Photos by Amanda Hess

The offbeat bride: Rachael, Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology

Her offbeat partner: Chris, Barista

Date and location of wedding: Bar Divani, Grand Rapids, MI — November 5, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
We both come from fairly traditional families, but we talked them through what was different about our wedding and how that really didn't change anything.

I decided to get a short, off-the-rack dress, and Chris didn't wear a tux, much to my family's dismay. The ladies of the wedding also wore dresses in different patterns. All the boys wore red Chucks and red ties (except the best man/officiant who wore a silver tie).


We are also atheists, so planning the actual ceremony became stressful at times. In the end we decided to say what felt the most meaningful to each other. As an ode to our generation, we decided to include a Facebook relationship status update in our ceremony. Chris and I are uber web nerds and this was fitting. Our officiant said “You may now update your Facebook status,” and then pulled our phones out of his pockets. The audience erupted into laughter.


Tell us about the ceremony: We started the wedding with a cocktail party. I wore a black dress from Unique Vintage. This way we greeted our guests and mingled before the ceremony actually began. We then interrupted the cocktail party with the ceremony. I walked in to an acoustic version of “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters. We also did a salt covenant.


My maid of honor read an excerpt from The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein at the beginning of the ceremony. It was a really touching reading and we both felt it summed up what lengths we would go to for each other.

After a long time the boy came back again.
“I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree, “but I have nothing left to give you –- my apples are gone.”
“My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy.
“My branches are gone,” said the tree. “You cannot swing on them.”
“I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy.
“My trunk is gone,” said the tree. “You cannot climb.”
“I am too tired to climb,” said the boy.
“I am sorry,” sighed the tree. “I wish that I could give you something… but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry…”
“I don't need very much now,” said the boy. “Just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, “well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down… sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.

Our biggest challenge: Our biggest challenge was the guest list. I come from a rather large family, and it was really hard to trim the list. We had to keep it to 75 people which meant that cousins, aunts and uncles, family friends, and other people who we would have loved to include had to be left out. We ended up having a family “crash” our wedding right after the cocktail party started because they said they just had to see me get married. They went out for pizza right next door before dropping in. It was really funny because at the rehearsal I was really stressed about the sudden rush of extra people who were coming and worried about their not being enough food. It all worked out.

Another challenge was our budget. Chris and I were both students at the time, and working very part-time. We had to keep our budget small, but still felt the pressure to provide the wedding we dreamed of having. A lot of days we wished we would have stuck with our original plan of getting married in Chicago at the Cultural Center with our parents and siblings present, but we both loved our wedding and the way it turned out.


My favorite moment: Walking down the aisle with my mom! She is such a strong woman and my role model. We had been fighting a lot before the actual wedding day, but about two months prior to the wedding we worked everything out and she was my rock the day before and day of the wedding. I do not know what I will ever do without her.

I was so nervous during the vows that I was shaking. One line of our vows was, “I can always count on you for help,” to which I added “Like right now for instance.” Everyone laughed and Chris just smiled and grabbed my hand to calm me down.

Chris doing the Hora?

My funniest moment: After our first group dance (we omitted a first dance), Gogol Bordello's “Start Wearing Purple” started playing. All of a sudden, Chris ended up on a chair with four men hoisting it in the air. I stole someone's fedora and started dancing around the chaos. To this day no one knows how it started but he ended up doing a one-man hora in the middle of the party!


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I am an optimist, so I really felt like everything would work out just right. However, a month before the wedding Chris's grandfather said he was not going to come to the wedding (no reason given, he just didn't think he would go). We freaked at first but decided to not stress about it because, regardless, the wedding was happening with or without him. Luckily for us, his parents and aunt swooped in and dragged Chris' grandparents to the wedding.

alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)

A Month of Mixbooks:
As part of our partnership with Mixbook, this couple has been given a free wedding photo book to show off their wedding photos. We'll be featuring some of these Offbeat Bride Mixbooks in a few weeks!

My advice for Offbeat Brides: My advice is to listen to those you care about. At first I steamrolled into this wedding with an “Efffff you if you don't like it” kind of attitude. But after I stepped back and took a moment to listen to some people's concerns, I realized that they were only worried about me leaving important people and traditions out. While some of that was by choice, most family members just wanted to make sure we were doing what we felt was right.

That being said, some people just didn't like our wedding at all, no matter what we did. And we had to just let that go. It hurt, but it did not need to ruin our relationship or our day. And it didn't.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned to make sure there is a clear plan in place and everyone knows where to be and when. We ended up having a miscommunication about pictures, and some shots I wanted ended up being forgotten. Just make sure you communicate the plan to all those involved.


Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Bride's and bridesmaids' dresses: Vivien of Holloway
  • Boys' shoes: Converse
  • Venue: The Gallery at Bar Divani. I cannot recommend this location enough. They were amazing and planning with them was very easy.
  • Birdcage veil and pearl earrings: Etsy seller ButterflyEnchantress
  • Limo: DJ Limousines. I booked a limo as a last-minute gift for Chris. We found a pretty cheap one, but it was fun cramming all of us into a small, broken limo, singing karaoke, and drinking champagne.

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Comments on A retro polka-dot cocktail party wedding

  1. Your bridesmaids look awesome, just love Vivian of Holloway dresses!! Congrats on an amazeballs day, the photos look fab

  2. How was your wedding invitation worded to show there was a cocktail party and then the ceremony? I am interested in doing this for my own wedding but don’t quite know how the invitation would be worded. Thanks!

    • OUr invitation said :

      You are invited to a cocktail party
      to be interrupted by the wedding of
      and Chris

      We made it very simple.

  3. yay for a Michigan wedding! 🙂 bay city girl here. i love your cocktail party that took a break for a wedding. that’s fantastic!

  4. Guests told you that they didn’t like your wedding?! Tacky. Also, why, do they hate fun?

    • only a couple let us know that they didn’t like it and it was no surprise to us! They had been letting us know through out the wedding planning process that they did not like anything we were doing. But gotta include those grumpy grand parents right?

  5. Cannot believe that guests could not LOVE your wedding and if they didn’t … how could they be rude enough to let you know?

  6. MMM maybe thats why no one showed up to my wedding, they probably did not like the idea of a wedding at a local park,or it wasn’t worth the trip to see me get married. I loved everything about this wedding here!!Congrats to the couple and takes alot of encouraging to keep going with your wedding plans even though grandparents did not want to go to your wedding, I liked the idea of them being dragged to your wedding!! Great wedding and beautiful pictures too!!

  7. Hi Rachael (and Chris)! This is Becky, who works with your mom:) I showed her my wedding pictures yesterday, and she showed me yours on here. I just wanted to say everything looked so awesome and I’m glad you had a wonderful and unique wedding. A lot of it looks very familiar (we got married outside the public museum, right between the carousel and blue bridge, and had our reception at San Chez:). Our weddings actually seemed eerily similar, which is funny because your mom always tells me that about you and me, haha. Anyway, loved the photos and story. Hope married life is going well! Best wishes!!

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