The offbeat bride: Kelsea, Writer and Office Drone

Her offbeat partner: Henry, Writer and Classics Student

Date and location of wedding: Freeland Hall, Freeland, Whidbey Island, WA — August 18, 2012

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: We chose to get married on Whidbey Island, because Henry's family had been vacationing there for years, and my grandparents lived there. Plus, Henry proposed there. Our venue, Freeland Hall, was built by a free-thinking women's group in the early 20th century, in a town that was founded as a socialist community. Since we're both roaring liberal feminists who met at The Evergreen State College, this was absolutely perfect.

Favors, programs, and ring warming

Kelsea's Honour Guard (with rum)

We had a number of international guests, as well as guests from various parts of North America, so we really wanted to showcase the Northwest. The grounds, which looked out over the bay, were perfect for that. We'd originally intended to have a simple wedding, but mermaids and the sea slyly slipped into the theme.

Our ceremony was outside, under a gauzy curtain. We didn't have an officiant and we wrote the ceremony entirely by ourselves. My 15-year-old brother is very theatrically inclined, so we made him the host and he made all of the announcements. The ceremony itself lasted all of five minutes, but we had a ring warming beforehand. We walked down the aisle to the Jurassic Park theme.


At the reception we served tasty Greek food, especially important to Henry because of his study of the classics in Greece. Our cake came from a Swiss baker on the island, who happened to be from the same town in Switzerland as Henry's grandfather. Some really amazing group dances sprung up spontaneously. Croquet, badminton, and Bananagrams were available to guests, and we ended the night with fireworks.

Ring warming

Tell us about the ceremony: The ring warming happened as people were sitting down. At the back of the ceremony space we had a table with the rings on it. A sign read:

1) Hold the bag in your hands.
2) Meditate, think good thoughts, or say a prayer for the couple.
3) Put the bag back on the table.
These rings will be used in the ceremony. This is a way to let the rings be given with the love and support of all present. Thank you all so much for coming.

Alex the Host

After my brother explained the ring warming to the guests, our parents entered, followed by Henry's groomsfolk, then Henry, then my bridesfolk, and then me. My brother brought up the rings, and we both vowed thusly: “I unreservedly vow to never conceal myself from you, to augment my own joy by increasing yours, and to be your companion through life's every adventure, standing by you whatever comes our way. This ring represents my promise.”

Messing up my vows

We ended the ceremony by reciting part of a poem very dear to us: “The Newly Wedded” by Winthrop Mackworth Praed. It's by a 19th century British politician who barely wrote any poetry at all. We used this part:

Rest we, dearest, in our home,
Roam we o'er the heather:
Shall we rest, and shall we roam,
Shall we not together?
From this hour the summer rose
Sweeter breathes to charm us;
From this hour the winter snows
Lighter fall to harm us:
Fair or foul – on land or sea –
Come the wind or weather,
Best and worst, whate'er they be,
We shall share together.

We also included this amazing Rilke quote in the program:

The aim of marriage, as I feel it, is not by means of demolition and overthrowing of all boundaries to create a hasty communion, the good marriage is rather one in which each appoints the other as guardian of his solitude and shows him this greatest trust that he has to confer. A togetherness of two human beings is an impossibility and, where it seems to exist, a limitation, a mutual compromise which robs one side or both sides of their fullest freedom and development. But granted the consciousness that even between the closest people there persists infinite distances, a wonderful living side by side can arise for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of seeing one another in whole shape, and before a great sky. – Rainer Maria Rilke


Our biggest challenge: The hardest part of this whole experience was probably designing a ceremony. I felt very stressed because we went against tradition and completely cut out the officiant, but I'm glad we did. Having an officiant didn't make sense for our idea of love, which does not get handed down from any authority. On top of that, we wanted complete control of what was said. We didn't want any gross gender-normative jokes, and we didn't want anything about owning each other or two people becoming one. That stuff isn't us, and I am so glad that we stuck to our guns.


My favorite moment: The most meaningful moment started before the wedding even began. When we arrived to set up in the morning we found that about 50 friends and family members were already there, helping out in every way they could. Most of these people didn't even live nearby. They'd come a long way and some were jet-lagged. It was incredible.

Signing the guest canvas

My funniest moment: I stumbled over my lines horribly, and in the most comedic place possible. Instead of vowing to increase my joy by increasing Henry's joy, I vowed (at first) to increase Henry's joy by increasing mine. I had to start over three times. I'm fairly certain I'll be teased about it for the foreseeable future.

First dance

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? I was certain that the first dance would be a disaster, because we hadn't made any plan. All we knew was we wanted to dance to Edward and the Electric Sharp's “Home.” Our friends came through for us. Backstage, we made a quick plan for a communal dance: our bridesfolk and groomsfolk went out on stage first, formed a line, and clapped their hands. We danced out onto the stage and they started dancing all around us. It was great, looked like it had been planned, and took the focus off of our very creative ideas about dancing.


Surveying our domain

My advice for Offbeat Brides: Plan a little time to yourself during the wedding. You can do this by putting your table somewhere a little inaccessible. We put our table up on stage, which allowed us to see everyone in the hall, and allowed us time to eat and talk to each other for a few minutes. People could still come and talk to us, but we had a little time to rest and eat and recuperate before joining in the party again.


More fireworks

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Comments on Kelsea & Henry’s Northwest garden party wedding

  1. I applaud your efforts of keeping heteronormative and patriarchal language out of the ceremony. In this day and age, I don’t feel that there should be any talk about each partner’s designated “role” in a marriage based on their gender.

    Also, the history behind your chosen venue is very interesting. Yay feminism!

  2. Oh, I love this. Love the lack of officiant, love the vows, love the simplicity. Congratulations to you both.

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