Archive for the ‘Wedding – Nontraditional’ Category

Asking my friend Erica to photograph our wedding was one of the best decisions we made. She did a spectacular job and we love all the photos she captured. As I’ve said before, we bought her a ticket to Michigan from California (where she moved several months before the wedding), and that was it! $375 and done. Erica had just started Photography by Arika Reed, and we were excited to be her first official wedding. And let me tell you, she worked her ass off! Even when we needed to sit down and take a break, she was darting around with her camera. She caught so many moments that I didn’t even know she was catching! Truly, Erica, you were awesome.

You should head over to her website, and check out the blog post dedicated to our wedding. And if you want to see the whole online gallery, let me know and I’ll get you the password.

I’ve shown off her photos all throughout the recapping of the wedding, but I also wanted to share some of my favorites. The first are from the time she spent with just me and Mike doing the “couple” photos.

First of all, this one is going on the wall (yes I know I showed it already):

Please look at how much this man loves me:

Man we’re cute!

This is from when Mike and I were taking a moment to soak it all in. She caught us:

And come on, just aww!

LOVE this one, too:

And now, here are some of my favorite “detail” shots:

And now a few other photos I’m crazy about…

This is my little Scarlet before she was born:

My little brother Cam is a chatty one!

My Brady Boy:

Me with mom and the sisters:

And here are some of Mike, one with his bro, and one of him being so cute!

Ok really, you should just go check them all out over here.

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By about 8ish, about a third of our guests had left already. The only survivor from Mike’s family was his mom, all of my grandparents and all but one of my aunts/uncles had left, as well as a few friends. But it was about that point that Mike and I got to sit down and enjoy. Sort of. Seemed like every few minutes we were called away for something, but we did get to sit and relax a little.

I gathered up some friends and we had a little pow wow in the yard, talking and laughing. But by a little after 9, most of those people had left, too, and it was down to the precious few, the real troopers. This included my dad, stepmom and their young kids, all but one of my siblings and their kids and spouses, Mike’s mom, my (always true) friend Jessica and her boyfriend, and my dear Aunt Mary.

Our photographer was gone by then, too, so I don’t have any really awesome pictures from this part of the night. Just amateur ones from others’ cameras, like the ones above. This time on the deck was the first time we really chilled. Everyone was drinking and chatting, and we ended up playing some silly games, like “name the movie” and whatnot. It was nice to look around and see the people who were really there for us. These were our peeps.

After it got dark, several other people took off, and the stragglers encouraged us to open our gifts. We were hesitant, because um, awkward. I hate having an audience for such things. But they thought it would be fun, so we played along.

The kids were very eager to deliver the gifts to us from the gift table, so we arranged a little system. They each brought us a gift, one at a time, and then they took the previously opened gift back to the table with them. You’d think they might get bored with this, but gift after shiny gift, they waited their turn.

Only Kyron needed a little extra entertaining at one point, and he took care of that all by himself.

My sister Emily entertained herself, as well, by taking pictures like this one on my camera.

After gifts, we had a feeding frenzy in the kitchen. All of a sudden there were 8 people crowded in there making tacos and sundaes and eating cupcakes. I scarfed down a few tacos myself, and I swear to god those were best tacos I ever had. After a long, tiring and exhilarating day, I could have eaten 15.

Then someone started a bonfire outside. By then it was after 11, and Mike and I were beat. The hardcores in my family were ready to party some more, but we had to peace out around midnight. Even the kids were still awake when we left!

We packed up most of our gifts, but left a big mess at my dad’s house. Thank god my parents were cool about cleaning up after us even after everything they had already done. It was a long drive from the middle of nowhere (dad’s house) to our hotel downtown, but it was worth it. We got a killer deal on a suite at one of the nice hotels in the city, and as soon as we got there, we crashed on the plush king-sized bed.

And that was it. Our wedding day. Pretty fucking awesome if you ask me.

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One thing I will always remember about our wedding was how EFFING HOT it was! I couldn’t be more grateful though because there was a threat of rain, and hot thick sticky air is better than rain any wedding day. I tried to encourage people to dress comfortably, but several men had long pants or shirts on, and I just wanted to hand them a pair of scissors to remedy the situation. I was pretty steamy in my slip and long dress myself, and Mike kept his pants and long-sleeved shirt on the whole time. But, again, thankful for the heat given the alternative!

