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The offbeat bride: Nikki, Early Childhood Literacy Trainer

Her offbeat partner: Chris, Lab Tech Extraordinaire

Location & date of wedding: Mom's backyard, Thurmont, MD — September 18, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: After our '09 Christmas Eve engagement, we booked a mansion in Frederick, MD for 115 guests. The cost for our entire wedding: $16,000. Within months of a working overtime and a part-time job, it hit us hard that we may not be able to afford an event of this size.

After the New Year, our parents met for the first time. It was during that moment when we realized that our wedding day should resemble the same level and feel of intimacy as the meeting between our parents.

Mom's backyard

So, we cancelled our contract at the mansion (losing half of our deposit) and decided to have a small ceremony and reception in my mother's backyard. Using the card stock we originally planned to use for programs, we sent out sixty-five invitations to close family and friends.

Within four months, we planned what we believe was one of the sweetest moments of our lives — for approximately $5000.

The colors were every shade of green there is — just like my mom's backyard. The seventy-nine degree day was gorgeous and, what made it so special is that, Chris and I knew the names of every single guest in attendance and wrote every word of our ceremony, which included honoring our parents, our guests, and each other.

Friends and family

My mother cooked all of the Jamaican cuisine: Jerk chicken, Curry chicken, Ox Tail, Rice and Peas, and a vegetable medley. We hired a wait staff of five to distribute hors d'oeuvres, champagne, and Jamaican rum punch. A friend brought Sangria to get the party started while guests waited for the ceremony to begin. Another friend baked and decorated our wedding cake and a PlayStation 3 grooms-cake for Chris.

We danced the night away to our favorite mix of reggae, new and old school Hip-hop and R&B.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Chris and I wrote our ceremony. At they very beginning we honored those who could not be with us: Chris' grandmother who passed away late last year and his childhood friend who passed away three weeks before the wedding in a motorcycle accident.

We then honored our parents by asking them to stand, while our officiant shared a special message from us to them. “What God is to the world, parents are to their children; Chris and Nikki want to thank you for having patience throughout their lives, for teaching them values, and for unconditionally loving them both. There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for a child. They will forever cherish the love and friendship they have shared with you all of their life.”

We added a guest pledge asking our friends and family to state, “we will,” to pledge their support and blessing towards our marriage.

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Next, my nine year old sister and fourteen year old brother read a poem that I found on the internet and tweaked for cute factor with lines like:
“He is always thoughtful when he looks at her,
A smile upon his face
Will she look THAT good in fifty years
When her dentures aren't in place?!”

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Finally, we ended the ceremony with the jumping of the broom, a African American wedding tradition, which was always done before witnesses as a public announcement to other members of the slave community that a couple chose to become as close to married as was then allowed.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was space and time. Because the backyard served as the backdrop for our pictures and was also the location of our ceremony and dinner, we scheduled time to take family photos prior to our guests arriving at 6:00pm.

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After last minute cooking, make-up, candle lighting, beltway traffic, and Lord knows what else, some of the family were not able to make it into the backyard to take pictures. This was heartbreaking and stressful, because those family members, who worked so hard to make our day special, had no time to be in our photos.

I tried my best to keep us all on schedule, but things happened and our photos felt incomplete with no shots of Chris and I together with my older sister or his father. We have relied on candids shot by our guests with the disposal cameras we placed on every table.

Chris' beautiful vows

My favorite moment: Chris's vows were beautiful. He had a bet with almost everyone in attendance that he would not cry. He tried his best not to, but tears definitely fell. While he hates being the center of attention or having to speak publicly, it was his idea to write our vows. He said that he knew that I dreamed of this day since I was a little girl and was honored that I had chosen him to share my life with.

The removal of the garter belt (and a few other items)

My funniest moment: The funniest moment was the garter belt removal. Right before it was time, Chris and went into the house to get our props ready. While some sexy reggae music blared in the background, Chris removed the following items, one by one, from beneath my dress: A Jamaican flag, $500 (the DJ's fee), a Phi Beta Sigma mask (Chris' fraternity) and then finally my bright green garter belt. Guests cheered, eager to see what would come out next!

PS3 Groomscake

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was not sure how Chris's PlayStation cake was going to look. Our friend has made many cakes, but admitted that this was going to be a fun challenge for her. When you are planning a wedding, challenge is not a word you want to hear from a vendor. Turns out, it was one of my favorite things about the night. The guests and Chris were definitely surprised. And she even added a wireless remote controller made of our rice krispie treats!

Cake smashing

My advice for offbeat brides: My advice to brides is to remember that mostly everyone in attendance knows you and your style. During the planning period, it was always a struggle to convince my family that our menu, or table grouping, no wedding party rule, or choice of music was not going to shock our guests, because they know Nikki and Chris. Most of your planning has to be done in secret if you really want it your way.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? The important lesson I learned from my wedding is that the next day you are nothing but another married chick.

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Comments on Nikki & Chris’s Jamaican-American, Southern soul backyard wedding

  1. what a beautiful and heartfelt event! it makes such a difference when thought and care are put into a ceremony, like yours. your mom’s backyard looks like the perfect place!

    (I also grew up in Germantown, so, yeah! Go Montgomery County MD!)

    you make an absolutely beautiful bride. love the dress and the hair!

  2. So beautiful and sincere! And whoa with that food and that music I would’ve loved to be invited to that party!

    Also, I must say, I LOVE your mom’s outfit. Any suggestions on where I could find that?

