The offbeat bride: Antonia, historian and hopeful graphic designer
Her offbeat partner: Brian, works for the National Archives and history of film aficionado
Date and location of wedding: Josephine Butler Parks Center, Washington, DC — October 1, 2011
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: The most important part of the wedding, for us, was our guests. We were making this commitment in front of our closest friends and family, our community, and bringing together our loved ones was paramount. There were many things we chose to include in this vision, from asking our guests to bless our wedding rings to choosing wedding rings with a motif that combined our ethnic heritages. I am a half-Brit, half-Hungarian first generation American who has lived much of my life in the UK and spent some time in Hungary, so bringing cultures, family, and people together is dear to my heart.
Our venue, the Josephine Butler Parks Center, featured small, elegant rooms with wonderful light and warm buttery walls that created great ambiance. Before booking the venue, Brian and I took his mom, his grandmother, and my mum to see it. Everyone was happy, which set the mood for the collaboration to follow. Brian's family and my mum were local, and my closest friend in Oxford, UK, often conferenced via Skype to mull things over. I'll never forget the hoot we had by the time we all gathered together live to put up the wedding decorations.
Our invitations featured my own drawing of our left hands linked, showing our engagement rings.
Brian is of Irish heritage. I thought that combining Hungarian folk art and the Irish trinity knot into a motif for our wedding rings would be a visual symbol of the marriage of our cultures. Without meeting us, Dan Palmer of Etsy store RavensRefuge took the idea and made us beautiful wedding rings that brought together our different heritages.
Long distance was also the name of the game with my wedding dress. I wanted a dress with womanly sophistication and dreamed of old-style Hollywood glamor. I had in mind a red, crocheted wedding dress and fell in love with a peacock feather crochet stitch on an Italian Etsy store, ItalianPaw. It was a leap of faith having the dress made in Italy with no fittings, but it turned out superbly.
Tell us about the ceremony: Originally, we were hoping a friend could marry us, but DC laws did not permit that. In DC, only an ordained officiant can come to your venue, but we did not want a religious ceremony. It was great a relief to find A.C. Warden, and we were very lucky to have her officiate.
Using a memorial candle for my father and a Tibetan singing bowl, our officiant created a ceremony that was meaningful to us. My father died nearly a decade ago, so when Mum and I walked down the aisle, we lit a candle to signify his presence. It was the perfect way to bring him into the ceremony. After everyone blessed our rings, we asked Brian's grandmother and my mother to bring to the Tibetan singing bowls up to the officant, to represent the bringing together of our families. This was incredibly meaningful to us.
We also had family and friends contribute with several readings illuminating what marriage means to us — its warmth, struggle, and growth. A Syrian friend read a beautiful love poem in Arabic.
These were our readings:
- “On Entering The Sea” by Nizar Qabbani (read in Arabic)
- “Touched by an Angel” by Maya Angelou
- Excerpt from “Letters To A Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke
- Excerpt from “The Gift From the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
- “A tapestry of Love” by Anonymous
My favorite moment: Our wonderful photographer Melani Lust advised us to do photos before the wedding, so we did an early shoot at the National Archives, where we first met. Though we were out in the wide world, those moments felt deeply personal. It became an unspoken private cementing of the public commitment we were about to make.
Last but not least, music is where Brian goes to town. Through music, Brian brought his personal touch to the wedding, and showed his care for the commitment he was making to me. He did this not just in the music itself: each table was named after a Beatles album and an LP of Abby Road was on the place cards table. Tellingly, he chose “Let's Face the Music and Dance” for our first dance and the music just took off from there.
We took a few lessons with Kevin at The Wedding Dance Specialists. Brian's playlist picked up with the era of our first dance and moved forward, closing the house down with “Thunder Road.” One of my favorite wedding moments was everyone putting their arms around each other, belting out “Hey Jude” at the afterparty.
My funniest moment: Brian carried me back up the aisle after the ceremony. He literally swept me off my feet for those first moments of marriage. Lots of laughter ensued.
