How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

Guest post by laterose
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About a year ago, I attended a friend's wedding. It was a perfect May day, the flowers were just so, and the bride herself was stunning. Even still, my fiancé and I got into his car at the end of the night, and spent the whole ride home wondering why the wedding had felt so… not them. It was as if we had walked into anyone's wedding, and aside from some very sweet vows, it felt like we were celebrating a watered-down version of the geeky, gamer couple that I knew and loved so much.

Since my fiancé proposed, this one experience has given us a mantra: that is not how we want our wedding to feel. We have decided to get married on the stage of an old theater (since we both majored in theater in college), followed by a reception at a planetarium, where we can dance under the stars as we celebrate our love of sci-fi and fantasy with little touches like a TARDIS and a Firefly suspended above the giant moon-bar in the lobby. We want to pull colors from Tom Baker's famous scarf, and name each table after one of the geeky things we love to do together. We want to dance to Weird Al and Jonathan Coulton, and quote every geeky thing we can think of. Needless to say, we've been really excited about it!

Enter an awkward conversation two weeks ago…

I was gushing about my ideas to my sister (one of my bridesmaids) over a birthday dinner when one of my mother's friends jumps in and asks if I am ready to have some of my guests not understand the references I'm making.

“It's not necessary,” I smile. “If even a few people get them, I'll be happy.”

She responded, “So, you want to invite people to your wedding, and then make them feel left out because they don't understand the reference you're making?”

I am thrown. I want to make this wedding about us, and these are the things that brought us together. The idea of a glossary has been discussed, but how could you make something that wasn't clunky? And it's not like I can give people homework in the invitation! (“Go and watch at least one season on Doctor Who, all of Firefly, and read the following Shakespearean sonnets before attending.”)

Basically, can we [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing our guests?

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Comments on How can you include [enter geeky reference here] without ostracizing your guests?

  1. Unfortunately, I feel like this is actually a somewhat different issue in disguise: why would you have to invite people who don’t know you well to your wedding? If people know you well enough, they’ll get the references, if only because you’ve probably been quoting things to them or have made them watch an episode or have at least talked about it. And even if they don’t get all your references, they will know the wedding is YOU. But your random aunt who you only see at Christmas and who judges your weird clothes without trying to understand you at all (not that I have relatives like that or anything)… she will probably not get your references and be a little put out that she doesn’t “get” your wedding. But really she’s there to celebrate being part of your family, not really to celebrate you, since she probably doesn’t know the real you all that well anyway. And if she doesn’t understand your references and gets judgey about it, then too bad for her for missing out on the awesome. And if she doesn’t understand the references but you’re open about it and provide some context and she’s open to learning a little more about you, then I think that’s a good outcome all around.

    • Absolutely right! While I don’t necessarily agree that you HAVE to invite only people that know you really well to your wedding (we have a few obscure guests that we want to invite because we like them and they’re cool, there’s no rule saying all of your guests have to be BFFs), I do agree that you should go ahead and just do it. It’ll make you happy, it will promote conversation and interaction between guests, and if you really want to make sure people understand what stuff is, put explanations on the backs of your menu cards or ceremony programs, or even turn it into a game. Don’t worry about it, as long as the food and entertainment are awesome, your guests are going to have a good time.

    • Ehhhhhhhhhh…. I have to disagree. Most of my friends aren’t into the same ‘geeky’ things I am, but I still love them dearly. They know the ‘real’ me because those geeky things aren’t an intrinsic part of my nature.

      Not understanding something is not being judge-y. AT ALL. A lot of folks want others to accept them, without accepting that they might be simply misunderstood.

      That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much about people not ‘getting’ every little reference. They are there to celebrate your union. If something is a really niche thing, you might want to offer a short explanation about it.

      • Preach.

        I have lots of friends from lots of different points in my life. Not all of them are into the same things because I have lots of different hobbies and interests. It’s impossible for all of my loved ones to be into everything I’m into. It would actually be super weird.

        Couple that with the fact that my fiance is geeky in mostly different ways than I am and yeah… there is literally not one person other than the two of us who would “get” everything we want to include.

        Personally, we’re taking some of the “less known to our 250 person guestlist” things and including them in more private ways. The groom & groomsmen will wear bouts with d20s tied to the stems– my dad & bridesman will have unadorned flowers. We’ll have signature drinks that are all too familiar to my hard partying friends and a couple card tables with games his RPG player friends love. A small figurine of my man’s favorite cartoon character will be peeking out of the bottom of the cake. It’s totally doable without making anyone totally confused.

    • I feel like there might be some friends or family whom you (theoretical you) care about and who care about you in return that simply don’t share all your interests. I’d hate to be disinvited because I haven’t seen very much classic Doctor Who! That said, I doubt references to it would kill my enjoyment of my friends’ happiness, but I think there can be special and important people who simply won’t get what you’re going for, and there are better ways to handle it than cutting them out.

