Rachel & Jake’s “Water for Elephants” state fair wedding

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 | Photography by Anna Marisol Photography
Bride & Groom in front of 'venue'

The Offbeat Bride: Rachel

Her offbeat partner: Jake, Lead Pharmacy Technician

Date and location of wedding: Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, AZ — October 31, 2013

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Our wedding theme was based on my favorite book, Water for Elephants, and had a 1930s circus feel. I purchased a custom paper bouquet and boutonniere made out of a Water for Elephants book and circus-y cardstock! It was so neat reading the excerpts of the book in the flowers.

View from The Ferris Wheel

Bride before ceremony

Elephant shrubbery

Bride's bouquet

Wedding posse

Groomsmen playing games

You could say our wedding was similar to an elopement. We had been planning a wedding at a venue, but the whole thing started to lose its allure as the stress and anxiety began to grow. We wanted something fun, so we scrapped the venue wedding and took a major risk. We remembered the Arizona State Fair is always in town in October. So on opening day, October 11th (20 days before our desired date), we ran down to the State Fair to talk to the carousel supervisor. He directed us to the fair supervisor and we asked if it was possible to have a short ceremony on the carousel. They said they would be glad to accommodate us and even contacted the local news about it!

Wedding party "walking down the aisle"


The guests sat on carousel horses, we walked down the aisle of the carousel to “Circus Fantasy” from the Water for Elephants film soundtrack, the flower girl tossed popcorn, and the bridesmaids carried cotton candy bouquets. The cotton candy proved too hard to resist and were later replaced with candy apples. We rode rides, the groomsmen played games, and we even used a deep-fried Twinkie as our wedding cake. It was like something out of my wildest dreams!

Bride & Father "walking down the aisle"

Waiting for our ceremony to begin

Groom reading his vows

Tell us about the ceremony:
We wanted to be married by someone who would play the part of ringmaster. My dad asked his friend with the biggest personality to fill the position. He wrote our ceremony which was carnival-themed as well:

Dearly beloved, children of all ages, and carnies, too: we are gathered here today, on probably the safest ride at the Arizona State Fair, to award Rachel and Jake lifetime passes on possibly the scariest ride of all, the bonds of holy matrimony, a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows, twists, and turns. It's not recommended for the faint of heart, or those under 42″ tall, but still a ride worth trying. If there is anyone here with just reason why these two should not be joined together, might I direct you to the concession stands. At this time, Rachel and Jake wish to exchange vows that they prepared while searching for a decent parking spot. [At the end:] I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may claim your prize!

Groom's vows


Bride & Groom

Looking at our view

Our biggest challenge:
Our biggest challenge was definitely having our pictures taken. Jake and I had maybe a total of five from our whole relationship. We would run and hide whenever a camera came out. So naturally, we were worried about all the picture taking and the news crews. I was so self-conscious that I didn't even want to look at our wedding photos or watch the news after.

I say “was” because the closer we got to the wedding, the more I realized Jake loves me for all that I am. That it was silly to cry over thinking about what others will think of me on my wedding day. The only opinions that mattered were ours. So when that camera came out, we didn't even notice it.

Carousel ride after the ceremony

My favorite moment:
The most meaningful moments of our wedding were the many times I was reminded why I married the man beside me. For some reason we assumed we could just show up, without rehearsing, and everything would be perfect. HA! So many things went wrong, and being the over-thinker I am, I started to dwell on it. But every time I would start to lose myself in my thoughts, Jake would hold my hand and tell me that everything was fine and that he wouldn't change a thing about our wedding because he was finally my husband. I am so thankful to have such an amazing man forever by my side on this merry-go-round of life.

Best Man telling us we forgot to put our rings on!

My funniest moment:
I have to say the funniest moment was directly after our vows, as we were pronounced husband and wife without our wedding rings. Being in our own world, of course, we kissed! There was a bit of a lull and we didn't understand why. We looked over at the best man, who was holding out the pumpkin with our rings still on it with an expression like, “Uh, guys?” We started to laugh and Jake ran over and retrieved the rings. We were so shaky and nervous, we fumbled to put them on. I was handing Jake my rings and I dropped my wedding band into a hole directly under our carousel horse! Luckily, our officiant had a Leatherman knife, otherwise I don't know how we would have gotten it out!

Groom putting Bride's rings on

Bride drops Groom's ring, Officiant saves the day!

