Eugene Weekly : Weddings Guide : 1.11.07

Weddings Guide 2007

No Altars, No Unity Candle: Places to wed for those (damned) secular humanists
Something Old, Something … Green? Celebrating the planet on and after the big day
Barefoot and Hula Hooping: ‘Offbeat’ brides (and grooms) tell their tales
Tales of Commitment: Same-sex couples tell their stories
All in the Family:
Helpful wedding tips for blended families

Barefoot and Hula Hooping
‘Offbeat’ brides (and grooms) tell their tales

When Ariel Meadow Stallings and Andreas Fetz started making out at a rave in 1998, they weren’t planning on hooking up for good. But love sparked in the warehouse where they met, and they stayed together. By early 2004 the questions and the pressure were flying thick and fast from relatives, friends and even friends of relatives.

Circle of love for Fetz and Stallings. Photo by Amrita Huja.

One day, Fetz’s father, stepmother and another couple took the younger two out for dinner. They started peppering Fetz and Stallings with questions about “the M-word” and “the C-word.” According to Stallings, “This code-speak confounded me — the only C-word I know is the one that ends with ‘unt’ … but of course she meant children.”

Despite the pressure from certain family members, they didn’t end up with a traditional wedding. No way. After all, as Stallings writes in her first book, they were planning a “hippie/raver/freakfest wedding,” for which she wanted to dress “like a fairy-freakish electro forest queen” and Fetz, who “dresses like the Midwest academic feminist he was raised by,” wanted something comfortable because they’d be outdoors. Everything (complete with intertwining vegan-iced and dairy-iced carrot cakes, a discussion of humanure and many, many hula hoops) came off marvelously in August 2004 after months of blogging and Stallings’ “control-freak” planning. So what to do next? Clearly, help others with their fairy freakfest forest (or underwater scuba diving or circus musical or Burning Man) weddings. That is, write a book.

Stallings is a self-described computer geek who long ago created her own website and compulsively updated blog. Her wedding memoir, she thought, would be called And the Bride Wore a Hula Hoop. Actually, even the book idea was nontraditional: Stallings never planned to write it until someone else wrote the pitch for her. Students in the postgraduate professional publishing course at Columbia, a course Stallings had finished several years before her wedding, took a class in which they had to get a real author to agree to pretend to write a book, which they then had to pretend to pitch to publishers. Stallings says, “They heard I was doing this weird wedding, and they said, ‘Hey, would you write a pretend book for our pretend publishing course?'”

That “pretend” book turned into Offbeat Bride: Taffeta-Free Alternatives for Independent Brides (Seal Press, $15.95), which has a publication date of Jan. 28 and can be ordered now online. It’s a fun and smart read, full of helpful thoughts for those readers longing to get some tips on figuring out the whole wedding thing — without glossy magazines full of dress shots and bloated with advertising dollars. The book contains not only a memoir of Fetz and Stallings’ process (and, one might say, product) but also charming stories, tips and ideas from many other brides (and a few grooms). The book itself is not glossy, but Stallings’ interactive website ( and her Flickr group (,where other “offbeat” brides can upload photos, take advantage of the whole Web 2.0 thing. Though the Flickr group has only been up for a couple of weeks, several people have already found it and added their photos to the mix, with everything from a Burning Man wedding to a hilarious grocery store-bought-due-to-bakery-disaster wedding cake to a groom wearing a garter under his kilt. “My background is about writing as a form of community development,” Stallings says, so she hopes that the Flickr site and can take on lives of their own. Why? Because “every month, there are tens of thousands of women planning intelligent weddings.”

When Stallings’ agent sent around the book, the publishers in New York “just didn’t know what to do with it,” she says. Stallings and Fetz were married on Bainbridge Island, and Stallings isn’t surprised that Seal Press, a West Coast publisher, would pick it up. But “I spoke to people in the East Coast who did jam band weddings, people in the South who did picnic weddings, people in the Midwest who did really simple, reserved, quiet events,” she emphasizes. Even women from the U.K. responded to her research requests on (a website that she says is invaluable, “a lifesaver,” for those not wanting to stick to the track as suggested on more “rigid” sites like

“Offbeat covers a wide spectrum,” Stallings says. So when she wondered why the publisher chose a cover for her book with a woman in a traditionally white dress, she remembered that many people would consider the cover bride’s hot pink hair crazy offbeat. “Entering into this event-planning process makes people who are really pretty traditional feel like complete freaks,” she says.

Fairy queen Stallings. Photo by Amrita Huja.

Those planning a wedding in and around Eugene will no doubt appreciate Stallings’ discussions of everything ranging from the ethics of straight, queer-allied couples getting married when their same-sex friends can’t to writing decent, easy-to-remember vows to how to get family and friends to give the kind of gifts that help make the wedding itself special: food, guard duty for the bride from her family, photos, decoration, reception planning and more. Stallings writes about deciding what to wear, figuring out when to give a little and when to push for your ideal, how to manage costs (their wedding cost around $6000, she says, and she’s glad they didn’t start out their married life with a huge amount of debt despite the received wisdom that “you can’t have a wedding for less than $20,000”) and how to make the ceremony and reception fantabulous.

