barn-acle-weekWhen we feature both weddings with barns, AND tentacle posts, it can only mean it's BARNACLE WEEK! Today we've got a pair of Irish musicians doing what they do best in a gorgeous barn.


The Offbeat Bride: Alison, musician and music teacher

Her offbeat partner: Nicolas, engineer

Date and location of wedding: A renovated barn from the 1800s in Farmington Hills, MI — October 6, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding was held in a renovated barn from the 1800s in my hometown of Farmington Hills, Michigan. Early on in our planning, I mentioned to my dad that I wished we could have our wedding in a barn, and he remembered that some old friends of his owned one. They graciously let us use the space, which was beautiful and so full of history and warmth. Plus, it had a pool table and a bar! The barn was a bit too small for everyone to sit down and have dinner in, so after the ceremony we moved everyone outside to a tent, and then back inside after dinner for music and dancing.





We decided to make paper flowers instead of buying real ones, which was a huge undertaking, but turned out to be my favorite detail. I especially loved hand-making all of the bridesmaid's bouquets, as well as my own. We also made a torn fabric backdrop for our altar, cardboard carnival letters from an Offbeat Bride post, and painted pieces of wood with chalkboard paint to make signs. Nick's dad made these beautiful wooden boxes that were originally going to hold flowers, but ended up being filled with pebbles and candles when we decided that we simply couldn't make enough flowers before the wedding!

For dinner, we decided to get food we loved instead of the typical wedding fare, so we got a Mediterranean restaurant down the street to cater the event. The food was AMAZING, and they brought more than everyone could eat! It also suited a variety of dietary needs, from our vegetarian friends to my diabetic, Paleo mom.

311197_10152202126605113_2042305398_nTell us about the ceremony: Nick's sister Andrea and my brother Dylan each did a reading. Andrea read a passage from one of our favorite books, The Amber Spyglass from Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy:

‘Oh, Will,' she said, ‘what can we do? Whatever can we do? I want to live with you forever. I want to kiss you and lie down with you and wake up with you every day of my life till I die, years and years and years away. I don't want a memory, just a memory.'

‘No,' he said, ‘memory's a poor thing to have. It's your own hair and mouth and arms and eyes and hands I want. I didn't know I could ever love anything so much. Oh, Lyra, I wish this night would never end! If only we could stay here like this, and the world could stop turning, and everyone else could fall into a sleep.'

‘Everyone except us! And you and I could live here forever and just love each other.'

‘I will love you forever, whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead I'll drift about for ever, all my atoms, till I find you again.'

‘I'll be looking for you Will, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again we'll cling together so tight that nothing and no one'll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We'll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won't just be able to take one, they'll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we'll be joined so tight.'

527438_10152199634805113_1015444410_nDylan did a shorter reading — a poem by Irish writer Seamus Heaney called “Scaffolding.” I loved the imagery, and felt that it really applied to us because we waited until we'd been together for five years before getting married. I truly felt that we had “built our wall.”

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won't slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job's done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.


Our biggest challenge: I think our biggest challenge was that we didn't know what the heck we were doing, and that we insisted on doing almost everything ourselves. It's amazing what knowledge you gain when planning a wedding. Like how were we to know that deciding to make hundreds of paper flowers instead of buying real ones was an unfathomably-large undertaking? Okay, that's most likely very obvious to anyone but us. When I think back on all of the things we did blindly and without asking for advice, I'm kind of amazed at our own stupidity and bravery.



My favorite moment: Nick and I are both Irish musicians. I play the fiddle, and he plays the uilleann pipes, which are Irish bagpipes. Most of our friends and some of my family also play, so to say that our wedding was “musical” is kind of an understatement. More than half our guests were musicians, so we didn't need to hire a band or DJ. We had some of our dear friends play for our ceremony, including some of my past music teachers. My younger brother Asher, who was one of the groomsmen, and one of my bridesmaids, Siobhan, played accordion and harp while I walked down the aisle. It was so incredibly touching to have them all step up and play for us.


After dinner was done, everyone went back into the barn and the session began, where we probably had 30 or so people at a time playing music until 4:00 a.m. We also had a friend call some Irish group dances, so that our friends and family who don't play music still had something to do (which was one of our worries). It was a huge Irish party, which was exactly what we wanted.


