Sarah & Jeremy’s Eastern Orthodox Wedding

Oh, kids. I had to pick a wedding to jump back into writing wedding graduate posts with, and this one made me so deeply happy. First, it’s an Eastern Orthadox Wedding, crowns and all, and I’ve been dying to have some lovely crown-goodness on APW for a million billion years. Second, everything is so right with this wedding. It reminds me of countless weddings of my childhood – church social halls, bustling family members making the food, no-nonsense decoration that end up made stunning with love. Add to that Sarah’s wisdom and Jocelyn Mathewes’ photos (who has been a friend of APW for almost two whole years, and is just the best)? Magic, kids. Magic.

Jeremy and I met in college, where he majored in History, and I in Marine Biology. Despite this, we some how ended up in the same social group (possibly because we are both such geeks and love many of the same books and films). In the middle of our junior year he asked me out. Three tumultuous, but wonderful, years later he finally proposed-outside in the middle of the first of the of several blizzards to cream MD. (The poor guy had been planning on walking to a nearby park,but when the blizzard hit we couldn’t go anywhere! So he had to settle for a patch of snowy trees right near my house.)

Now, I have always been a tomboy, and much more eager to muck about in tide pools than do my nails. My childhood sketches are of whales and giant squids, not wedding dresses. So spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a one day, even a day as important as my wedding, just didn’t make sense to me. I was determined from day one that it would be as small and cheap as I could contrive, and yet still include all my family and his. (Easier said than done as you might imagine!) Jeremy, as the oldest of 6 boys, isn’t really into the frills either, so we make a nice pair that way.

We did have one less thing to plan than most couples getting married: the ceremony. We are both members of the ancient Orthodox Christian Church, and it’s been marrying people the same way for centuries. One priest joked with us that all you have to do is show up! This left us with the interesting challenge of trying to find crowns (at the height of the ceremony the couple are crowned as King and Queen of their new household, as well as ‘Martyrs’ to each other in love), but without the need to compose any vows, or do more than give the choir director some basic idea of our personal music tastes (American, Russian,Greek, or Arabic music? How ‘bout a bit of them all!?) In the end we found a blacksmith from Florida who specializes in Renaissance reenactment who made us the two lovely brass circlets we used as our crowns.

Perhaps the hardest decision we made was to be married at my home Church in Maryland, not at the parish we attended together in college,and which would be much closer to all our mutual friends. However, the Baltimore location was better for our families, and after what that Church ended up doing for us there can not possibly be any regrets! Plus, our priest from Massachusetts made us very happy by agreeing to come down and co-celebrate at the ceremony!

Beyond that, our wedding and reception became almost entirely‘DIY/DIT’ (I did not even know that DIT was a term prior to reading this blog, but it is a great one! editors note: that’s because I made it up), from the invites, to the flowers, the programs to my accessories.

Our ‘venue’ was the Church, it’s basement, and the lawn outside. We did rent a tent for some shade (Maryland can be quite hot in June!), but opted for the top only version to save money and allow for natural breezes, without having to rent fans.

My dress was a wonderful, and sanity preserving, find at a local thrift store. My first (any only!) time in a bridal salon I was wearing an old sweater and pants covered in paint (I was on my way back from work when I spotted the place and thought I could just sneak in and look around. But I’m self employed as an interior painter and thus was not really dressed for a ‘salon’…). I walked in the door, felt immediately judged for my lack of shamncy apparel, took one loop around the room looking for ANYTHING under $1000, found not even one, and left in a hurry. Thrift stores here I come! A bit of looking and$30 (!!!) later I had a lovely simple dress with no frills, and straps, which I accented with a jacket I found online, and a belt I made to showcase the beautiful broach given to my by mother-in-law (old and blue at the same time).

Our cake was a gift from a lady who, in a previous career, worked at a bakery. She is a master, as the enormous confection she created proves. Notice the strange writing on it? That would be Elvish, yes as in the fictional language Tolkien invented for his Elves in Lord of the Rings

My now-husband and I had the whole crowd torn between tears and laughter when we explained he had courted me with love letters in Elvish! This addition to the cake, which incidentally is a translationof a verse from the service, was a secret collaboration between him, my mother, and the baker to surprise me with.

