let's do this

The Offbeat Bride: Sara, massage therapist, yoga teacher, and high school English teacher

Her offbeat partner: Mike, video game developer and artist

Date and location of wedding: The National Society of the Colonial Dames, Philadelphia, PA — June 16, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: My bouquet contained kale [Get your freaky kale on!], asparagus, and garlic scapes (though I didn't realize that until it was presented to me by my dear friend right before the ceremony!). My bright blue toenails matched Mike's shoelaces, though we hadn't planned it. Mike and I saw each other before the ceremony, hiding out in a little room and spying on guests as they arrived.

mike getting walked down aisle

sara getting walked down aisle

We did not have formal bridesmaids or groomsmen, though our siblings and their spouses processed us in. Both of Mike's parents walked him down the aisle and both of my parents walked me. A Balkan marching band played Beirut's “Postcards From Italy” as we processed in.

the Dr. Who music starts

we start to run

i miraculously don't trip

The Doctor Who theme played as we ran out! We did run up the aisle after we were introduced as husband and wife, tearing around the seated guests and vanishing behind a row of hedges.

our matchmakers toast us

Also, Mike decided to take my last name. Mike's art school friend made a beautiful wedding certificate that everyone signed. The vegan finger food and buffets were scrumptious. My mom gave a toast as well as my dad. Our friends (the two who are the reason we met) gave a joint toast wearing the “matchmaker” sashes we made them. We had no seating chart. Our beer was from Philadelphia and Brooklyn, since that was where we lived when we were long distance.


three kinds!

I changed into a second dress that was startlingly sparkly and a surprise to Mike. We had vegan cupcakes that Mike's aunt had made, filled with chocolate ganache. Our iPod play list was a love letter to our friends. I couldn't stop smiling.

blessing the rings

Tell us about the ceremony: Our officiant was Rick, my poetry professor from graduate school. I have been a nanny to his children and called him to pour my heart out many times since grad school, so he has become a dear friend. He is Buddhist and one of the most centered, calming individuals I've ever met. He wrote our ceremony based on conversations, a bunch of e-mails we sent him telling him our story, AND a bunch of shmoopy excerpts from Mike's and my epic e-mail correspondence (since Mike and I had e-mailed for three years before actually getting together for real).

starting the ceremony

We trusted Rick completely, and had no idea what he was going to say. When he said something funny, we were laughing with surprise and delight along with the guests. He mentioned those loved ones who were no longer with us, and when we exchanged rings he blessed them, having us answer whether we would “encircle each other's life and be encircled.” He read “Blessing the Boats” by Lucille Clifton.

secret garden

heading to group photo shoot

Our biggest challenge: I was very sad not to have my grandfather there. He is still living, but is too fatigued to travel. I called him the Wednesday before just to tell him I love him, and he was more tender and forthcoming than I've ever heard him. I will treasure that call among my most important wedding memories. On the day of the wedding, Mike and I took a photograph during our photo shoot holding up a photograph of my grandmother and grandfather getting married. I'm planning to send that to him so he knows we were thinking of him.

past the band!

My favorite moment: Our personal vows. We had written them sitting next to each other a few weeks earlier but had decided to keep them a secret from each other until the ceremony. I went first because our officiant, who had seen both sets, knew I would come undone during Mike's. My vows were in the form of a poem explaining why Mike and what I was choosing by choosing him, and Mike's was almost letter-like, explaining that he has moved around so much in life that I am the first time he has really felt he has ended up somewhere, and that I am his home (sniff!).

my favorite moment

My favorite actual moment of the day, though, was right after we had run up the aisle and around the bend behind the hedges. We hugged and Mike picked me up. We both looked at each other and laughed and cried. I can't remember ever feeling such an explosion of joy. The reality of what had just happened, and the relief of it all, hit me like a ton of bricks. The best bricks ever!

busting loose

My funniest moment: My dad and I had a “fake out” start to our father-daughter dance. We started in position for a waltz or regular slow dance, and we both kept very serious looks on our faces. But then came the first “Heyyyy!” of James Brown's “I Got You (I Feel Good)” Something you should know is that my dad cannot hear this song without going completely bonkers. Growing up, any time it came on, he would rip off his tie if he was wearing one, need to pull over the car if he was driving, and just completely LET LOOSE. My dad is a very shy guy normally, so this is a riot for the rest of the family. We both boogied around the dance floor until I beckoned the rest of my family to join us. (Dad had already ripped off his suit coat so I was worried what was next!)

ancestor nook

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Things that worked for me in the weeks leading up to the wedding:

  1. Use Post-Its to plan (you get to throw them away with relish!)flower arrangements
  2. Eat breakfast
  3. Hold people's hands, even people whose hands you don't normally hold
  4. Devise a daily sanity ritual and stick with it no matter how much is competing for your attention (I went on a twenty-minute bike ride each morning along the river)
  5. Come up with a mantra and be flexible as the mantra may change day by day. My mantra for the beginning of the week before was “Plenty to do, but plenty of time to do it in.” This turned into “We've done enough” by the day before the wedding. When I started to feel like the week might get away from me and take on a mania I hated, Mike gave me a mantra for that: “We are in charge.” On the day of, my mantra was, “Receive and Surrender,” which I had borrowed from my yoga teacher a few weeks earlier. It was just what I needed, since I just wanted to bask in the love and well-wishes, and I just wanted to let go of any constraints I had needlessly put on the day itself.
  6. Lastly, I wore a big floppy beach hat during my two busiest errand days in the days leading up to the wedding. Every sales person and friend I interacted with said, “I can't believe how calm you are!” The thing is, I'm not sure I was calm, but I think my vacation hat had tricked them into thinking I was relaxed, and hearing them tell me how calm I looked actually calmed me down. I don't know if that is a duplicate-able strategy (if you don't feel like wearing a big beach hat, for example) but maybe that advice can be whittled down to: fake it 'til you make it. If you want to be calm and more present, look relaxed until eventually you are.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I think I learned something important about letting go of my impulse to control and manage. I was so worried about… well, how worried I would be on our wedding day. But when it finally came down to it, I felt this joyful ability to just let the day surprise me. I think I really learned to follow a lot of hard work with stepping back and letting what I've contributed to be whatever creature it has organically become.

dance parTAY

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Comments on Sara & Mike’s sunny secret garden vegan wedding

  1. Lovely Lovely Lovely.

    It’s all so classy with some cute arse quirk thrown in!

    Can I ask what the Groom’s Ted Baker suit is. I can’t find it and the cut of it is adorbz.

    Best wishes for your future.

  2. Reading about your wedding was such a help to me at this moment in my wedding planning. We’re getting married in May, and I am just beginning to feel the first stirrings of anxiety. The spirit with which you approached your wedding, and the wedding that resulted from the spirit out of which it grew, is what I’m aiming for. I will hold fast to the lessons in this writing, and in these photographs. Thank you for sharing it. Much happiness to you both. P.S. We live in Philadelphia, too! I’m going to check out the West Philadelphia Orchestra.

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