    • Ah, sorry, I didn’t mean to say simply don’t invite people. I meant to bring up the fact that too often a couple is pushed into inviting people they may not even know, simply because their parents or society or someone says they need to, and these can often be the people who will care least about being open to new experiences and supporting the newly married couple, and who might care most about what is considered “proper” or “odd”. At the end of my comment, however, hopefully I emphasized that, regardless of the people you invite, if they are open and support you, they will enjoy themselves. If they are/do not, they may not enjoy themselves, but that is their problem and not yours. Basically, “the people in mind don’t matter, and the people that matter don’t mind”. 🙂

    • I agree, though there are people I want to attend my wedding that don’t know just how much a nerd we are. I still want them there because they really do care for my fiancé and I. If they don’t get the references that’s fine, it’s our wedding not theirs. A wedding should express the bride and groom. Our wedding will very much say who we are, and our closets friends will instantly know that when they attend. We won’t be inviting those family members and friends who really don’t care to see us any other day during the year. This truly will be a smaller gathering of the people who supported us and trusted our love from the start. And it will be geektasticly nerdy and amazing lol

    • I’m planning a geeky wedding and I know some of my references won’t be obvious to everyone so my thinking is, I’ll include it if I love it, but in a beautiful way so that those who don’t get the reference, will still appreciate the aesthetic. So my Abuela has no idea what a golden snitch is but she will still feel that the golden balls holding the table numbers are elegant and beautiful. That way it looks like a put together, beautiful wedding, and not a kids party and still is truly us in all aspects.

  2. I would echo the sentiment above about choosing your guests carefully, and I would offer a halfway compromise to consider. I just attended a wedding where the wedding tables were all named for specific things that had a lot of meaning for the couple: restaurant of the first date, one of their cats, tidbits from Dr. Who, etc. Every table had a sign with the name and a brief explanation of what the name was and why it was significant.

    I could also see a glossary making sense, and it would be really great if you offered some follow-up resources for your guests. They might not know about Firefly NOW, but after seeing your wedding and how the show is important to you both, guests might want to look into it themselves! How great of a present is that, to introduce people you know and care about to a thing which is (a) rock-awesome and (b) really important to you? Then there are more Brown Coats, which is never a bad thing either ….

  3. We’ve been having this conversation as well because our wedding basically sounds like yours. All of the tables are themed according to geeky things we love together. The music is from Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and Portal and Paul & Storm. The programs will be Hitchiker’s Guide themed (thanks OBB!), etc.

    My attitude is like yours – SOME people will get the references, and they will enjoy them. To try and avoid ostracizing the rest of the people, I just try to view it from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know what it is. To someone who’s never heard it, the instrumental Portal song will just sound like a nice song. The programs will just say DON’T PANIC on it as a silly joke. The table they are sitting at will have the title of the TV show or book theme on their place card, so they can look it up on their phone if they really want to.

    Your guests won’t feel left out since they WILL understand the quote-on-quote “normal” things you do – there are the two of you, you get married, you are happy. Maybe they get food and dancing out of it. That’s enough. If you did want to do some explaining, you could use the ceremony programs (if you want to do those) as a place to do that. But I don’t think it’s really necessary. Your guests are there to revel in your happiness, not to understand your theme(s)!

    • THIS THIS THIS. As someone planning my own geeky shindig I KNOW some family won’t get it, but I don’t care. It’s who we are, and that is what I want (FH says it’s basically up to me, but I run everything by him even if I get a shrug)

      Do what feels right to you, it’s your day, not there’s.

  4. What if you look at it like any other intercultural wedding? I went to my friend’s wedding over the weekend. Her husband is Indian, so they incorporated a bunch of Indian traditions into their wedding ceremony and reception. They included a brief explanation of what was happening (and more importantly the names of the traditions so I can look them up) in the program. I didn’t feel left out because I didn’t understand all of the references, I saw it as an opportunity to get to know her husband’s family and culture better. I think as long as you make an effort to explain (a glossary would be great and cute!, table name cards with a more detailed explanation of the significance would make for a great conversation starter!), you shouldn’t feel like you need to water down your plans. Best of luck with the rest of your planning!

    • I recently attended a full Catholic mass ceremony and sat with the groom’s family — all of whom were Buddhist and had no idea what was going on. If there had been programs (or even missals in the pews), it might have been easier for them to follow, but most of them just ended up sitting politely and looking at their hands for 50 minutes.

      The thing about geeks is that we WANT people to join in our passions. What if you have a little memo in your program that says something along the lines of “Don’t know what we’re talking about? Just ask! We’re all friends here!” That way your geeky guests get to talk about their passions, and maybe your non-geeky (or not-as-knowledgeable) guests don’t feel left out. It could be a great ice breaker.