It was also so meaningful to see everyone in my family really step up to the plate in the last couple of weeks, especially my parents. I ordered my dress from Etsy, and when it arrived it was beautiful but very simple. My mom offered to sew some extra lace and beads on to the dress. When I arrived at my parents' house on the day of the wedding, she showed me how she had not only hand sewn tons of tiny beads all over the gown, but that she had also added some blue beads from the bracelet my dad had worn home from the hospital as a baby, and some pearls from some jewelry she had worn at her wedding. It was a wonderful, heartwarming surprise. My dad also wore a tie that I gotten him as a gift when I was five. Little things like that made me a bit teary.


My funniest moment: I think one of the funniest moments happened during my dad's pre-dinner speech. Both of my parents are fairly spiritual, but not religious. My dad asked everyone in the tent to be quiet for a few moments and silently ask the heavens to bless our union. He said “If you're a Christian, talk to God. If you're a Buddhist — you know who you are — talk to Buddah. If you're an Atheist… talk to yourself!” At this one of our friends yelled “Yeah!” and everyone started laughing.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Two days before the wedding, the tent company came to set up the tent where we were going to have dinner. Nick, ever the engineer, had painstakingly plotted out a seating chart in a spreadsheet until we thought it was perfect. Unfortunately, we had forgotten that tents have support poles in the middle. Suddenly, there were poles where we'd wanted to put tables! When we realized our mistake, we spent a good two or three hours with our best man Joey working out how to fix it. We finally settled on a way that ended up being better and making more sense than the original.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I am a huge procrastinator, and in the week leading up to the wedding, man oh man, were we paying for it. If we hadn't had an amazing amount of support from our families, wedding party, and especially our maid of honor and best man, we simply wouldn't have gotten it all finished. That said, some things did got forgotten. But on the day, the little things really don't matter anymore. Everyone tells you that when you're planning, but somehow in the two weeks leading up to it, getting JUST the right amount of paper flowers and making every last one of the decorations I had saved from Offbeat Bride seemed so earth shatteringly important. But when you're actually there, getting married and enjoying the company of all of the ones you love, you don't even realize what got left out.



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Comments on Alison & Nicolas’ Irish music, dancing, and DIY wedding in a barn

  1. Suuuch a gorgeous wedding!

    And that Quote from Will and Lyra! Ugggh now I’m trying not to cry at work! It’s so, so beautiful, but so sad at the same time (for those of us who’ve read the book!)

    I was unsure about using that quote in my wedding, but if you pulled it off perhaps I can 😀

    • Awww thanks! We got a ton of compliments on that reading , and it made a ton of people cry. I think it’s a great choice for a wedding. 🙂

  2. Hooray, Farmington Hills! I grew up right around 13 and Orchard Lake 😀

    I really love the flowers you guys made, they’re so beautiful.

  3. your dress is gorgeous! and your flowers turned out amazing 🙂 I am also folding a gazillion paper flowers – but it’s nice to see how wonderful the final product turns out to be <3

    • Thank you! I cannot recommend the Etsy route for dress shopping enough…. it’s a bit scary because you don’t really know what it’ll look like til it arrives, BUT you can order exactly what you want.

      Good luck with all the flowers–I recommend getting obsessed with a show on Netflix to watch while you fold! 😀

  4. Wow that ring of musicians looks amaaaazing!!!
    Also, the leaves are so beautiful! I’m getting married in New England on October 4th next year…I’m hopeful that the trees will be half as beautiful. 🙂

  5. Ok, hold the phone.
    I love everything about your wedding, but I have to be selfish for a second here – ao you think I could hire Siobhan for my wedding ceremony? Its in Oakland Charter Township next June, and being Irish too I really want to walk down to harp music, and with the ceremony site being so far from any electricity, I dont know how DJ equipment would work.
    You have no idea how excited I am that this is even a faint possibility.
    Pretty please with a cherry on top, could you ask her?

      • Do you get a preview of the comments in emails? That way I can write it out, send, edit to remove. Pretty much everyone that reads OBB is rocksome, but theres always that one creeper.

  6. Craziness! I’ve lived in Farmington Hills for 95% of my life! How funny!

    Your wedding was absolutely beautiful and sounds like it was so much fun! Congratulations!

  7. I thought everything looked great and I just need to know about the cake. Did you make it or a bakery or what? Thank you

  8. Your wedding was beautiful!! You’re so lucky to know someone with a barn, I’ve been trying to find a barn in Metro Detroit that’s affordable and allows alcohol but I’m not having much luck…your friends wouldn’t be willing to rent their barn to me, would they? LOL Congratulations on a beautiful wedding, best of luck to you and your husband 🙂

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