I did the flowers myself, but could not have done so without the know-how of the resident ‘flower lady’ who not only introduced me to the best wholesale flower shop in Baltimore (soo much cheaper than retail!), but gave me tips and aid galore. Decorations? I ordered allthe materials from a bulk craft supply site online, and my wonderful family arrived the day before and put it all together.

As with most weddings I’ve heard of, the hardest challenge was food. But enter the indomitable spirit of my mother and a slew of ladies to assist her. They prepared the most wonderful assortment of finger foods you can imagine , and laid them out buffet style on little tables scattered in the Church basement, and outside under the tent. (The biggest hit of the day was a countertop covered in Dollar Tree cookies and pretzels, some fresh fruit, and a chocolate fountain. Even the cheapest cookies in the world are divine if you dip them in molten semi-sweet chocolate!) This arrangement allowed us to keep the food budget really low, and yet still have about 175 people (mostly family members, but also lots of  our college friends) at the reception.

We didn’t hire a DJ, instead Jeremy and I put together a mix of our favorite music and had my computer plugged into some speakers. Neither of us really knows how to dance, and my father would have flatly refused a Father/Daughter dance (he’s rather emotional, and could barely get through his toast, forget a dance!) so we simply nixed dancing all together (besides, with my entire extended family being Southern Baptist I figured there wasn’t going to be much spontaneous dancing anyway…), and substituted a time of family toasts. Thus, instead of watching Jeremy and I spin on the spot for 2 or 3 minutes, we got to share in the wisdom of our respective fathers. What might be critical to someone else, was not to us. Don’t be afraid of doing what you want for your reception!

Looking back what I remember most about our wedding are the faces of our family and friends all surrounding us in the Church (without any pews everyone just filled in tightly around us!), Jeremy’s face as he saw me for the first time, the feel of his hand in mine as we took our first steps together as husband and wife, the dark sweetness of the wine we shared in our common cup, my dad’s teary toast, being presented the gorgeous quilt made for us by a woman from Jeremy’s Church in New Hampshire (It’s a New-England-style story quilt that chronicles our lives so far, and is covered in little notes from friends with their love and advice!)… in other words, almost nothing I had anything to do with planning! As much fun as I had doing the flowers, I barely saw them day of. As much as I insisted on certain food items for the reception, I really wouldn’t have noticed if they hadn’t been there! It all faded to irrelevance when faced with thefact that I had bound my life inextricably to that of my dearest friend.

In conclusion then, I’ll simply offer these few words of advice, most of which were given to me by others.

  • Ask for help! DIT is seriously the best way I can imagine to not only stay sane and on budget, but also allow more people to feel connected to and important during this meaningful event.
  • Figure out the few things you really want, and then make everything else fit around them. It took some planning, and a decent amount ofwork, but our whole wedding (from invites to the reception) cost under $6000, with our largest expense by far going to photography. Forsomeone else perhaps it would be food, or their dress, or a really great band. To each their own!
  • Don’t freak out. It’s been said a million times, but it’s important: it’s only one day!! Your marriage STARTS the day you marry. It isn’t an end in itself. You might as well save your strength for the journey ahead!
  • Think outside the commercial box. Thrift stores and consignment shops are awesome. (People throw away the greatest things, and many times in near perfect condition!) My mother wore a different dress for both the rehearsal dinner and our wedding, and got both of them from a thrift store! The same one I got my dress at in fact… Also, if used creatively, dollar stores often have materials that can be made tolook much more fancy and elegant than they really are!
  • My aunt is famous in our family for saying “Choose something simple and people will accuse you of good taste.*” Enough said.
  • Finally, the most important thing Jeremy and I have learned fromthe whole process of dating, being engaged, and now being married isthe importance of being on the same page about life. Communication is the root of this, but what you are communicating about is crucial too.Whether it’s money, sex, family, or Spirituality and Faith, you have to be on the same page. I’m NOT saying you have to agree oneverything, but you have to know where the other person is and respect it. And, I will venture to say that if you can agree on the big stuff (Faith, family, etc.) it makes a much more solid foundation for your lives together.

