Anne & Andrew’s colorful, secular, swing dance wedding

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Anne & Andrew before the wedding
The offbeat bride: Anne, Program Coordinator for an education-related non-profit

Her offbeat partner: Andrew, video game designer

Location & date of wedding: The Thaxton in downtown St. Louis, MO — November 1, 2009

What made our wedding offbeat: Our wedding had the same basic shape as a “traditional” wedding: family and friends, a ceremony, a dress, food, dancing. In the details, however, we played to our own tastes. We kept the invite list under seventy people. There was no wedding party, no bouquet. We ascended a spiral staircase together instead of walking down an aisle separately. Our ceremony was entirely secular and included a reading from Plato’s Symposium. The dress was an orange 50’s-inspired swing dress with a purple crinoline. The food consisted of classic St. Louis Italian (toasted ravioli FTW!), organic cupcakes from a husband-and-wife run bakery, and local craft beer.

And don’t forget the swing dancing!

Aside from, you know, us actually getting married, the highlight of the event was having Kim Massie, a St. Louis blues and soul diva, perform while we and our friends, all big lindy hoppers, danced the night away. A couple of our friends gave a short lesson before the ceremony for anyone new to swing dancing, but even those who stayed seated enjoyed the music and watching the twirling dancers move across the floor.

The wedding took place at the Thaxton, an art deco building owned and restored by friends of my parents–meaning we got to use the gorgeous place for free! (Keeping costs down was important to our vision.)

In the end, it was both a wedding and the best party we ever could have planned for ourselves.

Tell us about your ceremony: Our ceremony was officiated by a minister from the Unitarian Universalist church I sometimes attended during high school. One of my favorite things about it was that at one point, instead of asking if anyone objected to the union, he asked “Who supports this couple?” I loved the affirmative twist, allowing everyone to participate. Because this is somewhat unusual, however, we let many people know ahead of time to listen for it–we didn’t want a silent room when the time came! Luckily, we either got to everyone or they were all paying attention, because when the question was asked, the hall reverberated with a chorus of “We do!”
The dress
As readings, we chose the story of the origin of love, from Plato’s Symposium, about finding your soul mate, and a Kahlil Gibran poem about loving one another while being independent from each other. When I expressed concern over the contradiction between the two pieces, our officiant pointed out that good marriages often exhibit the juxtaposition of unity and autonomy, and he brought this up during the ceremony.

The ceremony ended with him sending us off “in the spirit of adventure.”

Our biggest challenge: At the time of the wedding, Andrew and I were living in Houston, TX. Planning the wedding in St. Louis while living somewhere else was headache at times, and a nightmare at others. I was uncomfortable with not being able to deal with vendors face-to-face, especially when communication was breaking down.

My mother and mother-in-law were amazingly helpful. It took some prodding at first, but they met with vendors for me and completely took over furniture acquisition and decorating responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially if having some help will keep you from going out of your mind. Giving up some control is better than going crazy. Thanks, moms!

My favorite moment: 1. Reciting our vows (borrowed from a Kvetch thread) that we had been practicing and memorizing together for the two days prior to the wedding, and then walking back down the staircase hand in the hand to our waiting family and friends while Cat Stevens’ “If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out” played.
Everybody dancing!

2. Dancing our first dance to “More Today Than Yesterday.” Andrew and I basically started swing dancing around the same time; he’s the one who got me into it in the first place, eight years ago. Dancing with my oldest friend and new husband was wonderful.

3. Seeing my parents dance together. (My father NEVER dances.)

My advice for offbeat brides: Keep it simple and be flexible. Things in life rarely go perfectly according to plan, so the more wiggle room you leave yourself, the better. The fewer details, specifics, and elements you’re counting on turning out “just so,” the less opportunity there is for anything to go wrong.

In other words, let go of your expectations and just have a good time!

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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