  5. There are plenty of people in our lives that don’t understand the geeky things we love and that was totally fine with them at our wedding. They thought the final fantasy music was beautiful, and didn’t get a chance to feel left out by not knowing the portal song since they were too busy watching us cut the cake. That zelda reference may have slipped right by them at the cookie favor table, but everyone still cleared out those cookies!
    Be authentic to yourselves and people that know and love you will appreciate and see it whether they “get” it or not. (Also, I really loved sneaking a Buffy reference into my vows and only having 2-3 people even recognize it lol)

  6. I get where that well-meaning lady is coming from, but I disagree with her. There may be things that wedding guests have a right to expect; “getting the references” isn’t one of them. You are inviting them to your party. They are accepting. Give them food if you’ve promised it, a place to sit, and a celebration of love to cheer on. Everything else is icing, and they can take it (yay! new interests!) or leave it (“enh, not for me. look, cake!”).

    It would be good of you to provide some context (maybe a few “wondering what the big ship overhead is? check out our wedsite/ask an attendant/google Firefly!”-esque notes on the cake table). Perhaps use your programs or table signs to highlight why the references you’ve chosen are important to you. But it sounds like your references are fairly passive: you’re not forcing your guests to participate in complex geeky rituals they don’t understand. You’re decorating and communicating with reference to things they might not be familiar with.

    Provide context in whatever way feels right, especially if it encourages conversation — I’m picturing your wedding team wearing “Ask Me Anything” pins — but don’t feel bad for decorating your party the way you want.

  7. It’s certainly understandable to want to include people from various times and aspects of your life, which means they don’t all know you equally “well,” or at least not in the same way. At the end of the day, your wedding is about you and your love sharing your union with family and friends. It is extremely important that the ceremony feel very “you.” Things like a theater ceremony and planetarium reception are things everyone can enjoy (both sound really awesome!). Do you have a wedding website for your ceremony, accommodations, etc? That could be a good place to give a little bit of background on symbolism or themes (e.g., Tom Baker scarf colors) that some people might not pick up on otherwise. Additionally (or alternatively) you could ask someone to introduce and explain why something specific is happening during the ceremony or reception. It’s a great way to give everyone a little background, and it’s an opportunity for even more people contribute to the festivities. Good luck!

  8. What if you included a page in your program with tiny explanations of the items in your wedding? “See a blue police box, this is from one of our favorite shows Dr. Who!” Etc. That way people can still enjoy the references while understanding why they make you both who you are. 🙂

  9. While your sister has a point, from what you described, it seems that little touches you want to add which I think are nice. For my wedding I plan on putting little reference everywhere and having a photo scavenger hunt that my guest can participate in if they so wish. They people who get the reference will enjoy them, and they people who don’t will like that you stayed true to you. I personal think your wedding sounds fantastic and got goose bumps when I read about dancing under the stars! I hope you a great wedding and wonderful life together!

  10. I hadn’t thought about the problem from that viewpoint… I appreciate your mother’s friend pointing it out. Perhaps it would be appropriate to not only explain what your wonderful geeky references mean, but also what they mean *to you,* especially in the context of your relationship. Your guests might not care that “This spaceship is from Firefly”… but I bet even the most sf-averse loved one would find it sweet that “We first fell in love while watching a marathon of the TV show Firefly. This spaceship is from that show.”

  11. I’mma be the voice of caution here.

    I do sometimes have concerns when weddings start to feel like a series of inside jokes and opaque pop culture references. I totally get it, but it can feel codified to the point where even loved ones who WANT to get it can’t find a way in. My concerns about pop culture references are kind of the same as my concerns about acronyms. For me personally, my focus is on language and experiences that bring people together and feel inclusive. That’s one of my big values. Codified culture can feel exclusionary, and sure it’s about inviting folks who “get it” and get you… but it’s also about sharing who you are with the people who love you — even if they don’t watch the same TV shows as you do. It’s part of why we try to do so many cultural context links on the Offbeat Empire.

    In many ways, I see that up-to-the-second pop culture references have replaced traditional religious references in many Offbeat Bride weddings. I think that’s great… but I do hope we can find ways to continue having weddings that connect and include* our loved ones.

    *Obviously eloping is a different situation.

    • Reading this article, and the comments I kept thinking these questions:

      1) is it a wedding, or ComiCon?
      2) are we celebrating the love and uniting of people, or the love people have for [insert geeky thing here] (or possibly BOTH?)

      I loved when my husband told me “I would have to read British literature for YEARS to even come close to having that connection with you that your girlfriend has. And frankly, I love you, but I’m not that interested in British literature, so you two can share that private [geeky] connection.” What hit home for me about that was that sometimes I share certain deep and powerful things with people and it’s hard for others to find an entrance point into that. If I can include something that’s surfacy, like a table decoration with an explanation, or a reading that people understand has immense meaning even if they don’t personally connect, then fine. But sometimes…sometimes it’s okay to just have those private deep geekery things with my beloved that doesn’t have to be announced via napkin color schemes, ya know?

