The Offbeat Bride: Lauren, Tour Guide (recently retired acupuncturist)

Her offbeat partner: BJ, Tour Guide (recently retired social worker)

Date and location of wedding: Sarasota Garden Club, Sarasota, Florida — January 1, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: It was a blessing in disguise that I'd only been to a small handful of weddings in my life. That way I didn't feel constrained by any traditions that didn't fit our style. That's a nice way of saying I had no idea what I was doing. We knew we wanted to keep it under $2000 (we came in at $2245), so we truly had to build it from the ground up. We ended up with about 110 guests (although due to a spreadsheet error, we thought we only had 88 until we did some calculations after the big day! Good thing we didn't have assigned seating.


We emailed save-the-dates and invitations, designed and printed the programs, made it a potluck reception, and used the WeddingDJ app and an iPhone for our music. We borrowed and modified a few of our favorite South and Southeast Asian traditions that resonated with us from our travels and community, from the red wedding dress to the abundance of Tibetan prayer flags and Indian scarves used as decorations and favors.


Two friends of BJ's designed and created our wedding cake and cupcakes. We had no idea what they were planning until we saw it on our wedding day. We have a bit of a squirrel obsession, so we had squirrel cake toppers! Honestly, I couldn't have dreamed of anything better.


We built our own photo booth with PVC and curtains and used Sparkbooth software. And, best of all, we had a whiskey fountain!


Our guestbook was actually a set of Tibetan prayer flags that we had people write their good wishes on; then in May 2012 on one of our tours, we hung them at Khardung La pass in Ladakh, India, said to be the highest motorable road in the world.

As party favors, we let people take home Tibetan prayer flags to hang around or outside their house, and there were Indian scarves on every chair. It turned out to be convenient that BJ was in India just a week before the wedding!


Tell us about the ceremony: I collected my bouquet flowers from our guests in the first row of chairs: our parents, family, and close friends. We stood on a handmade silk Tibetan rug that a dear friend of BJ's in Ladakh, India had just given him the week before.


Shiva, my best friend of 25 years, was our officiant. We incorporated the technique of “smudging” at the start of the ceremony by burning sage, cedar, and sweet grass to drive out the old/negative and bring in the new/positive. My mentor Corinne gave a beautiful reading, and our dear friend Nestor created a bread-breaking ceremony for us with his own kitchen handicrafts.


We chose not to exchange rings during the ceremony because neither of us are big fans of wearing jewelry. We figured if we didn't have rings as part of the ceremony, no one could give us grief later for not wearing one. (The irony is that we've both worn wedding rings every day since then!) In lieu of a ring-exchange, we sealed the deal with an Indian tradition called Saptapadi (Seven Steps), taking seven steps around a fire together, each step making a different promise to love one another and our community.


Our biggest challenge: The biggest challenge was time since we only had a three-month engagement. At the time, BJ and I both had three jobs, so extra time is not something we had. In addition, he had to take a long-planned two-week trip to India and got back just a week before the wedding. Planning for this became my only “hobby” for about two months. I looked for a wedding dress for about a combined total of a million hours, online and in stores. I ended up finding it three weeks before the wedding at a flea market!


My favorite moment: First and foremost, BJ brought everyone in the place to tears with his heartfelt and teary vows. It was amazing to witness and really highlighted what an amazingly beautiful man he is.

I think another big thing that did it for me was seeing so many people I truly love in one place, and knowing that they came from all over the country just for our wedding. Their effort and love was deeply moving.


In lieu of a father/daughter or mother/son dance, we played Natalie Merchant's “Kind and Generous” and encouraged everyone to grab someone special to them and dance the first song of the night together.


My funniest moment: At the reception we played an Indian reception game called Aeki Beki. The newlyweds sit on the floor with a bowl full of milk, flower petals, coins, and one ring. The aim is to find the ring in the bowl four out of seven times, and the winner gets to “rule the household.”

We didn't practice before the actual reception, and we were both afraid that it was going to be too easy of a task. We ended up putting in enough coins of different sizes to make it quite a challenge. We had everyone gather around us, Punjabi MC's “Mundian To Bach Ke” was playing, and we dove right in! BJ wasn't prepared for how cold the milk was, and I wasn't prepared for how much milk I would get all over my wedding dress. We stayed neck-and-neck until I got the most rings first. Now we have plenty of witnesses in case he ever tries to debate who rules the household.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? We knew our biggest financial barrier was going to be the cost of food, so we decided we'd rather have all of our friends come for a potluck than just a small handful for something catered. I was exceptionally nervous about the potluck dinner, thinking everyone would end up bringing the same things. Everyone brought something homemade, special, and delicious. A friend of ours made his own seitan (vegetarian meat substitute) and made a vegan jambalaya; my new brother-in-law ate two helpings of it and never knew it was meatless!


My advice for Offbeat Brides: Set a good example. I was thrilled to have my 12-year-old niece and her two friends there, so they can see what a non-traditional wedding can look like. I know they've only seen soap opera and Kardashian-style weddings, so I hope that even if they don't appreciate it now, it planted a seed in their minds for the future.


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Comments on Lauren & BJ’s technicolored globally-inspired wedding

  1. Lauren is amazing, we are so glad you did this feature. She has 17 inspiring posts on Society Wellness to date. She provides great insight on health and wellness applicable to brides and everyone in a really easy to understand fun way. Lauren and BJ are what is right in this world, they have so much great positive energy to share. Sorry, honestly agenda not to promote our blog, but to celebrate Lauren!

  2. I love it! I love the prayer flags especially. This is beautiful- even through the photographs, you can feel how much love there is there. c:

  3. This is a beautiful wedding, and please take this in the spirit of dialogue, not criticism. I’ve been reading Offbeat Bride for a few months, and lately this has been on my mind: does anyone else feel a little uncomfortable with the cultural appropriation that goes on with some of the weddings featured on this blog? To me, incorporating something like, say, smudging within an Indian/Tibetan themed wedding kind of disengages the significance of the act from it’s original framework, in a way that could read as insensitive. Again, this is NOT an intended criticism of this wedding (for all I know, the couples’ backgrounds could encompass all the groups they’ve chosen to feature in their ceremony)- this just happens to be the post that pushed me to comment. I’m just wondering to what extent (if any) these considerations feature in your wedding planning, fellow readers.

  4. Lauren forgot to mention one of my favorite parts — the rad homemade trivial pursuit-style cards featuring fun facts about the couple and their relationship. This was the best wedding I have ever been to, largely because it captured the essence of Lauren and BJ, and their relationship so perfectly. So much fun, laughter and joy! And the scarves/prayer flag wedding favors were one of the best ideas ever.

  5. Ha! This is my first time reading OffBeat Bride and not only is one of the first posts I read from my hometown/place I hope to get married, Sarasota, I also know someone at the wedding (hi Nestor!)!!! Small world, and clearly a sign that I’ve found a fantastic wedding resource! Looks like it was a wonderful event!

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