Treehouse Entrance

The offbeat bride: Julie, Communications Director

Her offbeat partner: Tom, High School History Teacher

Date and location of wedding: Morris Arboretum, Chestnut Hill, PA — April 30, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding was a mix of styles and things that we like. As much as I do love theme parties, picking one proved difficult, so we threw it all in. We combined our loved of sci-fi (with lots of Doctor Who touches including Dalek cake toppers), and my love of carnival and vintage style with my husband's love of history.

Dalek love

Sci-fi cupcakes, dalek toppers and busken cookies

We found the best location in a giant treehouse at the Morris Arboretum. The ceremony was held on the treehouse and the reception in the tent. The view was incredible!

Cincy/Philly flavor favors

For the carnival inspiration we served popcorn, snow cones, and other carnival fare.

Laying an egg

Our friends' kids were able to run around the treehouse and play in the giant nest with eggs. There was a lot of light-hearted fun.


Tell us about the ceremony: Once we sat down and thought about how our ceremony should go, we realized that even with our self-imposed 15-20 minute limit, we had a lot of time to fill! So we came up with an idea to kill a few minutes and get our smart on at the same time.

Libbie & General Custer reading

My husband is a high school history teacher. He put the call out to his students that they could do short, original readings on history's greatest love stories at our wedding. Several students, no doubt enticed by the opportunity for free food, took him up on it. The stories included: Marie and Pierre Curie, John and Abigail Adams, Libbie and General Custer, and of course, Linden Baines and Lady Bird Johnson. The kids were definitely the high point of the wedding. They did a great job and seemed to have fun considering they were high school students doing a historical reading on a Saturday night.

Vuvezela serenade

After the wedding, all of our groomsmen and bridesmaids blew vuvuzelas instead of throwing rice. This was inspired by our engagement in South Africa during the World Cup.

yes sir

Treehouse sunset

Our biggest challenge: Having a wedding without spending a fortune is much harder than I ever thought. We DIYed the invites, flowers, lights, decorations, DJ, music, set-up, favor inserts, and alcohol and still ended up spending a lot. But in the end, we had a beautiful day and are glad we did it. The wedding was a bright spot on a year that was marked by family illness and other issues. Knowing that our family and friends had fun and appreciated the wedding as a bright spot in the year helped convince us that it was worth it.


My favorite moment: My dad passed away when I was a teenager, so having my brother walk me down the aisle was meaningful. My mom's willingness to help and make the day special meant a lot. Our vows were also really special, and I was surprised at how emotional they made us both.

Danzig surprise

My funniest moment: For the mother/son dance, Tom's mother had requested “Return to Pooh Corner” by Kenny Loggins. But my husband had different plans. He had his heart set on dancing to “Mother” by Danzig and made a secret plan to cut off Kenny Loggins halfway and break in with the Danzig. For the remainder of the song, they rocked out in front of the crowd.

Post wedding Broad Street Run

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The morning after the wedding, we had planned to run the Broad Street Run ten-mile run in our wedding garb. Although we were dead tired, we had the best time. My brother and sister-in-law ran it with us along with some friends. Despite the fact that I am very out of shape, all of my very athletic running buddies stayed with us the whole time and got a kick out of entertaining the crowd. I was too busy wheezing, praying for the race to end, and adjusting my wedding gown to interact much with “our adoring fans.” But there were lots of people entertained by the “runaway bride and groom” headed their way. We were even on the evening news and had our picture in the newspaper.


Because I did not want to ruin my wedding dress, I asked my mom to hunt down an old wedding dress at a thrift store for the run. She got a great dress. In fact, I liked it so much I ended up wearing it to the wedding, saving my original dress for the reception. Nothing says mother/daughter love like your mom cleaning the spaghetti stains from the last wearer off of your thrift store wedding gown.

Grendel the flower girl/ring bearer

My advice for offbeat brides: Err on the side of over-inviting. Err on the side of under-buying for alcohol (we had tons leftover). Dogs look cute in formal attire. All you need is a glue gun in order to turn ordinary Daleks into matrimonial Daleks.

We did it

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Comments on Julie & Tom’s sci-fi and carnival-inspired treehouse wedding

  1. Congrats Tom and Julia, I don’t think I have ever seen a bride run her dress. Really awesome if you like running… really horrible if you are me 😛

    • Thanks Rachel! “Like” is a strong word to describe how I feel about running! Tolerate is more like it 🙂

  2. Love, love, love wearing your wedding dress to a different event! (Also love that the thrift shop dress became a lead contender).
    I was debating that to do with my dress afterwards as well. It’s plain white cotton sateen, so it should be easy to dye. It’s also tea length, so maybe I’d wear it again (just kidding, I never wear dresses).
    For now, this is the plan: our wedding is in June, prime yard-sale season in Maine. We’re leaving my parents’ house in Maine, driving across the state to New Hampshire where we’re honeymooning in the White Mountains (zipline tours!). We plan on staying in our wedding garb, and stopping at every yard sale we see. Surely we’ll get some great haggling power if we’re wearing that!

    • Jamie-I loooove the post nuptial yard saleing! Please post pictures! Maine is so beautiful. You could do first anniversary here: We’ve done it two years and it’s a lot of fun.

    • The caterer actually got pretty into the carnival theme and started making suggestions including a milkshake bar. there was not a boy left in the yard, if I must say.

  3. Yay Philly wedding! We live near the Morris Arboretum in Mt. Airy. Bravo for doing the Broad Street Run the very next day! I’ve been trying to pluck up the courage to sign up for it for years – I never would have had the cojones (or stamina) to do it the day after my wedding! Good for you two!!

  4. Okay. I have been reading this website for 3 years. Over those 3 years, I have read just about every single “Real Weddings” post ever put up. This. Is the COOLEST WEDDING I HAVE SEEN. EVER. Everything is just…SO damn cool! I remember seeing you two in the paper (I’m from Pittsburgh!) and thinking how cool you were THEN. It’s honestly every single thing. I do have to say that, out of them all, the students’ readings idea, the vuvuzela’s (with amazing engagement story!!) and Cincy vs Philly Snack Smackdown challenge announcement blew my mind on an extra level. Not to mention that your first two pieces of advice solidified my answers to the questions that have been absolutely harrowing me recently about my own wedding planning. Amazing! Congratulations on your clearly love-filled marriage and on your explosively awesome wedding.

    • Wow! Thank you so so much for all your kind words. It was a lot of fun.

      I cannot believe you saw us in the paper from PGH. I think it helped that they killed Bin Laden that day-hence big news day, lots of papers sold. We did not plan for that to happen to amplify our PR (really!)

      Good luck with your planning. I’m sure it will be awesome. I cannot wait to see the photos!

      • It was in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette towards the front of the first section, so pretty big doin’s! The picture is so much better in color, though 🙂

  5. I love love love that your husband involved his students in the wedding. What a cool idea!

  6. I do have the MOST clever and creative daughter in Philly if not all of PA! And I have the funniest son-in-law. We all had a ball at this wedding!!!

  7. Sneaking a few minutes on OBB website and now I’m crying at work. So sweet, absolutely loved it. And my fiance might actually demand we have Dalek cake-toppers…

  8. Love the pics. It looks as though everyone just had the absolute best time. I grew going to the Morris and remember it well…my father still lives up there and you’ve inspired me!

    Thanks so much for sharing everything!

    • After comparing Morris to a bunch of other places, it wasn’t that bad for $. And it’s incredibly beautiful as you know!


    …is what I would’ve said if I were your marriage commisioner. 😛

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