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The Offbeat Bride: Kari, Graphic Designer

Her offbeat partner: Chris, Musician

Date and location of wedding: The Philadelphia Magic Gardens, Philadelphia, PA — November 1, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our venue was one of our favorite details: The Philadelphia Magic Gardens, a giant art installation space (made of mosaic, mirrors, and recycled materials) by artist Isaiah Zagar. Not only was it incredibly beautiful, but we both felt great knowing the fees we paid to them would go to supporting art and communities in South Philadelphia. We chose not to have a traditional reception venue, but instead had the ceremony and a multi-coursed, Mexican dinner party all in the same outdoor space.

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Tell us about the ceremony:
Our ceremony started with both of us walking down the aisle in pairs to “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. I chose to walk down the aisle to “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac.

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Our officiant wrote a beautiful ceremony that featured Curious George Visits a Toy Store, which encouraged us to always stay curious and be creative about solving problems and finding value in our relationship.

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We asked our guests to stand and speak words of encouragement and blessing to us (we made sure to ask a few people to plan for it beforehand, just to ensure there wouldn't be any awkward silence and crickets!). We wrote our vows ourselves, and ended with a sand art unity ceremony in which Chris, myself, and Chris' two children poured colored sand into a crystal tequila bottle to represent the new, blended family we were becoming.

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Our biggest challenge:
The Philadelphia Magic Gardens, while incredibly beautiful, is not very weather-friendly. My very practical husband was very concerned about the weather in the planning process. I, however, told him that if we didn't focus on the rain, it wouldn't rain. It turns out that isn't quite how Mother Nature works! The ENTIRE week of our wedding, it rained. I scrambled to find options for tenting the large outdoor space, only to find that we couldn't afford any of them on our budget. While there was indoor space available, it wasn't nearly large enough for our 75 guests. I finally settled on tables with large umbrellas. The day of the wedding, it was pouring. But by 2:00 p.m., the sky miraculously cleared and we managed to stay relatively dry.

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My favorite moment:
The most meaningful moments of our wedding definitely came in the form of various guests standing and speaking to us in ways that were beautiful, candid, and directly from the heart. It turned out better than I ever could have imagined. From a simple, “I love you both so much,” to one of our very talented guests serenading us with a Broadway number, the responses were as surprising as they were touching. To my surprise, both of Chris' children ended up choosing to speak as well, and it made me so glad.

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My funniest moment:
During our sand art unity ceremony, our son Stephen COMPLETELY missed the funnel into the bottle, and poured sand all over me and into my shoes. It is so apropos for his personality, we couldn't help but laugh. At least some sand made it into the bottle!

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?

  1. Listen to your gut. I went into the process of getting ready knowing I wanted to wear my hair down, but I let the hairstylist and others talk me out of it. Looking back, I wish I had done what I wanted to do instead of being swayed.
  2. Be flexible. It's a skill you'll need to practice in your marriage and in your day-to-day life so you may as well start with your wedding! Some things are our of your control, and in the light of any disaster, there is always something to be grateful for.
  3. It will go so, so fast. Faster than you ever could imagine it will go. Make time to eat and have at least one private moment with your new partner!

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Comments on Kari & Chris’ artsy red and teal wedding

  1. This is so gorgeous but my favorite has to be Kari….WOW!!! She is rockin’ that dress!

  2. That venue! Totally awesome! And the colours! Totally lush. What an amazing wedding!

  3. You guys and your wedding are the reason why I love Offbeat Brides. After months of looking at wedding porn I am so tired of seeing the same old boring powder puff weddings some wedding planner churns out on the regular, with the same dress, reception venue, food etc. Your wedding seems like it showcases something authentic about you guys as people. It everything I want in my wedding: warm, inviting, beautiful and unique to who you are. Congratulations on your beautiful day.

  4. That photo of you two kissing under the mosaic that reads “changes” is wonderful!

    Congratulations! Beautiful, beautiful wedding!

  5. Hey Kari, congratulations! What a beautiful event. I’m currently planning my wedding and reception for ~50 guests at the Magic Gardens this fall. I was wondering if you’d be willing to share any tips about this incredibly unique space: what worked well, what (if anything) you would do differently next time, etc. Thanks!

    • Hi L!

      So exciting! The Magic Gardens is such a great place! And so very unique … here’s what I would have wanted to know prior to having my event there –

      -We had our ceremony in the main outdoor space, as well as our reception (we broke down the aisle and chairs and set up tables throughout the outside) – our “transition” between the two was a cocktail hour in the basement (it is VERY cool, if you haven’t seen it yet) – we set up tables for food and a small bar, and six high tops, figuring people would mingle, giving us time for pics and our help time to switch the space. We didn’t know how HOT it would get down there with all those people — they couldn’t stay down there for the entire time because it got so uncomfortable, and ended up wandering EVERYWHERE – which is fine, just not what I envisioned. I guess I didn’t want them to see the “switch” lol

      -WEATHER. Seriously — make weather plans. The event coordinator there will assure you that you can move everything inside in case it rain, but it’s really not large enough for everything to be comfortable, I don’t think. We had about 70 people, and I couldn’t imagine squeezing them all inside.

      -The gate at the front of the outdoor space is beautiful, but if you’re having any major parts of your wedding out there, be aware of street gawkers 🙂 I blocked most of it with some antique doors that I hinged together like a folding screen, but we still had people peeking around them, staring at us and out guests, and saying stuff. I would have gone through greater pains to make sure it was covered, not just blocked a little bit.

      -My wedding was at 5:30 on a Friday night — whenever I drive to the Magic gardens, I come from the South (usually up Columbus, then Christian, and over to the Magic Gardens), when my guests came from other parts of PA and NJ, their GPS apps on their phones took them through Center City and down Broad Street, which if you’re familiar with Philly at all you know is a hot traffick-y mess, especially in the evening and anywhere near rush hour. So, almost everyone was late… I would have provided specific directions to avoid the bad parts of the city had I known that people wouldn’t know to avoid Broad and Center City themselves.

      -When they say you’re wedding must be over by 10pm – they mean they want you OUT at 10pm. We had planned to end at 10pm, figuring the cleanup could happen after… We felt a little rushed at the end when the event staff kept pointing out how close it was to 10pm and telling us to wrap it up.

      -You CANNOT use a credit card for any of the payments of deposits there — we had planned to put the refundable security deposit on out credit card, paying the actual fee for the space in cash, and were surprised when we found out we couldn’t.

      Sorry for the long response!! In all – it’s a GREAT space, and Allison and the rest of the event staff are REALLY helpful – they were great about answering questions and helping the day of (there were way more people available to us the day of our event than I expected!), but those are the things I wish I had known beforehand – it wouldn’t have changed my mind about using the space, but would have saved a little stress in the process 🙂 Best of luck and congratulations!

      • Thank you so much for the quick and thorough response, Kari–this is exactly the kind of information I was looking for. Super helpful!

  6. This space reminds me of my wedding venue!
    American Visionary Art Museum

    I get what you’re saying about supporting the arts rather than a catering hall. This was the only place we looked and we planned everything around getting this as our venue. It gives me the warm fuzzies!

    I’ve never been to the Magic Gardens, only Eastern State Pen. I will have to go there now, since Baltimore is only a short drive away. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful and meaningful wedding with us 🙂

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