Fried Twinkie in place of wedding cake

Fried Twinkie 'cake cutting'

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
The most important lesson I learned was to not get so wrapped up in the thoughts of everyone else. I spent many days and nights panicking over how the decor should look, how I would look in my wedding dress, what others would think of our wedding, how my double chin would “ruin” our wedding photos, etc. It was really exhausting and unnecessary. The day of the wedding, all of those silly thoughts left my head and it was just us.

To all partners-to-be with low self-esteem and anxiety, I urge you to look around at what matters most to you: your future partner and your life together. I know the details of your day are very important to you, but try to pull yourself out of hardcore wedding planning mode and enjoy the experience.

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Comments on Rachel & Jake’s “Water for Elephants” state fair wedding

  1. This wedding is so beautiful that it makes me want to cry! The dresses, the people, the place! This may be one of my favorites I’ve seen on OBB.

  2. Wow oh wow oh wow! you look fabulous and I LOVE the candy floss bouquets for the bridesmaids and your husband looks splendid in his braces and the flowers made from a special book are so fun and how great that you could read the text on them! Such a superb idea having your wedding at the carnival and at a *carousel*!

    It looks like the most marvellous dream, what a wonderful day for you both 🙂

  3. first of all you look exquisite!! I LOVE your hair your makeup is amazing! that DRESS -holy shit- you guys look like you fell right out of the movie. That “just married” photo looks like it fell out of a promo. It’s too perfect, this whole wedding is too perfect I can barely stand it this early in the morning!

    • thank you!! my hairdresser/mua is amazing. & aaaah! that is such a compliment! i’ll admit, we chose our outfits based on what jacob & marlena from water for elephants wore. so to hear you say we look like we fell right out of the movie, i am dead!

    • Wow! One of my favorite weddings ever! Love your hair and the bridesmaid dresses, and, well, the whole thing. You are a gorgeous bride. Major Congrats to you, Rachel, and Jake! <3 p.s. the bouquet is sensational.

  4. Girl, I have no idea how you are self conscious about how you look. You are DROP.DEAD.GORGEOUS! And I LOVED your dress! Everything about your day seemed like a dream come true! How awesome!

    • aaawww, thank you so much! :’) it was definitely a long struggle with my self esteem, but kind words from people like you helped me see myself as something other than my weight. thank you, again!

  5. Everything is absolutely gorgeous, but your makeup, dress — omg, your hair! Stunning, beautiful, I love it. 🙂

    • thank you very much! i was lucky enough to have a hairdresser who specialized in vintage looks!

  6. This is amazing. Being a plus size person and neurotic/anxiety ridden about every damn thing, I know where you are coming from. I’m getting married in October and I’ve already had several “oh god, nothing is going to look good” moments. I’m trying to not be a hot mess about it. Anyway, what I originally wanted to say is that you are gorgeous. I love your hair and makeup. You and your husband are seriously babe-ly.

    • thank you so much for the sweet compliments! i hope those moments are in the past. i am sure you are going to look absolutely beautiful on your day. want to know why? the day of the wedding, everything else fades away & it’s just you two! i was the kind of person who was so concerned about what everyone thought, so much so that i wouldn’t even look up from the ground while out in public. but on the day of the wedding, i was full of so much love, it gave me the self confidence i so desperately needed. i walked around with my head up (first time in a long time) & strutted my stuff & just looked at my husband the whole time! i didn’t even notice a “spectator”. i wish i would have realized that’s the gift our day would give us. i wish i would have realized sooo much earlier that the only opinion of MY looks that mattered was my own, & my husband’s. who genuinely loves me for me, & thinks i’m beautiful. i hope you realize it too. we need to stop fighting ourselves & look in the mirror & say we’re gorgeous! be gone bad thoughts!

    • thank you! i am so obsessed with my bouquet. it is so beautiful & fun! the best part, it will be beautiful forever, & just get better with age! i cannot wait for the book pages to yellow, & smell like old books! lol. & thank you! i loved our ceremony so much. i didn’t even get a chance to sob because our officiant kept us laughing.

  7. LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about this beautiful expression of unconditional love. The bride looked DROP DEAD GORGEOUS…that magnificent dress, the stunning hair, the tattoos… absolutely insanely gorgeous. My favourite part was the reading at the service. So epic, what a magical couple!

    • oh my goodness, thank you so much. your words make my heart swell! it really means a lot that you can see our unconditional love just from seeing our pictures & reading a little of our story. :’)

  8. I’m so excited about this post. I’ve been following the OBB website for years and it’s safe to say this is my favorite post ever! What a fantastic wedding. Everything about this is awesome: the bride is breathtakingly beautiful to begin with, her hair is PERFECT, the dress is just to die for, her litarery bouquet made me squeee …ULTIMATE WIN! If I could convince my partner to have a wedding theme like this, I would be ecstatic. It looks like it was so much fun, even with the things that “went wrong”. Those moments are part of what makes the day memorable, and I’m glad this bride was brave enough despite her self-consciousness to share her day with local news and OBB. I can’t stop looking at the pictures!

