We had a sneaky peeky of this couple's majorly cute literary cake topper. Here is the rest of their book-themed party.


The offbeat bride: Joanna, author and online marketer

Her offbeat partner: Julian, digital standards manager

Date and location of wedding: Whistler's pub, Toronto, Ontario, Canada — August 12, 2011

What made our wedding offbeat: We made a list of all the things that were important to us and scrapped the rest. So we chose a pub for our venue (great food at great prices!), rented a photo booth, and learned a swing routine to Queen's “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” for our first dance (video here!). We focused on food, friends, and family and ignored traditions that weren't “us” (mother/son and father/daughter dances, tossing the bouquet/garter, and having bridesmaids and groomsmen). I didn't hide when people arrived at the venue; I wanted to spend as much time with my guests (65 in total) as possible! Both of us were walked down the aisle by our parents.

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We're both avid readers (and I'm a published author) so we had a book theme. We commissioned favourite comic artists to sketch portraits of us for our invitations and thank-you cards.

Seating chart

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We made centerpieces out of old books we bought at garage sales: we named each table for a book or comic we liked, then designed an iconic image to represent the book and glued it to the old hardcovers.

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We propped up one book per table and surrounded it with some origami flowers made from comic pages. My bouquet was made from origami flowers made out of photocopies of mementos (ticket stubs, love letters, etc.).

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I made a card box that looked like a giant book, and our cake topper featured mini models of us (and our kittens!) perched on a pile of books. As a final touch, our cupcakes all had little fondant books on top.

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We also tried to look as much like ourselves as possible: we both wore our glasses, and he wore a Watchmen button. I also wore flats — I almost never wear heels, and I wanted to be comfortable! Instead of a veil, I went with a blue feather fascinator made by a friend, and I also made my sisters and sister-in-law fabric flower fascinators out of bits of my wedding dress material (I had the train removed).

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Our wedding was everything we'd hoped for: it was low-key, zero-drama, and we got to spend lots of time with our family and friends, half of whom had traveled a long way to attend.

Tell us about the ceremony: Julian's parents walked him down the aisle to “The Ring Goes South” from Lord of the Rings. My parents then walked me down the aisle to the theme song from “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” This got laughs from the people who recognized it, and to everyone else it was just a sweet piece of music. “It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is a show Julian introduced me to on one of our first dates, and its twisted sense of humour matches us perfectly.

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The officiant conducted the ceremony in Spanish and English, alternating between the two but not repeating everything. Julian's brother gave a reading in Spanish, and my sister did one in English. Our younger sisters brought up our rings for the ring exchange, and then we read vows we'd written, in English and Spanish. After that, we had our kiss, signed the license (our moms were our witnesses), and boogied out to MC Hammer's “U Can't Touch This.” The buffet dinner was ready about 10-15 minutes later.

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Our biggest challenge: My husband is Mexican (though he just got his Canadian citizenship this year!) and his family assumed we'd have a Catholic (or at least Christian) wedding. Thankfully, his mother was very understanding when he had to break the news that we weren't getting married in a church, nor having any sort of religious ceremony (he's non-practicing and I'm not religious). We hired an officiant who was fluent in English and Spanish and had a fully bilingual ceremony, so hopefully that helped his family feel welcomed even though we weren't following their traditions.

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My favorite moment: Julian immigrated to Toronto from Mexico six years ago, and we were very touched that 14 of his family members made the trip to attend. His 88-year-old grandfather, who had taken him to Toronto when he was a teenager, thus awakening his desire to leave Mexico, was in great spirits, and he opened up the dance floor dancing with me! It was so touching to dance with the man who set my husband on the path to meet me one day.


We snuck out to go across the street and visit Dairy Queen later in the evening. It was surreal to take a moment to ourselves as husband and wife, and remember that we were the same people we'd been before the ceremony… fun-loving geeks!

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My funniest moment: Julian's dad gave a long and touching speech, first in Spanish and then in English. When he was done, all Julian's relatives pulled out Mexican flags and started waving them! We had no idea they'd brought all those flags with them. It was hilarious.

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Another funny moment was during the reception: Julian's dad had given the DJ a CD with Spanish songs. One was a Spanish version of “Achy-Breaky Heart,” and Julian's cousin started teaching everyone the line dance. Of course, it was similar to the American version, so lots of our non-Mexican guests knew it or picked it up quickly. Julian's relatives were so surprised! They thought that song and line dance were only known in Mexico.

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Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was worried about being too stressed to enjoy myself, but on the day I was calm and relaxed. I had also been worried about the weather because we were taking photos outdoors, but everything was fine. Although the day was mostly sunny, it did rain for a few minutes halfway through our photos, but it was very light and quickly cleared up.


My advice for offbeat brides: Remember that it's just a day — a big day, a special day, but just a day — and that your guests don't care if everything's “perfect.” They just want to spend time with you and celebrate your marriage.

