The Offbeat Bride: Mandy, PhD student (and Tribesmaid)
Her offbeat partner: Eric, computer engineer
Date and location of wedding: MIT Chapel and Dante Alighieri Society, Cambridge, MA — June 22, 2014
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Eric and I are inveterate geeks. To us, this meant not only that we wanted to incorporate some geeky elements (meteorite and dinosaur bone wedding rings! A different sci-fi/fantasy theme for each table!), but that we knew we didn't want to have a day that felt like a formal party, with us as the stars. We wanted a relaxed, fun, and stress-free day. And we wanted it to come in under our tiny half-of-us-are-grad-students budget. This turned out to mean a LOT of DIY, and a lot of silly, fun choices to set the mood. I love that our wedding pictures show everybody laughing and making silly faces.
Some small things we did to keep it casual, cheap, and “us”:
- DIYed all decorations and flowers, usually with instructions found on Offbeat Bride.
- There were silly jokes on the invitation, wedsite, and programs so the guests knew what they were getting into.
- We got married at my university's chapel, which is GORGEOUS and cheap!
- We combined wedding parties into one large co-ed group of “Wedding Avengers,” whose only assigned outfit was an Avenger pin from my local comic shop, and (surprise) capes that my marvelous photographer gave to us as a gift.
- The Wedding Avengers (in exchange for not having to buy outfits?) were assigned wedding jobs that were a tad more involved, e.g. start and stop ceremony music, film the ceremony, direct traffic to correct parking lots. They were awesome and kept vendor hires to a minimum.
- We're Ultimate Frisbee players, so our favors were frisbees with a personalized design on them.
- We used a favorite local restaurant to cater, rather than a fancy wedding caterer.
- We had a “Pot Luck Dessert Smorgasbord” instead of a wedding cake (the guests went all-out on this and it was amazing).
- We ended up firing our DJ at the last-minute and creating our own wedding playlist. It turned out great, and it felt so much more “like us.”
Tell us about the ceremony:
Take a classic Episcopal ceremony, throw out the parts I was squeamish about, and replace some of them with the Epsicopal same-sex blessing rites instead. I found those to be more general and loving than some of the classical wedding readings. We also added Greek Orthodox Stefanas. We also added two readings: one from the Massachusetts state supreme court ruling on same-sex marriage that I found on Offbeat Bride. The other was by Bertrand Russell. It was a memorial to my late grandfather, who was and is a huge part of who I am. Bertrand Russell was his favorite philosopher and the first sentence is his life motto that he quoted all the time:
The good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge… I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved… I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy — ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness — that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what, at last, I have found.
Finally, we included zombie vows, instrumental music from Portal and The Lord of the Rings, and wrote the whole thing up into a program chock full of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy jokes. This was a lot of fun.
Our biggest challenge:
For me, the biggest challenge was religion. Eric and I both grew up going to Christian churches, but are now mostly atheist/agnostic. I in particular have bad associations with religion and church. However, it was important to Eric and his family that we get married in the Episcopal church. I struggled a lot with the language of the ceremony. I was worried right up until the week before the wedding that I would hate the ceremony because there was too much praying and blessing going on for me. We overcame this with a lot of great compromising. Eric had many conversations about what religion and tradition meant to us, which helped us keep the parts of the ceremony that spoke to us, and throw out those that didn't. And were also just great conversations to have! Incorporating my family's Greek tradition into the ceremony made a huge difference for me as well, because it felt like we were honoring tradition and culture more than just religion.
My favorite moment:
Although our ceremony was mostly Episcopal, after Eric's family's religion, we incorporated the Greek Orthodox tradition of Stefana, or Wedding Crowns, after my family tradition. It refers to two circlet crowns joined by a ribbon, representing your unity as you rule over your new household together. Somebody, in our case my sister, exchanges the crowns over your head three times, and then holds the ribbon while you walk in a circle three times, taking your first steps as a married couple. I did not expect it at all, but those steps were so emotional for me. I felt the tradition and culture in what we were doing, and the symbolism really got to me. That's the part where I thought, “This is real. We are creating a marriage.”
