Janna & Nick’s Motorcycle-themed, whimsical wedding celebration

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After seeing Janna’s motorcycle sprocket bouquet (and, for some of us, learning what a sprocket is), we knew that we had to know all about this wedding and the creative, motorcylcle-loving (and, as it turns out, ex-wrestler and theater geek) couple behind it. Some of us (me) also have totally developed friend/mentor crushes on the bride. -Becca

Photos by Gabriel Harber. Additional photography by Rhett Redelings.

The offbeat bride: Janna, writer/graduate student (and Tribe member)

Her offbeat partner: Nick, systems engineer

Location & date of wedding: Mills Chapel at Mills College and Reinhardt Alumnae House, Oakland, CA — March 27, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: As a bride of forty-one, an ex-wrestler with G.L.O.W., former theater geek, and over 80,000 miles on my motorcycle, an offbeat wedding was a given. Nick and I are low-key people, and a fancy, expensive wedding was not our style, despite it being the first marriage for both of us.

Lee PressonOur guest list included conservatives and liberals, ex-strippers, pierced and tattooed folks, retired professors, Dickens Fair/Steampunk folk, lesbian couples with children, die-hard motorcyclists, and atheists, Pagans and conservative Jews. So I created three different wedding invitations!

In the Bay Area, the red wedding dress is a new tradition. Mine was a custom corset-dress in burgundy silk brocade made by my dear friend of many years, Autumn, of Dark Garden.

Diamond plate and motorcycle sprocket wedding cakeThe cake topper was sculpted by an artist (mudcards) on Etsy, based on photos we sent her.

We did not want a white cake with sugar flowers, so we asked Judy Durkee of Torino Baking to make a diamond plate cake with motorcycle sprockets.

My ex-girlfriend’s daughter was my flower girl.

My ex and dear friend Lee Presson DJ’d Big Band music for the reception.

I designed my bouquet using a motorcycle sprocket with a handle welded on the back and one large flower in the center. I, also, created a simple graphic of a sprocket, had it printed onto fabric by Spoonflower, and hemmed into a tablecloth.

And for our honeymoon, we’re riding our motorcycles from California all the way to the Arctic Circle in Alaska and back!

both laughing
Tell us about the ceremony: A friend of a friend, Alex Kelly, played Bach on the cello as people were seated, and then the wedding party came down the aisle to a piece Alex wrote himself.

The non-denominational minister did the welcome then our friend Luke spoke. He included the Princess Bride quote I specifically requested and wove in some other references. Here is the entire transcript — it’s truly wonderful.

He, also, did a wine ceremony that I wrote. We each had a vial of a different wine varietal, and there was a blue goblet.

Wine is often made of a single varietal, but a winemaker can make a beautiful blend of two or more wines. Both wines must be sound; you cannot salvage a bad wine by blending it with a good one. Often, the wines that go into this blend can stand alone, but when combined, the resulting wine is far greater than the sum of its parts. This is a lot like marriage. Each partner brings his or her unique and valuable qualities and abilities, and contributes them to something greater. (Here, Nick poured his wine into the goblet, I poured mine, and we each drank from it.) May the two of you be stronger in marriage than you were apart.

Then the minister did the vows, we exchanged black ceramic wedding rings, were pronounced husband and wife, and went into a side room for a breather, before descending to a stream of bubbles (instead of rice or birdseed).

wide shot ceremony

Our biggest challenge: Money! We tried hard to keep the budget as low as humanly possible, while still feeding and entertaining 70 people. The bride’s family was not able to contribute much at all, and the groom’s family made a very nice contribution. We both paid for the rest of it ourselves. It’s astonishing how quickly can spiral out of control, even while keeping things as inexpensive as we could. We did the entire wedding/reception/wedding night B&B for under $10,000 (counting wedding attire), and did it all without putting a single dollar on a credit card.

Shemena and Sprocket bouquetI did a lot of DIY stuff. I was my own wedding planner, first off. I also designed two of the three invitations, the sprocket tablecloth and my sprocket bouquet, made the centerpieces, wedding favors, and some food for the reception.

We bought sparkling wine on sale over New Year’s. I was talked out of catering the reception myself. We found a caterer who did very nice food (vegetarian spring rolls, chicken satay, tofu green curry, Asian slaw, sesame noodles, white rice) and coffee with porcelain plates and metal utensils. I made hummus from scratch and iced tea, and Nick made crudités. Handsome groom

For table decorations, we rented plain white tablecloths. I found small flowerpots painted with sunflowers at the local dollar store, put a lemon thyme plant in each one, then wired a single flower to a florist’s post and set that into the center. Lovely, simple, and each one cost $5.

My favorite moment:

  • The best part of the whole day was the part of the wedding ceremony conducted by Nick’s best friend from childhood, Luke. It was exquisitely written, with personalized details about Nick and me, and references to the Princess Bride and Battlestar Galactica. It was hysterically funny, moving and full of wisdom.
  • laughterLooking out into the chapel and seeing the joy, laughter and tears on everyone’s faces.
  • Our first dance — it was literally the first time we had ever danced together.
  • Seeing the first meeting of my mother and my French “mother” from my foreign exchange year in Paris when I was sixteen.
  • Seeing the guests appreciate our wedding favors: bottles of Napa Valley Cabernet with custom labels with grape clusters, our names and the date of the wedding.
  • The toasts.


My funniest moment: When a little girl ran out onto the dance area and started to dance all by herself by hiking her dress up above her waist and taking little steps. Then the DJ came around the table, hiked up his pants legs and “danced” with her.

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Having two people do the wedding ceremony. I thought that territoriality might come into play, but it worked out great.

First steps down the path of marriage

My advice for offbeat brides: If your “non-traditional” stuff is honest and heartfelt, even traditionally-minded people will relax and appreciate it.

Ask friends and family for help, even if you feel weird about it. I found that most people truly wanted to pitch in and help, and felt honored to be able to participate and do something nice for the bride and groom.

Mother of the bride
Beautiful mother of the bride.

Do not get sucked in by Big Day Inflation: “Well, it’s your wedding day, so you really don’t want to just have a friend do your hair, do you, since you’ll have the photos forEVER, so you really SHOULD pay someone for an expensive hair cut, color and style, oh and you aren’t going to just wear Payless shoes, are you?…”

Listen to what your family wants (even if it runs contrary to what you want) and see if you can accommodate some part of it. A marriage is mostly for the two of you, but the wedding is also for others. Find one thing that will make your mother happy, for example, and incorporate that. It will really go a long way.

Don’t cater your own wedding. Seriously.

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Eloping might have been a lot cheaper, but it would have robbed all the people we love of an incredible experience that they will value for a long time. It would have also robbed us of that special thing that can happen when you do a ritual joining of selves in the presence of friends and family. There really is something to that.

(Also, bring comfortable shoes to change into at the reception. I brought comfy plush motorcycle slippers and slipped them on when the agony of the high heels got too much. They were a big hit.)

Sore feet
Sit back. Relax. Slip on your motorcycle slippers and check out the wedding porn.

Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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