High Line garden

The Offbeat Bride: Lindsay, drama teacher (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Ashraf, architect

Date and location of wedding: Lakeview Lodge, Lawrence, KS — August 11, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Ashraf is Egyptian, I'm from Kansas, and we both live in New York City. The expenses and logistics of having our wedding in NY were just not feasible. So we got married at our New York City Hall with two close friends as witnesses and spent the whole day taking photos with Laura Pennace (found via Offbeat Bride — she is BRILLIANT!)! I also got my wish of wearing a blue wedding dress.

City Hall Witnesses Grand Central Station

A and L invitation

We opted to get weddinged with a three-day celebration at a 100-year-old Kansas lodge where my dad celebrated his 16th birthday! We sent off silly save-the-dates and more “serious” invitations designed by Ashraf that mimicked M.C. Escher's “Humanity.”


I am adopted, and I wanted my birth family to share in the occasion, but my adoptive family and my birth family had never met. So a week before the wedding, my birth uncle held a dinner at his country club so everyone could meet. Our fabulous Kansas photographer, Rusty Wright, documented everything. When our wedding rolled around, friends and family flew in from all over. Ashraf and his sister met relatives they had only talked to on the phone. Our wedding brought people together that hadn't seen each other in over thirty years. Because of obvious language barriers, Ashraf's brother-in-law, Atef, translated most of our ceremony into Arabic.

Interactive guestbook

We had no bridesmaids, no groomsman, no cake cutting, no garter toss. We had a make-your-own vegan cupcake bar, vegan and non-vegan cakes with Wall-E, and Egyptian and American foods. Our guests could scribble on blank pages I would later make a guestbook out of. We screened a movie we made of our favorite scenes from Egyptian and American wedding movies and ended the night with s'mores under the stars.


Tell us about the ceremony:
One reason why we waited so long to have a wedding is that we are not tradition-following people. We don't really celebrate holidays and Ashraf hates being in the spotlight. So for us, we wanted to acknowledge the history of weddings (to better justify our choices) and have our ceremony outside, free of any references to God figures, be inclusive, reflective of our personalities, and take about half an hour. We also wanted our guests to be comfortable. We gave each of our guests programs, fans, and bottles of water. We wanted to include our guests in the ceremony without making them feel put on the spot or forced to do anything.

Everyone at ceremony

We walked in together to an accordion and clarinet. Each of my close girlfriends and my adoptive mother gave a reading. We then told the history of the wedding ring. We asked our guests to write a note, quote, or words of wisdom on pieces of paper we hung on the backs of their chairs. These papers would be collected and put in a box that we would open on our first wedding anniversary. We had our instrumentalists play Charlie Chaplin music while our guests wrote or meditated. Our vows included several statements and questions that we answered simultaneously with “we do.”

Walking into ceremonyHere was our reading about the history of rings:

The wedding ring's beginnings lie along the river Nile, where the ancient Egyptian civilization sprang up. The first wedding rings were fashioned from twisting and braiding sedges, rushes, and reeds growing on its' banks.

The circle was the symbol of eternity for early Egyptians. Like time, it had no beginning and no end. It returned to itself, like life; and the shape was worshipped in the form of the Sun and the Moon. The hole in the center of the ring was not just space either; it symbolized the gateway from the past to the future.

Just as today, rings were placed on the fourth finger on the left hand, because Ancient Egyptians believed that it contained a vein that led to the heart. This legend was later taken up by the Greeks, when they conquered Egypt in the 4th century BCE. It was then passed on to the Romans, who called this the ‘vena amoris', which is Latin for ‘the vein of love'.

The Romans, however, unlike the Egyptians, believed the ring to be a symbol of ownership rather than love. It meant that the husband would claim his wife. In second century BCE, the Roman bride was given two rings, a gold one which she wore in public, and one made of iron, which she could wear at home while doing house chores. Clearly Lindsay and Ashraf have chosen to follow the Egyptian custom and not the Roman one.