Anyway, while we were busy with photos, the rest of the crew was enjoying themselves. Everyone was eating and drinking and chatting. They were entertaining themselves with our homemade cootie catchers and pinwheels…

…and enjoying our candy-licious favors and decor.

(Although, we had a hard time getting rid of the candy favors. What the! Those things were awesome. Eventually someone walked around and handed the damn things out. Same thing happened recently at my sister’s wedding. My advice to future brides: favors are a waste of time and money.)

They were also busy at the photo booth, which I already talked about. And then! Then! We busted out the pinata. Aw yeah. Mike’s brother Brian helped the dads hang it up.

While we waited for the photographer to stop screwing around (kidding!), we screwed around a little bit.

Then we took a few swings together. In place of a first dance, we did a first pinata whack.

Then we turned it over to the kids who were, oh my gosh, SO excited they could hardly wait their turn.

Once all the little ones had a few swings, I looked to the adults. Brian was the first to volunteer, and turns out, the last.

With one whack, he sent that thing flying off the tree. And the kids, of course, went crazy. I have to admit, it was kind of crappy candy, cheap stuff from the bulk section, but they didn’t care. It’s CANDY and it’s FLYING EVERYWHERE!

Speaking of kids, I’m so glad we kept the kid quota small. It wasn’t a vicious thing, but kids tend to dominate a party. All the kids at the wedding were “my” kids, my family. So instead of being overwhelming, it was family. It was fun. And it was just the right amount of people in general. I am so so so glad we didn’t let the guest list get out of control. I hear all the time that peoples’ guest lists get away from them, but we managed to always keep it reined in, and all I can say is PHEW!

On that same note, I pointed out to someone recently that Mike and I managed to have exactly the wedding we said we were going to have. We always stayed true to our vision, and we weren’t influenced by any internal or external forces. The wedding we pictured a year ago is the wedding we had on June 12. I’m really proud that we weren’t sucked into the wedding industry—we didn’t go over our budget, we didn’t enlarge our guest list, we didn’t get caught up in unnecessary details. I don’t think that’s always easy to do, so kudos to us babe!

(I love this picture and don’t know where else to put it, so here is as good as any place.)

Like they all say, the whole thing went pretty fast, but honestly, not too fast. From start to finish, it was only about 8 hours of our lives. A work day. That’s it. So of course it’s going to go fast, especially given all the work you put into it. But we made a point to pause and soak it all in several times, and that helped us to slow down and enjoy it. We watched it all happen, but we also participated fully. That’s the way to do it.

Luckily my sister, the officiant, was on top of things, otherwise we may never have made it official. She called us into the house at one point to sign the marriage license.

I had my sister Andrea sign as my witness (Emily signed hers, and I signed Emily’s. Kelli had a friend sign for her.), and Mike asked his mom.

As soon as we had gotten all the shots we wanted, I ran off to change. I was actually in my dress for many hours when all was said and done, but I was ready to get out of it. It was HOT! And I really had no problem with this. I got my fifty bucks worth, and then I changed into a short green sundress and flip flops.

Actually the flip flops replaced my gorgeous boudoir slippers almost right away.

I’m in the green, and the rest of the feet belong to my mom and sisters. Can you guess who’s who?

Next I’m going to tell you about the after party!

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Immediately after the ceremony, we went into reception mode. The wedding was at 4, and the “reception-only” guests were invited to arrive at 5, so we had to hustle. Luckily we had a team of amazing people on our side. While Mike and I mingled, our families moved chairs and tables, set out a few decorations, got the buffet ready.

After talking to a few guests, Mike and I wanted to do photos so we could spend the rest of the evening having fun with our friends and family. We started with family portraits, all sorts of combinations – Mike’s dad’s side, his mom’s side, my dad’s side, my mom’s side, siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. My family is HUGE and it was hard to wrangle everyone when we needed them. I asked people to hang out nearby until we were done, but with so many people, that’s impossible. I will admit, it was frustrating, but really, not a huge deal.

Erica also took a bunch of pictures of Mike and I together, but I’ll save those for another post. She also did a great job of capturing other people. I didn’t even notice her taking most of them!

(Photos by Photography by Arika Reed.)