  12. As someone who just had a huge geeky wedding (The HP one featured on here) my experiences were really positive. Most of the parents or grandparents didn’t understand anything about Harry Potter but they still enjoyed the wedding. We got a letter from my husband’s 93 year old great-aunt who said it was the best wedding she had ever been to, even though she didn’t know anything about Harry Potter. In fact, after she asked her 6 year old great granddaughter to help her learn about it! You could be creating fans without realizing it, which is kind of cool.

    I think that you need to trust your friends and family. They are there for you. The wedding is about the love you and your fiance share. At the end of the day if they aren’t there to be happy for you then why are you wasting money and time on them?

  13. I don’t think your guests need to get every reference you make. They simply don’t care about the story behind your color scheme as much as you do. That said, what if you turned the tables on your hater and made the references into a big scavenger hunt? Not only would that eliminate the (probably unlikely) possibility of ostracizing your guests, but it would actually get everyone interacting with each other more.

  14. This was something my fiancé and I really struggled with. Both of us are nerdy in our own ways. (I’m in love with games like Portal and obsessed vintage cameras/photographs and he’s a stereotypical British boy in love with Dr. Who, Red Dwarf & Warhammer) In planning our wedding, we realized that we didn’t want to beat our guests over the head with our nerdiness, we just wanted a subtle homage to the things we loved. Our cake topper is a lego couple running into a little Tardis. I handmade all the centerpieces to include cameras and books from my vintage collection. The groom’s cake is a sheet cake shaped like a Tardis with “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” written on it and, lastly, my wedding shoes are custom painted blue sued shoes with black toes and the words “Police Box” written on them. It is personal without being overwhelming.

    I can understand both sides of the “don’t invite people that wouldn’t like your wedding” argument… But, realistically, that’s not ever possible. Not every member of our family gets the nerdy side of each of us. That’s doesn’t mean we don’t love them and want them to see us get married. There will ALWAYS be someone with something to say about your wedding. If it really bothers you, tone it down… If you don’t care what people think, then why are you complaining?

    Weddings are impossible and frustrating and chaotic and AMAZING. You are (hopefully) marrying the person you have waited your whole life to meet… Just be happy. It’s going to be nuts, it’s going to feel like it all went too fast and it is all going to be 100% worth it.

    If YOU are both happy with your wedding theme/plans/details… Than GOOD. Everyone else is there to celebrate with you.

  15. You know how when you were little, you enjoyed watching cartoons and later you get older when watching those same cartoons you enjoyed, you got things on a much different level because you understood all of the references? I say your wedding will be kindof like that. All of the guests are going to enjoy your wedding just because it is about getting to see the two of you joined in happy matrimony. Those who get all of the references will enjoy it on a different level, but it doesn’t mean they will enjoy it more or less than anyone else. If you want, have an announcer come out prior to the nuptials to let everyone know that there will be references to obscure things that are meaningful to the two of you, so if something seems a bit odd or quirky, that is probably why, so sit down and enjoy the show! 🙂

  16. My feeling is that if you are into a lot of geeky stuff, your friends and family probably already know that you’re a little offbeat, and will not be surprised or left out. Just make sure you’re not overburdening yourself trying to squeeze every single geeky thing into your wedding. I think there was a post here about that. It’s ok to have a ‘traditional’ something or another if that is what you really like better.

  17. Honestly, I think my best advice is: Know your audience, and if you don’t know, err on the side of being inclusive/unobtrusive. I think that one of the pitfalls of the rise of the offbeat wedding is that it’s starting to feel “wrong” when a wedding isn’t infused *enough* with a couple’s personality. Basically, I kind of feel for your friends.

    Certain things (decorations) are a little less exclusive, especially if it feels more like an easter egg that people can pick up on. But I know I’d feel left out if there were things said during the ceremony that other people (besides the couple) thought were funny and I didn’t get it.

    Remember that your guests are all here to celebrate your marriage. We want to feel like you care about each of us, personally, enough to invite us to share your day with us. Having references we don’t get can negate those feelings, especially when other guests obviously get the joke.

    Finally, you don’t have to infuse everything with “IT’S US!!” My partner and I struggled a lot with this. We started off with making our own logo (the heart in the logo was a heart container from Skyward Sword) that we were going to use for everything, all of the tables were going to be named after our favorite shows, movies, games, and books, we were going to have Zelda references sprinkled everywhere and ask people to find them, etc. etc. And then we realized … the wedding can still be representative of our personalities without referencing anything in particular. So yeah, our stationery is still very “us,” but it’s not referencing anything in particular. Our vows will still be funny and meaningful and 100% us without talking about Doctor Who, Zelda, or Star Trek. And our guests will still be excited for us, and our wedding will still be only a wedding that we could have thrown.

