2442502727 9d89f51b92 alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)The Offbeat Bride: Jen, Artist/Library Aide

My Offbeat Partner: Doug, Artist/Museum Officer

Location & date of wedding: Lingrow Farm, Leechburg, PA — 3/22/2008

What made our wedding offbeat: I think one of the things that made us so “offbeat” was how laid-back we all managed to stay about everything! We'd been friends for twelve years and partners for seven when we got engaged, and up until that point I had never really envisioned what I wanted in a wedding.

When we sat down and talked about what we absolutely had to have, the list was actually pretty short: a red wedding dress, good vegetarian food, a venue with some character, and we end up married when it's all over. Once we established that, it was pretty easy to compromise on the rest of the stuff and let go of what wasn't really important.

The barn/wedding site.
The barn/wedding site.

I've read a lot of horror stories on this and other sites about parents who are paying and expect creative control, but my folks were nothing but wonderful and supportive of our ideas. They were really non-pushy and careful not to turn every little detail into a battle of wills, and that made it a lot easier for us to let them have their way when there was something they cared about more than us, like having real silverware or nice place card holders. And his folks were always ready to help, but happy to let us do our thing our way. It was all very civilized.

Getting laced up for the big event by one super foxy bridesmaid.
Getting laced up for the big event by one super foxy bridesmaid.

We didn't do a theme, or official colors or anything. There was no way I could make five very different women wear the same color, let alone the same dress, so I asked my bridal party to wear an outfit that made them think of water. My only stipulation as to style was, “Wear something you feel super foxy in.”

Instead of bouquets, each of them wore a wrist corsage and carried a painted silk fan. The groomsmen were asked to wear dark pants, a dark jacket, and a cool-toned shirt. We gave them their ties as gifts before the ceremony. Everyone was happy and comfortable, and as a result, I think we had one of the best-lookin' wedding parties of all time.

One of the best-lookin' wedding parties of all time.
One of the best-looking wedding parties of all time.

Simple yet elegant table setting.
Simple yet elegant table setting.
Our biggest challenge: Even though my folks were paying for the majority of it, our budget was still pretty small by WIC standards, and most of our money was going to be eaten up by catering and venue rental costs. As we got further into the planning, we realized that things like fresh flower centerpieces on every table just weren't realistic. On top of that, I was making the skirt of my dress, and it wasn't leaving a lot of time for some of the complicated DIY we had initially envisioned. After the New Year, we were in a serious time crunch, with many projects started, but none finished.

We responded by scaling way back, and deciding to let the naturally classy/kitschy charm of the barn shine through. My sister and her boyfriend gathered interesting sticks from the Boston Arboretum, and we glued little decorative birds on them for simple but rather elegant centerpieces. (Total cost: $3.00 per table, and guests were fighting each other for them at the end of the night.)

Dancing under the pom-poms!
Barn dancing under the pom-poms!
For the cellar, where the conversation pit and dancing were, we made some of those ubiquitous Martha Stewart Pom-Poms, and my H2B folded some origami mesh flowers to hang along with them. It was festive and inexpensive, and the origami gave it a personal touch — everyone who knows Doug knows that he generally has a square of origami paper somewhere in his pocket for when he's fidgety.

It was hard to let go of some of our grander ideas — like the DIY photobooth complete with paper moon! — but in the end, no one noticed their absence except for us, and everyone had a good time regardless.

Check out the amazing train on this dress!
Check out the amazing train on this dress!
My favorite moment: Our ceremony was short, and sweet, and absolutely perfect for us. It was a collaborative effort that came together absolutely beautifully: My dear friend Lisa, whom I've known since seventh grade, wrote and performed our blessing. My father continued a family tradition by reading us a sonnet he wrote especially for the occasion.

Our vows were brief and heartfelt; we kept them to five sentences so that they would be easy to memorize, though when my husband looked into my eyes to deliver his lines, he choked up and I had to feed them to him surreptitiously… it was so lovely and adorable I just about died. Then our good friend (and ULC minister) Renée gave the eloquent closing remarks and pronounced us husband and wife!

All told, it was about 12 minutes from beginning to end — when we walked downstairs for a drink after the recessional, the bartender was like, “You're done already?!” Nevertheless, several guests came up to tell us how touching and personal our ceremony was. (And some of our more party-hardy friends came up to tell us how happy they were to start drinking sooner, so everyone was happy.)

I can haz Death by Chocolate cupcake?
I can haz Death by Chocolate cupcake?
My advice for other Offbeat Brides: Stay calm, and try not to let yourself get carried away with your own sky-high expectations for the event. Your guests are there to celebrate with YOU, not your chair covers or your centerpieces or your 200 handmade wedding favors! Let go a little, and don't let planning your wedding become a full-time job.

When the day finally arrives, remember to stop periodically to come back to your breath, and take a mental snapshot of that moment in time. Your wedding day will be such a whirlwind, so much of it will end up as a blur — my clearest, crispest memories of the day are those moments when I was consciously stopping to drink everything in, and I'm so grateful that I remembered to do that!

Enough talk — Show me the wedding porn!:

Cupcake Kiss

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Comments on Jen & Doug’s Wabi-sabi Barn Dance Wedding

  1. I loved reading about this wedding. It feels like it was a really genuine and meaningful experience. The advice was spot on…and exactly what I needed now that I am less than 2 months out from my wedding!

  2. Awesome! I knew I had to read when I saw “wabi-sabi” in the title. I love the barn.

  3. I think “stacey” must be psychic – that’s EXACTLY what I was planning to post! I loved this, it isn’t anything like what my wedding will look like, but I really “got” the feeling of it. And the advice – you would think it would be common sense, but we have to be reminded! Thanks Jen, from another Jen.

  4. I love SO many things about this post — especially her attitude about all the “stuff” we get caught up in. Thanks, Jen!

  5. Hey, this is not too far from where I grow up! Awesome!

    P.S. Are the cupcakes from Dozen in Pittsburgh? I miss their red velvet cupcake like crazy!

    What an amazing wedding.

  6. This looks really great and such calm and helpful advice – congratulations!

  7. Thanks everyone! It was a fantastic day, I can’t believe it was almost a year ago already.

    Amy, those were totally Dozen Cupcakes. Vanilla Bean, Vegan Death By Chocolate, and Red Velvet. I wish I was eating one right now. *sigh*

  8. I loved reading this; what a wonderful wedding for everyone involved. Congratulations!

    A quick question – where did you get that great corset? The woman who I wanted to create mine can’t do it now, and I’m not sure who to go with. Thank you!

  9. Hi, Pamela! Dianna DiNoble of Starkers Corsetry in Toronto made it. I HIGHLY recommend her. She was reasonably priced, great with the communication, and finished it well within the time frame I needed. I was a little nervous about ordering a corset from someone without being able to do a personal fitting, but it turned out beautifully.

  10. My soon to be husband does fake birds on his holiday tree and we were just taking about doing that as centerpieces!

  11. Michael’s or JoAnn Crafts should have them in the floral accessories section, but if you do a Google search for “craft birds” there should be several online options that are cheaper. I got mine by online and it averaged about a buck a bird (if that!)

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