The Offbeat Bride: Helen, Nanny, actor (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: Steve, Music Director, Composer, Pianist

Date and location of wedding: All around our Homestead in Cincinnati, OH — June 2, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our primary worry the entire time was whether people would have fun, so we made it an event that WE would like to attend. There was no pressure: we canned the dancing, the thousand toasts, all the pomp, and did it our way. We lit a campfire and provide s'mores fixings. We had a table full of board games. The kids had bubble wands and a ball pit and hula hoops. The beer and pizza were “gourmet” but flowed freely as long as anyone was hungry or thirsty. Because we didn't have a million things “to do” during our reception, we really had time to visit with our guests, and enjoy our wedding day.


Pinwheel pirate

Our pinwheels were an amazing success, and at the end of the evening, we allowed anyone who wanted one (or thirty) to take them. There were kids with more than they could carry, and I keep seeing them planted in friends' gardens as I go visiting.

Singing vows

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was very short and written and performed by one of our very good friends who got ordained just for us. We wrote our own vows, and we both focused on the real-life promises that matter everyday, and Steve sang the Beatles' “I Will” as part of his vows as a surprise for me.

Steve chose this reading from Margery Williams's “The Velveteen Rabbit” which, of the three readings, touched me to most:

“What is REAL?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit one day… “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn't how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When [someone] loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn't happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.

“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand… once you are Real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.”

The Wedding Party

Our biggest challenge: One of my bridesmaids and I “broke up” 20 days before the wedding. Our relationship had been strained for a long while, but I had hoped being part of my wedding would help fix things. It didn't. So, another friend, who had been present through the whole process, stepped into an “official” bridesmaid position, and was wonderful. And while it was hard to accept that a decades-old friendship had fallen apart, it made me realize that I have wonderful, supportive people all around me, if I will just let them in.

See? Funny.

My favorite moment: Steve chose the passages that our friend Mike would read during our ceremony, and though I knew them beforehand, their meaning really hit me as they were being read, and the passage from “The Velveteen Rabbit” started me down the slippery slope to tears. Then Steve surprised me by singing “I Will” as a portion of his vows (backed up by several of our musically-inclined friends), and it was all over for my pretty makeup.

The Party Winds Down

At the end of the night, as my Grandma and Aunt Louise were leaving, they each took a handful of pinwheels to place on my Grandpa and Uncle Jim's graves, which meant a lot, since I missed them both terribly.

Scary Ring Bears

My funniest moment: When I asked my charges to be my Ring Bearers, they were only four and five, so they heard ring “Bears.” We had them wear bear hats and fuzzy bow ties instead of full-on bear suits, but the seven-year-old got fully into his role, and growled at everyone all the way down the aisle. The younger bear did his best, but got shy about halfway to the wedding tree. They were the hit of the ceremony.


Marshmallow Roasting

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I had convinced myself that it was going to rain, because we didn't have a rain plan AT ALL. But the weather was unbelievably beautiful — mostly sunny and in the low 70s all afternoon. As the sun began to go down it got a little cooler, but we had the campfire going, and it was perfect.

Rainbow Cake

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Just let it happen. Shit WILL hit the fan at some point. Wonderful things will occur when least expected and most needed. Have a plan in place, but accept that it will change often. Be flexible.

Rainbow toes

But mostly: LISTEN to people. I know you are tired of hearing “Well, when I got married, we….” but people mostly only offer anecdotes and suggestions because they care, and some of the best ideas come from other people's stories, even if it is a contrary notion. If your Great Aunt Tessie tells you all about how wonderful the lilies smelled at her wedding, and that reminds you how much you HATE the smell of lilies, and you can tell your florist that, it was a good thing you heard her story, and it made her happy to tell you. Remember that your wedding isn't all about you. If it were, you wouldn't be inviting Great Aunt Tessie. Relax!


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I learned to be OK with the help that was offered when it was offered, but not to expect it from the most obvious quarters. Large events bring out everyone's true colors. Some of those colors were ugly and miserable, and others showed more beautifully than ever before.

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Comments on Helen & Steve’s laid-back Hobbity pinwheel wedding

    • Thanks!

      I bought the dress (a Matthew Christopher design) from a closeout sample sale at the bridal salon. The lady who was helping me said that only about a dozen brides had ever tried it on, and noone had chosen it. I was floored–it’s such an amazing gown!

    • My little sister painted all our signs the night before the wedding. She freehanded all the lettering. She is amazing.

  1. OMG the dress! Gorgeous. Fantastic advice re: relaxing and the Aunt Tessie example. I’ve learned that weddings truly are a family/community project (in the best of circumstances I guess not everyone is blessed with a supportive family) amd it’s not just YOUR wedding day, it’s also the day your mom’s baby girl is getting married, etc.

  2. What a beautiful, fun-looking, colorful, creative wedding! It definitely looks like a party I would have loved to attend–those pinwheels, that cake, the bride’s awesome pixie cut–just everything about it rocks! Congrats!

  3. I love what you said about accepting help, but not expecting it from the obvious places. So far, the most help I’ve gotten has come from people who claim to be useless at these kind of things, or people I felt I had no right to ask help from. It can be quite humbling.

    • Yep. A small group of us hand made every one of those pinwheels. Some of those helpers claim not to be “crafty”, but were willing to learn, and I could NEVER have done it without them.