  18. We’re having a literary themed wedding where each table is themed for a different one of our favourite books/authors/series… and some of my fiance’s favourite authors are a little obscure for some people (Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft etc). We are not expecting all of our family (who aren’t necessarily BIG readers) to get all of the references… but what we’ve done is added several used copies of the books to each table so anyone who is at a table for an author they’ve never read can actually take the book home as a favour and introduce themselves to it. So we’re actually using our wedding to recommend and share things we love with our family and friends… is there a way you could do this with the things that you’re including in your wedding?

  19. We did a lot of personalized things at our wedding, and we knew not everyone would understand them. Our solution was to have two programs. You know when you go to a Broadway show, you get the regular Playbill and then you can always buy the $35 souvenir program with full color-photos, a look backstage and a glimpse at the original costume designs? We used Blurb to create a “souvenir” program.

    So everyone got a fan-shaped program to refer to during the ceremony (and fan themselves with; it was hot) AND a “souvenir” program. The program explained all the subtle ways we were memorializing my husband’s brother throughout the day, with rosemary and tiny photo charms and butterflies (a symbol for the NY Organ Donor Network; my BIL lives on in the gift of organ donation and my in-laws were spokespeople for a while)… We didn’t do a memorial candle or anything blatant that would upset my in-laws, but we included lots of photos of my husband and his brother in the souvenir program with a little explanation so people could see he was there in spirit.

    It wasn’t all sad. We had a layout that explained that my husband’s wedding ring was made from a dinosaur fossil he dug out of the Morrison foundation in Utah himself and contained a shot of the original fossil. My ring was made out diamonds from my grandmother’s necklace, so there was a photo of her holding me as a toddler and wearing the necklace.

    The ceremony combined my husband’s Jewish background with my Italian-Catholic upbringing and the best of our shared pagan beliefs in the ceremony, so we wrote a little explanation as to why we were drinking kosher Italian wine out of an earthen wedding vase made by a Navajo friend, which supplemented a reading a friend did comparing the seven Hebrew weddings blessings to the Navajo believe in the seven directions (north, south, east, west, above, below, within). We did a short explanation on what a handfasting was. We did a coin toss to see who would say their vows first; this gave my sister’s husband a role in the ceremony. We used an Australian coin for the toss since we were honeymooning Down Under. Also, my husband is from Queens, and “heads” on the Australian coin is the queen, so we included photos of the handfasting cord and a shot of the coin.

    People loved it. Or at least, they said they did. I’m sure someone thought it was tacky, but as Ariel says, “It’s all tacky!” Here is a wedding guest perusing it during cocktail hour:

    Here is my mother in law pointing to a photo of all of my husband’s cousins as little kids that appeared in the program, gently teasing one of the people pictured about her 80s haircut (that she no longer has)

  20. We had a geek wedding a couple of weeks ago, it was geektastic (we wanted all the geekdoms so we tied them all together with Dr. Who), we asked folks to wear costumes Many people did and there were some that were absolutely spectacular! I really aught to share the write up in my journal as It could be a long time before it goes up here (if ever, ya know their choice). There were also folks old enough to be our grandparents who didn’t understand a thing and grinned like crazy through the whole thing! My ex-boss was there and even came to the reception. Don’t know if she “got” any of it but was entertained anyway. I’m pretty sure my Aunt was discombobulated at the reception, but seemed to enjoy herself anyway. I wouldn’t worry about it. even if they don’t “get” it they will have fun because everyone is having fun around them!

  21. We did guidebooks instead of programs that basically outlined everything that was going to happen for the day and everything that people might not get. Our tables had a super hero theme. The escort cards were a hero nd they and to match the hero to the villain to find their table. Not everyone had the slightest idea what hero went with which baddie, so we had people on hand to help out those that were clueless in that department. Only a few people gave us the impression of being ostracized at all (and we were expecting them to be. They’re just like that), while everyone else a so impressed that we did such a stellar job of representing us in our day that if they had questions, they just asked. The wedding is about you nd and celebrating you as a couple. Do your thing, and the guests will be on board. If they’re not, it’s really they’re loss.

  22. If you’re concerned that explanations of geekery (or really anything non-traditional) will take up too much space in a program, or if you just want to save paper, I’d suggest creating an “FAQ” section on your wedding website. You can use it to explain anything your guests might not understand, and even include links to helpful material (show episodes, movie clips, wikipedia articles, whatever) if they’re interested in perusing further. An “FAQ” section can also be useful for other sorts of information related to the wedding (for example, my boyfriend and I have been discussing a camp-out sort of wedding, so one of our questions may end up being, “Where can I take a shower at the campground?”). You can also use it to direct people to when you get sick of explaining and re-explaining your various choices, or anticipate questions people might have. All around a pretty useful thing, I think. 🙂

  23. I totally get this. TOTALLY. We’re doing a Route 66 themed wedding, but it will have plenty of Chicago, California and a few geeky references in there since he proposed in front of the Route 66 sign in Chicago with a TARDIS ring box in hand.

