end of toast
Photos by Allison and Geoff Conklin

The Offbeat Bride: Rose, Ph.D. Candidate, Teaching Fellow, and Adjunct Instructor in Religious Studies

Her offbeat partner: Nick, Ph.D. Candidate and Graduate Fellow

Date and location of wedding: The College of Physicians, Philadelphia, PA — March 23, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We planned the wedding around our geeky passions, love of books, and DIY projects. We made the escort cards from library cards we got on Amazon, stamped them with our Royal Steamline monogram, and had them calligraphed. We had the programs done at Kinkos, and my friend and planner extraordinaire, Adele Betz, stamped them all with the monogram. The favors were mini-editions of books (ordered on Amazon) that we put little stickers in, made on Vistaprint.

escort cards

book favor 2

cake topper

The LEGO elements were all of my childhood LEGOs, plus LEGO mini-figs from the many, many Star Wars LEGO sets that decorate our house. Every one of our family members was assigned a unique mini-fig for their bouquet or boutonniere. My little cousins probably permanently borrowed the ones that are still unaccounted for, which includes the Wampa that was on our cake.

All of my jewelry was my grandmother's, except for the bracelets which were Alexis Bittar. I changed into a Calvin Klein cocktail dress and put on a Tajik wedding headpiece that I bought on eBay.


We have a lot of friends who don't drink (or dance), and we wanted them to have something cool to do after dinner. We both love tea and coffee houses, so we had a tea house in the extra room in our venue. I bought lots of pillows at discount places, and a rug, and they moved around the furniture from the venue to make a really lovely space based on photographs and paintings from the nineteenth century. Our event designer, Brittany, had it lit with candles and lanterns, and the tables were set with dessert and coffee service. We had a scotch bar in there as well, for our non-dancing but drinking friends. At the end of the day, about 30 people really danced (including me!) on the dance floor, and everyone else hung out in the tea room.

turkish tea room

Tell us about the ceremony: We both study religion for a living, and I'm a secular Jew and Nick is a lapsed Catholic, so we knew it would be a challenge to put this together conventionally. But that challenge ended up being a real blessing. We worked with our officiant, David, and used a template from the Unitarian Universalist Church as a framework.


Since neither of us have any living grandparents, and my family has lost a number of important folks over the years, we wanted to do something to honor everyone who wasn't there. I went to Quaker school most of my life, so we started with a moment of silence and held all of our loved ones “in the light” as they say. Then David read this from Jami's Yusuf and Zulaikha (a classic Sufi work):

Truly, when a loved one has mingled with our very soul, the bond thus formed can never be broken. In a single instant the soul can sever its link with the body; but the bond of love holds fast eternally. This was put so well by one victim of love's wounds, when he said, ‘Musk may lose its fragrance, and the rose its hue; but it is beyond the powers of a loving soul to renounce his love for the beloved.'


Our readings were from The Little Prince (which was probably the most conventional choice), Rilke, and Slavoj Zizek. David gave a homily about what marriage means for us, which relied heavily on Transformers references, which had everyone laughing and crying at the same time.


We wrote our own vows which recounted the story of when we first confessed our feelings for each other (which was also hilarious) and then made a series of both silly and serious promises to each other. We wrapped up the ceremony with a responsive reading of the Seven Blessings which I heavily adapted. The Seven Blessings were very important for my parents, as they are part of a traditional Jewish wedding, but the actual blessings don't all reflect the values that Nick and I share. I went through and took out anything that referred to marriage as being between a man and a woman only, or that referred to a woman “obeying.”

The rest of the blessings center around creating fellowship, community, and love, and also stress the importance of Tikkun Olam, which is a nice message to end a ceremony on. At the end, we didn't kiss because I think we were both too nervous!



Our biggest challenge: For us as a couple, it was staying calm in the face of all of the little, stupid, annoying decisions that seem to pop up in the face of wedding planning. 90% of this stuff doesn't actually matter at the end of the day, but when the people that YOU care about (i.e. your parents) get worked up about something, you feel like you need to care too. We tried to solve this by taking the part that was the most important to us: the officiant and the ceremony, and making that 100% our responsibility.


For me personally, it was managing the expectations that I imagined people to have. I am a pretty eclectic dresser, and I have been doing makeup and hair and styling for friends of mine basically my whole life. I almost bought a purple wedding dress because I thought that's what everyone else would expect me to wear. I bought something I liked, had it made into something I loved, and wore a totally rad hat made by an amazing lady. Win.


pose 2

My favorite moment: There were two I think. One was right after the ceremony, when Nick and I had 10 minutes for Yichud, or seclusion. We were adamant that we get 10 minutes alone right afterwards to just be together and take a deep breath. The second was actually taking our photos after the ceremony with our families because there was just so much love, but it wasn't overwhelming. And Nick and I got to recreate some old-timey photos based on old family photographs.

Jeff's toast

My funniest moment: The 45-minute long toast that our best friend Jeff gave. It was hilarious, and kind, and also a bit bizarre, which made the people who didn't know him scratch their heads, but left us in tears of laughter. There are at least 30 photos of us taken during this toast and they are some of the best of the whole day.



What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? A wedding isn't about being someone you are not, and and it's not about making your partner someone else. I love dressing up and dancing, and Nick doesn't. At the end of the day, we both got what we wanted and we both got each other.

costume change!

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Comments on Check the Star Wars LEGO details at this Philadelphia nerdy wedding

  1. College of Physicians/Mutter Museum! Love the venue and the entire aesthetic of this gorgeous day. And that last dancing pic is so romantic!

  2. Your Tajik head dress is gorgeous. I’ve taken a bit of a hobby in central Asian and Caucases clothing culture of the last couple years, so I was so pumped to see it. It went os well with your cocktail dress.

    Not to pry too far, but I’m curious what brought about that decision to wear it? Is it part of your heritage or areas of study?

    • I study islamic textiles and material culture, with a special interest in talismans and apotropaia. The headdress jingles to repel the evil eye and is covered in fish which are a symbol of good fortune!

  3. What a beautiful wedding! How did you incorporate Transformers into your ceremony? My FH is crazy about Transformers and we were looking for way to bring his love of them into our wedding.

    • Our officiant used the transformer references through the homily. We told him that our idea of marriage was about two unique individuals coming together to form a superior entity, but where each partner was still their own person. It sounded slot like optimus prime so David just ran with the metaphor!

  4. Please please please let me know where I can find those mini books = I’ve been searching everywhere!!

    • That was a huge pain. We started with Amazon, and my dad tracked down all the different titles. It took over a month for them all to trickle in. Dad has crazy patience.

  5. *laughs*
    Locals that quote Žižek in a wedding! …why aren’t we friends? 😉 Lovely wedding, and at a very lovely spot!

  6. Beautiful wedding! Especially love the LEGO mini-figs on the cake, and the Little Prince references in the ceremony 🙂

  7. Such a beautiful wedding! I’m Jewish and my fiance isn’t. While my family isn’t very religious, there are some parts that I want to include in the ceremony. I loved that you found a way to incorporate it into yours. Both of your dresses are AMAZING.

  8. I’d love to see the modification on the Seven Blessings if it’s not too personal. My fiance and I are not especially traditional and I’m struggling to pick what elements to include and what to set aside as we prepare for our wedding!

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