Photos by the deeply fabulous long time supporter and sponsor of this blog Studio Mathewes Photography (now in Baltimore and Boston). Snap her up ladies!

*Does everyone know this phrase but me? I’ve never heard this and it is GENIUS.

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  • So lovely!

  • Erin

    “Choose something simple and people will accuse you of good taste.*” Enough said.

    No, Meg, you’re not the only one who’s never heard this, but hot damn, it’s my new motto.

    And Sarah, your wedding was beautiful. It’s clear you and Jeremy have something awesome together, and it makes me so happy for you :)

  • I absolutely love this – such a gorgeous day full of so much joy and those crowns are brilliant. I love the quilt as well – what a really thoughtful and meaningful gift. The whole day just looks like it was touched with so much love. And being a huge LOTR/Tolkien dork myself, the Elvish on the cake made me want to scream in delight!

  • This ceremony seemed so perfectly YOU. Congratulations, and what a lovely dress!

  • Casey

    “Communication is the root of this, but what you are communicating about is crucial too.Whether it’s money, sex, family, or Spirituality and Faith, you have to be on the same page. I’m NOT saying you have to agree on everything, but you have to know where the other person is and respect it.”

    Amen sista!

  • liz


    (why am i always the shallow one who reads through an awesome wedding grad post and comments on the dress?)

    • Katelyn

      No, that dress is AMAZING! I love how Sarah styled it. It looks so classic but definitely has her own touch to it, too.

    • Alyssa

      Um, NO, because I was just going to comment on it too.

      We can wallow in our shallowness together.

    • I have two pairs of shoes for the wedding (heels, and Converse), and both pairs each cost more than her entire dress. OH, THE MATERIALISM.

      ….right there with you, Liz. :)

      • Gah, my mans TIE cost nearly as much as her dress!!!!!
        And that is a neat dress :)

  • It is my secret desire, that instead of something off the registry, one person will surprise me with their skill and generosity and make us a quilt for our wedding present. I’m a knitter, and have been for a long time, and would really appreciate the gesture (I sound like I’m campaigning… geez!). Anyhow, I’m glad you really appreciate the work and love that went into you quilt.

    • Katelyn

      That’s a new tradition my mom is starting for us four kids- handmade quilts. My brother is getting married in a couple of weeks and they are getting a lovely jewel-toned, classic pinwheel pattern.

      She has spent the better part of the last year on it while juggling a full-time job, so it’s quite the undertaking and makes me a little awe-stricken how special a gift it is.

      • Katie

        My Mom is a quilter and for our guestbook we’re having people sign fabric with fabric pens, which my Mom will then make into a wedding quilt for us. AMAZING. I’m a lucky lady.

      • ElfPuddle

        My mom is a quilter too. Each of the three of us kids got quilts we designed with her when we were 16ish. My brother’s wedding quilt was a huge labor in love. I’m engaged, without a wedding date, and she’s been working on my quilt since she met the fiance.
        Any quilt is a gift from the heart and is so precious!

      • You’re so lucky! No one in my family quilts, but my mother gave me a quilt my great-grandmother built by hand. I treasure it. You will treasure yours…and maybe your great-granddaughter will, too, some day?? So cool!!

        • Katelyn

          Yes, vintage quilts are the main decor around my parent’s farmhouse. I think the oldest one was made by my father’s grandmother and dates back to the 1930’s.

    • Alyssa

      Dude. Drop a hint to your mom or another family member and let them run with it. I have my wedding quilt because I was all, “Oh, Aunt Lori makes such nice quilts, how nice of her to make one for So and So’s wedding…” Then BAM. Awesome wedding quilt.

      I generally have more shame than that, but who doesn’t want a wedding quilt to pass on?

      • Melaniedk

        If you can drop any hints, maybe give them to your bridesmaids…I have a friend who, for her best friend’s bridal shower, taught everyone to crochet squares and then put them into a single throw for the bride. I also know of someone who recently went to a shower where the guests helped cut out and even begin sewing a quilt for the bride. I also belonged to a club growing up where we would embroider personalized quilt squares, and then put them together as a gift for the “president” of the club. I think having everyone pitch in makes it that much more meaningful (and less work for the quilter)!