    After that, we went to a wedding that seemed so impersonal- from the pastor who clearly didn’t know the couple, but they felt they HAD to have a pastor from their faith do the ceremony (tradition) to the cookie cutter centerpieces and “safe” and recognizable wedding music that “everyone would get and like,” (literally what the groom told us… he felt that same pressure to be all inclusive).

    We don’t want songs that are only played at weddings (YMCA, Celebrate and anything Michael Jackson or pop that we don’t like) and we don’t care if someone doesn’t appreciate the Blues Brothers singing “Sweet Home Chicago” at our California wedding, or the noise the TARDIS makes when the party starts.

    Uh, what?? “make them feel left out.” So..with that line of thinking, if your friends aren’t Jewish, you shouldn’t invite them to your Jewish ceremony? Or if they don’t drink wine, you shouldn’t serve it at all, to anyone? If they don’t speak Spanish, you shouldn’t allow someone to speak it during the ceremony or party? To me, that is so silly…

    The only time I’ve ever felt left out at a wedding when was I couldn’t enter a temple because I wasn’t baptized in that church, because well, I was literally left out. For all other things, like funny references, songs or faith- you share that moment with the get to know them as a couple. You may not share their favorite colors (like we’ve all been to weddings and not dug the decorations personally) or their taste in music, but you’re stepping into their world for a day, and celebrating THEM. If you’re not of their faith, you learn about their don’t have to attend mass beforehand just to “get it,” you experience it and savor their way of celebrating…truly!

    Sounds to me like this person just personally didn’t dig your awesomeness and wanted you to go cookie cutter…but maybe that’s just me?

    I think you should do what you want. This sounds like it was THEIR issue..not yours. If it was cultural, like faith or religion, they wouldn’t have said it- but because you have a taste for something fun and funky that’s kind of “not cool” to them, it shouldn’t be included? How insulting!

  24. I think this is a non-issue. As long as the wedding is fun and happy, I don’t think guests are going to be annoyed at missing a reference. Even if they are, it hardly matters. Everyone who knows me well enough to be invited to my wedding (aside from a few relatives I am not in touch with and would get courtesy invites) know that I am a huge nerd, and will probably accept that they are not going to “get” all the references. I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s your wedding… do what makes you happy!

  25. If you have a wedding website, I think you could *totally* give people homework. I think it could be hilarious. You’d have write it up with the right tone – no implying that people will be shamed/turned away/etc if they haven’t watched or read your references. But giving people advanced warning is a good way to be extra-inclusive. You could give a little explanation of why you love each thing, as other commentors have suggested, and some people probably would do the homework (my dad definitely would, I probably would, my husband probably wouldn’t even look at your website, etc, etc). If your description is compelling enough, it will make people want to join in the geekiness. Then, the people who watch your shows and read your poems (or who watch and read just some of them) will not only understand the references, they’ll also love to be the hero and explain it to the rest of their table mates who didn’t do the reading.

  26. I think this is like so many issues: all things in moderation.

    It’s okay to dig Star Wars for example, have some themed decor and a light sabre fight. Most people will have a vague idea what it’s about, the rest will just enjoy the pretty things. Having your entire ceremony celebrated in wookie? Um, NO! Too intense there, you will leave everyone feeling left out.

    Just remember as a bride that your guests have their own passions and interests, which may or may not be your own. Don’t be disappointed if great-aunt Josephina doesn’t get your Hunger Games theme. Make sure she can appreciate the love and fun and I’d say you’re good.

  27. One potential compromise could be to focus on aesthetics. Non-Browncoats might feel left out if the ceremony is full of quotes and Chinese swear words, followed by a promise to fight the Alliance together, but if you had a mix of Chinese prints and bluegrass music, with a tiny parasol cake topper and plates full of Kaylee’s beloved strawberries, I can’t think of a soul who would complain. Even if they didn’t get it, they’d find it beautiful. Readings are another good place to throw in geekiness (this blog has featured Mal’s speech about love at the end of Serenity before.)

    By that same token, I don’t think we should judge people whose interests are different from their aesthetics. Someone could love Mystery Science Theater but prefer an ivory sheath dress to a Gizmotic Institute jumpsuit (as adorable as that would be!) and consider their vows to be sacred and solemn things that jokes don’t fit into. That doesn’t make it not a reflection of who they are.

  28. Why not make sharing the reasons part of the fun? You could put out labels and when you flip the label over it could include a story about why that object or theme means something to the wedding couple. Although you would hope that most people at your wedding know you well enough to get some of the references, this would allow these people to get them all.

    Or you could make it into a game – a scavenger hunt of the 17 references, and have explanations as part of the game. It doesn’t have to be alienating for your guests if you make it into an opportunity to share the stories of your life together. You could even invite guests to share their own stories about those same references with you in the guest book.

    If you make it about sharing your life rather than “getting it” or being “in on the joke” people will feel included.