I LOVE all the photos we got from the day, but one regret I have is what we missed while we were occupied getting them. Before we were done capturing everything we wanted, before I even thought the reception had really gotten started, people were approaching us to say goodbye. It was really disappointing! But I’m going to blame it on them – talk about eat and run! – so I don’t feel bad.

At some point in the middle of photo-taking, we stopped to eat from the UH-MAZE-ING taco bar. I was a little distracted and didn’t eat as much as I normally would, but damn those tacos were good. And there was plenty of it. Later we laughed at how much extra we had. We threw a party for 60 and had for about three times that many.

I can’t remember the exact sequence, but at some point later we also had ice cream. Instead of cutting the cake, Mike and I made a sundae together. God I love tacos and ice cream. I think we had the best wedding menu EVER!

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While everyone got seated, Mike and I stayed inside the house. Through the windows we could see some chaos happening with the chairs – people were scrambling to find more and we weren’t sure why. A couple people came into the house to grab a thing or two, and told us that apparently there weren’t enough, which was frustrating because I counted those damn chairs and set them up perfectly. We didn’t have “sides” for bride and groom, and other than “reserved” seats for parents in the front, we didn’t dictate where people sat. But there were enough chairs! When I looked at pictures later and saw there were empty seats, that confirmed it. And also, I went back and counted them in this photo we took pre-ceremony, so I’m not really sure what was going on.

Can you tell the chair thing really bothered me? It was silly, but standing inside watching it happen, I was like, what the fuck, get it together people!

Anyway, Mike and I were inside waiting to get started. I was really warm in my dress, and even though we had both borrowed handkerchiefs from my two grandpas to dab the sweat, I needed to take a moment to cool down. I stood in front of the fan, then sat on an ottoman and closed my eyes. When I felt relaxed and cool, Mike and I took a minute to appreciate what was happening. We looked out on our family and friends, and at each other, and took it all in.

(Photos by Photography by Arika Reed.)

We both stood at different doors and waited for my sister Emily to give us the cue (a subtle nob). I was a door where nobody could see me except her, and when I opened to door a crack I heard her telling a joke. I guess she was entertaining the crowd while I took my moment to cool. When she saw me waiting, she nodded, and we walked out. We came from different doors and met at the steps of the deck. It was then I noticed the background music we were playing pre-ceremony was still on, and it was definitely NOT playing anything from the playlist Mike had made. I caught my sister Kelli’s eye and she knew I was saying, “What IS that? Turn that shit off!” Thanks Kel! I kept smiling, and Mike took my hand and helped me down the steps, then we separated again. He walked around one side of the chairs and I the other, and we met at the altar.

(Note the HILARIOUS face my little bro is making!)

Emily started by welcoming everyone and saying some sweet words she had written about us as individuals and as a couple. She wouldn’t let us hear or read that part before the ceremony, so it was nice to have a little surprise. Then we had planned this cool thing where Em was going to ask my family and friends to accept Mike, and his to accept me. She asked for “Shannon’s friends and family to please stand” but EVERYONE stood. It was a little confusing for second, but Em rolled with it, made a little joke and pressed on. It meant a lot to hear all of our most important people accept each of us into their folds.

Then Em introduced and explained our Unity Quilt. While she explained the idea behind it, how it was created and how many people contributed, Mike and I showed it off.

She also explained our Love Letter Box, and invited everyone to contribute some advice or well wishes. Then Mike and I exchanged vows and rings. We both said the same thing, words we had written together. I went first. Em asked, “Shannon, do you choose Mike to be your husband, to love, respect and honor him through all life’s changes?” And I took his ring from her and said:

I do. Mike, I choose you to be my husband and my partner, loving what I know of you, and trusting what I do not yet know. I eagerly anticipate the chance to grow together, getting to know the man you will become. I promise to be your equal partner, love you without reservation, and comfort you in times of distress. I will encourage you to achieve all of your goals, laugh with you and cry with you, grow with you in mind and spirit, and always be open and honest with you.

I promise I will always try to give you the best of myself and love you even when you’re not at your own best. Like when the grocery store is out of double chocolate PowerBars and you take it as a conspiracy against you personally. I promise to respect you as a person with your own interests, desires, and needs, and to realize that those are sometimes different, but no less important than my own.I promise to love and cherish you through all of life’s experiences.

