The offbeat bride: Bex, School Psychologist
Her offbeat partner: Cort, Counselor and Therapist
Date and location of wedding: McMenamins, Portland, OR — July 31, 2011
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We got a lot of questions about what we were doing if it wasn't legally recognized. Why have it at all? Why not go back to New York? We wanted to have a wedding where we lived, within our faith, with our friends and family — government recognition be damned! I suppose you could count that as offbeat, but really it just fit us better.
I wore a non-white dress and gorgeously giant, bright shoes. It was very important to us to have a gender neutral wedding ceremony: no “bride and groom” — but no “he or she” either. We had a lot of DIY. I made all the bouquets and boutonnières, all the centerpieces, my veil, chalkboard signs, the bulk of the wedding program, and all the seating “cards” (spray-painted silver cassette tapes.)
We also had a lot of DBF (done-by-friends), like our handmade Kiddush cup (thrown and glazed by a potter friend, carved by us). A friend handmade our gorgeous chuppah and embroidered our names and the date at the center. Another friend designed the sign-in board with the two albums that most influenced us growing up to be who we each are (the hilarious match of Ani DiFranco and The Pixies). They also designed our save-the-dates, the designs for the one-inch pins we gave out as wedding favors, made our table numbers, and designed the cover of our wedding program. Yet another friend created our ring pillow.
We walked ourselves down the aisle to our very wonderful liberal rabbi, using alternative Sheva Brachot, breaking two glasses at the end of the ceremony, and having a mix-gendered wedding party where they all wore their own outfits, within some guidelines. Our cake topper looked like us, our dog, three cats, and three chickens.
We had a family dance instead of just a father/daughter dance, and an offbeat horah. Lesson learned: when your DJ says they are familiar with the horah, make sure they actually are familiar with the horah.
Tell us about the ceremony: We entered to Cat Power's “Sea of Love” and left to Michael Jackson's “Don't Stop ‘Til You Get Enough.” We included “circling.” Traditionally the bride circles the groom seven times. Instead, we each circled each other three times, and completed the final circle together. We used “Origin Of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch as one of our seven blessings. We took the traditional themes of the Sheva Brachot (seven blessings) and used our own take including social justice quotes, a Neil Gaiman quote, and a Hedwig song. We had friends and family read them.
Here are some of our blessings:
Fourth Blessing: On The Diversity Of Humanity
Blessed is the design of humankind. The diversity of humanity is remarkable: out of the same basic shape, infinite variations. May you find comfort in the similarities shared by all of the world's cultures and celebrate the qualities that make us different.
Fifth Blessing: On Social Justice
Blessed is the joy of this gathering. Despite its blessings, we live in a broken world. May you be blessed to live in a world where there is food for those who are hungry, homes for those who are homeless, freedom for those who are oppressed, and peace and equality for all.
Sixth Blessing: On Communal Responsibility
“By accepting responsibility, we take effective steps toward our goal: an inclusive human society on a habitable planet, a society that works for all humans and for all nonhumans. By accepting responsibility, we move closer to creating a world that works for all.”
– Sharif M. Abdullah
Seventh Blessing: On New Beginnings
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
– Neil Gaiman
Here is the meat of our vows/ketubah:
It has been said that when the world was created, everything fit perfectly like the pieces in a puzzle. There was beauty; there was peace; there was love. Over time, the pieces were blown apart and scattered. But, every time two souls come together in love and harmony, the puzzle comes together a bit more. The light of their joining is greater than the light they cast alone.
As we set out on our journey, we know there will be pockets of darkness. May we have the courage to pass through. Let us honor our separateness, but know that together our light is a beacon to show us our way. May our light shine back upon the traditions of our ancestors and forward to illumine the way for future generations. Let our love shine a light to repair the world.
I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine.
My favorite moment: I was surprised at how emotional the private ceremony of reading and signing the ketubah was right before we walked down the aisle. In that same vein, we had requested not to do a parent blessing during the ceremony (Cort's parents are not Jewish, and we didn't want to have totally blatant inequities) but my parents were really hurt. Our rabbi decided to do a parent blessing right after the ketubah signing “for them.” It was surprisingly emotional for me, in a great way.
But the most meaningful part was having my hands completely crushed by Cort squeezing them throughout the ceremony, and getting to share our love in a public way in front of friends and family and having it reflected back. I didn't expect the ceremony to feel so huge in our bond (it's 20 minutes out of five years) but it felt big — magical.
