This week we're celebrating simple weddings, featuring couples who opted to go a bit more minimal with their wedding details.

The offbeat bride: Jen, Transcriptionist and temp

Her offbeat partner: David, Graphic Designer

Date and location of wedding: Knoxville Botanical Gardens and Arboretum, Knoxville, TN — April 23, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: The fact that we got married at all is offbeat to us. David and I swore we'd never get married, then all of a sudden, over the July 4th holiday in 2010 on a backpacking trip, David and I came up with what we call “The Campsite 2 Accord,” which basically involved me saying “Hey, you want to get married after all?” and him saying “Okay.” So that's what makes this different. From the very beginning, I knew I didn't want a white dress, a diamond ring, bridesmaids in matching clothing, or maybe not even any bridesmaids at all! We knew we wanted to focus on us and things we liked, which included nature, simplicity, and good BBQ!


We immediately thought of our venue for all of these things, and I'm glad to say that was really the only “wedding” thing we had to pay for. The venue was more than half of the entire amount spent on the wedding. We didn't set out with a specific budget in mind, but we didn't want to spend a ton of money, being that we already have a mortgage payment and car payments. The food was also a no-brainer: Sweet P's BBQ and Soul House! We'd been eating there for a while — David ate the food while the guy was still a caterer — and I always wondered why people ate fancy food at weddings. When we were thinking about food, BBQ from Sweet P's made us happy and it was the perfect choice for the casualness we wanted to convey.


We also didn't invite people we didn't really know. Sure, each of us had guests coming that the other hadn't met before, but I'd say that 90% of the wedding guests were either family members or mutual friends, which made it easy for the guest list to narrow itself down. We invited people we really felt close to and people with whom we wanted to share our day.


As for other details of our wedding: I found my dress in my closest. I wore my favorite sandals, but bought them in brown instead of black. I didn't wear makeup (like every other day). I showed off my tattoos. We did all of the projects for the wedding either ourselves or with help from our friends. By doing all of these things ourselves, we made the wedding truly personal and simple.


Tell us about the ceremony: We decided to have everyone stand together at the ceremony with us, with the exception of some family members who would need to sit down. In doing this, we decided that our friends and family standing with us would be symbolic of them supporting us in this special moment we wanted to share. We chose a space in front of a stone house with a large tree and the guests formed a semi-circle around us naturally. It was very powerful being able to look out and see couples standing together or holding hands along with us.

We got a friend ordained online to be our officiant as David and I aren't religious people. We also decided to write not only the vows, but the entire ceremony. I sat down online one day and pieced together lots of things I'd read online, borrowing pieces from handfasting, honey-sharing traditions in the middle east, and traditional vows with the exception that the words were changed to “partner” instead of “husband/wife.” The whole gender-defining giving-the-bride-away thing isn't really who we are. David and I have been equals in our relationship from day one. Instead of our officiant asking “Who gives this woman in marriage?” he asked if I came of my own free will (and also asked David the same).


We made a nod to the fact that a beautiful wedding isn't a magic ceremony that will create a beautiful marriage — rather it is love that creates a marriage and this wedding is a public celebration of our love. Because of this, we decided to replace the word “marriage” in our ceremony with the word “union.” We also made note in our vows that we cannot possess each other, but we can share our lives with one another and that we truly feel we have an equal union.


Our biggest challenge: My biggest challenges were really not too big, in all honesty. We had a really stress-free wedding planning and nothing got stressful until the week of the event. I had to uninvite a friend of mine on the Monday before the wedding. It broke my heart and made me feel terrible. In the end though, I truly put my foot down and felt better that it had been done.


My favorite moment: The thing I found to be the most meaningful of the entire day (and really, the days leading up to the event) was the amount of love and help we received from everyone around us. I'm usually a very “let me do this myself” kind of girl, and to ask for help with all of the projects and ideas we needed to get done really bothered me, as I didn't want to burden everyone. The amount of eagerness and helpfulness we received was just out of this world and really made me feel like people truly cared about this truly unique wedding we were trying to pull off, even if they didn't understand what we were trying to do.


My funniest moment: I rick-rolled David in our wedding vows. I had someone come up to me after the wedding and told me that it would have been perfect and would have made his day had I done some of the wonderful Rick Astley dance moves that he did in the video! Everyone laughed, including me. Our officiant kept saying “what copy are you reading from!?” and laughed right along with us. I'm so glad I tipped our photographer off to the vow surprise by telling her to get crowd reactions to me reading David my vows because the photos of everyone laughing with us were great.


Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I seriously thought the whole wedding would be a disaster. I've never thrown a party this big before. I've never thrown a party at a venue before. I've never catered anything in my life. I was truly terrified that no one would understand why were were outside, eating BBQ, having a short ceremony without God written into it, being married by this weird hiker guy, why there was no booze, and having no rhyme or reason to the way we were doing things and why.

