The Brides

The Offbeat Bride: Diana, writer and artist

Her offbeat partner: Shannon, software engineer

Date and location of wedding: San Diego Zoo, San Diego, CA — May 17, 2014

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Time machine keys, bling table, pouring molten gold… who would have thought that something we had wanted to be so simple could have turned into an obsessive DIY art marathon? We'd been together 19 years before we could legally wed. So we didn't think of this as the typical wedding. We are definitely not traditional. Shannon really doesn't like to dress up, and I love dress-up all the way to cosplay. So we had to blend our two styles together.

Terrace Lagoon at San Diego Zoo

S&D Steampunk Wedding Celebration

For our venue, we wanted something fun and casual with minimal fuss. We had just bought and sold a house and moved just weeks before the wedding. It was going to be small, and started out as 10 people in a friend's backyard. But then we decided we really wanted our dear friend's Beatles cover band, The Baja Bugs, to play, since Shannon is a Beatles aficionado, and I love them, too. So we expanded our search to larger venues.

San Diego Zoo wedding venue: outdoors

After some fussing we ended up with the perfect venue: one of our favorite spots, the San Diego Zoo. They had a beautiful round room beside a koi pond and waterfall. But here was the best part: the zoo would take care of everything, flowers, food, bar, etc.! Just the thought of not packing up tables and chairs made it a no-brainer. Not only that, but proceeds go to support zoo projects, and we are real lovers of the animals we share this planet with. To seal the deal for us, the zoo wedding package included a day at the zoo for all our guests.


We knew we wanted a themed wedding, but WHICH theme. Beatles? Yes. Love of animals? Check! But we simply had to incorporate a steampunk sensibility, AND our favorite activities through the years: bird watching, video gaming, time-travel anything, reading to each other, watching sci-fi, and more. Thus our “Steampunk Zoo Sci-Fi Fusion Wedding with Beatles” was born.

Time Machine Key Tags

Invitation to Partake of Steampunk Bling

Here was the rub: most of our guests did not know what steampunk was, so we created a steampunk bling table so folks could join in. The table was a huge hit. People we never imagined would costume in any way were wearing goggles, eye patches, pocket watches, monocles, and steampunk medals. More than a few individuals researched steampunk ahead of time and came in marvelous attire.

Time Machine Keys & Steampunk Bling

Romance Balloon

Each centerpiece was a balloon airship that sat atop a cargo net full of our favorite books, movies, games, comics, and TV shows. Each balloon was completely different from the others, ranging from Victorian Romantic to Corporate Industrial. They included an Avatar/Princess Bride steampunk collage balloon, a vintage African stamp giraffe print balloon, a Tesla-fied evil sci-fi corporation logo balloon, a vintage bird and animal print balloon, a steampunk Beatles clock balloon, and a simply pretty lace balloon bedecked in antique beads. Our guests voted on their favorites and four tied for first place, so there was something for everyone.

Avatar-Princess Bride-Steampunk Collage Balloon

Mad Scientist Apothecary

The cake table centerpiece was a mad scientist apothecary with test tubes of colored liquids connected by coiled tubing and surrounded by handmade paper flowers and hand-painted LED votive candles.

Steampunk Rings!

Speaking of DIY, we made our own custom-patterned rings at a day-long workshop at Jay Whaley Studios. He helped us create a template of steampunk gears from watch parts, which we pressed into the gold bands, poured from molten gold. Since we'd been together for 19 years, our ring vows included moving our “Rings of Past Times” from our left hands to our right hands before exchanging our new “Rings of Future Present.”

Ceremony Photo

Tell us about the ceremony:

We are not much for ritual, so we researched (we spent a lot of time on Offbeat Bride) and made our very own personalized and comedic ceremony that incorporated our favorite quotes. We thought only a few folks would get our gags and references, but the laughter was spontaneous and uplifting in all the right places. The “So say we all” (from Battlestar Galactica) at the end of the ceremony was resounding. Here is the full video of the ceremony:

Ceremony Photo

Our biggest challenge:
Being non-traditional, we eschewed many expected elements of the wedding. In fact, for quite some time, Shannon was dreading the scope creep that had infected our planning, fearing an overblown affair that did not match us. It took some time, but we finally wrapped our brains around the fact that this was for us and we could put whatever we wanted into it.


We also stopped fighting tradition for its own sake. For instance, we didn't want cake when we started planning. Wait! What were we thinking?! We LOVE cake. So I found vegan edible steampunk gears for cupcake toppers. A local bakery created a wonderful cupcake display with the gears and made a cutting cake with “The Cake is a Lie” written in script over and over around the side.

So this is what happened to the Portal Cake

Some tradition crept in unexpectedly. We didn't mean to have a “first dance” with only us, but we couldn't get anyone else up there on the dance floor with us! So, we danced to “I've just Seen a Face,” and put on a show despite our reticence at being the only ones on the dance floor.

