Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Lessons Learned and Miscellaneous Extra Touches

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

It’s been nearly nine months since we said our I wills and I’ve yet to write this final post in my geeky-queer wedding planning series. Between many international trips, Andrew moving to Canada, everyone becoming accustomed to extra people and two extra pets inhabiting a shared space, looking for a bigger house, moving into a bigger house, and more, it has been a very busy nine months. Plus, there are a couple of things in this post that are difficult for me to write.

But, now, the time has come to wrap up this series with lessons learned, and the miscellaneous things we did that were not mentioned in previous posts.

Lesson Learned

Lesson #1: Learn to let go.

Near the end of the planning, I had to learn to let go. I didn’t have to let go in terms of things I wanted. But, I did have to learn to let go over things of which I had no control. This was extremely difficult for me because when I’m stressed, my OCD symptoms become more difficult to control.

Lesson #2: Expect the unexpected.

People warned me that there are always guests who don’t show up, even if they RSVP’d as a yes. This was new information to me, as I had no input the first time I got married. But, as the majority of my guests were coming from out of town—half of whom were coming from out of country—I didn’t expect this to be a reality.

But, the unexpected still happened: a death in the family.

Andrew’s dad, former Rep. Bob Edgar, D-Pennsylvania, unexpectedly passed away a couple months before the wedding.

The death of Andrew’s dad meant that neither of his parents would be physically present at the wedding. Obviously, his mom was too upset to make the long journey from Virginia on her own. This was very difficult for all of us. We now had to figure out a new way to include his parents into the ceremony. More about that at the end.

Lesson #3: Be truly accepting of your non-traditional wedding and don’t worry about what others may think.

Right from the get go, we were very happy with the choices we had made in order to make our United Federation of Planets wedding a reality. However, we were a little shy about sharing it outside of our geeky circles.

What we ended up learning was that vendors and their staff were extremely excited after learning about the theme of our wedding. They all became extra-willing to make our day that much more special. Wait staff wanted to join in the costumes. The menu had themed items. Even the minister wore a costume. And, the night before, strangers eating dinner at The Quamichan Inn asked if it was okay just to drive by the wedding in order to see the costumes. They learned about the wedding because the wonderful staff couldn’t stop talking about it.

Everyone with whom we worked said they enjoyed our wedding more than the traditional affair because it broke the monotony.

So, if you’re worried about what others may think, stop. Especially as those who truly matter—your guests—will be joining in on the fun.

Lesson #4: Technology works great when it works, but when it fails, it really fails.

The above should be a “No, duh!” But, it should be something you keep in mind. Two critical parts of our wedding involved technology: our online guestbook and our in person guestbook (more details below). None of those logs saved properly because of a mixture of user error and technical error.

So, if you decide to do any of the technology-dependent things we that we did, you may later come to find that they did not succeed, despite multiple testing.

Lesson #5: Don’t purchase any crafting books two months before the wedding.

Two months before the wedding, I purchased Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting and The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! Both books contained so many wonderful ideas for party favors and decorations. Lo and behold! I wanted to make them all!

I made grandiose plans to craft all the things but ran out of time.

Do not make this mistake. Be sure to purchase any craft books that may coincide with your theme the moment you’ve decided on one.

Miscellaneous Extras

We did many extra things not previously mentioned. They are so numerous, that I cannot possibly list them all. But, I think the following are worth noting as they may help you plan your geeky and/or queer wedding.

1. Create a website.

Instead of having to keep track of paper RSVPs and relying on people to actually put them in the post, we created a website. The website was not only used for RSVP purposes, but it also contained crucial information about the location, the wedding day schedule, accommodation information for out of towners, local restaurants, and activities. That helped cut down on repeatedly answering the same inquiries.

The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.
The wedding as viewed by virtual guests. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

2. Stream the wedding.

When people RSVP’d, they had the option to attend the wedding virtually. Many people couldn’t afford to travel to our wedding, yet it was still very important to us that they could still have a way to attend and participate. So, I installed Wowza media server on my server, and we created another website, complete with LCARS theme, for our virtual guests to watch the wedding and chat with each other, also with video capability.

If you do not have your own server, you can still stream your wedding via a number of media server hosts.

Dave and Patricia Vollmer in the chat room. Screenshot provided by Patricia Vollmer.

3. Create a digital guestbook.

Marrying a software developer is a great idea, for many reasons. One of those reasons is they can write software specific for your needs. Andrew wrote a LCARS-themed program that allowed people to make “Captain’s Logs,” instead of signing a traditional guestbook. We installed in on my Surface Pro tablet, so that it had a touch-interface, just like on-board a starship. We even included the sound of the Enterprise engines and the Enterprise computer’s voice saying, “Initializing,” on start-up, and “Transfer complete,” on saving.

After the ceremony was over, the people who attended virtually also made “Captain’s Logs” via the video chat.