Make a list of the things you're passionate about, and spend the most time on those. Delegate or forget about the rest. You may be hyper-aware of every little detail, but the majority of your guests won't be.

(c) Black Sea Creative

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

  • Dress: The Brides' Project. Brides and bridal stores donate dresses, which are then sold at a deep discount. The proceeds go to cancer research. My dress was a Sophia Tolli “Anne” dress.
  • Shoes: the brand is Bon Bon; I found them at Moo Shoes in New York. They were super comfy.
  • Cake topper: Sophia's Workshop. This woman is so talented! Send her a picture of you and your partner and she'll come up with an incredible personalized piece of art. We even included our kittens!
  • Cupcakes: Sylvia at A Baked Creation
  • Dance lessons: Dan Amores at Hogtown Swing
  • Photo booth: Flashpoint Productions
  • Day-of-coordinator: Fabian from Weddings I Do. We greatly appreciated the help.
  • Wedding website: Wedding Wire

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Comments on Joanna & Julian’s book-themed bilingual pub wedding

  1. Oh what a wonderful idea! I love the book theme *scribbles down notes* and it looks like everyone had an amazing time 🙂

    I’m currently planning my bilingual wedding (German/English) and I’m stressing about how to make sure that everyone understands what’s going on. The only people who can perform the wedding can’t speak English so I’m pretty stuck.

    Congratulations and I wish you all the best for the future!

    • You could try:
      * Including a translation of the ceremony in the programs, or at least a detailed explanation
      * Having one of your English-speaking bridesmaids (or groomsmen, or siblings) give brief English translations or explanations at certain points during the ceremony, or before it

      Don’t worry–I’ve attended a couple ceremonies that weren’t in English and I still understood that they were talking about love and commitment! 🙂

      • I love your wedding.
        The weird fun bits, flags, the sneaking off for iced treats, specailly the bilingual wedding, my fiance is white and im mexican we are so doing an english/spanish ceremony. We don’t have much planned but we know the church we want to be wed at and its like two mins away from an italian ice place we both love—i will be definitely stealing your idea and sneaking off for some!

        • If I can help just one bride sneak off for ice cream on her wedding day, my mission is complete. 🙂

          Best of luck with your bilingual bash!

  2. what adorable photos! I love that one of the bride and the groom’s grandpa. SO SWEET!

    Also the bride’s hair is FABULOUS!

  3. I am also having a literary themed wedding. I love the book cake and cupcakes, they are amazing. Also totally understand wearing flats, I never wear heels myself and don’t feel the need to do it on my wedding day. Congratulations!

  4. I am so happy to see your wedding on here!! Congrats to you and Julian! It was a pleasure to meet you that day too!!

    • Thanks! Sorry I forgot to include you in the vendor links–I probably forgot because I didn’t know if you had a website.

      Hey, Toronto brides! Fellow OffbeatBride member JunipurZombie did my hair and makeup, and she rocks, big-time!

  5. Hooray for literary weddings! And bilingual weddings! A number of things:

    The picture of you both in front of the officiant when you’re both grinning and making happy scrunchy faces is gorgeous. The excitement and joy is so obvious 🙂

    I’m always interested in hearing about people’s bilingual weddings – my boy and I have two different first languages (French for him, English for me) and each of our families really only speaks/fully understands their own language. We’re planning some kind of bilingual vow exchange and bilingual officiant so it’s nice to hear about other people who’ve done it and had it go well.

    And finally (in a non-creepy way): your husband is pretty darn good-looking! You two make a really lovely couple 🙂

    • Thank you! Good luck with your own bilingual wedding… you can do it!

      And thanks for the compliment about the fine-lookin’ groom I snagged, heh. 😉

    • My Italian teacher from university just got married, and while she speaks perfect English (PhD student!) her husband only speaks very basic Italian, and none of their respective families speak much, if any, of the other language. Their solution was to have two officiants sharing the ceremony (it was a big Catholic mass in Italy, and from the wedding video I saw it worked well), and then they said their (standard, so pretty much identical) vows to each other in their non-native language. It worked well because the vows were standard, so everyone had a decent idea of what they should be saying… and it was incredibly cute seeing the groom having learnt so much Italian for his big day!

  6. Awwwww so lovely and fun! A great wedding. Who was your artist? We’ve been looking for a comic book artist as well but was hoping to find someone that had been recommended.

    • The sketch on our invitation was by Becky Cloonan–I think she’s pretty busy, but she was at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF) so we asked for a sketch in person.

      The sketch on our thank-you cards was by Adrian Alphona; again, my husband talked to him in person when he was at TCAF.

      Sorry I can’t be of more help, and good luck with your preparations!

  7. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the literary table assignments and designs!

  8. Oh wow. I am getting married at a different pub in Toronto next year, and this is super amazing encouraging!

  9. It’s like she’s me! We had a book-themed wedding, I wore very short heels because I don’t wear them often, 65 guests. It looks like an awesome day. 🙂

  10. Love the pic of you guys with your DQ! You should totally have that one framed ^.^

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