Bride and Groom

The Offbeat Bride: Alyssa, Mid-Atlantic Regional Farm to School coordinator (and Tribesmaid)

Her offbeat partner: John, chef

Date and location of wedding: Country home, Lititz, PA — September 22, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We handcrafted the bejesus out of our wedding. We did (mostly) everything ourselves, from the ceremony to the food. As trained chefs, we couldn't imagine paying someone to do something we get paid to do for others. Then, of course, there was our budget… pretty non-existent. We put our own spin on every detail and our family and friends stepped in to add their talents to our day.

Matron of Honor- Anise Bouquet

We also pieced our wedding together from things not normally considered wedding-y. By thinking outside of the box (in terms of materials), we were able to save a lot of money and have a truly unique day. For instance, I found the main inspiration for the bouquets at Target on sale and took the wood flowers and star anise balls home to my mother and sisters in Texas who figured out how to turn them into functional bouquets with some foam core, burlap, ribbon and buttons.

Dress from behind

The sash for my dress was an Ikea curtain panel and our tablecloths were also white cotton Ikea curtains.

John basting the pig

As the Regional Farm to School Coordinator for the National Farm to School Network, supporting local businesses is important to me. Almost all of our food was locally sourced, including the pig that we roasted and picked.

Escort Cards

Additionally, since PA is the fifth largest producer of apples in the United States, I spend a lot of time talking about apples. Our table “numbers” were actually apple varieties, our escort cards were apples which we picked at a local orchard the day before the wedding, we served apple pies and spiced apples, and one of the barbecue sauces we made used apple butter as a base.


John is, perhaps, the biggest Philadelphia Eagles fan in the world. He wore a Philadelphia Eagles tie and we cut into an Eagles helmet-shaped cake. And, in fact, the throwback Kelly green that the Eagles wore for decades was one part of the inspiration for our green-themed wedding: Eagles football and apples.

Polka Quads

Our music was mostly provided by The Polka Quads, a local (and somewhat famous) Polka band. Neither of us are polka superfans, exactly — the band is related to John and lent their talents with a thoughtful discount. They also lent a little Oktoberfest air to our wedding tent. The rest of our music came through iTunes on John's computer which created an interesting and fun mix.

Guest Book

We also put our own spin on our guest book. Instead of having everyone sign a book, we sent recipe cards with our invitations and invited each guest to bring their favorite recipe with them to our wedding. I love looking through this really interesting snapshot of our families and friends told through food in their own handwriting.

Cocktail Hour

We wanted our guests to see us in each of our details and, more importantly, also see pieces of themselves in our wedding. We wanted our wedding to celebrate the incredible community that has supported us and taught us and sent us out into the world to fly. I think we did that and we're both extremely proud of the work we put into this incredible event. We can say, “This wedding was ours.”

Tell us about the ceremony: We had a pretty traditional religious ceremony with some non-traditional elements.

Ring Warming

First, we did a ring warming. I hand-painted a small dish which was passed down the first row for our families to bless. Our readings were Robert Fulghum's “Union” and a religious reading from the Book of Tobit 8:4b-8. We loved the vows that Tobiah said to Sarah and used it as an introduction to the vows that we wrote.

Mother's Kiss

My mom had watched an episode of Four Weddings and saw a ceremony that included something called a “Mother's Kiss.” The idea is that a mother is the first one who welcomes her child into the world with a kiss and so, before her child takes the next big step in their life that will be sealed with a kiss, she kisses them good-bye. Mom asked that we include this in our ceremony and we loved the idea.


Our ceremony music was very personal. The gathering music was “Somebody's Getting Married” from The Muppets Take Manhattan (one of my favorite movies), our processional was Barry Polisar's “All I Want Is You.”


Our recessional, since we live in Philadelphia (and since it's one of John's favorite movies) was the theme from Rocky. We loved how it begins as a triumphal march and then quickly becomes the song everyone recognizes. It got a lot of laughs and folks seemed to have fun with it.


Our ceremony borrowed heavily from the Anglican tradition and included a responsive prayer that we printed in our programs so everyone could follow along.

No, it really rained.

Our biggest challenge: With a little preparation, you can pretty much control almost everything about your wedding…except the weather. And PA's early fall really seemed poised to deal our outdoor wedding a doozy! The weather forecast kept switching between partly cloudy and severe thunderstorms. At 10am on the day of the wedding, we were pretty much guaranteed to see rain in the afternoon with the possibility of severe thunderstorms. At noon, with a look at the NOAA report, we decided to go ahead and NOT move everything under the tent. The ceremony started at 4pm with darkening skies, but the rain held off until we were married. As we were walking back up the aisle, I felt the first drops of rain, It poured pretty heavily for about twenty minutes and then let up.


