Sitting in a tree
The offbeat bride: Leah, graduate student and therapist

Her offbeat partner: Jordan, entrepreneur and lover of life

Location & date of the wedding: The grounds and barn at Falling Water (a Frank Lloyd Wright house), Uniontown, PA — August 1, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: Our most obvious offbeat decision was to NOT have an officiant. I am a Quaker and my partner a Humanist, both traditions strongly reject any kind of hierarchal authority. The idea of someone presiding over the wedding was ditched immediately. victory kiss

We had djembe circle and the bride wore pants. We chose to have the reception be a rainbow rather than have specific colors. Our friends and family did our photography, DJing, wish tree, jewelry, decorations, boutonnières, my bouquet and pretty much everything. In the end we only paid for the catering, the venue, our marriage contract and cake toppers. And those were all etsy, local, or non-profit!

Tell us about your ceremony: Yay, we loved our ceremony! It was in a clearing in the woods with hay-bale seating. Our ceremony was pretty much one long surprise, made up of a series of “gifts” from our “ceremonials.” Our parents, siblings and friends gave us their gifts in the form of music, song, words, and prayers. Also, all the “ceremonials” joined us in wearing white. We never, ever wear white — so we thought it was appropriate for us all to wear white to this once in a lifetime celebration. All our ceremonials with us… on a dead log

My brothers and our friends welcomed us to the space in a djembe circle, as we each walked in with our three parents. We met in the middle encircled by all six parents, as they took turns speaking prayers or words. My partner and I then took each other by the hand and walked to the front of the space together. Our friend then read a selection from the Velveteen Rabbit (What is Real?). My two brothers and sister then sang “Anyone Else But You” by the Moldy Peaches with amended surprise lyrics!

Djembe drummers (brothers and friends)
Djembe drummers

In the past three years, three of my four siblings have also been married. In lieu of the typical speech-about-love part of the ceremony, we had each of them come up with their spouse and offer us their words of wisdom on marriage. It was really an incredible experience to hear how their experiences have brought such different pieces of wisdom and understanding to them.

Also, it was awesome to be surrounded by so much love. At this point, my partner and I then each spoke our promises to each other. It was important that we not repeat written promises, but that we speak them aloud to each other, as genuine promises of what we will fulfill in our journey together.
Sitting by the falls

My favorite moment: The ceremony was pretty incredible. My spouse chose a song for my siblings to sing to me, and everyone managed to keep the surprise up until two days before the wedding when our friend accidentally spilled it! I was bummed that I knew, until I actually heard it. He had rewritten a bunch of the lyrics. That was pretty amazing. Hearing each one of my siblings offer us words about marriage was really meaningful.

Duct tape roses by my sister in law Anne Marie
Duct tape ROSES!!

My funniest moment: Our yichud time. We decided to have a quick meal at a yichud. There was supposed to be a private table on the top level of the barn for us. However, when we went to the barn, it was locked! We eventually got upstairs, only to find no food or drink on the table, and our friend, the DJ, getting ready in the upstairs bathroom! He is a very boisterous guy who likes to ramble. We quickly split.

Desperate to get a moment alone, we wandered down the grounds behind a little retaining wall, and crouched down. We then spotted the wedding coordinator wandering around who said “Oh there you are!' (like we'd been hiding). She opened up the top level of the barn for us. Thankfully, this time there's food and champagne, but still our chatty friend in the bathroom. My spouse had to ask him two times to leave before he finally got the picture and by that time, we were already late and had to go take pictures…! Close up almost kissing in front of flw

Our biggest challenge: There were a few bumps in the road with family members of course. Also, my sister got pregnant in the midst of our planning and was due two weeks after wedding, meaning she wasn't able to come, which was pretty difficult for me. Planning during my first year of Ph D studies and through my partner being laid off in December was also a special kind of madness.

Closer to the wedding there were several issues with our marriage contract (a very important contractual document in a Quaker inspired wedding) that resulted in multiple hand made copies. It was really stressful but the artist worked with us to create a wonderful document, even though it had to be overnighted to the wedding site! Same goes for our rings, they also had to be overnighted to the site. All in all, there were a lot of tears and frustration but things worked out and my family stepped in to deal with situations when I was overwhelmed. Rings in the nest

My advice for offbeat brides: Firstly, choose the people in your wedding very carefully. We chose several of our friends that we are close with, but who aren't typically very responsible. Unsurprisingly, they weren't very responsible the wedding weekend. It was no fun. So our lesson is – just because they are your friend does not necessarily mean they are going to be awesome in your wedding.

If you have made a decision and it's final, don't ask people what they think. This was always my way of introducing an idea and it's a bad one. If you don't want to hear that someone thinks it's awful, don't ask anyone.

Our shoesConversely, if you don't care about a decision, ask someone who you want to include or who feels excluded. There were some decisions that I honestly couldn't care less about, so I would ask my mom or mother-in-law. They then got to have their voices heard, and I didn't have to compromise on a decision that was really important.

Don't tell people anything they don't need to know. We had a lot of decisions that sounded unusual (bride in pants! djembes! no officiant! no wedding party! all in white!) but we kept most details on a need-to-know basis. I think this worked out really well. Everyone loved the unusual details. Bracelets and fascinator in the windowsill

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Actually my pants. I had a really tough time coming up with an outfit – I am gender-queer and aim to be pretty androgynous in my day-to-day life. Though my stepmom was making my outfit from scratch and I had total design power, I couldn't really come up with anything that looked fancy enough and neutral.