      • My lovely mom made us a quilt for our wedding as well! I will always cherish it… And yes – such a great thing to pass on Alyssa! :)

    • My mother-in-law to be quilts and told us a long time ago that she wanted to make us a quilt, and I was THRILLED. However, we still haven’t gotten around to talking about colors or fabric, so I doubt it will be ready by our wedding next month. She’s pretty slow with quilts (my fiance’s childhood quilt was only finished sometime in high school), but it’s more of a spiritual process for her, so if she wants to make us one, no matter how long it takes, I’m honored. :)

    • My mother-in-law is extraordinarily gifted in the quilting department. In fact, we refer to her as a fabric artist. In the run-up to our wedding she collected special fabric from all of our friends and family and composed the most goose-bum inducing quilt I have ever seen. And nestled between all of the beauty are snippets of the fabric of our community’s lives: a few wedding dresses, my sister’s “prom” dress, serviettes embroidered by our grandmothers, our niece’s curtains… We hung it as a backdrop to our ceremony and it is one of the most marvelous symbols of our marriage. Lucky fishes!

      • ddayporter

        WHAT. that is amazing.

  • shorty j

    this is so beautiful! (and yay Baltimore :D)

    that dress is amazing, too.

    • Chelsea

      Yay Baltimore, indeed!

  • Danae

    The crowns. ZOMG amazing. And the fact that the orthodox service (plus crowns) matches so beautifully with the Elvish theme and your dress looks amazing and it’s all so personal and totally you guys. LOVING it!

    • Yes! So glad someone mentioned the crowns! They complete the whole splendid vibe of your gorgeous wedding.

  • What a phenomenal wedding- I love the thrity and creative DIT spirit combined with the tradidion of the Eastern Orthodoxy. That, and you can feel how important family is to the couple, that’s a value I always respect. Congratulations.

  • Alyssa

    Can I just say that although I loved my wedding dress, your dress is exactly what I wanted when I was little and thought of what a wedding dress should be. Simple, stunning and lovely.
    And that little girl in me is supremely jealous of your crowns. The adult in me knows and respects it as a beautiful part of your religion, but the little girl in me wants a crown. Badly.

    And your last picture? GAH. <—— That was me melting into a puddle at the stunning beauty of it. I mean, SERIOUSLY. Ridiculously beautiful.

    And you're pretty damn smart in your advice. Kudos all around.

  • ka

    awesome! i love how all the elements came together. and that picture in the forest, wow. congratulations!

  • Pamela

    So beautiful!! Eastern Orthodoxy is the religion of my childhood, and even though I don’t follow it any more, I seriously love the weddings. Love your crowns, too – and that’s awesome that you got to design them! In the parish I attended, the bride and groom just had to use the ones provided by the church.

    And oh, yeah, love the cake, and the quilt, and your dress and and and…basically everything!

    Many years to you both!

  • So sad my keyboard doesn’t have Elvish symbols to write “Congratulations” with! What a beautiful day and thank you for your advice!!

  • Fab

    That picture of the two of you in the woods is maybe the most gorgeous thing ever. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Before I read the paragraph below the first picture with the cake, I thought “Is that Elvish?” Not that I can read a word of it; but I’m impressed that I recognized it! (I <3 Tolkien.)

    Beautiful, beautiful wedding. And I think I'm going to borrow your aunt's phrase because it is indeed genius.

  • Love the belt, and everything else. What a beautiful wedding!

  • radiant bride. such good taste!

  • I just want to hug this wedding! I love it all.

  • Rhiannon

    Hi! I’m new…

    Most of what I wanted to say has been said already apart from the belt and brooch love!

    That looks amazing. WOW.

  • Congratulations! I especially adore the last, stunning photo is stunning. I can’t even put into words the feelings I get just from looking at it; it’s really magical.

  • …Hey Sarah, speaking of a wedding cake with sugary Elvish writing, my hubby ended up choosing a 14 karat gold replica of the One Ring from Lord of the Rings as his wedding band – Elvish inscription and all.