Unfortunately, the external memory got knocked out of the Surface Pro and those logs didn’t save, and the virtual videos didn’t save to my server because of a typo I made in the save configuration file.

Party favors. Image via the @AandJWed Twitter account.

4. Create your own decorations and party favors.

For the ceremony, I made the “Make it so” banner found within the The Star Trek Craft Book: Make It So! book. For the party favors, I made everyone a Tribble, also found within the craft book. I also made everyone three Star Trek-themed cross-stitch patterns, found within Star Trek Cross-Stitch: Explore Strange New Worlds of Crafting. Every guest also received a United Federation of Planets pin.

We didn’t have a wedding cake, but we still had cake toppers. Instead of the traditional groom and groom wedding cake topper, I purchased figurines of Mister Spock and Captain Kirk from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, to match our wedding attire.

You can see more pictures of the party favors, the “Make it so” banner, and the “cake toppers” in the Storify story below.

Kirk and Spock forever. Photo by Jules Sherred.

5. Create a special Twitter account and Storify your wedding.

In order to easily track tweets from the wedding, and to allow others to follow along whilst protecting everyone’s privacy, we created @AAndJWed. All of the guests who attended in person were given access to the account.

Because all of the tweets were made in one place, not only did it make for easy sharing and following, but it also made creating a Storify post that much easier.

And to think, some places charge $3000.00 in order to tweet and track your wedding.

6. Create a unique wedding invitation.

If you are artistically inclined, you probably can create some amazing cards for your day. After all, you cannot have normal invitation to commemorate your geeky-queer wedding. If you’re not, then spend a little extra money and commission someone to create the perfect cards for your wedding. We commissioned Matt Schubbe to create our cards, and I cannot recommend him enough.

7. Involving family members who cannot be there.

With Bob’s sudden death, we were put in a very sad place. For a few weeks, we couldn’t even think about the wedding. What we did know is that we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob.

Bob had a huge impact on Andrew and on me. He spent his entire life teaching about inclusivity. So did Andrew’s mom, Merle. Without them, Andrew may not have grown into a person who could accept marrying a trans man. Without their acceptance of me as a transgender individual, I would not have been able to marry Andrew.

However, we had a bit of a problem. We knew we wanted to dedicate part of the ceremony to Bob but didn’t know how we wanted that to happen.

Thankfully, we had a little bit of help. Some years ago, Bob wrote a book titled Middle Church: Reclaiming the Moral Values of the Faithful Majority from the Religious Right. I had two copies. After Bob’s memorial service, I gave one of those copies to the minister who would be officiating the ceremony. I asked him to read it in order to get to know the man who was Bob Edgar and figure out a way to have Bob with us on that day.

The minister decided to read the following Franciscan benediction Bob included at the end of his book. Neither Andrew nor I knew this was going to happen, and it was all we could do to not burst into tears during the ceremony:

May God bless you with discomfort…
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your hearts.

May God bless you with anger…
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears…
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Followed by Bob’s own words:

And to that prayer, in whatever language we express it, in whatever tradition it is heard, let all us all say in a joyful and faithful and prophetic voice that weds prayer with works and hope with action: Amen.

That was the perfect way to end the wedding ceremony.

Chances are your missing family member did not write a book. If that person is recently deceased, maybe tell a story about them. If they couldn’t be there for other reasons, maybe they can write something to be read during the ceremony. Or maybe you will also be blessed with a wonderful officiant who figures out the perfect thing to say or read.

That pretty much sums it up. Our wedding is long over but not near forgotten. Guests continue to relay how much fun they had. Nine months later, and both Andrew and I are still trying to get over how much love was present that day. Guests are also trying to figure out some other good excuse to travel from far and wide for another really excellent party.

I’ll leave you with a few images via Storify. But first, don’t forget to read the rest of the series. They may help you come up with your own ideas to plan your geeky-queer wedding. The posts include my earlier GeekMom posts, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location, and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Gifts. You can download the first six posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

Remember: There are no rules. This is your day. You can make it whatever you want it to be!

Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Gifts

Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Save the date card commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

Gift-giving is one of many traditions associated with weddings. In fact, there is a whole area of psychology surrounding the act of giving gifts. This act makes people feel good.

When Andrew and I were planning our wedding, our original plan was to not have any gifts. Both of us have been previously married. Unlike couples who are just starting out in life, counting on wedding gifts to establish their home, both Andrew and I are already established. There really isn’t anything that we need.

When I told a few of our friends that we weren’t accepting gifts, they were a little put out, for lack of a better word.

There was a part of me that couldn’t understand why. After all, it would save them money. Also, their presence at our wedding was their gifts to us. The majority of our guests traveled from great distances, spending a lot of money to share in the celebration. The amount of love present at our wedding continues to be overwhelming for the both of us. We will never be able to say, “thank you” enough.

The part of me with a formal education in psychology understood that it was important to our guests, for whatever reason, to do more than simply show up.