The speeches were brilliant too. Brian's brother and best man gave a touching and funny speech with fond joshing of Brian. My closest friend came up with a poem that's wonderful and heartfelt as well as a riot. She read it with a saucy tongue-in-cheek tone that brought the house down. She also wrote a song inspired by our wedding:
Antonia Wedding Poem
The time has come to celebrate, and wave, and sing, and shout
You all are party to this joy, and what it's all about.
Antonia met Brian, as if we didn't know
Not just a strike of lightening, but a love which we saw grow.
A time of dating sure enough, did cause them both to grin
Before you said Jack Robinson the magic did begin.
He wove a spell, and she did too, and both were just the same
To be together, lives entwined, their hearts and minds to blame.
His gentleness and softer side to her he did reveal
She flashed her intellect at him, from then it was a steal.
Her kindness, generosity, and humour came to play
No defense had he to this, so asked to name the day.
That day is now, and here we are, assembled in our ranks
To toast and glorify this pair, and dance and give our thanks.
Antonia, you sylph, you nymph, you married woman, you
Brian, stand and take a bow, for you are married too.
Like yin and yang the two of you will make a perfect whole
Forever happy, and in love, run flags up on a pole.
The road to love is often hard, but this one seems so smooth
It's ice cream, mallows of the marsh, and music in the groove.
Your future seems so bright and fun, and into it you stride
With purpose and a happy song, you're gonna love this ride.
This union, before our eyes, we witness with such pleasure
In front of each and all of us they pledged an equal measure.
Now raise your glasses, everyone we have a duty here
To Brian and Antonia we bellow out a cheer!
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? A couple of weeks before the wedding, I printed out the program. I had problems punching holes to thread the ribbon through. It was impossible to punch them evenly. I looked at my attempts, aghast – how was I going to salvage the programs? Adrianna at the local Kinkos positively saved the day. She suggested “drilling” each of them instead. It looked superb and having oblong holes marching up the side of the program added oomph to the whole design. It wasn't what I'd originally planned, but it turned out even better than I'd hoped!
My advice for offbeat brides: Pace yourself and start early. I had everything sorted a week before the wedding so we could rest easy. It allowed me to enjoy friends as they arrived in town, have fun doing the decorations and take real pleasure in the fantastic rehearsal dinner Brian's parents organized. Then on the wedding day, a trusted point person is a must. All this was key for me being able to relax and really enjoy the wedding day.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photographer: Melani Lust Photography
- Wedding Rings: Etsy seller RavensRefuge
- Officiant: A.C. Warden, Capital Ceremonies
- Venue: Josephine Butler Parks Center
- Dress: Etsy seller Italian Paw
- Silver under-dress: Cheryl Lofton
- Caterer: Oliver Friendly, Eat & Smile Foods
- Hair accessories: Etsy seller BGGirls
- First Dance: Wedding Dance Specialists
- Hotel: The Churchill Hotel
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!
Comments on Antonia & Brian’s historians combine worlds wedding
I love how amazingly happy they are. What a beautiful story, I feel like I was there now!
That looks like so much fun! AC was our officiant too, though she ended up having to send a replacement – but she was wonderful to work with.
What a beautiful celebration! I lived in D.C. last year, right next to the Josephine Butler Parks Center. Every time there was a wedding or another event there, I’d get to have a little private dance party in my apartment, listening to the music from next door. I’m rather sad that I missed this one! And the red dress is absolutely gorgeous, and so unique!
Sorry to be dropping by so late. Thanks for your kind words.
Rachel Tatem – aww thanks. Wedding should be fun! All too often we get bogged down and lose sight of that.
Jacqueline – isn’t AC great to work with!
WiscoSweetheart – I used to live near there, it’s a lovely part of DC isn’t it! Shame the weather didn’t co-oprate as we were hoping to do formal shots in Meridian Hill Park.
FYI: If any brides truly have their heart set on having a friend marry them, you can become ordained very easily, and it’s not expensive. Mostly it’s just paying for a certificate.
My friend is ordained, and you think that would be all you need to be able to perform marriages, but it varies – in DC you have to be sponsored by someone in your own religion who is licensed to perform marriages in DC (or you can petition the judge). This might not be hard for some people, but for us it was.
It’s like you say in VA – so DC couples getting married – you might want to take into account the differences between DC/MD/VA laws.
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