My funniest moment: My dad. My dad was hilarious. During the cocktail hour, he decided things were going too slowly and people might be getting bored, so he grabbed the mic and started emceeing. He instructed people to look at the sign-in board, the cake-toppers, letting them know there was going to be a photo booth, and saying things like “we're gonna do stuff,” which has now become our catch phrase whenever we have something fun planned. It was hilarious (and, might I add, not in the schedule I had created).
When it was time to give toasts, my dad whipped out a poster board and started pinning pictures to it. He gave a presentation! Watching my dad and Cort dance together during the family dance was also amazing. He complained afterward that Cort kept trying to lead. Hello? That's why it was amazing!
Also, in the photo booth, we had a scrapbook in which guests could post pictures or write notes. Cort and I looked through it in bed that night crying with laughter!
Our first dance was also funny. Cort and I could not agree on a song. We finally went with “Eternal Flame” since Cort's first concert was The Bangles. I love the '80s, and we both love Susannah Hoffs. I kept asking if we could practice (I may or may not be a control freak), but we never did. We started singing it to each other (isn't that what you do with '80s songs?) and I was crying and laughing. Before you knew it, we were twirling like music boxes and general being silly. I die.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? My family and Cort's family are very different, and they had never met. My family is really involved in our lives (as much as possible from the opposite coast) and were really involved in the wedding. I had a lot of anxiety about the parental meet-up. I worried their feelings might be hurt about inequities in parental involvement in ceremony parts and reception pieces. Cort's a steady, non-freak-out kind of person. I kept getting reminders that you cannot manage other people's emotional reactions, and that other people are fully responsible for their own behaviors.
But it was all fine! Cort's brother gave me a hug and welcomed me to the family, and Cort's mom loved all the handmade touches and took a centerpiece (or two). The following night both families went out to an unplanned dinner.
I was also worried I would face-plant walking in heels down the grassy aisle, but I didn't!
My advice for offbeat brides: There is a post on Offbeat Bride which is a letter from a DIY bride to herself. READ IT! It's so good, so true. Also, DIY is not always cheap. Do you have teacher friends? Use their Michael's and JoAnne Fabrics discounts with coupons if you need to buy new materials — and give yourself time!
We also got a joint credit card that earned miles and charged everything wedding-related to it that we could to use the miles for a honeymoon (or maybe a first-year anniversary jaunt!).
Finally, one of the most helpful things on the day of the ceremony was appointing one trusted friend who was not in the wedding party to the role of “Cruise Director.” Our friend, J, was given a binder with maps of the reception, table placements, seating charts, set-up instructions, a list of items to pack up when it was all said and done, the day's schedule, contact info for all our vendors, and copies of all the readings just in case there was one forgetful participant. Having someone review the details of the day and confirm everything was ready to go helped to relieve a lot of stress and anxiety on me and Cort.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Make a list for your photographer! I did that, but I focused more on people. I made the bouquets for the wedding party and I was really proud of them. I had made mine first, using a kit from Princess Lasertron. I was hooked, and made all of the wedding party's bouquets. They were made with pins and buttons to specifically match their personality: one had flower centers of cupcakes, bikes, and books, and one had mostly rock and Star Wars flower centers.
On a less materialistic note, I also learned that all the anxiety I had worrying what my parents would think about this bucked tradition or that bucked tradition was totally unnecessary. The wedding was so authentic to us that all the little things on their own that seemed wild or weird to my parents all really made sense put together — kind of like me and Cort.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Bex's dress: Jenny Yoo from The English Department
- Cort's Suit: Custom-made by Duchess Clothier
- Bex's shoes: Irregular Choice
- Cake Toppers: Etsy seller mudcards
- Stupidly Delicious Vegan Cake: Sweet Pea Bakery
- Ketubah: Etsy seller UrbanCollective
- Bex's fascinator and wedding party fascinators: August Veils
- Local Etsian who turned our designs into sweet one-inch pins for favors: Brainscan
- Photographer: Jessica Watson
- Photo booth: Chaotime
- Hair styles: Allison O'Hara at Do RadCuts and Color
Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!
Comments on Bex & Cort’s big queer Jewish wedding
I’ve never commented on a post before, but I felt compelled with this one. So beautiful! The details, the readings, the loooooove…wonderful post and lovely couple!
I love that they used “Origins of Love” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch. That song is so great! Awesome wedding!!!
I LOVE your stories about the dances! Congrats on all of the love that you share together.
