Wedding Planning

Cuba and Anna’s Offbeat Very Community-Oriented Wedding

Cuba and Anna’s wedding is exactly the kind of wedding that we hope inspires all styles of couples – a wedding that is 100% true to the couple and how they envisioned the day.

Cuba and Anna’s wedding is exactly the kind of wedding that we hope inspires all styles of couples – a wedding that is 100% true to the couple and how they envisioned the day. Not only did Anna hand-sew the couple’s wedding attire, as well as their children’s outfits and the officiant’s but all of their friends pitched in, providing everything from stage equipment to catering to the photography.

And it sounds like it was one heck of a party! Guests were treated to an all-night dance party that lasted into the next day (I should note that Cuba works in IT for so some of our lucky staff got to participate in the all-night revelry!).

I can’t really do justice though to the uniqueness of the day – that’s best left to Cuba and Anna’s photos and their very touching thoughts on their wedding.

Cuba’s Thoughts on Their Wedding Day
Did your wedding location hold a specific significance to you?
The wedding location is super-special because it’s where we met! Not only that but the wedding was very nearly on our three year anniversary of meeting each other and that magical night was truly love at first sight. It took all of an hour to become inseparable!

What was the most meaningful part of your day?
I’m going to take the lazy route and include the thank you letter that we sent out because it answers this question directly and perhaps captures a little of the overwhelming emotion we felt from the whole thing. See paragraph three. When the crowd screamed ‘I DO!’ back at us my knees nearly buckled and I cried in front of 140 people. Wow.

The letter:

When Anna and I think about our wedding, we are overcome with emotion so powerful that we are getting used to tearing up amidst our reflections. Whether you were able to attend or not, we wish to express our gratitude to each and every one of you, though only a Frost or a Wordsworth could possess the skill to capture the way we feel about what just happened. Nevertheless we’ll do our best.

We’ve always known that we are incredibly blessed to be surrounded with the community that we have but rarely in life does one feel the need to call an entire community together and ask them to pour their heart and soul into a singular purpose. For our wedding celebration we did just that and in response received an incomprehensible amount of energy and love, the sum of which resulted in an event which we can only describe as epic.

Of the many touching moments, one affected us most deeply. Our ceremony was of course intended to confirm our lifelong commitment to each other as a couple but just as importantly we wanted to express our commitment to our community and ask for their blessing. When our reverend requested the communal acknowledgement from the crowd, the resulting ‘I DO!’ was so enthusiastic and resounding that the love seemed a tangible thing, embracing us in its warmth and causing our hearts to burst with joy.

Over and over we heard gushing compliments about all of you, our friends and family. Our guest list represented an eclectic mix of interests, occupations and viewpoints with only a single common thread: your love for us. It is a testament to your characters and spirits that all of you opened your hearts and let your love flow freely in a display of affection for each other so powerful that we will be forever inspired to reach beyond our sphere and love our fellow human beings.

From the bottom of our hearts we thank you for laughing, dancing, playing, creating and representing the very best that human beings have to offer.

With endless love,
Anna & Cuba

Did anything funny or out of the ordinary happen?
Rain! Lots and lots of rain. For the 10 days prior to the wedding we became amateur meteorologists and watched with apprehension as a giant, slow front formed over the Pacific and inched closer and closer to our nearly-coastal wedding land. We had to resign ourselves to the rain early on but until an hour before the ceremony we never gave up hope that it might be dry. It wasn’t. But a funny thing happened: in the end, the rain made it better.

The stage flowers were supposed to be outside the stage but because of the rain we moved them in and it made the stage more beautiful. And instead of people laying about in the grass, playing games and roaming around as we had envisioned, the rain concentrated people in the shelters and everyone ended up meeting so many more people than they would have otherwise. Also, the rain was such a monkey-wrench that it saved us from fretting about every little detail and when we finally said ‘Screw it! People are gonna be wet’, we totally relaxed and it all just flowed. Best of all, the rain brought out this incredibly connected, loving energy in everyone that elevated the event even further. I think it’s because they all came determined to have the time of their lives and the little challenge of rain just made them more defiant.

But get this. It had rained buckets nearly non-stop all day on Saturday, starting first thing in the morning. And it rained so hard that combined with a college football game in a nearby town the travel time from Portland and Seattle was an extra two or three hours and we had to delay the ceremony from it’s start time of 3:30pm to 5pm to allow people to arrive. It was still raining when we walked down the hill to the stage and started the ceremony but right in the middle, inexplicably, it stopped for the first time in hours. At that second someone yelled out, almost in tears, ‘It stopped raining!’ and the entire crowd burst into laughter and applause. If we could change the past and give ourselves a wedding without rain, we wouldn’t do it.

