With the holidays upon us, we are focusing on the snowiest and most cheerful parties of the season. Cuddle up with some cocoa and enjoy these winter-themed weddings.


The Offbeat Bride: Holly, English PhD Student and College Instructor

Her offbeat partner: James, Chemistry Professor

Date and location of wedding: LEED Platinum Certified Museum of Visual Materials, Sioux Falls, SD — January 15, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We aimed to be economically wise, environmentally sustainable, socially responsible, and use local and homemade items as much as we could. It began with our mutual proposal and rings: an engagement ring of a conflict-free diamond from Canada on recycled platinum from Brilliant Earth. Our wedding bands once belonged to my grandparents.


We designed and printed our invitations at home on paper made from mulberry trees, elephant pooh, and lokta plant. Our guest list was short for around here, about 100.


Both the ceremony and reception were at the first Platinum Certified LEED building in our state, the Museum of Visual Materials. The building sold us on their solar panels, geo-thermal heating and cooling, water recycling, and use for community education in the arts. For our families, we rented an entire bed and breakfast up the street, so the wedding party could easily walk in spite of the cold.


My mom made my dress that we designed together: a white velvet dress that was sort of bohemian-meets-winter-princess. The underparts that created the shape were made from repurposed lace scraps that belonged to my grandmother and great aunt, two serious seamstresses who were no longer alive but able to be present in other ways.


My bridesmaids wore any black dress and shoes that they already owned, or could make themselves. My sister wore a dress that belonged to our grandmother, which was the first new dress she ever owned, that she bought with her own money after a summer of working in 1948. We also made it a point to tell our guests that they can wear whatever they want and NOT to buy anything new.


The museum was beautiful, so we didn't have to do much for decor. Centerpieces, borrowed from a friend, had been used at other weddings. Pinecones and juniper came from my parents' yard, and the holly and ivy were ordered through our cake lady, Cakes by Monica, at wholesale cost.


I made the boutonnières and corsages from wire and beads, most of which I had on hand already. My sister and family friends assembled all of the bouquets for the bridesmaids and myself. Other items that one would find at a wedding like a guest book, card box, etc., James and I chose to either make ourselves or find local artists who could.


I made the cake topper and added Star Trek's Dr. Beverly Crusher and Captain Jean Luc Picard and a mini telescope to reflect James' and my interests.


For music, my brother and a friend played for our ceremony, and we hired our favorite local musicians, Jami Lynn and Josh Rieck, to play a concert post-dinner of blue-grass, folky music. Then we plugged in our iPod and danced the night away.


There was a lot of hula-hooping with hoops made by a bridesmaid's daughter out of landscape irrigation tubing, fabric, beads, and rice.


James is an amateur astronomer, and astronomy has become a shared hobby, so each of our reception tables were assigned a star in the winter night sky for which James made a plaque with star facts. We had a kids' corner with books on the solar system and colorable star-finders. My mother-in-law handmade organic soaps for each of our guests that we placed on the tables. The wedding party gifts were lavender sachets that were handmade with recycled fabric and locally grown lavender.


Tell us about the ceremony: James and I were raised in different faith traditions and having found other sources of inspiration since, wrote the wedding ceremony together choosing readings that reflected our journeys. We incorporated readings from the first Letter of Saint John (4:7-12), Carl Sagan, Kathleen Raine's “Love Poem,” and the Buddhist tradition of the Five Awarenesses by Thich Nhat Hanh.


Toward the end of the ceremony, we did a heart meditation that ended with blessings read by each member in our wedding party. Our officiant was a close friend of ours.


Our biggest challenge: Food was the most challenging piece including finding a caterer who could/would do organic and local ingredients in the Midwest in the dead of winter. After meeting with several caterers in the area, we found Chef Paul of Real Food, a family-run business in Sioux City, IA, to work with us. We designed our meal with him to reflect both James' Texan background and our green thumbs. So we knew whose chickens we were eating, where everything came from, and that it was organic and healthy.

Some of the meal was prepared with food that James and I grew in our backyard, including the butternut squash soup (one of our favorite dishes). And Chef Paul let us help serve our guests too.


My favorite moment: What caught us by surprise was the sharing our officiant did about James and I mid-ceremony. Besides being our close friend, he had spoken to each of us individually about our relationship over the months leading up to our wedding, so he had some sweet things that James and I had said about one another to share with us and our guests.


My family hosted a waffle breakfast at the bed and breakfast the next morning and invited anyone who wanted to join us. My dad and brothers cooked up a storm, and James and I were able to sit down with guests and have real conversations, something that didn't happen for everyone during our reception the evening before.


My funniest moment: At one point during our wedding ceremony, we had several little ones joining us, standing with the bridal party. They were super respectful and quiet but just wanted to be closer to the magic. Later they rocked it with us on the dance floor.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? The weather. It was a gamble to plan a January wedding in the Midwest, but the skies cooperated and everyone made it safely to and from. And I got to wear velvet, a cape and muff, and go ice skating the next day!

hoja facing each other b&w

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Your ceremony/wedding is just one day, so be sure to invest more time, energy, love, and resources in your marriage that will hopefully last a lifetime.


Also, if you can, be kid-friendly. Our wedding was so much fun because we made it family-friendly. And cute little ones easily take the pressure off a shy bride and groom.

hoja by piano

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding inspo!

jewelry: Brilliant Earth

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Comments on Holly & James’ handmade winter meditation on love

  1. I love winter weddings, and I loved reading about your thoughtful wedding. Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. I looooooooooooooove this wedding! I love the kids, I love the winter princess dress, I love the astronomy references…. ZOMG awesome!

  3. That bed and breakfast looks adorable. I also thought it was great that you worked so hard to stay true to yourselves by finding a caterer that used local and organic ingredients. I also love the sound of the kids corner with the books on the solar system and star finders. Congratulations!

  4. Velvet wedding dress? Best idea ever for cold-weather weddings. I recently wore an 1840s velvet dress for a Christmas event at an area historic house and even though I was on door duty, I was very warm! I am becoming increasingly torn between an outdoor autumn wedding and a winter wedding. So many choices! And your beautiful wedding doesn’t help me decide. Lol.

  5. I would love to know what you used from Carl Sagan in your readings – me and my hubby-to-be share a lot of your interests and i can’t believe i hadn’t even thought of using Sagan in the ceremony!!
    A gorgeous winter wedding, making me look forward to mine!

  6. “Your ceremony/wedding is just one day, so be sure to invest more time, energy, love, and resources in your marriage that will hopefully last a lifetime.”

    I think this is the most useful piece of advice I’ve ever read.

      • It sounds a bit like Brilliant Earth gets their info from the mining companies themselves, rather than more research on impacts that might actually be taking place. But even if the NWT mines were fantastic for the environment and communities nearby, something to remember is that Canadian mining companies have a terrible human rights record in countries around the world, so by buying a Canadian diamond you are still supporting a company that is known for human rights violations. Also, Canada as a whole has a terrible environmental reputation. Just a few things to keep in mind!

  7. so everything is awesome, but can I just say that the shag rug for where you stand is awesome!!

    we’ve been looking at something to put up in our space, like an arch or something, but I’m now in love with your idea

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