    But what I’m really here to say is how much I love your wedding! Even though my big day is said and done, I’m still feeling oddly overwhelmed by the wedding expectations of my region (the NYC/ Long Island area).

    I think that Meg and I are about the same age, so when I read that she grew up with weddings like the one above, I’m envious and in total shock. This post was so refreshing and inspiring. Thank you for sharing and congratulations or your marriage. Best of luck to you!

    • Avery

      I just need to comment on your husband’s wedding band! That’s so amazing.

      I bought my boy a thick silver ring for our first anniversary and had the word ‘selalu’ (which means always in his first language) etched on the inside. He wears it on a chain around his neck and is always getting comments about his ‘one ring’, which as a LOTR fan I secretly enjoy.


  • Chelsea

    Hurrah for church halls!

  • Luna

    I just want to say that your wedding was beautiful. We planning something similar to yours, and this post has given me hope that it is possible! My darling has been raised Eastern Orthodox and would like to have somewhat of a traditional ceremony, while I would like Pagan traditions sprinkled throughout the day. I know it will be a challenge, but I just want the day to meld and feel natural for us and our guests.
    Anyways, thank you for the beautiful post!

  • Deana Mattingly Blackburn

    Okay – I’m the aunt with the quote about simplicity. That’s just always been my take on things. Texan born and bred – part of my roots. Thanks for sharing the blog. I missed the wedding because Grandson #1 was in a Ft Worth children’s hospital with a scary head injury. And keeping the other 4 kids had to be my priority. Hearing this from Sarah’s voice was wonderful.

    • Erin

      Hope your grandson is doing better! Thanks for letting Sarah share your wisdom :)

    • FK

      Ohh… Now I’m tearing up for the 2nd time!

  • FK

    Oh, the picture of you two standing in front of the cake with Elvish combined with the story of the love letters made me tear up. It’s just so totally adorable. You seem like quite a pair. Congratulations. Also, I’m currently working on opening up my planning to do-it-together. My wedding is less than two weeks away, and I’m finally realizing that it’s okay to start asking for help! I emailed one of my bridesmaids who is super-organized and said, “How do I fit all these reception elements together???!!” And in 10 minutes she emailed me back a schedule. I have been agonizing over this for days. Your reminder that people feel more connected to the event when they help is good to hear!! :)

  • Completely agree about the simplicity quote! (Not to mention how happy it makes me to see people focusing and celebrating their love at their wedding. Things like flowers might be pretty, but they barely last a day. Your marriage on the other hand, well, hopefully that will last a lifetime!)

  • CROWNS! That is amazing. “As King and Queen of their new household….” that’s so awesome.


    • Yes! (I’m just a sucker for those crowns…)

  • Avery

    This isn’t at all the wedding I would have – I wear heels and full makeup everyday so such a natural wedding would be out of place for me, but I love it simply because they are themselves on their wedding day. I love that she is wearing her hair and makeup as she most likely does on any other day and the price of her dress seems fair and reasonable to her while still making her look beautiful.

    It seems to be a representation of them as a couple and, out of a wedding, none of us can really ask for more.



    P.S. Being courted in elvish! Yes please.

  • amy

    Meg – you’ve done it again.
    Love this post. Love it. Sarah *sounds* like she has that “matter-of-fact” serenity & that alone makes me feel happy. A lovely celebration that obviously reflects the two of them perfectly.

  • McPants

    Lovely and simple and completely them. Does it get any better? (Wooing in Elvish!)

    On a more selfish note, care to share the name of that wholesale florist in B’more? I’ve found an okay one in DC, but I wouldn’t mind going a little further afield.

    • Mrs. Sarah

      The flower shop we used is called ‘Sieck’, and their site is Their building is literally a hole in the wall, and I would never have know it was occupied let alone a great shop! But our amazing flower lady just traipsed up the steps and into their warehouse like she owned the place, and we were treated very well. You have to have an ‘account’ with them, but the Federated Garden Club has an account, and it’s free to join them soo…. You get the idea. If you’re going there soon, I’d recommend asking for Mr. Clair Zeigler. He was my assistant, and really helpful!

      • Mrs. Sarah

        oops! I just realized I didn’t give you the actual address!
        311 E. Chase St.
        Baltimore, MD 21202

        have fun with google maps!