I take you to be my husband, knowing in my heart that you will be my constant friend, my faithful partner, and one true love. I give this ring as my gift to you. Wear it and think of me and know that I love you.

Then Em asked Mike the same question, and he responded with the same words. Only his example of me not at my own best was “Like when you get upset with me for not finding your phone fast enough in your bottomless purse.”

Don’t worry, we didn’t memorize all that. Em had it written in her book and we read. See?

Em pronounced us husband and wife and invited me to kiss my groom. Then we unveiled this funny plan I have had for a long time. Mike’s tall right? Quite tall. And I’m not. So when we’re both standing and we kiss, even when I’m in heels, he has to hunch over and I get a neck cramp. So to play up our height difference, we planned this:

(Photos by Photography by Arika Reed.)

We had hidden a tree stump behind our altar, and when Em told us to kiss, that was my dad’s cue. He hopped up, grabbed the log and put it in place, then assisted me in stepping up. Just as I had hoped, it got a good laugh from those who weren’t expecting it. And it made for a gorgeous! photo.

(Photo by Photography by Arika Reed.)

At that was it! We smiled for the people…

…and walked down the aisle together. Married!

As soon as we got to the end, people got up and we were surrounded with hugs and kisses and congratulations. Good thing my immediate family knew exactly what to do to set up for the reception. They jumped immediately into action while Mike and I mingled.

And that, my friends, was our wedding. It was beautiful and perfect and fun and a little silly and it was so personalized. We wrote the whole thing and did only the things that meant something to us. I wouldn’t have changed a thing. And I’m really glad we got tons of pictures and a video. Thanks to everyone with a camera!

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I’ve told the story of how I found and purchased my dress already.

And I even mentioned that I was worried I wouldn’t actually fit into it the day of the wedding—I hadn’t tried it on in months, and I didn’t want to bother getting it altered. If I managed to maintain my weight, it would be fine, but I wasn’t sure I did that (as I made zero effort to do so). I figured if it didn’t fit, I’d just improvise and wear a sundress, but of course I was hoping it would.

Fortunately, when I tried it on the Friday before, it zipped up just fine.

So on Saturday I wasn’t worried at all. After hair and makeup were done, I hung out in my pajamas for awhile. I mingled with the guests that had shown up early, and took care of some last minute details. But mostly I just waited and relaxed. At one point I was sitting on the couch in a tank top and capris with immaculate hair and makeup, thinking, “I’m about to get married. Cool.”

My sisters kept telling me I should get in my dress, but I wanted to wait. It was a hot and humid day, and I wanted to be as fresh as possible for the ceremony, so waiting to don a slip and long dress was key. Finally around 3pm, they pulled me into a bedroom to get dressed.

(Yes that’s me in my slip and bra. Hey, Erica posted it on her blog, so I figured I could, too.)

I really could not be more happy with how my dress looked. Everything came together perfectly – the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the dress. I loved it all, which I think is important on your wedding day when, inevitably, you’re the center of attention. You want to feel good. And I did.

My favorite thing about the dress is that it is so very me. Even my grandpa, a man in his 70s whom I’ve never heard comment on anything to do with fashion, said that he loved my dress and thought it fit my personality perfectly. Standard wedding gowns are gorgeous, no doubt, but the strapless-white-poofy thing is just not me. This dress? So me.

And the shoes! Oh the shoes. I thought I’d go with something bright and funky, but when I saw these 1950s boudoir slippers on Etsy, I know they were meant for this dress.

Like I mentioned, Mike’s get-ready routine was much simpler, and he got dressed even before I did. He wore dark brown pants with an orange and white gingham-print shirt. During the ceremony he wore a sand-colored jacket, which he removed for the reception. He also wore sandals. We had decided he’d wear brown Skechers, but on the way to Dad’s Saturday morning, we realized we forgot them. Rather than turn around, we decided his Birkenstock sandals were just fine.

(Ceremony look.)

(Reception look.)

After we were both fully ensembled (word?), we walked around the house and yard greeting guests. We meant for this whole thing to be very casual and comfortable, so I didn’t hide out pre-ceremony. Both Mike and I chatted with people and fielded compliments (people are so sweet when you’re getting married). Once it appeared everyone had arrived, we decided to get started.