    • i can’t even handle the fact that you think this is your favorite on OBB! thank you sooo much! thank you for your sweet compliments about my appearance & my bouquet as well! the bouquet is such an amazing treasure from our day that i get to keep forever. the crafter is so great, she actually read the book before making the bouquet so she knew which pages to use for the flowers! it was so great being able to read some of my favorite sappy parts in the flowers! & you’re right, those moments definitely made the day more memorable. thank you for calling me brave & enjoying our pictures! :’)

  9. Rachel I love your wedding!! You are so beautiful, your hair and make up are just so classic, I love it! And your dress! OMG it is off the charts awesome, beautiful, gorgeous! I am plus sized as well and share all of your concerns, I am getting married in September and I decided that I am throwing all those concerns out the window! Thank you for sharing your day!

    • thank you, this makes me happy in so many ways! to hear that you’re throwing those concerns out of the window warms my heart. you have so much to be obnoxiously happy for, why let your thoughts get you down! i love that you are realizing it now, with so much time before your wedding. now you can focus on what is most important, you & your love for your partner! i wish you the best, stay positive!

    • isn’t she wonderful?! she had so many obstacles thrown in her way, news crews blocking her, a very short amount of time, us being pulled in different directions, etc but she still shot 300+ pictures, IN TWO HOURS. she is amazing. we were so lucky to score such an incredible person as our photographer.

  10. I’m not only in love with your wedding, but your whole philosophy on weddings! You looked amazing by the way 🙂 Congrats!

    • aww! thank you so much, i really appreciate that! thank you for complimenting me as well!

  11. Oh, this wedding is gorgeous!! Your hair colour and style are amazing and the two of you are so cute and everything about the whole thing is just lovely! And, I know this is a really creepy sentence, but I am super jealous of your skin – is that amazing makeup powers or is your skin actually that perfect? Jeal-ous. Anyway (back in non creepy land) lovely wedding super pretty looks like fun!

    • thank you! i am so in love with my wedding hair! my hairdresser/mua is so great, she even lent me the fascinator in my hair & a wedding purse! always trying to help me be stylish! thank you, i am pretty damn in love with that man, so it means a lot that you think we’re cute! :’) & not creepy at all! i actually get asked this question quite often. everything below the chin is pretty pale, but my face is red! so again, my hairdresser/mua is incredible & helped my face match my body perfectly!

  12. You look sooooooooooooooo beautiful would love a wedding like that the first night my partner and I went out it was to luna park love fairground for that reason

    • aww, i love that! i actually just found out my cousin proposed to his wife at the same fair we got married at! its a great date! we plan to go back every anniversary!

  13. Wow. Teary over here. Amazing wedding! So fun and so beautiful and I LOVE IT SO MUCH. I just wanna hug it.

    Also, you look AMAZING. Like… yowza. Your makeup is divine, your hair awesome and the dress! I love all things shiny and glittery and the shape looked incredible on you.

    • d’aww!! well i just want to hug YOU! thank you for your kind words. & if i could live in that dress, I WOULD. it was so perfect! until i ruined it from letting it drag around the fair… *facepalm*

  14. I love this wedding!! Love the beautiful bride’s dress, hair, shrug, parasol……. bridesmaids dresses, bouquet, cotton candy, candy apples, etc… Beautiful pictures on the Ferris Wheel and carousel! Love love love:)

    • WOW, thank you so much! i can tell just by looking at your picture, you’re quite the vintage enthusiast, so to hear you say you enjoyed my attempt at a vintage ensemble, really means a lot. & thank you! i can’t believe the backgrounds we had in our pictures, so dreamy!

  15. What a great atmosphere. It looks like such a fun wedding. I am just in love with the bouquet!

    • thank you! it was the perfect atmosphere. i was so happy i couldn’t even shed a HAPPY TEAR. i was that happy, running around the fair with my new husband was exactly what this anxious bride needed! & isn’t the bouquet wonderful? i wish i could get married again just to have the crafter make me another! i cannot wait for the pages of the book to age.

  16. Ok can we just stop and take a moment to oggle her amazing hair?

  17. Allllll of this.
    So swoon worthy and dreamy. I love your dress especially (gotta love a bride in black!). It all looked flawless and joyous! Congrats!