Whata wonderful wedding! My partner and I are getting married in September in Michigan and have to do the Legal part in New York. We applaud you on your unique, wonderful and beautiful day!
Thanks so much for suggesting the “cruise director” idea! There are lots of different elements planned for our day, and I’ve been stressing about how we’ll get fifty people going in one direction at the same time, etc. Usually it’s me playing “cruise director” for everything else in my life, but I absolutely don’t want to be doing that on my wedding day – so I love the idea of asking someone else to do it!! You may have just saved my sanity! Thank you!! 🙂
The thing is, everyone will want to help out that day. The truth is you won’t have time to keep giving directions! Also I’m a control freak- I’m the person who leaves a four page note on how to watch my cats while I’m on vacation. This allowed me to make sure I had all my information clearly stated and diagramed and listed all in someone else’s hands.
Cannot agree strongly enough with the Cruise Director advice! We made a giant document including schedules, floor plans, and contact info that my hubs called The Dossier and gave a copy to everyone who had even minimal involvement, as well as spares for parents and attendants. It helped the day move smoothly knowing that others knew our schedule and its details and allowed me to relax. I’m a control-lover and couldn’t imagine relinquishing control on our wedding day, but I did it, and because I was over-prepared, it was fabulous! 🙂
Funnily enough, my dad stole the show on our wedding day too! He made the most hilarious, sweet, wonderful toast, which I hadn’t expected him to do. People are STILL telling us about how my dad made the best father’s toast ever. He didn’t whip out a poster board though, and now I am wishing he had! 😀
And, CONGRATS to Bex and Cort on a gorgeous, beautiful, heartfelt, fun day! Thank you for sharing it with us.
Aww shucks everyone, thanks!
Bex I am working on a wedding for young friends who will get married in early Sept. I find your wedding very inspiring. Would you be willing to share the other blessings 1, 2 & 3 as well as how you have reframed the theme ie4 the diversity of humanity and 5 Social Justice? Thanks so much I wish you both the Very Best Eleanor
Am I the only person lusting over this suit? It looks amazing, I’m actually jealous right now.
I have such a soft place in my heart for bouquets with buttons and these look GREAT!
I’ve been trying to figure out some way to use Origin of Love (the Rufus Wainwright version) for aaaages, I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who thinks it’s awesome. Also, I dunno if singing along to 80’s songs is just “what you do,” but my guy does have a penchant for singing Human League songs to me in falsetto.
Thank you for posting your wedding. It looks so beautiful and fun. My fiance (female, the word fiance gets confusing when you are gay) and I are getting married next year and are also getting a lot of help from friends. They are djing, helping coordinate flowers, day of cruise directing, etc. Did you do something special to recognize all the help you got or do something for them in thanks? I’m struggling with a great way to say thank you to all our helpers.
Well, we thanked everyone individually in our program. A few of our friends made things as wedding gifts (best kind!) and we sent them the most heart felt thank yous we could muster. Our friends that made 5000 things we got a gift certificate for a gluten free date night. Mostly though, it was just verbally expressing gratitude!
Neil Gaiman and Hedwig? I think I love you guys. What a gorgeous day! I glow with happiness for the both of you.
AAAAH, I love this! I especially love that you personalized the Seven Blessings! I’m ethnically Jewish, but not religious, and I’ve been looking for ways to include my heritage in the ceremony without making it God-centric. You have given me about a million ideas that I’m crazy about!
I posted all seven blessings in the Jewish Group back in the old tribe under a discussion called “alternative sheva brachot” if you want to see the whole thing (can one still find things on the old tribe? I haven’t been paying attention), and also there were great suggestions from other tribe members of non-God-centric approaches to the blessings… Jewish ceremonies can be very very flexible. 🙂
The Ning Tribe is archived, so stuff is there for members to refer to — but new Tribe members don’t have logins, and everything over there will be deleted in October. I have an email scheduled to go out tomorrow to all Ning members about these issues, actually. 🙂
Do you still have the link to where in the Jewish group you posted your alternative readings?? THANKS!
what a beautiful wedding. we are getting married in november (same sex) and have gotten so many great ideas from this site. Our wedding is going to be a jewish ceremony too and I have already begun writing my vows. My sister lives in Portland – great city!
You guys, I just got all teary! What an amazing wedding. I loved your ceremony… Would you mind if I borrow from the vows/ketubah section? I have always loved that image of love helping to fix the world. Thanks so much for sharing!
For sure! It’s actually only very very slightly adapted from a traditional mystic (kabbalistic) ketubah text!
