This laid-back two-bride wedding in Madison, Wisconsin got us right in the feels. We were able to snag the whole story from the brides, Lauren and Lauren(!), and it's amazing. Think two special venues, lots of community support, sustainability, and loads of personal details. But let's let the two Laurens (differentiated by “taller Lauren” and “shorter Lauren” here) explain…
After we, two Wisconsin girls, found each other in Chicago, we decided to get married in Wisconsin — a Chicago wedding didn’t really scream “easy” or “affordable” for a non-profit employee and a grad student. Taller Lauren went to undergrad at UW-Madison, and had passed by a beautiful synagogue-turned-park-shelter (really! From 1863! The 8th oldest synagogue in the US!) a million times. It was the only place that really seemed to fit with what we both thought of as an ideal wedding venue, and so we drove up to Madison to stand in line at six in the morning on a weekday for the annual lottery to reserve park shelters.
The reception was at High Noon Saloon, a local venue that taller Lauren went to a lot when she was a student, and which happens to be about four blocks from the synagogue. Something about celebrating getting married where musicians like St. Vincent, Shakey Graves, and Shovels & Rope had performed in the past seemed awesome. Also, at the time, High Noon Saloon was a woman-owned business.
Our family set up chairs in the synagogue while shorter Lauren’s multi-talented sister did our hair and makeup in the basement, and shorter Lauren’s co-worker and friend went to the local farmers market a few blocks away to buy our bouquets and the flowers for the flower boy, her son. The flower boy wore a fake mustache and he and his mom threw flowers out of a hat. He also got a bag full of M&Ms from our officiant after walking down the aisle. It turns out five-year-olds are very capable bargainers.
Taller Lauren’s co-op housemate, bandmate, and good friend, Geoff, was our officiant. He played a Magnetic Zeros song on guitar for the wedding procession, and wrote a hilarious and sweet ceremony for us with the help of shorter Lauren’s good friend, and South African penpal for the past decade, Carla. Our parents walked down the aisle together, and we walked each other down the aisle.
The taller Lauren’s mom, Tammie, is a magnificent quilter, and made a lot of her clothes when she was growing up. Tammie made her daughter’s dress, and even quilted a belts out of fabric donated by the quilters on her side of the family. Tammie also added trim and a belt to shorter Lauren’s store-bought dress.
We tried really hard to make the reception someplace where people could take it easy and have a good time without having any kind of rigid schedule: open bar, French swing music from a local band, and a vegetarian brunch buffet from a local restaurant group. To be honest, the brunch was a way to incorporate our caffeine addiction.
The only thing we really planned was to acknowledge our guests that traveled the furthest: Carla, shorter Lauren’s bridesmaid, had flown in from South Africa, and Aaron, taller Lauren’s good friend from undergrad and travel buddy when she is in China for archaeology grad school stuff, had flown in from northern China. They were crowned “king” and “queen” of the guests in a ceremony that we hope was at least slightly embarrassing for them.
It was very high on our planning list to have a sustainable wedding, and we worked with a caterer that would allow us to have the least amount of disposables. Our wedding cake was a un-decorated, tiered lemon cake, standard fare for the caterer’s bakery.
Our favors were mini jars of Kaiserson Honey from taller Lauren’s cousins who have an apiary and spearheaded beekeeping in the city of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Our family and friends were kind enough to decorate for us while we were getting ready for the ceremony, and placed plants, hung lights, lit candles, and sprinkled confetti. We didn’t have any cut flowers, and instead opted for leafy, green potted plants that guests could take home with them afterwards. So many people lent us things to use for the day, donated their time to decorate or help us prepare, and drove or flew long distances to celebrate with us. It felt very much like a caring community.
A joint favorite part was the weird family traditions that were presented to us. One side of the family brought us a clipping from a 100-year-old plant kept in the family, and the other side of the family brought us the famed “velvet elvis” (or “vElvis” as the shorter Lauren insists it should be called) that gets passed down with every big life event.
Looking back, we don’t think we’d do anything differently. Our wedding was us, it was within our budget, it didn’t create a lot of waste, and people said they had a great time.