And that is where I’ll start my next post about the ceremony itself.

(All photos, except the first one and last two, by Photography by Arika Reed.)

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Our photos are done! Erica (Photography by Arika Reed), posted a great blog post full of photos a few days ago. Then soon after she got them all up on her online viewing gallery. If you want to check them out, and I hope you do, let me know and I’ll get you the password.

I love love love them all. This was Erica’s first wedding, and she totally nailed it. It was a great deal for all of us – she got to practice wedding photography in a “safe” situation (we’ve been friends for 17 years, if my math is right, and she’s known my family just as long), and we got a great deal on spectacular wedding photos.

Thank you Rico! It was so much fun to have you there. Thanks for working your ass off to make us some spectacular pictures!

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One of my favorite things we did at our reception was the Photo Booth (aka the guest book). We set up my camera in front of a log pile with some props, and people had a blast. My sisters were superstars and made sure every single guest took a turn, so we’ve got photos of every one in attendance.

(Above photos by Photography by Arika Reed. Erica, let me know if I’m not allowed to use these this way.)

We got some really fun pictures, too. Give people a few props and it’s a party!



Even my grandparents got in on the fun!

The kids took more than anyone.

Mike and I also took a turn.

One of the first things we did on our honeymoon was flip through all these photos. I love how they all turned out. In all, we got 68 Photo Booth photos (not bad for a guest list of 60)! Eventually we’ll match them up with the messages people wrote on the back of the photo paper, print them, and put them in an album.

Thank you Emily and Andrea for making sure this idea came to fruition! And thanks to everyone who took part.

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I took the Friday before the wedding off, but Mike had to work in the morning. While he did that, I went grocery shopping with Des, my stepmom. We bought WAY too much food, as Mike has already detailed. By the time we got back to the house, Mike arrived with a bunch of borrowed chairs, trash bins and the ice cream machine! Slowly others in my family started showing up, and we banded together to set up the yard and the garage. We also made tissue paper poms and paper pinwheels.

I was pretty chill and relaxed on Friday. I got a little testy a few times when I was trying to “manage the work,” if you will, and others were distracted by, what I considered at the time, less important things. I tend to get like that though on any given day. I like people to FOCUS! (I yell that a lot) and get things done before they run off in a million directions. I pulled the “this is MY day!” card a couple times, but only as a joke.

(Setting up chairs.)

(Setting up tents… just in case.)

Somewhere in there we ordered pizza for everyone. A très chic rehearsal dinner if I do say myself. After all the setup, we ran through the ceremony with my sister, the minister. It was a relatively short ceremony, but we arranged and wrote the whole thing (except for a very sweet part Emily wrote), so it was special to us.

(This photo is completely unedited. It really was that green and bright in the yard!)

Then we practiced my hair. My friend Robin was going to do it for me on the big day, but my sister Andrea wanted to try something. She and I had a similar vision for my hair so she gave it a go. We mostly focused on the front Friday night, and she did a great job. But on Saturday she really made the whole thing stunning. I loved every inch of my hair, and I love that it came together last minute, and I love that someone close to me did it, and I love that it was free!

(This is Friday night. You’ll be able to see some good ones of Saturday later.)

Then, because I hadn’t tried it on in a long time, I made sure I could still fit in my dress. Thank God, it fit. I had kind of decided, if I needed to, I’d just improvise. Wear something else maybe. But I was relieved it fit because I love how it added to the overall look of… well, everything.

Because my dad was playing a small part in the ceremony, we wanted to practice once more when he got home (he took all the kids to a tee ball game and got them out of the house – bless him). So, we rehearsed again!

And then we finished up a few odds and ends and peaced out. It was a really good day-before-the-wedding.

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Just thought y’all might be interested in seeing the final product of our Unity Quilt project. This was one of the very coolest things we did. It took quite a bit of work, and I got worn out (and sloppy) toward the end, but it was so worth it. I love how it turned out, and I love that we’ll have it forever.

We presented it during the ceremony – my sister, as the minister, explained its meaning while Mike and I showed it off.

(This is during our “rehearsal.” I don’t have a ceremony photo yet.)

Then we hung it up in front of the fireplace, with a nifty little diagram I mocked up, throughout the reception.

Pretty effing cool huh?

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