Ok, thanks! I will have to do some research on that so I know what I am appropriating! ‘;o)
Is your Dad available for other people’s weddings?
You’re not the first to ask that…
hi, i’m totally an OBB lurker, but i wanted to let you know that you just made me cry! the way you did the sheva brachot… i’ll be teary for the rest of the day. you just don’t see love like this every day. mazel tov!
A fellow school psychologist! High five!
High five! So you understand where my organizational fixations and constant need to spread myself thin with 5000 projects comes from!
Beleagured school psychologists FTW! Double high five to both of you! I’m in a different career now, but I still feel like a member of the club. (You can take the psychologist out of the school, but you can’t take the school out of the psychologist…or something!) 🙂
Your shoes are fucking awesome! You both looked hot! Congrats!
You both just GLOW with love, and also look super fantastic, and are helping me start to craft our Portland wedding in my head. It sounds like you had a total blast and I’m so glad you shared!
Those. Effing. Shoes.
I think I just died a little. From pure shoe lust.
I’m queer and Jewish, with a genderqueer partner, and I’m so glad you posted this beautiful wedding. I wish you a very happy life together.
(*bookmarks post for the inspirations folder*)
Awwww.. it’s so sweet!
Mazel Tov! Would you be willing to share the full sheva brachot with us?
1. Kiddush/Blessing over wine
When the earth was still flat,
And the clouds made of fire,
And mountains stretched up to the sky,
Folks roamed the earth
Like big rolling kegs.
They had two sets of arms.
They had two sets of legs.
They had two faces peering
Out of one giant head
So they could watch all around them
As they talked; while they read.
And they never knew nothing of love.
It was before the origin of love.
And then fire shot down
From the sky in bolts
Like shining blades
Of a knife.
To scatter us away,
In a flood of wind and rain,
And a sea of tidal waves,
To wash us all away.
Last time I saw you
We had just split in two.
You were looking at me.
I was looking at you.
You had a way so familiar,
But I could not recognize,
Cause you had blood on your face;
I had blood in my eyes.
But I could swear by your expression
That the pain down in your soul
Was the same as the one down in mine.
That’s the pain,
Cuts a straight line
Down through the heart;
We called it love.
It’s the story of
The origin of love.
-John Cameron Mitchell, excerpt from The Origin of Love
From nature, source of all Energy, we call forth an abundance of love to embrace
this couple. Today with this joyous celebration, we honor life itself.
4. Diversity of Humanity:
Blessed is the design of humankind. The diversity of humanity is remarkable:
out of the same basic shape, infinite variations. May you find comfort in the
similarities shared by all of the world’s cultures and celebrate the qualities that
make us different.
5. For Social Justice:
Blessed is the joy of this gathering. Despite its blessings, we live in a broken
world. May you be blessed to live in a world where the there is food for those
who are hungry, homes for those who are homeless, freedom for those who are
oppressed, and peace and equality for all.
6. Communal Responsibility:
“By accepting responsibility, we take effective steps toward our goal: an inclusive
human society on a habitable planet, a society that works for all humans and for
all nonhumans. By accepting responsibility, we move closer to creating a world
that works for all.” –Sharif M. Abdullah
7. New Beginnings:
“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I
hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful,
and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only
you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”
— Neil Gaiman
A couple of these came from tribe member (2dBride), who was kind enough to share her sheva brachot…
Thanks SO much! Several rabbis have requested this and I’m excited to share it.
I seriously started to cry when I read your readings. I would love to use some of these for my wedding, if you don’t mind. I am a social worker (or, will be after my graduation in May), and your piece of social justice made my heart flutter.
Thank you!! Your wedding was absolutely beautiful, and the two of you look like absolutely tremendous people, especially together 🙂
Bookmarked in my “ideas” folder for your use of a Neil Gaiman quote (he’s my fiance’s favorite author of all time), and discussion of navigating Jewish and non-Jewish families. My fiance and his family are Jewish (and fairly observant) while my mom is very Catholic and my dad and I are more or less atheist/agnostic, so we’re trying to figure out how to bring Jewish elements into our wedding without totally freaking out my mom.
Congratulations! And I love your silvery dress, I think I want a silver dress too!
LOVE that bouquet!!
I come back here and read this ceremony, and everytime EVERYTIME it makes me tear up. I think ours will be very similar, and it’s all so very touching. <3
Hey your wedding venue is our honeymoon spot! Edgefield is so beautiful (just like your wedding)! 🙂
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