We also asked our families to stand next to the altar with us instead of a wedding party. Although we only thought of this at first because we couldn't decide which of our mutual friends would be in which person's wedding party, it ended up being a wonderful choice. There was no moment where our parents “gave us away” and went to sit down. Instead, the imagery was of two families uniting into one.
My funniest moment:
Eric had a particularly hard time writing vows. He finally came up with a beautiful sentiment: “In every zombie movie, there is a scene where someone is bitten, and their loved one can't bring themselves to shoot them, and ends up getting eaten. I always thought this was stupid. But I've done some soul-searching, and I've realized that I wouldn't be able to shoot you. I'd hold on to hope that you would come back to me, until I turned into zombie food.” My response vows started with, “If you were a zombie, I would probably shoot you. But until then, there is no one else I'd rather fight off the murderous hordes with.” The laugh at this part of the ceremony was wonderful.
Right after we were pronounced husband and wife, my five-year-old crown-bearer cousin bursted out with, “that was SOO beautiful,” so everyone in the chapel could hear him. He had little asides like that throughout the whole thing, and was definitely the best part of the ceremony.
We also had a hard time choosing a first dance song. We are bad dancers, so we wanted a slow song, but nothing felt right. Finally, the day before the wedding, we said “fuck it” and chose a bouncy, swirly, improvised dance to “Extremely Old With You” by Paul and Storm, a geeky comedy song about growing old and decrepit with your spouse with lines like, “Rollin' round the house in a suped-up walker, growing more back hair than Chewbacca…” It was ridiculous and perfect.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
People are so important. I have surrounded myself with such lovely people. I knew that already, but the wedding really made me re-realize that and appreciate it all the more. My wedding turned out perfect, and it's because my people are freaking awesome. They all chipped in and sacrificed for us and we are so grateful.
Along those same lines, pick your vendors because of the people. I also was incredibly lucky to pick a photographer, venue coordinator, officiant, and caterer who were all lovely to work with, and that made a huge difference. Deciding to cancel our DJ ten days before the wedding, because he turned out to be not-so-lovely to work with, was also a great decision.
Oh, and mingle in order of age. My one and only regret is that I didn't get to visit with some relatives at the reception, because I was mingling in order of table placement, and they left early. My younger friends stayed until the end so I got plenty of time to visit them later.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Amazing wedding photographer: Pink Light Images
- Ceremony Venue: MIT Chapel
- Reception Venue: Dante Alighieri Society of MA
- Catering: Midwest Grill
- Dress: bought used from Vows, designed by Romona Keveza.
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!
photography: Pink Light Images
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Comments on Mandy & Eric’s silly and geeky dance party
I love that sculpture on the grounds of MIT, what a great picture.
i think everything mandy said I WITNESSED!!!! I was brought in from out-of-state to shoot the wedding and it was hands-down the best experience I could have ever asked for! All the friends and family were amazing and every detail was inspiring to me. I loved what she wrote about every single meaningful detail. These were seriously some of the best clients I’ve ever had and the offbeat family is one I’m thankful for. Thanks eric & mandy!!! I’ll treasure these images just as much as you for years and years!!!! 🙂
Jen, thanks so much AGAIN for all your amazing hard work!! You were a huge part of making the day and the memories so much fun. <3!!
Very fun! I’m pretty sure I saw the beginnings of this wedding! We were on campus and saw them taking some of their photos! Small world!
(also, a few weeks later, WE got married at the MIT chapel. Such a gorgeous place!)
hah!!!!!!!!!!! Stephanie, was that YOU counting the steps down the aisle….?? before everyone got there? lol!!! good times good times. 🙂
Nope, that was someone else, but we were walking around campus and saw people getting ready and you starting some photos in front of the chapel and the numbers statue. Love the photos!
coooooooool that is super fun that people love that venue so much!!!! Yea i saw a bride *counting* the steps up to the altar when I had just gotten there. haha!!! 🙂 Good times and perfect weather!
i’ve read this like 20 times…i just love it so!!!!
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