We made the decision to go ahead and try to take as many pictures as we could in the drizzle. Because everyone wanted to get out of the damp, the pictures went really fast and, if you look at our group shots, they turned out really well because of the lighting.


I tell everyone, every bride needs rain during group shots…we'd never have to deal with a surprise 2-hour cocktail hour! Our guests were really good-natured and we had enough cover to avoid getting really soaked.

Sunset after the rain

At about 6:30pm, the rain cleared up and the sun came out and we had our own mini-Golden Hour moment. It ended up being really cool!


My favorite moment: I have four…

1. John insisted on writing our own vows. This really surprised me because he's not much of a wordy guy. My vows were pretty simple (meaningful, but simple). When he read his to me, I was so proud of him. They were incredibly well-written and heartfelt and included a paraphrased Rocky quote that I love (“She fills my gaps…”). My simple vows were blown out of the water by his awesome ones. And that is really, really cool!

Buffet Line

2. I always tell people that I don't have a lot of friends, but the ones that I do have are as close (and sometimes closer) than family. Our wedding really highlighted this fact. Our friends came from as far away as Croatia and London and as close as a town ten minutes away to celebrate with us. They arrived early, pitched in to help and left their own little marks on our wedding and the day was richer for it. There was a moment when I looked at everyone assembled under our tent, family and friends talking to each other and thinking, “This is what a wedding is about.”


3. The toasts. My baby sister was my maid of honor and her toast was incredible. She got really choked up and ended her toast by saying, “”Y'all are just awesome.” It was brilliant. My matron of honor and my best friend in the entire world made me cry and then two of John's best men gave toasts that made John cry. It was a really special moment.


4. My dad officiated our wedding. John and I both agree that having him pronounce married was one of the most meaningful moments of the entire wedding.

Eagles Cake

My funniest moment: Embarrassingly, I have an issue remembering my right from my left. When I went to put the ring on John's hand, I grabbed the wrong hand. He had to fix it for me. Folks were amused. I was amused.

First Dance

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I had been extremely wary about the polka band from the start. I was afraid we'd get the chicken dance and people would think that we were completely nuts. At the end of the day, they were INCREDIBLE. People didn't necessarily dance, but it wasn't a super dance-y crowd to begin with. The Polka Quads played polkas from all over the world and even threw in some good country/bluegrass songs. They were truly, truly fantastic and added so much atmosphere to our day!


My advice for Offbeat Brides:
Sisters 21. Have a Plan A, a Plan B and a Plan C. But when something happens that fits none of those plans, be flexible enough to let the plan unfold. Especially on the day. Things will happen that you will not be able to control. So don't try. You'll have way more fun.

2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family have unique and special talents. Many folks love to use those talents. Ask for help.

3. Don't be afraid of DIY. With proper planning, you can do anything!

4. You don't have to spend a lot of money to have an incredibly awesome and wonderful day. You have to be creative. Thinking outside of the box, however, can lead to some really beautiful and fun results!

5. Compromise with your future spouse. It's a good thing.

6. Listen to those around you, but don't lose yourself or your future spouse in the process of ideation.

7. Martha Stewart and Offbeat Bride, when combined, can help you create your best wedding!

8. Remember to take moments to breathe it all in. Everyone will tell you that the day will fly by, but you won't really understand until it's happening to you. So take those moments. Watch your guests. Interact with people. And breathe in the love and joy of the day!


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Gathering your family and friends all together in one place trumps everything else about the day. Maybe no one will remember our favors, but they will remember the feeling of being in a place that was overflowing with love and happiness.

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Comments on Alyssa & John’s homemade Oktoberfest barbecue in Amish Pennsylvania

    • I take your comment to mean that you ordered your dress from dressilyme too? What was your experience like with them? I’ve been looking at reviews online and they all seem either really horrible or really awesome–there’s no in-between.

  1. Super, super adorable! You created so much love and goodness with your DIY – an inspiration to all. Congrats!

  2. I love how much thought you put into everything, and you and your husband just look so happy and gorgeous!

  3. Oh yay! I’ve been waiting for this wedding to hit the blog ever since you popped up on the tribe all those months ago. It looks absolutely wonderful, and I’m so glad that everything came through. The personal touches and sense of community just oozes from the pictures. Congratulations!

  4. Oh, this is WONDERFUL. These are the kinds of personal touches that make all the difference between an average wedding and a spectacular one. It’s the kind of thing that will stick with your guests forever!

  5. I would have had a straight-up fit if I didn’t end up at the Honeycrisp table: the cadillac of apples.

  6. Lovely wedding. Apple butter in BBQ sauce is awesome.

    (Apple Butter in general is awesome. I make it in a crockpot with my Grade 1’s every fall.)

    I also have left-right confusion.

    If it helps, if you make an L shape with your thumb and first finger on each hand with your palms facing away from you, the one that is pointed in the correct direction is your left.

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