  • Jorad


    Farewell wherever you fare, and may your eyries recieve you at your journey’s end.


  • Alexandra

    So awesome! Love the nature, the crowns, the Elvish. Kudos for being so well-budgeted, too!

  • Class of 1980

    And the last photo is positively Elvish. Certainly storybook.

  • Jackie

    Such a beautiful wedding! You look so happy!

    Can you tell me where you bought your flowers? I love in DC and have been looking for a good wholesale florist that sells to the general public anywhere in the Metro area.

    • Mrs. Sarah

      Hi! I just replied to MCPANTS above with that info! All you have to do is be a member of the Federated Garden Club, or which is free, or be willing to say you’re a member, which is also free. And really, I got the impression it’s not that big a deal, and so long as you’re confident and want to buy their flowers they really don’t care. =)

      • Jackie

        Thanks for sharing, and sorry to ask you to share it twice! I need to pay better attention.

  • This is the emotional Dad. It’s true that I grew up in Texas as a Southern Baptist and I don’t dance. And I do cry. Often. Especially if something is linked to the kids. And I confess that I do love to quote (a) my big sister and (b) Jane Austen (in that order). The great thing about this post is that now people can quote Sarah speaking for herself. So thank you for letting her write this amazing article showing this lovely family and church event through her eyes.

    Sacraments are very, very beautiful. That’s the grace of it all.

  • Sorry for the re-post.

    The first one had vanished and I thought the web links SPAMMED it.

    So spike the first one if you wish and leave the second.

  • Zeke

    Sarah & Jeremy,

    Such a beautiful wedding, thanks for sharing. My fiance and I are getting married in the NOVA/DC Metro area, definitely looking up sieck. We’re also trying to incorporate some of my celtic heritage and using knotwork where we can. Do you happen to have any more pictures of your cake and it’s detail work – it looks amazing.


    • Mrs. Sarah

      If you want to incorporate knots on a cake I recommend this site:
      They have tons of options, and that’s where I got ours! They do come from the UK so order them early if you want them, but the quality is great.

  • It is such a gift being able to leave the ceremony planning element to tradition – I’d have felt so embarrassed having to compose our own vows! I always think about how much Jennifer Aniston must cringe every time she thinks about promising to make Brad’s banana milkshakes now that she’s divorced.

    Having a traditional ceremony feels like being part of something bigger than just us as a couple – a way of accepting that we can’t control everything, and an excellent balance with the more frivolous party afterwards.

  • Sarah’s Uncle Tom

    A follow up some of you may have missed. The last photo in the blog was used for the Thank You cards. It was on the front of a postcard. Tradition or not it is the first Thank You we have felt a need to frame and put up on display. Another very personal touch to a really great wedding.
    May you two continue to be blessed.

  • Fr. Elia Shalhoub

    Dear Sarah & Jeremy:

    Congratulations and best wishes on your marriage, I’m so proud of you both, specially you Sarah as my former parishioner and Choir Director. I always saw in you a bright girl who will have a bright future. Your story is very inspiring, I hope all our brides and grooms will think the same way like you and they do the same wedding as yours.

    May Your marriage Journey together on this earth will be a way to the kingdom of God, May God be always present in your home and in your life together.

    Youa re always welcome to come back to St. Mary’s in West Palm Beach, you have a home here we love to see you and enjoy time with you both.

    With all our Love

    Fr. Elia and Odette Shalhoub

  • Polly

    this is wonderful! my fiance and i are both Eastern Orthodox and just got engaged on Theophany. thanks for sharing your story! God grant you many years!

  • LuckyHeather

    This is three years after your wedding, but I just wanted to say how inspiring your wedding was to me!

    We’re also planning a simple (but meaningful) church ceremony with reception in the church hall, and we’ve already stockpiled quite a hoard of decor from thrift stores all around the area. It’s really been amazing what we’ve been able to find – lovely glass vases for only 50 cents, flower girl basket and rose petals for only $1, etc.

    Everything about your wedding seems so lovely and so you – I hope you are enjoying married life and thanks again for the inspiration to ‘keep it simple’!

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