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The offbeat bride: Charis, Public Health nerd and graduate student

Her offbeat partner: Jarrell, computer programmer, technology demigod, and graduate student

Date and location of wedding: The Anglican Cathedral Church of the Epiphany, Columbia, SC — July 2, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: If the wedding had been about what we wanted, we would have gotten married somewhere just the two of us (preferably on a beach in Belize), and told everyone else about it afterwards. But we have loads of family and friends who loved us and wanted to be there for that day.

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Our wedding was very offbeat lite. For starters, we got married in a cathedral, but I wore a short dress, and left my tattoo uncovered. Rather than having a formal wedding party, my siblings stood beside me, and Jarrell's siblings stood with him.

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Our budget was tiny, but we had a plethora of family and friends willing to pitch in. We accidentally picked Jarrell's grandparents' 52nd wedding anniversary as our date, and they were incredibly excited to share the day with us. Jarrell's grandmother sewed ties for all the guys and dresses for the girls. We also used the same cake topper they did at their wedding.

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Some of my girlfriends joined us in a wedding prep day when we potted succulents for table decorations, made jasmine bags to toss at our exit, and made homemade mints. Another girlfriend made the cupcakes and frosting, while yet another helped me assemble bouquets. The bishop was unbelievably helpful, and lent us a key to the church, which allowed us to start transporting decorations and food days ahead of time.

Jarrell and I made it a point to choose things that could be re-used, and to buy secondhand whenever the opportunity presented itself (yay eBay!) and to try to support ethical businesses as much as our budget would allow.

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Tell us about the ceremony: Because of the church we were married in, our ceremony was straight from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. We personalized the ceremony by choosing our favorite hymns, having Jarrell's father do the scripture reading, and by having my cousin lead the music. The ceremony ended with our first communion as husband and wife, and a kiss.

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Our reception was immediately afterwards, downstairs in the church hall. We had put together a “frost your own cupcake” bar that was the highlight of the event. Also, because we're both obsessive tea drinkers, there was a tea buffet with fair-trade, organic tea, sugar cubes, and honey from a local farm. A couple of musician friends of ours had a jam session as well.

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Our biggest challenge: My mom died in 1996, and both of my dad's parents died just a couple of years ago. It was difficult to find a way to honor them that wasn't sad or morbid. I ended up making homemade mints, just like my mother did every Christmas. I put photos of my mom and grandparents in a frame and hung it behind our cake, and then we put place cards and flowers for them at the church.

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Another challenge was that we were committed to having a wedding that was as environmentally-conscious as possible, but many sustainable options were way out of our budget (e.g. free-range meat, organic raw silk dress). So we focused on buying secondhand or from ethical sources, buying items that would be reusable, and non-petroleum-based disposable items. We splurged on our favors though. They were organic, dissolvable tea stir-sticks that looked like lollipops.

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My favorite moment: Honestly, some of my most special memories are of the day before. Both of our families, and a couple amazing friends came into town early to help us with the final setup for the wedding. Most of them had never met, and it was incredibly fun to watch them laugh together and get to know each other while completing wedding chores.

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Exchanging vows was incredibly special. It was overwhelming to think about all the challenges and adventures we've faced in the years we've known each other, and to realize that no matter what's ahead of us, we're going to be together.

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My precious grandmother pulled me aside at the reception to tell me that she wore green shoes at her wedding too.

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We saved our couple photos until after the reception, and we visited some of our favorite spots (including the park where we got engaged). It was so much fun to unwind and relax with our photographers, and to get to visit our special places as a newly married couple.

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My funniest moment: Jarrell is not a dancer. But because it was important to me, he agreed to a first dance to Christine Kane's “Right Outta Nowhere,” and even attended a dance lesson or two. As he feared, he managed to get wildly offbeat, so we wound up stepping all over each other's feet, and it dissolved into a giant hug and a laugh.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? My father is a minister, and I know pretty much my entire life he'd planned on officiating my wedding. That wasn't ever an option for me, because I needed him to be my dad and not a pastor that day. I asked him to read a section of The Little Prince at the reception instead. Dad was thrilled about this because it reminded him of how he used to read to me when I was a little girl.

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My advice for offbeat brides: Weddings will bring out the best and worst in your friends and family members. Be ready for this. Your wedding can be a time to invest in your relationships and bring your friends and family together. Or you can be bullied and pushed around. Don't be afraid to stick up for yourself. Planning a wedding is a journey, so respect the process, and learn as much as you can about yourself, your partner, your biggest supporters, and how you all work together.

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What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? “People are people and things work out.” Most of our friends and family members did everything they could to help, however, it was remarkable how much chaos a few people could cause. It was important to establish clear boundaries. And everything came together.

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“Serendipitous” was our theme word for the day, because of how amazingly everything worked out. From great deals on wedding necessities, to our unbelievable photographer, to the church's amazing hospitality, to my engineer uncle being able to fix the church air conditioning, to how it worked out for my grandmother to travel across country to be present… all the important things fell into place.

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Comments on Charis & Jarrell’s serendipitous Anglo-Catholic homemade wedding

  1. A cupcake decorating bar! I love that idea! So fun. And I love the dress-just a lovely ceremony all together.

    • That dress was such a happy accident. I had a nightmarish experience dress-shopping with my sister, which narrowed my dress criteria to ivory and something I could actually move in. Then I spotted this one on ebay- it’s a vintage Harry Keiser dress from the 50s or early 60s. I paid less than $200, and it fit like a glove straight out of the shipping envelope.

  2. This was a really sweet and lovely wedding! I loved the “frost your own cupcake” station, very original and interactive. And I adore the dress. Kudos to you for creating the wedding that fits your heart and is in keeping with your family.

  3. The cupcake bar was Jarrell’s idea, and it turned out to be the highlight of the wedding 🙂

  4. I am a friend and former roommate of Charis, the bride. The wedding turned out completely lovely and completely fit the Bride and Grooms personality. I was lucky enough to get to see Charis before the ceremony started, and be there for Charis to support her on her big day. I am so glad that their wedding was chosen to be on here, because they are a wonderful couple and getting to be a part of their special day was a great honor to me. (When Charis called to tell me they were engaged, I believe my first words were, “Well it’s about time!”) Charis is a very special person, and they had a perfectly special day to celebrate their love!

  5. Hurray for homemade cream cheese mints! Those are a tradition for weddings in my family and I’m totally requesting them for our reception.

  6. Charis, I agree with the comments above, the dress and cupcakes lot great. For me, the take away idea is the whirl tea thingies. I have a bunch of tea drinkers around here, so I’m thinking of grabbing a few myself!

  7. I adore those wedding rings! Where did you get them? They weren’t on the vendor link list. I’m trying to find a green stoned wedding ring for myself, lol!

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