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The Offbeat Bride: Shawn, Mental Health Professional

Her offbeat partner: Ani, Health Equity Project Manager

Date and location of wedding: Muffuletta in St. Paul, MN — 11/23/2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We originally planned what for us felt like a big affair: 75 guests, traditional venue, and fully catered. We spent the good part of a year putting this event together, and in that time experienced some big life changes — buying our first home, new jobs for both of us, and illness on both sides of our family. Because all of these things came at us at once, it no longer felt feasible to have our wedding in August as planned, and after much deliberation, we postponed.

Same sex marriage became legal in MN a day before our original wedding was planned (total happenstance). For this and many other reasons, we wanted to get legally married before the end of the year. We considered eloping, but that didn't feel right. One day I looked at Ani and just said, “Why don't we do dinner with a few of our closest friends and family members?” We both felt it was a fit — a middle ground between an elopement and a more traditional wedding.


We searched area restaurants with private dining options and found a quaint space in St. Paul. It was super affordable and fit just the number of guests we settled on. I think we ended up having 15 guests total.


We tried to keep everything simple. We went to our favorite florist on the morning of our wedding and bought whatever flowers looked good to us that day. Ani and I both bought new outfits the week before the wedding. My close friend did my hair and makeup. We got ready among our friends and family at our home, and drove ourselves to and from the dinner venue. We didn't do a lot of things I associate with a traditional wedding, including have a wedding party, dancing, or an after-party; creating a registry; or going on a honeymoon (yet!).


As a queer couple (I identify as a queer femme and Ani as genderqueer), many wedding traditions felt fraught and/or just not true to who we are. We chose those traditions that did fit: dressing up, exchanging rings, asking our friend to give a toast, etc. and engaged in one of our favorite activities: spending time with loved ones over good food.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our good friend Cheryl officiated our ceremony. Because we trust her so deeply, we left a lot of the details up to her. Ani and I shared personal vows, and Cheryl led us through promises as we exchanged rings. Our ceremony was secular, but spiritual. We wanted a reading, and asked our 11-year-old friend (the son of our dear friends) to do one. He read “I Like You and I Know Why.”

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My favorite moment:
The ceremony, for sure. Ani and I both wrote our vows at the last minute, but they came together beautifully. I've heard many people say they don't feel different after getting married, but Ani and I have both said we feel a renewed sense of connection since our ceremony.

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Our biggest challenge:
Once we decided on the intimate dinner, the next challenge for me personally was accepting and processing the fact that none of my family members could come in from New Jersey. This was difficult, but they are very supportive and I made sure to keep them in my thoughts throughout the night. A challenge Ani experienced was balancing expectations from Ani's family with what actually felt right for us. They come from a community where big ol' weddings are the norm, and it's common to invite the parents of your high school friends, for instance.

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My funniest moment:
During our ceremony, Ani hesitated before saying the all-important “I do.” They thought that our officiant was going to prompt them to say more, so they were waiting! It made for a good laugh mid-ceremony.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
To not over-think things and to go with the flow. When we were planning our original wedding, I did a lot of over-thinking and fretting. This time around, I basically went with the flow and did a lot at the last minute (we had only planned for a month, after all), and it felt really good! Ani learned that the ceremony ended up being more important and meaningful than they had anticipated initially.

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Comments on Shawn & Ani’s spontaneous change-of-plans intimate wedding dinner

  1. I got married five years ago – but that dress has me drooling – gorgeous (and I didn’t even consider lace!).

    I may need to grow my hair too – because that is a cute long bob. Sigh.

  2. SPOONBRIDGE WITH CHERRY!!!! I love that sculpture. I spent one full day in Minneapolis once, and the sculpture park was my favorite place!

    Beautiful! Congratulations!

  3. I’m the bride of this wedding. I’ve lived in Minneapolis over four years and this was my first time to the Sculpture Garden! *And* it was a last minute (like, an hour before photos) suggestion by our photographer because it was so frigid that day we couldn’t really do an outdoor shoot as planned. Definitely a new favorite spot for me, though, and I’m grateful the weather sent us indoors.

    • The sculpture garden is gorgeous and a very perfect setting for a beautiful time for you and Ani – and for MN too. We use your photographer for family pics – I wish I could pack her in our suitcase for our CA elopement this month! 🙂

    • Thanks for posting your lovely impromptu Sculpture Garden wedding. Light turquoise is my favorite color; ModCloth among my favorite shopping sites and the Cherry Spoon the origin of my DJ handle. MN nice is voting no twice!

  4. I love this couple and the smooth use of pronouns in this piece. Thank you OB for featuring them! Great story, too.

  5. So excited to see your pics in the sculpture garden and the green house. Nothing like taking outdoor pics in Minnesota in November!!! Thankfully the weather was mild (MN standards). 🙂 Congrats!!

  6. I love it! I am trying to figure out how to do the wedding and reception at the same place. I love the dinner idea! He and I are super hosts so I will have a knock down drag out party for those that don’t make the wedding. This was a wonderful post

  7. I love this! The big traditional wedding is just so not me (Dance, poofy dress, HIGH HEELS?!), and an elopement just doesn’t feel right. This a great middle ground! Not going over the top but also not settling. Thanks for the idea! And beautiful pictures!

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