My Off Beat Bride Journey: A Beachy, Ballet, Non-Traditional Destination Wedding

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I have loved Off Beat Bride for a long time now. Maybe it doesn’t help that my mother was a wedding planner growing up (leaving me witness to many a matrimony from the catering-kitchen of varied venues)- so our lives have been dotted with hallowed-out watermelons, pastel palettes, and ‘baby’s breath’ for as long as I can remember. It also probably doesn’t help that, even though I’m a mother of two, I’ve never had a “real wedding” before (neither dress, nor photos, or both of my parents present). So how did I use the Off Beat to inspire our late December shindy? Read on…

Our plans (in the style of Off Beat Bride)….

The Off-Beat Bride: Bailey, equal parts Snarky Journalist and Choreographer

Her Off-Beat Partner: John (“JL”), Special Needs Teacher and Lit Nerd

Date and Location of Wedding: Charleston, South Carolina- December 28’th, 2013

Our Off-Beat Wedding at a glance: I met John when we were both working in the school system- myself as a deaf adult in the deaf department, and himself as a former speech therapist and Spec-Ed teacher visiting the blind department. Because I was determined to not lose communication in a relationship (which I’ve known all too well in the past), I didn’t speak verbally on our first few dates… which looking back, was probably way scarier for him than anything else! He not only took me to a restaurant with deaf staff on that initial date, but is now essentially fluent in sign language. He proposed to me at the very same school where we met- underneath two beautiful, aged trees with both of my daughters and his parents present… and as my youngest daughter aptly put it, “Mommy says ‘of course!'”

Despite our connection to the area, we decided to have a destination wedding because our family and community is enormous… and we literally could never dream of feeding that many people! Basically, this was a “broke person” party from the get go, so we attempted to keep everything Kristin Belle and Dax Shepard style-o-cheap from the start. Henceforth, we escaped to Kiwaha Island in SC with our closest family and friends, and looked at the “wedding” as a “vacation” instead. This way the venue, reception hall, and honeymoon (we had a couple of days to ourselves at the latter end of the week) were all covered in one!

Because I’m often too laid-back for this [translation: lazy], I left most of the decorating to my mom and sisters- who actually enjoy this kind of thing. I literally owe everything to them, and was merely a student amongst glue-gunning masters. My mother artfully crafted a beach decor with sand dollars, drift wood and pops of sea glass [favorite color = turquoise]. Since I grew up on the beach and am a “salty girl” at heart. Our family lived in Florida for over 30 years, so this was super fitting. Then again, the groom grew up in the frigid air of Buffalo, NY- less fitting- but has always had a “thing” for lighthouses, so we had a fair amount of those on display too. My parents had written the inscription “Thank for being the lighthouse to our girls” on the inside of a coffee table book for his birthday months prior, so it’s become a symbol of his amazing dedication and love for not only myself, but the munchkins too.

Tell About The Ceremony: Since JL and I are not religious, we tried to make the ceremony inclusive to our spiritual family (his parents are Baha’i faith, while mine are of Catholic origin- with a few Jewish and Buddhist guests thrown in for good measure), yet still feel like “us”. And since “us” is basically overly-cynical, pseudo-intellectual, semi-snobtastic nerds… we wanted to keep things short, sweet and sardonic. Since we had to get the “business side” of marriage done earlier in our home state (paperwork and such), we could have anyone we wanted initiate the ceremony, and thus chose my Dad… who can be fabulously verbose, to say the least.

My vows were created off the cuff a few days prior, and were signed and said as follows:

“Words. From the very beginning, we were made up of words. Signed words, spoken words, super long and pretentious words. Before we were connected through space, we were an amalgam of words across distance- ‘I’m falling in love with you’, ‘I miss you’… But you are different than the rest, and have always been more than just words. You are action: you moved, you stayed, you laughed, you worked, you fathered. The way you love my girls makes ME feel more loved than I ever imagined. I hope to always find the words to get us through the ups, the downs, their teenage years- to make you feel even a fraction of the unconditional love you’ve given me. I respect you. I have a crush on you. I love you for who you were before… now… and whomever you want to become. So in lack of anything better to say, I present you with the only words I know to express a lifetime of loyalty, trust and adoration promised towards you: I love you… and I do.”