Clothing was another sticking spot. I'm fancy schmancy, and Shannon is down-to-earth and simple. Our selections did not come together until just a couple of weeks before the wedding. I was starting to panic. because we kept running into sizing issues. We had to get creative, and it all fell together with a little customization and creative shopping in the last days.

S&D Steampunk Wedding Celebration

My funniest moment:
Our first gag in the ceremony when a group of people called my cell phone after they were told to turn theirs off. Anyone who knows me knows how often my Majel Barrett Star Trek voice alerts me during conversation. The laughter set the perfect tone.

S&D Steampunk Wedding Celebration

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding?
If you bite off more than you chew, bite it of, spit it out, and keep going, letting plans fall by the wayside when there's no time, rather than make yourselves crazy trying to get it all done. If we'd had a time machine, we might have gone back to sandwich in more projects, like our poster-sized timeline that would have started with the Big Bang and the birth of the solar system and had a blow-up of our own history that included important points in our 19 years together and release dates for our favorite sci-fi movies, games, and books. In lieu of a guest book, we wanted guests to add comments to the poster about when they met us or a joke or anecdote.

We had to drop it and instead, after we set up the decorations the day of the wedding, I ran home and cut up scrapbook paper and then asked guests to write down an anecdote and to vote for their favorite hot air balloon centerpiece. We received some of the best memories from that last minute addition.

We also learned not to pre-judge people. Some individuals who we thought would be most confused or even uncomfortable because of our steampunk sci-fi theme were the most enthusiastic at the end. We got exactly what we wanted: a fun celebration with our nearest and dearest and so many smiles and hugs that I'll be charged up for a long, long time.

Cake Table

"They Love to SING!"

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Photography: our friends, Mark Pennington and Dennis Wood
  • Diana's corset and skirt: eBay
  • Shannon's vest: Six Star Uniforms
  • Venue, flowers, bar, and catering: The San Diego Zoo. I can't recommend them enough. Laura Jackson, the event coordinator was marvelous — patient with our uncertainties and flexible as she shoehorned our growing guest list into a wonderful layout. She took care of all the internal and external coordination, including cake delivery and band set-up.
  • Rings: Jay Whaley Studios helped us to create our rings in a day-long workshop that was a wonderful experience.
  • Cupcakes and cutting cake: Baby Cakes
  • Edible gear cake adornments: Compassionate Cake
  • Band: The Baja Bugs, San Diego's premier Beatles cover band

Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!

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Comments on Diana & Shannon’s steampunk zoo sci-fi wedding

  1. This looked like such ridiculous fun!

    I adore “the cake is a lie” and all the elements you brought in.


  2. Awesome wedding! And I LOVE the idea of putting out bits and bobs for people to wear so that they were included in the wedding theme! The time machine keys are fun as well – and what a fun little charm to have as a reminder of the wedding!

  3. I love the 3rd photo from the bottom. The 2nd lady from the right has a steampunk, 80’s, Cyndi Lauper vibe to her! Love it!

  4. What an amazing wedding! No one could have hired a wedding planner to pull this off. It was a feast for the camera lens and a joy to be part of! This is a lovely synopsis of your wonderful evening. Much love!

  5. Congratulations on being featured on this site! Reading thisand remembering that night is just as fun as the wedding was! Even getting prepared was fun! So much love and life an awesome celebration! Thanks Diana and Shannon for the invite!

  6. I so loved watching your wedding video. I was moved to tears by your vows to each other. My fiancee and I plan to write our own vows as well, and I often think about what mine might say. I hope we can be as eloquent, heartfelt, and funny as yours were! Congratulations, and thank you so much for sharing your special day!

    • Thank you so much for your kind words, Mariah. We are so happy to share our day with you. I know you will come up with the perfect vows for the two of you.

  7. We just decided today to have our wedding in Steampunk. We are both in our 50’s and I was hesitant for traditional wear. This is perfect. Thanks for sharing your special day.

    • So glad we could provide some inspiration. The nice thing about Steampunk is that you can take it in so many directions: formal neo-Victorian, punky/goth, Steampunk Light, Dieselpunk (more turn of the century through WWII), sepia tones or bright colors. We wish you the most wonderful of nuptials!

  8. Diana, love love love your wedding. My daughter is artistic, LGBT, non-traditional and was keeping her mouth shut about what she wanted until my sister asked. I admit I was frightened because she can be gothic and wants a black wedding dress. She said Victorian or Renaissance or may Steampunk, but didn’t think anyone would go for that. Your advice was right because we all love in, including her grandmother who has pages of Pinterest steampunkery. lol I will be stealing many of your ideas 🙂 and would especially like to steal and recreate our own hot air balloons, but I’ve seen some ugly ones on the web and am afraid mine would look like that. Hahaha. Did you make your own? Or did someone make them for you? I also love the idea of having some steampunk bling for those who don’t know what it is (or thought they could get away without at least a pair of goggles). 🙂 Please let me know what you know about the balloons. Thanks so much, Liz p.s. Sorry I took up so much space. :/

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