  4. I think that this can legitimately be called one of my favorite weddings ever. The joy is so palpable, and it really is just so… *sigh* No words. You can just feel the meaning and the happiness leaking through the computer screen. It makes me wish I had been invited!! Not to mention that the aesthetics are gorgeous!

    • Thank You, Thank you! We were really proud of the way it all came together. And now our yard is ready for entertaining at a moment’s notice.

  5. Congrats to my fellow Cincy Ohioian!! Beautiful wedding and great pictures too!! Yes I have to agree when planning weddings or outdoor events we run a huge risk of wild weather! We often get a four season weather on daily basis… Congrats again!!

  6. OMG love your necklace!!!

    Well and your whole wedding too, obviously, who wouldn’t?

    • That beautiful, perfect necklace was made for me by the friend who left the wedding party. It was bittersweet to wear it, but I do still love her, and I knew, even through her anger, she made it with love. So, even though she wasn’t there to see it, I wanted to wear it.

      I know that she has seen pictues of the wedding, since we still have mutual friends, and I hope she realizes that I wore it without spite.

  7. Thank you so much for posting this today. I needed to read this so badly. Over the weekend I had a similar experience with the family member who was going to officiate our wedding. It’s been an incredible devastating experience, but your story has helped me remember to be grateful for the friends who have stepped in to help fill the vacant spot in our wedding, and just been beautifully supportive and kind. I’m so glad your story had a happy ending, and it’s given me renewed hope that mine will too.

  8. It will have a happy ending! You are, after and above all, marrying the person you love best, and those people who love you will fill in the gaps of those who, for whatever reason, cannot help in the way you had hoped.

  9. I love the pinwheels on the tree! How did you affix them to the tree and how did you do the hanging pinwheels? I’d love to do something similar with cranes. So pretty!

    • Thanks, Jennifer!

      The pinwheels were attached one by one with florists wire to a 4′ wide strip of brown tulle. Some of them were spaced away from the tulle by short (1/4″-5/8″) pieces of coffee straws, so they could still spin. Then the entire strip was attached to the tree with a staple gun.

      Originally, both pieces were to have been wrapped on the tree trunk, but as they were going up, we hit a snag in the plan and just decided to hang the second strip as a backdrop. I am so glad we did. I love the way it looked with the pinwheels suspended in air.

      If this isn’t clear, let me know, our awesome photographer took some detail pictures of the pinwheels, and I can email them to you. I’m pretty sure a similar method would work with paper cranes, and look very pretty!

      • This is so helpful, thank you! We can’t ‘affix’ anything but tying the tulle might work out just fine.

  10. What a beautiful day! I was wondering where you got your pinwheel supplies from?

    • Hi, Christie,

      We got all the supplies from regular craft stores–Michaels, Hobby Lobby, etc. We bought “Big Books” of scrapbook paper and cut them down to the sizes we wanted –the double-sided pinwheels are single-sided papers back to back. The 1/8″ grommets came in multi-colored packages of a gazillion, and the grommet punch we bought separately. The pins are just regular corsage pins from the floral department, and the pinwheels that are on the tulle are attached with a pearl bead and floral wire. I just used a box of cocktail straws that I had lying around for spacers (otherwise the pinwheels wouldn’t spin–they got stuck on the sticks). I did cut the bamboo sticks from a hedge we have on our property, but you could just as easily purchase dowels, or bamboo rods.

      The hardest part of the whole project was getting the corsage pins to pierce the bamboo rods, but I didn’t want to drill each one, so we used needlenose pliers and a lot of handstrength to get them to go through. In hindsight, drilling might have been easier…

  11. Oh, wow, your wedding is so similar to what we’re planning! (Which, I know a lot of brides hate when that happens, but in this instance it’s fantastic, because yours looks lovely! It means my ideas can be done, haha.) This may be a weird question, but did you have any issues with the pizza, or did you have people catering? We want an assortment of foods we like, including pizza, but the logistics of getting to the reception place and keeping them warm, and putting more out when the table runs out of it are sort of stumping us.

    • I don’t hate it at all that you want similar things, and I’m very glad you aren’t offended I got there first. It was a really awesome wedding, and great minds, and all that!

      We hired a caterer who provided his own rolling brick oven, so the pizzas were eaten hot right out of the oven. He also provided the cold appetizers, but had the ability to do other hot dishes as well (we chose the simplicity of just pizza with whatever toppings our guests wanted). If we had opted to, we could have had chicken, assorted breads, ribs, etc. basically anything that could be cooked in an oven he would have made for us.

      I’m not sure where you are geographically, but something similar might be worth looking into. Because he isn’t a “wedding” caterer, he was reasonably priced, and willing to work with us. We discovered him at a local festival, but a google search for “rolling oven catering” for your area might do the trick. It was soooo worth the (remarkably low) price to know we were supporting a local businessman who served fresh, delicious food cooked right in front of the guests.

      Good luck with your planning! I can’t wait to see pictures!

      • We’re on the east coast. I might be able to find something like that, but we were trying to keep costs down by not having an official caterer…Guess I’ll have to keep figuring out the logistics!

        • Good luck! When I ran the math, we eventually saved money going with this caterer because he only charged us for what people ate, rather than what he brought. He made enough dough for our maximum guest number, but only charged for the number of balls he ended up baking because, he said, he could use whatever was left for a farmers market he was doing the next day.

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