    • thank you so very much! i swoon over our wedding pictures too often, so to hear someone else was too, is a really nice feeling! & thank you, that dress was like a dream.

  18. Amazing. I love so many things about this wedding! Those bridesmaid dresses are fantastic. Congratulations to the both of you.

  19. This may be my favorite OBB wedding!! And its the only wedding that I’ve viewed the slide show for. Everything about this is perfect!

  20. It breaks my heart that this bride don’t know, through and through, how stunningly beautiful she is. Her curves are perfection and that skin!

    And this wedding is easily the most beautiful I’ve seen on any site. I wish I were brave enough to be so untraditional — I mean, the red striped bridesmaid dresses? I die!

  21. I love everything about this wedding. The bride is gorgeous! Rachel, do you have a style blog?

  22. I love your wedding. It is so beautiful and perfect!!! Funny how something so not me or my style can bring tears to my eyes… I would not expect that! Did I mention I love your wedding? ;-)…. I do have a question, if bride or anybody with a similar style could help me I would appreciate it!! I love the hair color! It is so so so perfect, how is it done? What dye is used to achieve it? Thank you.

  23. Like the ladies said above- I love EVERYTHING about your wedding, Rachel. The bridesmaids dresses made me clap my hands with glee, the bouquet was brilliant, and that sequin dress fit you to PERFECTION. So beautiful!

  24. Oh my goodness. Your hair. And your lipstick. And lady, your derrière in that dress. Seriously. You look absolutely flawless, and the two of you just look so relaxed and so in love. Beautiful wedding, beautiful couple, beautiful beautiful beautiful. <3

  25. Rachel, I just wanted to say how truly lovely you look in your photos, and how handsome and loving your husband appears. You look glamorous and old-timey beautiful! I’m so glad you had a wedding that fit you guys, and you totally rocked it.

  26. Gorgeous!!! SO MUCH GORGEOUS!! Congratulations to you both! You and your wedding are stunning!

  27. I LOVE this wedding!! Water for elephants is probably one of my favourite books and you did this theme so perfectly! Your bridesmaids dresses were amazing, and i love the bouquet with the words from the book in it! And your “just married” photo is one of my favourite wedding photos ever! Well done on such a wonderful wedding, x

  28. I am a native Phoenician & I have *never* seen the State Fairgrounds look so magical. These pictures not only show a happy (& gorgeous) couple, but they manage to evoke the fun & the love that every union deserves. Also, it kinda makes me want to be friends with such a cool couple. 😉

  29. What a beautiful, fun wedding! I love everything about it. The candy apples, the carousel, the attendant dresses. Despite the fun, spontaneous air, it’s clear some planning and care went into it. I especially adore the lovely retro look of the bride and groom–he could be standing on the running board of a car in the Depression, and she is a lovely pin-up style beauty.

  30. Absolutely stunning!!! I’m completely dewy eyed by how beautiful everything was, and those were some much needed words of wisdom.

  31. THIS. This wedding forever and ever. I can’t stop glazing over as I look at the photographs. Every detail is perfection. You are a stunningly beautiful bride. This truly is wedding porn. Yet all of that superficial detail pales in comparison to the emotion and heart I grasp while reading this post. This is exactly what I needed to read just one month from my own wedding. As I obsess over what everyone will think of my choices and whether my wedding will be good enough for anyone else (let alone myself) and what will go wrong (because I know that things will, in fact, go wrong)…. I read your words and am comforted to know that I am not the first nor the last bride to feel these feelings and more importantly, that none of it matters. What truly matter is the life I am co-creating with my incredible groom. Thank you. Thank you a million times over.

  32. My friend posted your wedding story on her Facebook and I had to read about it! I LOVED everything you two decided to do! Your outfits were so cool! You both looked awesome!! I loved your husband’s suspenders and your bouquet was amazing!!!! The bridesmaids were adorable too! I loved the vows your father’s friend wrote. He must have a great personality to come up with such fun vows! This wedding was probably one of the most fun I’ve ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I also loved your hair, makeup, and dress. You looked amazing!!! Maybe you should become a wedding planner for unique weddings 🙂 Blessings for a long happy marriage for you both!!

  33. OK, gorgeous all around, I know I’m late to this party, but how GORGEOUS and cinematic, I just love it. And can we talk about the fact that the groom looks like Gilbert Blythe? Just me? Adorable. Beautiful details, beautiful couple, and I applaud you realizing a big wedding was stressing you out and deciding to make it more your own – I loved my wedding, but midway through planning I was really wishing we’d eloped.

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