Guests looking over programIn the 13th Century, Pope Innocent III established a waiting period between the promise of marriage and the actual marriage ceremony. This decree marks the birth of the engagement ring.

Fast forward to Colonial America. A thimble was given as a sign of eternal companionship. Women would remove the top of a thimble in order to create a ring.

Wedding rings were less common for men until WWII. Soldiers then took up the custom as reminder of their wives and families back home. It was pure romance; a gesture of love that has survived and thrives today.


Our biggest challenge:
I think our biggest challenge was getting married at all. We met, got engaged nine months later, and then got married FIVE YEARS after that! I was in grad school when we met and was gone for seven months after our engagement studying abroad. Then Ashraf ran into some major health complications and is lucky to be alive. Life happened. One day we just looked at ourselves and said, “if we don't do it now, we'll never do it.” So we planned a wedding while preparing Ashraf for a major career change! I think that time, honesty, and intention had everything to do with us being able to pull it all off.

Enjoying dinner

My favorite moment:
Seeing our families so happy was my favorite part. We were really worried about everyone meeting each other for the first time and getting along. I never thought I'd ever get married, so this was a bit odd for me as well. I think our biggest moment was getting dressed together in the top floor of the lodge and peeking out the window at all our guests arriving. Ashraf turned to me and said, “It's like a movie.” It was.

We had a death in the family earlier in the year, with my 19-year-old cousin passing away. Her mother and father were determined to be at my wedding; they said they needed a celebration to balance out the tragedy. Her mother flew in several days before the wedding to help my mother put the lodge together. Because Ashraf and I didn't ask for wedding gifts, several relatives donated to the Asha Davenport Girls Camp Retreat, in honor of my cousin.


Place settings

Also, I think seeing my mother at her best was really important to me. We didn't get along very well when I was growing up. So when I asked her to help with my wedding, she was overjoyed, getting to use all her skills and talents to make everything amazing. She sewed napkins, table runners, couch cushions, pillows, chair sashes, and cut bunting. Incredible!

Translation moment

My funniest moment:
While Atef was translating from English to Arabic, a baby guest babbled. One of our guests called out, “Baby translation!” and everyone laughed. And then when we starting talking about the history of rings, my dad (who was in charge of holding them and didn't think he needed to rehearse that part) leapt out of his seat, no hesitation, practically running toward our officiant with the rings. Nearly simultaneously, Ashraf, Jamie, and I shouted, “not yet!” and he turned tail and went back to his seat. The guests roared.

Dad rings 1 Dad rings 2

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
When we first got engaged, I kept a box of “wedding ideas” that quickly went into the closet after we decided to wait. When we pulled it out five years later, we couldn't BELIEVE what we'd cut out/kept! It was all stuff that we had been told a wedding should be. We enjoyed a good laugh, recycled the craziness, and found Offbeat Bride. Since our wedding, we've been engaged in more activities that truly reflect us and who we are.

Lakeview midnight

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Comments on Lindsay & Ashraf’s multi-lingual vegan-friendly atheist wedding

  1. The “couple in the craziness” shot at the top is GORGEOUS. I loved the history of the rings that you included. I didn’t know that men wearing wedding rings was such a new thing!

  2. What a stunning wedding. Major kudos for pulling off all the elements you both believed were important while preserving such a laid back and inclusive vibe. Gorgeous!

  3. I love this wedding! It is completely opposite from the one I’m planning but it speaks to me on such a basic level. So much love and beauty!

  4. Thank you so much for your kind comments, everyone! You make my heart smile : )

  5. What an absolutely lovely wedding – both of them. Sheer joy and peace in the photos. How wonderful that you were able to include the entirety of your families – it’s so heart-warming. Congratulations to you both!

  6. Congrats , now THAT is a wedding! Meaningful, personal, spiritual/symbolic, cultural. Your wedding celebrates what I feel weddings are about at their core – family, connections, interaction, the people, love, loss, life, honoring good times & bad, humanity. Thanks for the great write up.

    Now just a small detail question – were the scratch off things on your invites to reveal what? a password?

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