I was very worried about the no alcohol thing. I really thought people would be angry, or that they expected to get free drinks. I don't know why I had that in my head. I don't know why people expect alcohol flowing freely at weddings.


My advice for offbeat brides: Take help from other people. You seriously need it and you know you want it. Also, learn to let things go. I promise the day of the event, you won't be upset because you had too many guests coming to be able to use the vintage plates you got and you'll have to use biodegradable instead (seriously, this happened!). Just take everything in stride because, at the end of the day, you're committed to a person you want to share your life with, and that's the reason you're doing all of this stuff in the first place


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? I truly had no idea how much everyone cared. I think it's hard, in this time of technology and working and being so busy, to truly understand how much you are loved and needed. I know for certain I'll never take my friends and family for granted again. I feel like, by having this big fun party, I've really come to understand love, not just my love for David, but all my family and friends too. That is HUGE to me.


Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Wedding poster: Brad Vetter at Hatch Showprint in Nasvhille. He's a friend of ours, and David met him there when interning at Hatch after college.
  • Bouquet: Princess Lasertron
  • Groom's Vest and Shirt: Etsy seller MaritimeArts. These folks make all sorts of period clothing, from old west to Civil War to RenFair to Pirate to pretty much anything. They were awesome!
  • Rings: Fabuluster
  • Photographer: Marvyl Cockrell. She's amazing and bright and so much fun to be around. I was so happy to find someone who not only didn't scoff at what we were trying to do, she embraced it and enjoyed all of it. Our friend Jeff Romaniuk took some of the photos too.

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Comments on Jen & David’s laid-back Tennessee barbecue wedding

  1. This is such a beautiful wedding! Did the colour scheme come from your dress, or the other way around? It looks great either way, and you are such a gorgeous couple. You look like *you* (at least I assume!) – I feel like I’m getting a taste of how awesome you guys are every day, not just how you are on dressy-up days.

    Really excited about celebrating small weddings this week – I’ll be reading obsessively! (As if I didn’t already do this… haha).

    • It came from the dress accidentally! I didn’t realize the colors followed the dress until someone asked me at the ceremony 🙂

  2. Wow, this is really inspiring for us laid-back folks! I’d also like to second what Katy said; you’re such a gorgeous couple. It totally sounds like something you’re just supposed to say, but it’s absolutely true.

  3. Love it! I feel like 50 years ago, this is what weddings ALL were like 🙂 I feel like I’m really going to enjoy this week’s theme!

    • Yeah, the looks on people’s faces when I was doing that was priceless as they figured it out!

    • Everyone was laughing as they started to figure it out… You could tell they were trying not to.

  4. Looked like it was a great time! We served BBQ at our wedding too. My mom at first asked, “should we be offering people BBQ if they’re in wedding finery?” and I was like, “if they’re the sort of people who wear clothes they don’t want to get BBQ sauce on, they’re probably not even coming to our wedding!”

  5. It makes me happy to read of another couple who didn’t set a specific budget. We decided what we wanted, and well, things cost what they cost. I already had a pretty good idea of the value that I placed on things, how much money we had to spend on the wedding, etc.

  6. You rick-rolled at a wedding, you are the coolest person I’ve ever read about in the history of anything on the internet.
    I tip my hat to you, Jen.

  7. this may just be the most perfect wedding i’ve seen profiled on here. beautiful & simple, yet super meaningful. <3

  8. I wool love to know how you made your awesome wood cookie cupcake stands! On what did you prop the woodcookies to fervent varying heights, or are they cut at different thicknesses to create the tiers? Really love it.

    • I actually made them from the limbs of a tree that fell in our backyard earlier in a storm. I didn’t want it to look too ‘mechanical’ so I hand-sawed the discs (took me about 5-6 hours over a few weeks) at whatever thickness seemed appropriate. Then, I bored holes in the tops and bottoms and joined them with a 3/4 dowel which held them pretty sturdily actually.

  9. I love the way your wedding turned out! I, too, am a “let me do this myself” gal. I just don’t want to bother anyone. But, perhaps I need to change my thinking on this. Thank you for sharing this!

    • I promise you won’t even have to ask. So many people will WANT to help. It was so weird to me having people help me with all these little projects, as well as the set up and take down on the day of the wedding. It was a huge eye-opener for me!

  10. Your wedding made me smile :). Just beautiful, simple, full of love, trees, and good food. What more do you need?!

  11. I agree with keeping the costs down and using for what matters, example the food, the photos or whatever it may be. I bought a simple knee-length dress and shoes and jewelry for a total of $100 and my sister-in-law got a cake and flowers at the market. We got married outdoors at a state park in a pavilion.

  12. Are you interested in selling your cupcake stand??? And if so what would you charge for it?It is exactly what my daughter wants for her wedding and I thing yours is fabulous!!

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