The Offbeat Bride: Sharon, dog walker and owner of a pet-sitting company
Her offbeat partner: Mike, social worker
Date and location of wedding: Bartram's Garden, Philadelphia, PA — May 26, 2012
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Mike is really shy, so that meant keeping the ceremony short, cutting out things like toasts, and sort of de-emphasizing things like cutting the cake, or the first dance. We still did them, we just didn't announce them so everyone would gather and stare at us. Other things we eliminated include meat, religion, and the State! We chose not to get legally married for political reasons, but we use the words “wedding” and “party” and “commitment ceremony” pretty much interchangeably. Oh, and there was no wedding party, either!
We had the ceremony right in our neighborhood, two miles or so from our house, so that local friends could ride their bikes there, and in fact, we rode our tandem bike into the party.
We also didn't spend a ton of money by making things ourselves, skipping a pro DJ, and spending less than $700 on my whole ensemble. And Mike's custom suit was a great deal from a Groupon! We used a school bus company to transport guests from their hotel. And having my wonderful sister-in-law, Melanie Wasko, take the photos and set up the photo booth as our gift was a great way to save money as well.
Tell us about the ceremony: Our friend and officiant, poet Samantha Barrow, polled a bunch of our friends and relatives to find nice things to say about us, which was very sweet to hear. We had one of my best friends read a poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay, and two of our other best friends were in charge of guiding the rings through the ring-warming ceremony.
We also found a really great quote from author Wendell Berry that perfectly summarized why we felt it was important to do this, even if we weren't involving the State or religion, from “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community”:
Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another ‘until death,' are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing.
Our biggest challenge: Money was a big concern. Sticking to the budget we'd set was hard for me, but in the end it probably helped us make decisions more easily. Compromising with each other about some of the details was also a challenge, but it helped us learn together as a couple, and we were both really pleased with how everything came out.
My favorite moment: We actually had two separate ceremonies. About a month before the wedding, we spent a weekend in a cabin near Ricketts Glen State Park in northeastern Pennsylvania, a beautiful place with something like 17 waterfalls! On a lovely, but rainy day, we hiked down the trail by the falls, and chose a secluded little cave in which to hide from the rain and write our vows. We gave it 15 minutes, and when we were done, with no one watching but our dogs, Maxx and Drusilla, we read them to each other. That was the most meaningful moment for me, the moment that we made it official to each other. We used a version of those same vows at the public ceremony.
The whole second ceremony, which our officiant Samantha wrote for us, was very moving, especially when she mentioned my paternal grandmother, who died a few months before the party. Our rings were made from a ring that had belonged to her, which made the ring-warming that much more special. It also felt amazing to hear our friend Joshua Marcus play a few of our favorite songs during the ceremony, especially “The Book of Love” by Magnetic Fields, since I remember talking about that song with Mike very early in our relationship.
My funniest moment: We were getting very antsy, standing up in front of everyone for longer than expected, so we started walking away before Samantha had finished the ceremony. She had to kind of call us back to say her final words. Oops! My favorite picture of me from the ceremony was taken right then, when I turned around, laughing, to apologize.
My advice for Offbeat Brides: Decide what's most important to you and your partner, and then set a budget in advance. Know that you may not stick to it exactly, but it's good to know what you can spend where, and that will help guide your decisions.
I also thought that making our website was a great way to verbalize what we were trying to do without having to include everything in the wedding itself or explain our decisions to a million people separately.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Photography: Melanie Wasko
- Dress: Betsey Johnson
- Shoes: Butter
- Headpiece: Made myself from a vintage shoe clip, mesh, fabric, and cruelty-free peacock feathers from eBay
- Hairstyle: Salon Blush
- Mike's suit: custom-made by Henry Davidsen
- Rings: Bario Neal
- Earrings: Custom made by Etsy seller PreciousMeshes
- Flowers: DIYed from Fifty Flowers
- Bouquet: My dad made them from my peacock feathers and the flowers from Fifty Flowers
- Invitations: The Panorama Press
- Cake toppers: Etsy seller FruitflyPie
- Caterer: Diverse Catering
- Band: The West Philadelphia Orchestra
- Ceremony musician: Joshua Marcus
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!
Comments on Sharon & Mike’s outdoor tandem bike wedding (with secret second ceremony)
Loving this! Your wedding is very similar to what I want to do: no religion, no wedding party, no grand show… we even want to hold our ceremony at the park 2 blocks from our apartment! Very lovely and meaningful. Wish you the best!
I love the Wendell Berry quote that you used- it is one of the based things I’ve seen yet that represents my views on why I want a wedding with all of my friends and family around
I love this whole thing. And her dress is amazing, and the fact that she seems to have flying cats tattooed on her chest is pretty amazing too.
OH! I totally confirmed with Sharon: they are from one of our fave books from childhood: Catwings by Ursula K. Le Guin!
Hey, thanks for the kind words, everyone! We are so psyched to be featured on here! Anyone who’s interested in having a similar kind of ceremony, click the link to our blog and look at the FAQs, where we spell out our logic pretty well. (Also see of you can find all the secret goofy links hidden in the blog!)
Your dress is awesome! Love the layers. And, your cave story made me cry- beautiful!! Congrats.
Love it. Makes me feel like I want to be friends with these two!
Your non-wedding-wedding is such an inspiration. Recently on a bridal site one woman asked what people were spending on their wedding. Lots of people commented, and not one of them were spending less than 10k. Some up to 30k (which is more than I make in a year!) Each to their own, but it’s nice to see an awesome wedding on a budget.
Thanks! We definitely went over budget in the end, but it was worth it!
Love the toppers! Love the bride’s dress! Love the tats!
Fellow Philadelphian here, and I LOVE that you used the West Philly Orchestra as your band!!
It’s so fun to see how creative people are! Love what you did!
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