  29. I would go into this asking myself the question, “What will my guests be missing out on/feel excluded from if they don’t understand this reference?” and work from there. For example, if you’re including really specific references in your vows or readings, you may want to find a clever way to explain those in your program or through your officiant before the ceremony so that your guests can understand the significance of those things, and how they relate to your marriage. They want to be a part of your celebration and support you, so in that case I think it’s really important that guests understand the significance of the vows your are making and the readings/values that will form the foundation of your marriage.

    On the other hand, if the only consequence of a guest not understanding an obscure reference made through decorations is that they might miss a random joke or “nod” to something, it probably doesn’t really matter. I realize that since you love these things and they’re important to you you want your guests to be able to share in the joy and everything, but let’s be honest – if they aren’t familiar with the nuances of your subcultures, they won’t fully appreciate it even if given some dictionary style explanation. It reminds me of that episode of 30 Rock where Tracy is upset that he wasn’t present for the “smooth move, Ferguson” inside joke; by the time the group had gone to all of the trouble to explain and re-create the context of the joke, it wasn’t even funny anymore. As a previous commenter said, they will just move along and enjoy “all the pretty things!”

  30. We’ve worked our way through this. In our vows that we’re writing, we’re each picking a quote about love/light/life that we’re going to incorporate. Mine is coming from older literature and more likely to be understood, my partner’s will be coming from a favorite author and may be more obscure. One of our “readings” is a Mike Birbiglia sketch on love – which shows our interest in his comedic work, but is also understandable by being there. Another reading is by my partner’s most beloved author, and it will definitely have people scratching their heads until it punches them with feelings at the end. I read it to my not-so-with-it anymore Mom this weekend and she loved it. The prelude music will be string quartet (nod to my past as a music major) arrangements of popular songs and the processional will be my partner’s favorite arrangement of Canon in D (the Metallica version). We’re hinting at our interests, but in broad, understandable ways that include our family and friends rather than make inside jokes that only a select few get. We’re being true to who we are, but not doing it in a way that throws up a divide between those who get it and those who don’t.

  31. Following on Ariel’s point – I was just at a wedding that was very, very much centered on their love of scifi. They referenced 56 different scifi shows or books in the ceremony and reception. I am a huge scifi person myself, and got a lot of them – but frankly, I felt like I needed a score card to keep up. The next day, they put the score card up online for us to check our scores; that is how I know about the 56 different references. Half the references would have made for an awesome wedding, but as it was, it was a bit overwhelming – and kinda detracted from paying attention to them; instead we were trying to figure out the references. That is just my opinion – your own experience may vary.

  32. Am I the only one who thinks the mother’s friend’s comment was super unnecessarily rude?

    Weddings, regardless of their theme or decor or whatever, by DEFINITION, make people feel off-kilter. Y’know who actually knows all the guests at a typical 50+ guest wedding? NO ONE. Not even the couple usually knows every last second-cousin that their partner invited, or are at least spending more time with some of these relatives than they usually do. The guests are dealing with one (possibly two, if they’re friends) families they’ve never met before, and some of the guests are such distant relatives/acquaintances/plus-ones that they don’t even know one half of the couple and only have a vague grasp of the importance of the union they’re witnessing.

    And none of this is to make anyone feel down or depressed about weddings, because all of that is okay! I’ve been a distant plus-one at weddings, and so what if I barely knew the couple, I was super psyched for them, and excited for my date to tell me all about his history with them, and I danced and clapped and clinked my glass when everyone else did, and yadda yadda. (By the way, that wedding was also super Catholic, and as a Jew I could follow along with exactly none of it, but you’d never hear anyone snippily ask whether you’re planning on inviting people and then making them feel left out by your Catholicism.) It’s okay to feel a little off-kilter at weddings, as long as you go into it with a good spirit. It sounds like this lady was approaching your wedding with a bad spirit, and who needs that?

    • I am Jewish and I went to my cousin’s kid Bat Mitzvah in Janurary and I think they a really good job explaining between the program and the Rabbi to the non-Jews (with exception of a couple things which I explained to my husband who is not Jewish) what was going on. I think that because they realized alot of her kids friends are showing up and alot of friends (and some family since some married outside the faith).

      But I think alot of people assume that just because their friends have the same interests or (in this case religion) that people do tend to forget that people showing up (mainly family members in the posting) that they might feel they need to water down their interests to the family members and possibly few friends who don’t have the same interests as they do to make them feel part of the wedding.

      With the religion aspect of weddings, you can’t really “water” down something like that. I know I have been to Catholic weddings and I donot expect people to “water” down something like that. I feel if they like or love me enough to invite me to their wedding or life event that is religious in nature then I either have to find out what it is about before or after and ask questions repectfully of what happened.