Andrew and I didn’t feel right accepting physical goods that we could purchase for ourselves. So, we reached a compromise.

The solution—one that would give everyone involved those warm fuzzy feelings—was to request that in lieu of gifts, people make donations to either the Lupus Research Institute or Marian Call. Both of these mean a lot to Andrew and me.

Wedding invitation commissioned from Matt Schubbe.
Wedding invitation commissioned from Matt Schubbe.

I have lupus. It is the source of a lot of pain and frustration in my life. It is a disease that is greatly misunderstood and does not receive a lot funding or attention. Donating to a charity that helps fund research around the world is something we always encourage. Even though I felt uncomfortable with people making donations in our names, I took one for the team because it was for a good cause.

As for donating money to Marian Call, the reasoning behind that was two-fold.

The first reason—one that both the guests and Marian learned about during the reception—was that unbeknownst to Marian, she played a vital role in how Andrew and I met. The second reason was that Marian was the independent musician we hired to perform a private house concert instead of having a traditional reception.

Yes, we hired Marian, so that means we paid her a flat rate, plus travel and accommodations, instead of the usual way people compensate her for a house concert, which is often by donation.

Because of the nature of the house concert, Marian wasn’t going to sell her music or ask for donations at the event. However, because of how much we value Marian’s music and what it means to the both of us, because of her role in our relationship, because we strongly believe in supporting independent creators, and because both Andrew and I feel we cannot place a price on the value of having her share in the celebration—there really isn’t enough money in the world—we asked people to give her more money. Again, without her prior knowledge.

People got to feel good by giving. Andrew and I got to feel good by surprising Marian with extra well-earned and well-deserved money. It was a win-win situation.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing "I'm Yours" during the signing of the registry. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing “I’m Yours” during the signing of the registry. Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

This is the part where I awkwardly ask that, if you’ve yet to do so, check out Marian Call’s music and buy it. Also, if you are in a position to play host to a Marian Call house concert, I cannot recommend her enough. She’s one of the most amazing performers I have the pleasure of knowing. It isn’t only because she is an insanely talented vocalist and lyricist. It is because she knows how to read her audience and play directly to the crowd.

I don’t know how she does it. I look at her and experience a sort of envy with her ability to interact in the way she does. She’s this amazing mix of introversion and extroverted exuberance. She takes the time to listen and keenly observe, getting to know her hosts and the environment in which she is performing. She takes what she has learned and transforms herself from a warm introvert to a crowd-pleasing performer.

Our situation was not Marian’s normal venue, so she had extra time to get to know everyone, and feel out her surroundings. Simply having her there helped to make our celebrations perfect; she helped make our wedding better than we could have ever imagined.

Marian helped me feel a little more comfortable being emotive in public, reminding me that I was surrounded by friends and by people who truly cared. I was comfortable enough to openly cry when she performed “Dark Dark Eyes.” (I’m sure the couple, or three, glasses of wine also helped.) She also made observational comments and other tokens—ones that I consider to be private—that really meant a lot.

It is at moments like this where I really wish I could be more expressive about my feelings. Over a month later, not only am I still overwhelmed by how superbly wonderful everyone made our wedding day, but I am still unable to find the proper words to articulate just how wonderful Marian is, both as a person and a performer.

Whether she is livening up a crowd with roaring renditions of “Shark Week,” “We’re Out For Blood,” and “It’s Good to Have Jayne on Your Side,” or putting something in people’s eyes and throats with “Dark Dark Eyes” and “Good Old Girl,” or just having fun with “Love and Harmony (Karaoke),” plus singing not-yet-released music, each Marian Call performance is unique and guaranteed to be amazing.

Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing "It's Good to Have Jayne on Your Side." Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.
Marian Call and Scott Barkan performing “It’s Good to Have Jayne on Your Side.” Photo by Patrick Fisher. Used with permission.

Also, Scott Barkan—Marian’s accompanist—deserves all kind of praise. Watching him play the guitar is mesmerizing. The guy is not only a crazy talented and amazing guitarist, but he is a talented musician doing his own thing. You’ll want to give Scott’s music a listen and a purchase, too.

While you may not be able to have Marian Call at your wedding, it is just as good to have her perform in your living room or backyard. I cannot recommend the experience enough.

Still to come in this series:

  • The conclusion: Things we’ve learned and other miscellaneous things we did.

My earlier posts, Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Last Names and Culture and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Location are both here on GeekMom. You can download the first six posts in this series, in either PDF, ePUB, or MOBI. These parts include: Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: Introduction; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Proposal and the Rings; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Outfits and Wedding Attire; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Wedding Party, Family, and Guests; Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Ceremony; and Planning My Geeky-Queer Wedding: The Reception.

If you would like to see a post about something not already mentioned, I want to know. Tell me, what has you curious? About what would you like to see me write? If you let me know, I will try my best to include it in a post.