The groom surprised everyone by skipping his vows all together, and singing an impromptu song on his guitar. I had always said that is all a girl really wants when she dates a dude with a guitar [true, right?], so he switched out some words from Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me To the End of Love” (later remade by The Civil Wars) instead. This included adapting such terms as “pas de deux” to the lyrics, which made my ballerina self super, duper satiated. Well played, fine sir… well played. Since our life is often filled with far more sickness than health, we decided to recite the typical “better or worse” vows at a quick clip, including promises of a home filled with books… art… and laughter. Overall, we tried to keep things positive (toting an oxygen tank to South Carolina is hinderance enough), and my new mother-in-law offered up a beautiful Baha’i prayer near the end… with some Catholic grace thrown in later for good measure.

Our Biggest Challenge: Aside from the afore mentioned health melees (involving lots of annoying breaks for treatment, and meds, and nebulizers), one of our biggest challenges was meshing our hearing family with ASL/deaf friends. Fortunately, one of my best friends stood by as an impromptu, astoundingly-fabulous interpreter, and even my father-in-law signed the words “welcome to our family” at the end of his toast. Another challenge was including my little girl’s in a way that didn’t make them feel like props to the ceremony or mere flower-girls to this enormous life event. We made it clear from the start that this was about us becoming a family- not just Papa John and Momma- and so everything (even the weird ballad-belting of the Frozen soundtrack which ensued later that night) surrounded them. During the ceremony, we gave them each a necklace with three rings (gold, silver and bronze) which match our own triad-of-metal wedding rings, and stood as a symbol of us all becoming a unit: they, me and he.

Another challenge was the obvious: funding. To save money on a photographer, I asked my crazy-talented niece to snap the photos instead, which also saved on the wait time before they could be uploaded and shared. To nix the catering costs, my entire family pitched in and cooked the grub together. My Dad meticulously planned the authentic southern cuisine down to the shrimp and cheese grits! In lieu of a pricey cake when neither of us are “cake eaters” (not referencing book or movie of same name), we made a tower of buckeyes- an all-time favorite chocolate treat, especially this time of year. Finally, I lucked out by spotting a wedding dress online that was only $100. Why? It wasn’t a wedding dress at all, but rather a hippie-style Juniors maxi from teenager website LuLu’s, which turned out to be super Swan Lake/Snow Queen with some additional trim and sparkle (thanks to that “Mom, the wedding planner”). My shoes were $7 ballet flats from Target- though I ended up beach-style barefoot most of the time anyways- and stylings were even cheaper because my buddy and sister did the hair and makeup. Low key, right?

My Favorite Moments:

Instead of having everyone sit and watch us standing “on high” on an alter, we invited them to stand around us so we were surrounded by the people we love. We greeted guests together over drinks and hors d’oeuvres, since there was no aisle with which my Dad needed to walk me (after all… he got to marry us!) Naturally, this means that I surprised my groom earlier in the day (catching his initial reaction on camera), so that we were free to take lots of photos before the ceremony… and thus had zero interruptions once dancing commenced. Once the quick ceremony was finished, we immediately launched in to the first dance (“I Choose You” by Sara Bareilles), and didn’t stop from then onward. We served all of the food buffet style a little bit later… kept the drinks coming… and segued most “show stopping moments” (like the dance with my Dad to Paul Simon’s “Father and Daughter”) into the playlist so that no one needed to cease the fun and wait around.

In Summation: Maybe a picture truly is worth a thousand words? Here are a few more to summarize some of my favorite moments…

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Want to rant or rave with me? Share any of these pics on Makeover Momma Pinterest page or just kvetch below.

Let Me Know: Like or dislike? What is your favorite part of the big day? Go!

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3 comments on “My Off Beat Bride Journey: A Beachy, Ballet, Non-Traditional Destination Wedding
  1. Lara says:

    I couldn’t be more happy for ya B. Love ya more than my luggage and KNOW how very much you DESERVE every happiness life can bring you!

  2. Kristi says:

    Perfection! So Happy for you!

  3. Rachel says:


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