  33. Sounds like there’s a concern about the decor and theme that surrounds your good company and dear guests. There’s always the Wedding website to back you up, and if you have anyone who can be a “geekbassador” that might help start some great conversations….
    …….but may I point out that in less geeky spheres, no one really worries about whether or not somone “gets” a floral centerpiece or paper lanterns at a wedding – they just enjoy the atmosphere and feel the lurve. 🙂

  34. Husband and I made lots of subtle allusions to our nerdiness- a lot in the music. We walked in to “Fragments of Memory”, a song from a Final Fantasy game, recessed out to “Concerning Hobbits”, and entered the reception to “I Am the Doctor”. We had a TARDIS, a d20 instead of a glass clink, and all of our table names were our favorite books. Here’s the thing- probably 20 percent of our guests understood every single reference we made. But 95 percent of our guests were there to celebrate us (a number I wish were closer to 100, but yay, family politics), and they knew that we came with these loves, and that makes them, by proxy, a part of something they love (us!).

    I agree with a ton of the above posters- doing the entire ceremony in references might leave too many out, but if you love these things and your guests love you, it won’t be a problem. Background helps a lot- we used our wedding website to explain our love for Doctor Who, fantasy, and the books we used. Having something that can connect you to the references you make will help those who don’t understand.

    You enjoy your geeked out wedding- it’s yours, after all- and don’t mind this quite frankly kind of tactless comment. Geekery can be done beautifully, and people can make the adult choice to enjoy something out of their usual comfort zone (or at least not make a fuss about it) for the sake of someone else’s happiness. I trusted my guests to do so, and for the most part, it was fabulous! Best wishes!

  35. It’s funny you should bring up “homework” for your guests because in my own book-themed wedding I’m tackling the “explanation” thing by having the programs be SparkNotes with information about “symbols” and “motifs” of the wedding with a quiz on the back, so kind of like the scavenger hunt others have mentioned. This is not because my wedding will be full of geeky references–oh, it will be, but that’s not my point–but because there’s a lot of meaning to different things in my wedding, such as the fact that my engagement ring is my great-grandmother’s and I’m named after her.

    The truth is, guests will feel included by how you act towards them rather than what you do or have. They’ll feel included by your acknowledgement that they took time out of their busy schedules to come and by sending them thank-you notes for the gifts you received. Guests assume that most things are in your wedding because you like them or because they have meaning to the two of you–I didn’t need to know why my cousin chose Mason jar décor any more than I needed to know why a friend gave her groom a zombie-themed groom cake. But anything you can do to turn inside jokes out . . . side(?) would be appreciated, if only to ease the “explaining” burden on your guests who DO get your references.

  36. Personally, I don’t think a glossary sounds clunky at all. There’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait at weddings, and having something to read while waiting for the ceremony to begin, or waiting for my table to be dismissed to go up to the buffet, or waiting for other tables to finish eating before the cake is cut would actually be great. Put a glossary in the program and/or on each table. Your guests will have something to entertain them during the “down” moments and learn a little more about you in the process.

  37. Oh, and mention that you’re going to have a lot of Doctor Who and Firefly references on your wedding website. Not in a “here’s your homework” way, but in a “this is the kind of event you’re attending” way. Then, if people want to look into those references before the wedding, they will. If they don’t want to, they won’t.

  38. One idea: I attended a wedding which included some of the couple’s geekiness in subtle ways which were mostly designed not to offend her parents– a cellist played a very classical-sounding rendition of a theme from Star Wars, for example. Guests who knew it well chuckled and made eye contact; it went right over the heads of older relatives.

  39. I just want to add my own personal experience with this. My cousin’s wedding a few years back was: traditional Catholic ceremony with a few geeky “nods” that not everyone got, but it didn’t matter. The ceremony was entirely Nintendo themed. Decked out with a “life size” green pipe, hanging question mark blocks, piranha plants on the head table, and an NES controller cake, among other things. My grandmother (very stern German Lutheran) said to me, with a smile on her face, “You know, I don’t really get all these decorations, but they’re very pretty and I can tell they make Katie and Brandon (the couple) very happy.” Guess what? It didn’t matter because they did it in a way that could be inclusive.
    I honestly think that’s the key. We’re going to have all sorts of nods and references to films and geeky material, but I do think it’s important to be respectful of your guests. Be true to yourself, but realize that you and your inner circle are not the only ones present (unless you are!).

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  41. If you went to a non geeky wedding would you expect to understand why they’d chosen particular colours? Why they had candles on the tables? Why they’d picked lillies instead of roses? Why they chose the venue? What made them pick this track to dance to? No, of course you wouldn’t. And it wouldn’t matter in the slightest! You’d simply enjoy seeing how happy they are together and how lovely everything looked and catching up with family/friends or meeting fantastic new people you didn’t know. A geeky wedding is just the same, the details are for the bride and groom to share a bit of themselves with the guests and make the wedding ‘theirs’ rather than some generic do. Unless you are planning on making everyone pass a SF quiz to gain admission it won’t make any difference at all to other people enjoying the day.

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