The Offbeat Bride: Alisha, Art Teacher
Her offbeat partner: Jennifer, Mortgage Banker
Date and location of wedding: 409 South Main Avenue, Historic Downtown near Beale Street, Memphis Tennessee — April 25, 2015
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
This was a celebration of a long awaited and once-thought-impossible wedding between two love-at-first-sight lesbian lovers. We made 250 gold, unicorn headbands and had a part in our ceremony where the guests were instructed to put them on if they hadn't already, to symbolize how they are now a permanent part of the magic Jenn and I feel for each other. We had life-sized unicorn faux taxidermy, 11 dog-sized papier-mâché unicorn sculptures, bright feathers instead of flowers, and hundreds of upcycled wine bottles covered in rose and yellow gold glitter of all varieties.
We had many wedding favors: plastic unicorn toys that we spray painted and glittered, metal octopus jewelry charms that we spray painted gold, tiny plastic hearts with our new joint name engraved on them, treat bags for the kids, the unicorn headbands, and a photo booth with strips to take home.
The PFLAG president has been my replacement mother and her dauson (gender-neutral daughter and son), Cole, has been my best friend for over a decade. We lost Momma Lisa to a sudden brain aneurism last year, but we had a life-sized cut-out of her by the front, and her widowed husband walked me down the aisle just before putting a heart that holds some of her ashes into my pocket and telling me, “She's with you now.” I sucked up all the bravery I could muster and was walked down the aisle first. From then on, the celebration was exuberant and intense.
We never knew we would have a wedding — neither of us were the kind of people who dreamed about it or planned it for years. When marriage equality started popping up all over the US, hope swelled through us, and we started from scratch with no template to go on.
We started small, but were so overcome by the outpouring of very unexpected support from our loved ones and friends that it grew to a guest list of nearly 300 people, none of whom included my biological family because they do not accept, much less celebrate my love for Jenn. Through the sorrow of unexpected haters, especially family, we decided to make our not-yet-legal but very-much-real marriage ceremony and reception explode with all the magic and sparkling joy we felt for each other and for our long-hoped-for impending legal recognition.
I am an art teacher and have a wide array of craft/art supply knowledge. We started with outfits, since we are plus-sized and wanted to feel beautiful in front of so many people on such a special day for us. I wanted brown and vintage ruffled shirts with big satiny bow ties and eclectic jewelry, and Jenn wanted to follow a little tradition and let me be surprised completely by her outfit when she came down the aisle.
We made (or I designed) nearly everything in our wedding, from our wedding symbol that I created combining the silhouette of the head of a unicorn and the body of an octopus to the stylized unicorn portrait sculptures that visually represented our styles. My unicorn was covered in cut-up bandanas since I wear one almost everyday, and it had an upcycled pay phone number bracelet just like the ones I make and wear everyday on its ankle (the numbers I chose were “867-5309” since my Jenn hates being called Jenny.)
Jenn's unicorn was made from pieces of one of her ruined tie-dye skirts she is known to wear almost everyday and had a flower by her ear made from my purple bandana fabric. It also had more delicate baby's breath included in her feather piece since she is the bride in the dress. We both come from semi-humble families and had never really been to a wedding with so many guests. We were overcome with love, humility, joy, and sorrow all at once.
What was your most important lesson learned?
The biggest challenge was getting all the artwork created in only three months. We had art parties and invited over as many friends as often as possible to apply glitter to large sculptures and take labels off of wine bottles with soapy water and a razor blade.
Another challenge was that we weren't legally allowed to get married at the time, so that opened our minds to many new possibilities we may have never been open to if we hadn't already had to think outside the box. Making our own wedding invitations made them even more special to us — I actually used an iPhone app that turns any picture into word-art with any words you want. Saving money wasn't the most important factor in our decor decisions, but utilizing what we had was. We listened to ourselves, and I am so happy we did.
- Photography: Jacquelyn Ralls-Wilbanks