In the end, I felt the need to “pick a side” with my attire. I decided to go much more feminine, but definitely stick with pants. My sister made my fascinator, necklace and bracelets and really wanted to make me pieces, which played a part in the decision as well. I thought people were going to FREAK about the whole bride in pants thing. To my huge surprise, people loved my outfit!

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Comments on These two had a self-uniting wedding at Falling Water

    • I wish i could but sadly i do not possess the skills to make those beauties – my sister in law did roughly 40 of them as her gift to us. If you or anyone else is really interested in commissioning her (i have no idea but i imagine she’d be open to doing it cheaply), send me a message on OBT (mcgilllilnancy) and i can forward to her.

      Also on a crafty note – flickr kind of sucks with bandwith limitations, and i’m just now realizing that a lot of our crafty “stuff” pictures got cut in a indiscriminate space crunch. For those of you more interested in the wish tree, marriage contract, jewelry, robot toppers etc i’ll be putting a update on OBT hopefully later today with those pictures. I know OBBs live to craft!

  1. OMG shoe twins!! I’m wearing those same RocketDog flats, but I have the white lace pair! Cutest shoe design evar!

    *ahem* Sorry, had a bit of a spaz there. I love your wedding site. The trees and rocks are water are so beautiful!

  2. Stream of consciousness after seeing this: OMG I *love* this wedding. Hooray for western PA, it is my second home. I’m envious of anyone who gets hitched at falling water. That is the most elegant pant suit I have ever seen! I love Dozen, it’s such a cute bakery. The bride’s haircolor is awesome.


  3. Leah, everything is so gorgeous! I especially love your hair, I think. What a striking color. Short-haired brides FTW! I love the fascinator you used. I think I’m opting for a simple jeweled bobby pin but it was so hard to decide!

  4. Did they give you any problems getting a self uniting marriage license? Did you have to tell them you were a Quaker? I’m not exactly a Quaker, but was hoping to get the self uniting marriage license just to avoid the whole officiant idea…

    • Hey Krystal – to get a self uniting license you must go to the county/city hall and tell them you would like to apply for a self-uniting license and get permission to solemnize your own ceremony and apply for the actual piece of paper (which just has to be signed by two witnesses rather than an officiant). In some counties you can take your already signed Quaker marriage contract down and parlay it into a legal license, but this is more rare. Some counties have been known to require the couple or couple member to prove that they are a member of a non-hierarchical faith (Quaker or Bahai) before granting the license. However, in 2007 a secular couple challenged this and the court ruled that they should be allowed a self-uniting license despite religious beliefs. So technically you are covered but depending on your county they may choose to make things difficult for you.

      Hope this is helpful

  5. i love this wedding! not having an officiant, having the parents come up as a couple with advice on marriage, oh i got all teary just reading about your wedding. thankss~!

  6. Ahhh… I’m so insanely jealous of your venue. Frank Lloyd Wright is just… amazing…

    And those roses, and the quaker union and… Ahh! Can I steal your wedding?

  7. Um you just had the wedding I have been thinking through the last few months!! I’ve settled for a Self Uniting Ceremony and had only recently begun to think about where to have it and recently thought of falling water since it is a mid way point between my fam and his and bedies being so gosh darn lucsious!… what venue near falling water did you do it and what time of year was this? Also… perhaps this was easy for you since you are a Quaker… my family is not but I would like to have a wedding where everyone shares their wisdom… how can I go about putting together a ceremony from the tapestry of people’s talents and experiences… if they have never seen this type of ceremony before? any advice would be immensly helpful and congrats to the both of you!

    • Hey Jenna – thanks for the love! We had our wedding at the barn at Fallingwater (can’t figure out hyperlinking in here so sorry hard address – which is just down the road from the actual Fallingwater house. We held the ceremony in a clearing in the woods behind the Barn and then had the reception inside the Barn on the lower level. This was August 1st so an air conditioned reception venue was NECESSARY! I would highly recommend the venue – i thought they were reasonably priced while having a pretty nice “wow” factor!

      I am actually the only Quaker in my family but they are all very flexible and creative people so when we told them what we were up to they were pretty down. Were you thinking of an actual Quaker ceremony (where everyone can speak) or something similar to what we did (which i would call somewhat Quaker inspired where we had lots of people involved, but not everyone)? If you are on OBT my handle is mcgilllilnancy and i’d be happy to chat more with you there if you’d like more advice or just talk about Fallingwater and/or Quaker-ness (now that there’s no more Quaker Brides group 🙁 )

  8. Love it! I like how the groom is a bit androgynous, too. [Or maybe he’s just pretty?] ;p

    One quibble for the website here: why is it tagged plus-size bride?
    Judging by her arms and the people around her, she can’t be more than a 12?!

    Awesome wedding.

    • Hello Alexandra, thanks for the love! In defense of OBB: for sticky labels like “plus size” they offer the submitter the opportunity to self-identify and i chose to tag my profile “plus size bride.” It is true that i am usually a 12 or 14, which, for me, is a little on the plus size – not that i am ashamed of that! I found that when i searched for “plus size” on OBB most/all of the brides were much more luscious than me, but i wasn’t the size of the non-plussies either, so i chose to self-label here for the people like me who may straddle categories and want outfit or style inspiration for neither a 6 nor a 20

  9. As a gender-questioning individual, it’s been difficult for me to find how I can fit into a blossoming relationship with my amazing SO. Your beautiful wedding story, complete with utter lack of gender-specific pronouns for your partner, made me feel a bit better. Thanks.

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