Today’s wedding is going to restore your faith in the world, I’m just warning you. Maryanne and Harry had their reception at a restaurant that works to feed everyone, whether they can afford to pay or not. It focused on their values instead of stuff. But in true APW fashion, they balanced their values with who they are and still had damn beautiful wedding and a string quartet. This wedding reminds me of what the APW community is all about: being true to yourself and your values; not letting the pretty conflict with the meaningful; standing your ground without making too much a fuss (unless you need to). So without further ado, I bring you Maryanne:
My husband surprised me with his proposal. We were in love, and things were going really well between us, but I didn’t expect that on a Sunday morning last May he’d put an engagement ring on a necklace, put the necklace on my 16-year-old cat, and the two of them proposed to me. I happily said yes.
And after all the happy phone calls to give our families the good news, the question became: when and where shall we have the wedding? We didn’t want anything too fancy or over the top. We knew we didn’t want to break the bank with expenses, and we absolutely knew we didn’t want a lot of material gifts, since we both already had established separate households.
The part that really helped a lot was sitting down at our favorite diner over a grilled cheese (me) and a hamburger (Harry) to decide which elements in the wedding were most important to us.
The list: I wanted to look like a bride; we wanted a string quartet; we wanted to tie in some kind of charity-related theme; we wanted a meaningful and personal ceremony; we wanted to keep it small; we wanted to have it in Denver. We also didn’t want to rush the planning, but we didn’t want to drag out either. So almost six months to the day of getting engaged, we got married on Nov 20, 2010, the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
We ended up choosing to have the wedding reception at the same place as one of our first dates in Denver: the So All May Eat Café (SAME). SAME is an innovative restaurant concept in Denver. It serves healthy meals to people and the customers pay what they think the meal is worth, or, in some cases, what they can, and if they have no money, they can do dishes or help clean up in the kitchen.
Those who can afford to pay more know that their generosity goes to help sustain the café’s ability to feed others who are less fortunate. I had read about this wonderful place on the interwebs and had always wanted to visit, and Harry took me there on one of our early dates. As we planned our wedding, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate place to have the reception. We worked with the owners, Libby and Brad, and we found them to be delightful and very enthusiastic about us holding the reception at their restaurant.
We certainly heard some doubt from some family members about our choices. For example we received an alarmed phone call from a family member who had scoped out the SAME Café to report that there wasn’t enough room in the restaurant for the DJ to lay down a dance floor. That’s when we had to break the news that there wasn’t going to be a DJ or a dance floor! We could tell this was disappointing to hear at the time, but as it turned out, the alternative we planned worked out beautifully. We rented a thirty five person limo to go pub crawling after dinner. It was a riot—we ended up singing Irish Pub songs at one place, and being serenaded to “Edelweiss” and “My Favorite Things” at a piano bar. There was also some confusion about how people should dress, because the reception was at a “soup kitchen” it would be a casual affair. So we clarified that on the online wedding invitations and wedding website (we used Glö and loved them!).
We saved a lot of money by forgoing the traditional five course meal. The food served at SAME was family-style lasagna, salad, and garlic bread, as well as some pizza for the kiddies. We received a lot of compliments on the food, and SAME received a lot of money in donations from our friends and family (that was one of the things we asked for as gifts). Speaking of gifts, we used the alternative wedding registry on The New American Dream website, where we asked for donations to SAME, old family wedding photos, board games, favorite books, and advice, among other things. Other money savers were that my stepsister, Erin Lally, graciously agreed to be our photographer, and we used her photos as well as some friends’ to create a beautiful wedding album later to remember. My brother, who lives in Denver, arranged with his favorite wine store to get a deal on several cases of wine, champagne and beer. Whole Foods party trays were the snacks we served at the cocktail reception at the art gallery prior to the wedding ceremony itself, which saved us a lot of money on catering.
A splurge was getting help from a wedding coordinator. I had planned most of the major elements of the day myself from my home in Northern California (string quartet, florist, art gallery for the ceremony, officiant), but Lisa Fallon, our coordinator, took care of the logistics the day before and the day of. She decorated the two venues beautifully, surprising the guests as well as my groom and me each part of the evening. I had felt some guilt about spending the money on this extravagance, but I was surprised the day of the wedding to find how stress-free it was because of Lisa, as well as the help from Libby from SAME and Gabrielle our officiant.
What stands out to me the most about the wedding day was the pure joy and wonder that I felt all day long. Every element was beautiful—the flowers, the flower girls (my beloved nieces), and Harry’s cousins (the ring-bearers) were adorable. The gallery was lit beautifully, and it was warm and bright. The best part was the ceremony. I was calm and confident and happy and absolutely honored to be marrying this wonderful man and build a wonderful, happy life together. The words of the ceremony contained poems that meant a lot to both Harry and me, and they summed up our feelings perfectly:
You’re the sunshine on my floor
You’re the book I’ve halfway read
You’re the smile a stranger gave
And you’re the blessing someone said
You’re my favorite cowboy song…
From: “I’ve Known You By 100 Names” by The Nields—found through APW!
You are the star of each night,
You are the brightness of every morning,
You are the story of each guest,
You are the report of every land.
From an Irish Wedding Blessing—also found via APW!
We laughed, danced, sang, and loved each minute of each other’s company, as well as each guests’. At each turn, there was a beautiful detail, or a lovely flower, or the funny groom’s cake that was an old family recipe Harry grew up with, or our wedding cake, where we each wrote down words that reminded us of our life and future together, and the baker wrote those words on the cake. It was a day full of love and joy and was the happiest of my life.
The Info — Photography: Erin Lally (Bride’s stepsister) / Coordinator: Lisa Fallon / Ceremony Venue: Translations Gallery / Music: Cloud Nine Acoustic Quartet / Reception Venue: So All May Eat Cafe / Flowers: Statice Floral Design / Dress: David’s Bridal / Officiant: Gabrielle Ellis Woods