Offbeat partners: Adam & Tim
Date and location: Craig Y Nos Castle , 04/01/2022
Our queer Mad Hatter's tea party wedding at a glance:
My husband and I got married on 1st April 2022; I’m non-binary and he is gay. Our wedding was an unapologetic celebration of queer joy, community, and friendship, that required us to take a different path through much of the planning process. The theme for the day was a ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’, embracing April Fool’s Day, my love of hat-making, and our decision to serve afternoon tea for the wedding breakfast.
I wore three different fascinators throughout the day (each inspired by residents of Wonderland), and we invited our guests to give their wildest millinery an outing. While we didn’t want to overdo the theme, it provided a unifying aesthetic and helped to soften some of the more gothic elements of our venue. Being from the UK, we had to separate our legal marriage from our wedding ceremony to use gender-neutral language. This gave us the opportunity to create a non-religious ceremony that would acknowledge the important people in our lives, celebrate the specifics of our love, and provide the opportunity for everyone to participate.
In addition to being non-binary, I have ADHD and I’m recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Consequently, accessibility was an important consideration for the day, and we worked hard to accommodate and empower everyone in attendance. We scheduled a break between the wedding breakfast and the evening events to allow everyone the opportunity to recharge, and this was very popular, particularly after the social restrictions of the pandemic.
Tell us about the queer Mad Hatter's tea party wedding ceremony:
Our wedding ceremony was held in Craig Y Nos Castle’s beautifully ornate opera house. Our wedding party contained individuals playing an active role in designing, leading, and supporting our ceremony. There was no Best Man, no Maid of Honour, just the close friends we knew had the flexibility and the expertise to make it a success.
Our party included four celebrants, each leading a different section of our ceremony, a pianist, ushers, and our ceremony coordinator. Despite the lack of a legal component, we wanted something that would still feel like a marriage ceremony, something transformative, where we would enter as partners and leave as spouses.
“Love is a simple word, but far from a simple concept. What is obvious, however, is that love is a central part of the human experience. It is a magic which unlocks a more fully realised version of ourselves, without ever asking us to change. It rewards our vulnerability with unconditional acceptance. It makes us braver, more compassionate, and less guarded in all our relationships.”
The final ceremony script was divided into four sections, each led by different members of our wedding party, spanning an introduction, the history of our relationship, our vows and the exchange of rings, and a celebration of the support of our loved ones. The last component involved a flower ceremony, in which each member of the congregation was invited to place a rose in an arrangement.
“Your love, support and guidance have brought Adam and Tim to this point, something for which they will always be grateful. For some of us, today may be our first and only meeting, but we are all connected by our love for Adam and Tim, and by our commitment to support and uphold them in their marriage. Entering the theatre today, you were each presented with a single rose. To honour the importance of their family and friends, Adam and Tim now invite everyone present to come forward, row by row, and place a flower in this vase.”
In keeping with the rest of the script, we decided to customise our vows. I used a simple, two-part structure; the first half communicated what I love about my fiancé and what his love has given me, while the second outlined the things I hope to always give him in return. Since I was the first to write my vows, my fiancé opted to see them and use them to inform his. I decided not to see his vows before the ceremony and they were a lovely, very moving, surprise.
“You are beautiful inside and out. You are the kindest, most thoughtful, most generous person I have ever met. You've allowed me to see the world with new eyes and regain a sense of excitement and possibility.
You want to see me and that makes me want to be seen. Every time I have been braced for ‘I didn’t sign up for this’, you have met me with love, interest, and support. You'll never know just how much that means to me and I will always support you in living a life of joyful authenticity.
I will always be there for you, to encourage, to challenge, to comfort, to celebrate, to love you unconditionally. I will never take you for granted, and I will do everything in my power to ensure you receive the generosity and kindness you so readily put out into the world.
I can’t believe how lucky I am to have found you, and it would be my honour to spend the rest of my life by your side.”
We were incredibly fortunate to benefit from a friend’s considerable experience in designing religious services and shepherding congregations for various forms of participation. The ceremony went off without a hitch, and many guests commented that it was their favourite part of the day. I think they responded to the ceremony’s focus on our relationship, our love and our marriage, and our willingness to be open and honest about what is important to us. Having the freedom to use a script that could celebrate our marriage, rather than marriage as an institution, was the silver lining of separating the legal ceremony from our wedding day and a gift for which we are truly grateful.
“Adam and Tim. It is with joy that I now send you out into the world to spread the beautiful light that you share with those around you. From the promises you have made to each other, and with the witness and care of those here assembled, I now pronounce you married. Go forth and live each day to the fullest. You may seal this declaration with a kiss.”
Tell us about the queer Mad Hatter's tea party wedding reception:
Given our theme, we thought it would be fun to offer a ‘Make your own hat’ station, with lots of pre-assembled paper hats and craft supplies for customisation. We rounded this out with drawing pads, colouring pens/pencils, colouring and sticker books, and bubble wands for our younger guests.
We set up a polaroid wedding book table, with film, pens, batteries and double-sided tape, and a photo station using an old digital camera, cardboard accessories, and a Wonderland-inspired backdrop.
Wild Thistle Cake Design created our stunning, hand-painted wedding cake and guests were eager to get a closer look.
We opted to have afternoon tea for our wedding breakfast. Being simpler for the caterers to prepare and/or buy in, we had a generous selection of sweet and savoury treats for a fraction of the cost of a more traditional meal.
Some of our fondest memories of weddings involve freshly made pizza, so we hired a mobile pizzeria for the evening function. This proved incredibly popular with our guests and is a great way to accommodate multiple dietary requirements, particularly if your supplier can offer gluten-free dough.
Our live music was provided by ‘Disco Centric’ and they prepared a slow, soulful rendition of ‘This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” by Natalie Cole for our first dance. After we had the opportunity to enjoy the moment, they picked up the pace and invited everyone to join us on the dancefloor.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
While many of our departures from tradition were driven by a lack of precedent or the inflexibility of current systems, don’t feel you need any excuses to shake things up. Lots of people will have ideas about what your day ‘should' look like, usually informed by convention. Weddings can and should evolve to reflect the world we live in. Traditions are only valuable if they continue to serve us. It’s okay to adapt the elements that are meaningful and let go of the rest.
Above all else, the day is a celebration of *your* love. It should accommodate and celebrate who you are and what you have built together. Our guests were so excited to join us in taking a different path, and the day was all the richer for prioritizing authenticity over tradition.