commercialized wedding industry propaganda.

    Thank you both.

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