    • Hi Holly, we found the dress at Neiman Marcus. I think her dress was the main event. 🙂

  3. Thanks so much for your last statement. The next day, you are nothing more than another married chick. That really REALLY helps keep it all in perspective. I feel like I need to embroider it on a cushion, or at least put it on a post-it note.

    • Thanks Chris! Someone told me that after the wedding. I wish I would have heard it prior too! And you’re right, it is best to remember to live it up…but don’t loose your mind.

  4. Reading this made me cry! I think we (brides) get caught up in the hype of the wedding and forget what’s really important-the love of the bride and groom and support of family and friends. It’s not about how tall the cake is or if the food is “buffet” or “served” it’s about sharing your love with the people who are closest to you. This was one of the most touching weddings I’ve heard of. Thank you for sharing Nikki!

  5. Yesterday I looked at carnival/circus weddings, and declared them awesome. Today, I look at yours and declare it awesome. Why? Because it shows that no matter how much or how little is included, the main point is declaring your love for each other in front of those who care about you both and wish you both well. I love the contrast between today and yesterday’s featured weddings because it really encompasses how broad the term offbeat truly is.

    The photos at night, the one of you and your husband together under the lights…took my breath away.

    • Thank you Tina. I sent the link to a coworker who said that she did not think our wedding was offbeat, but I explained that with the pressures from society to have the “mansion” wedding, initially, I was not thrilled to have it in the backyard. I struggled with fears that people would think we were having a poor man’s wedding—something thrown together and with no class. Turns out, guests have told us it was quite classy and elegant. What is off beat about us is that we did not succumb to those pressures. Moreover, keeping in my mind our parents first meeting…I knew that the wedding needed to feel intimate. Looking back, having it at my childhood home was as intimate as you can get.

      • It’s so funny to read your words: “I struggled with fears that people would think we were having a poor man’s wedding—something thrown together and with no class. Turns out, guests have told us it was quite classy and elegant.”

        The whole time I was reading the post above, I kept thinking ‘she looks SO dignified and elegant, and they look so happy!’

        The whole thing looked so sweet and classy. I hope you enjoyed it! 🙂

      • That’s silly talk!
        With jamaican food/reggae music/flag garter, a DIY friend-made playstation cake, and NO bridal party?!
        This is so uniquely YOU GUYS, it’s the perfect example of elegant offbeat not being mutually exclusive!

  6. This is one of my favorite weddings & full of good advice. “The next day you’re just another married chick”- genius! I hope my own wedding ends up full of so many heartfelt touches with everything in perspective. (PS I love the dress! Mine is extremely similar so it’s pretty badass to get to see it in action before my wedding:))

  7. You know, reading the portion regarding your food, my stomach started growling…I’m a vegetarian now, and the one and only thing I miss is Jamaican food….Curry Chicken, Ox Tail…it’s enough to make me run out and order some…good thing I can’t smell it or I would! lmao!!! Congratulations on such a beautiful, meaningful and joyous day!!!

  8. Wow, you are both incredibly gorgeous and your wedding profile made me teary-eyed. What a special, intimate, wonderful event! I loved the idea of the guest pledge and the words with which you honored your parents and those who couldn’t be present physically.


  9. Gorgeous! Very exciting to see a wedding from someone who’s only about 15 minutes from my hometown! Best wishes to the two of you!

  10. I would love to see your ceremony all written out for some inspiration. It sounds like it was so touching and thoughtful, I’d love to read all of it. The honoring of the recently deceased, recognition of the parents, the guests blessing your marriage, poem from the kids… it all sounds so lovely!

  11. Hi! First time commenter, and this wedding is just SO LOVELY! We are struggling with the mansion issue (and the issue of tons of guests) right now, and it’s beautiful to see something so elegant and simple! And I really, REALLY love your dress. Can I ask where you got it? It’s so wonderful and simple and stunning!

    • Thank you! I got it from Lord & Taylor. It’s a Nicole Miller gown. Her dresses are beautiful and affordable!

  12. First, wow, you look *good* in that dress! It’s so simple and elegant and shows off your frankly amazing figure. The necklace you wore with it is gorgeous, too. And your hair! I seriously envy you for being able to pull that off.

    Mostly, though, I love the simplicity of this wedding. Why should you put yourself in hock just to have the wedding other people expect you to have? You pared it down to the basics, and you gained a day you’ll look back on when you’ve got those dentures–and smile.

  13. The most beautiful wedding I have seen on offbeat bride. Great music, great food. Gorgeous location, gorgeous couple. lovelovelove it. thank you for sharing!

  14. Love love love your wedding! Everything looked beautiful and as a natural bride to be I loved your hair. Just gorgeous.

  15. I love natural hair styles and your hair looked gorgeous! I love the intimacy of everything and it made me miss my home state!

  16. Nikki, when I saw the pic of you alone with your hand on your hip in your beautiful dress holding your bouqet I gasped audibly at work!
    I teared up when I saw that pic!
    Nope!I don’t know you!
    Kudos to you and your husband!!!

  17. Love this. The dress, the venue everything. You guys looked amazing! I find myself in the same prediciment, go with a traditional venue and larger list or go with a more intimate guest list and alternative venue which we would benefit from substantially because it would be more cost effective. This business of weddings can be so frustrating.

  18. I thought this was such a sweet wedding, cute and it looked like it was a lot of fun. I actually teared up at some of the photos. I hope mine is a wonderful as yours. And your right your just another married chick the next day!

  19. Love how you thanked your parents during the ceremony….I may have to steal that idea! Congratulations on a beautiful wedding and life to follow.

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