Eugeneans Heather Marie Michaud and Jeff Thomas would probably find their wedding perfectly in tune with Stallings’ book. Like her, they called on their community of friends and family to make their day even more special — and they got far more than they bargained for.

When Michaud and Thomas got engaged on May 7, 2005 (or 5/7/5 — they call it “a haiku,” Michaud says), they knew they didn’t want their wedding to be the traditional walk-down-the-aisle in a church. But what to do: Get married at the Country Fair? Go for a long hike with lots of camping and have the ceremony at the top of a mountain? Maybe that would be asking a bit much of Thomas’ relatives, who aren’t from Oregon. Also, the state park they wanted to use at the foot of the Cascades? Full up. So after they decided on their backyard (“We have parties there all of the time,” Thomas says, and they’d put a lot of effort into remodeling the house and re-landscaping the yard) and picked Mark Stern of Carte Blanche to cater the vegetarian food at their reception (food Michaud remembers as heavenly and perfect), Michaud and Thomas invited well over 100 people to the ceremony. Michaud’s sister also made more than 40 pies, so they didn’t have a traditional wedding cake but instead a pie variety. Thomas picked out his outfit at Potala Gate — “a nice button-up Tibetan shirt and prayer beads” — and both he and Michaud both went barefoot (they knew their backyard well enough to trust the ground).

Offbeat Flickr pic: Lisa Marie and Stephen Grillos. KYLE CHESSER, HANDS ON PHOTOGRAPHY

“We actually got married in the courthouse,” Michaud says, so the wedding ceremony itself could focus less on legal aspects and more on sacred, personally meaningful ceremony. Eight friends read from the texts that Thomas picked — some poems, some prose, some old and some newly composed — and they wrote not only vows but also what they call “anti-vows.” Thomas explains that in the anti-vows, one of the officiants asked, for example, “Do you promise only to tell jokes that are funny?” and Thomas answered, “I do not.” “Do you promise not to get dirty while gardening?” another asked Michaud. The humor was welcome. “Ceremonies can be kind of humdrum,” says Thomas, “and getting a chuckle out of the crowd can keep the fire burning.”

Then things got even more fun. Samba Ja was supposed to come play in the backyard … but, Michaud says, “We heard them coming three blocks away, and we all ran out into the street!” Everyone, including the musicians, ended up dancing in the intersection for a while before retiring, sweeping neighbors along, to the backyard. As if that wasn’t enough, a friend who goes to Burning Man every year snuck in a huge silver weather balloon and filled it with helium. “Suddenly, a blinking balloon goes up amidst all of these Christmas lights and prayer flags,” Thomas says, “and the balloon rises above the dancers like some trippy lotus flower.”

Tia Molinar, who grew up in Eugene and Texas, also wanted her May ceremony not to be traditional. Her mother Susan Fishel, a local potter and bookkeeper, is a licensed minister of the Universal Life Church and is used to incorporating a variety of spiritual practices into her life, from chakra energy work to Buddhist practices, and agreed to officiate. Tia and her fiancé Michael lived in San Antonio and decided to get married on the oldest ranch in Texas, holding the ceremony outside. Tia remembers that a huge rainstorm was rolling in, but she and Fishel believe that Fishel, through her energy work, held off the rain until the reception ended. As the officiant, Fishel initiated a candle-lighting at the beginning of the ceremony and involved both of the families in creating a welcoming spiritual space for Tia and Michael.

Outside weddings with their connection to nature are important to many nontraditional brides and grooms. Like Michaud and Thomas, Tamara Fuller of Eugene and her fiancé Ryan Stasel hope not to wear shoes at their wedding, planned for this June at Eagle Rock in Vida. (“We’ll sweep the lawn with a metal detector to make sure there aren’t any fishhooks,” Fuller notes). She and Stasel have been together for 10 years, and they’ll be married along the McKenzie without a wedding party. “I plan to walk myself down the aisle,” Fuller explains, but she’s also planning a father/daughter dance. Fuller and Stasel got engaged on a trip to the coast, and they planned to get married on July 7 (7/7/07) — but when they found out that a gazillion other couples had the same idea (and snapped up all of the venues), they switched weekends. “It’s a blue moon,” Fuller says, “and the first full moon of summer.” After growing up with the nickname Druid Girl, Fuller retains what she calls nature spirituality, so she’s looking forward to being outside.

And as Thomas mentions and Stallings emphasizes, one key thing is to have fun and realize you’re having an impact on your community, not just on yourself. “The whole thing was just this big community event,” Thomas remembers. “It was a blast; I had no idea it would be so much fun.” For Stallings and Fetz, the festive event became a reason to throw a sort of anniversary party every year, with the 2006 party celebrating the ceremony of Stallings’ mother and her mother’s partner. Thomas agrees it’s a great plan: “I’d like to have a party like this every year!”

We’re all Web. 2.0 too, or that’s the idea: Post your own wedding photos on the Weekly’s Flickr group at