Tell us details of the events surrounding the wedding as well.
It’s important to describe the course of events because our wedding was quite atypical. We had rented the location for the entire weekend from Friday until Monday because we’re deeply embedded into dance culture and far from being an afterthought, the dance party was the nearly central feature and was scheduled to go from 6:30pm Sat. through 5am Sunday morning with the party itself continuing throughout Sunday until people felt like leaving. Anna and I arrived at the land on Friday with our setup crew of 20 arriving shortly thereafter. Anna and I were also the last to leave on Monday after we (with our cleanup crew) finished cleaning up the last bits. We’re used to putting on big parties but that was the most intense four days of work we’ve ever accomplished!

Because we threw everything we had into making the wedding itself the best of celebrations, we didn’t have a bachelor or bachelorette party, bridal shower, engagement party or any such thing prior to the wedding. But we did do a post-wedding photo shoot a week later in better weather to get clear shots in better light and especially details of of the outfits and shots of us alone together, which were hard to get at the wedding.

How did you know your partner was ‘the one’?
Details already here!

I needed a partner who understood that the entire spectrum of life is worth living. She needed to be both careless and responsible, light-hearted and profound, spontaneous and reliable, beautiful and modest. I wanted someone who was utterly balanced but achieved it by exploring the far ends of the see-saw instead of the middle. In other words, I wanted the impossible, I wanted it all. I knew she was the one because she had it all.

Any advice you’d give new couples who are just getting started?
This isn’t for everyone I realize, but the very first decision we made was to make the wedding exactly what we wanted and not to compromise it for anyone, including family. Our vision was very much to integrate everyone we love into a single event but to try to satisfy the competing interests of such a diverse group would have watered it down and made it mediocre. So we simply made every decision like we wanted to and bucked tradition whenever it didn’t work for us and gave a nod to custom when it felt right. Amazingly, this combination of veteran party monsters, DJs, grandmothers, children, 20 somethings and artists flowed like they had all been friends for years. If your community loves you, they will come and support you so remember that it’s your event!

On the practical side, prepare for rain if you’re outdoors! It’s easy to feel months before the event that it’ll be dry and lovely but you never know. All along we had a rain plan but didn’t want to pull the trigger on it until we absolutely had to. So a week before the event when the risk was evident we had to scramble to procure a giant tent which wouldn’t have been a problem except that the two closest towns were both having very popular college football games and the tent crews were all booked. Lucky for us the landowner is such a flexible guy that he let us have the tent setup on the Wednesday prior to the wedding when a crew was available. And though the tent was an un-budgeted $2,000 expense, without it the wedding would have been much more socially fragmented and less intimate.

It was all about community
One really unique feature of our wedding was how much we leaned on our community to make it happen, especially as it was a rather large production. The wedding was far cheaper than it should have been because we tapped our resources so deeply but we didn’t do it to save money, our vision from the beginning was that through participation the wedding would reflect how we live: do a lot for your community and get a lot in return. This was successful beyond belief as the energy was off the charts and though a lot of people worked really, really hard, they partied like rock stars because they earned it. Some examples of the amazing effort that was put in:

Catering: Our incredible friend from Thailand who owns a restaurant bought all of the supplies, showed up with one helper and proceeded to work for hours to make a dinner of three curries and cucumber salad that everyone raved about. He wouldn’t even accept a $100 tip! All of the beautiful appetizer trays were created by Anna’s mother and another friend who sells huge pancakes at festivals provided breakfast for the 100 or so people that were still there in the morning.

Photographer: We asked everyone, especially our more camera-inclined friends, to bring their cameras so each person there was our ‘official’ photographer. We attached a business card in the program with instructions to upload photos to a dedicated Flickr account and now we have 1,000 photos with more on the way. The lighting in the mist and rain was very, very tricky but we had so many to choose from that we consider the experiment a total success.

Guestbook: Made from scratch, by hand, by a good friend who does book-binding and emblazoned with a painted symbol to match our wedding band tattoos. She even brought a huge amount of art supplies so that instead of simple words the book is now full of paintings, collages and poetry.

Stage: Our friend founded, a company that decorates parties, and he provided the lighting and stretch-fabric art creations, spending many hours with his employees to create our 22′ diameter flowers and other stage deco.

Sound system: This had to be considerable to keep a dance floor of 100 people going and one of our best friends brought his professional system out for free.

DJs: We asked our favorite DJs to come play and all 8 of them performed for nothing more than supporting our vision of participation. Afterwards a number of them told us that it was the most energetic dance floor they had seen all summer!

Anna’s outfits: I’ve worked with Anna to design party-wear creations for a few years now but neither of us knew what she had in her until she pushed her own envelope by making from scratch the five outfits for herself, me, our two kids and our officiant. Her wedding dress took her four months of hard work and was by far the most complicated. Our colors were plum and burnt orange to harmonize and contrast as we wanted a very colorful, slightly Indian-inspired wedding. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves!

You can see more photos from Cuba and Anna’s day here.

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