How I Incorporated Beer Into My Wedding Without Making the Wedding About Beer

Planning a wedding is something women are socialized to think about from a very young age. Luckily that's beginning to fade away slightly as more people become wary of the wedding industrial complex that seems to have its goal as making everyone feel as though their wedding will be this awful and horrible event that everyone will hate unless you spend one million dollars making sure everything has your initials on it and looks effortlessly effortless, yet complex and completely original at the same time. Planning a wedding is a fun idea until you actually have to do it. That's why so many married people jokingly-not-jokingly tell their engaged friends to elope. 

Obviously, beer is a very big part of my life as well as my husband's life. Beer was the thing we bonded over first - we're both kind of socially awkward but talking about beer came easily to both of us. When it came time to plan our wedding, it would have been hard not to incorporate it into our wedding. However, as even the most minimal Pinterest perusal will show you, incorporating beer into your wedding requires a delicate touch. I was going to say that you should also keep in mind that not all of your guests are going to be as into beer as you are and may interpret beer-related decorations as meaning the wedding is some kind of a frat party or sales rep event, but you know what? It's your wedding. Do what you want. Seriously. My mantra leading up to, during, and after the wedding was "At the end of the day, we'll be married, and that's the whole point."

We're pretty laid back, which meant that a lot of the minute details really weren't important to us. For example, when we went to look at invitations, we said we liked the craft paper of an invitation. "Great," said our printer, "I'll go get the books of craft paper for you to look through and decide which one you like."

"No," we responded, "we like this craft paper. We don't need to see anything else."

We did the wedding decorations, most of the beverages, and the food prep ourselves. I hired Gateau Baking Company to design and make our dessert table (more on that below) and hired a good friend who happens to be an excellent chef to prepare the food for our reception. 

We kept the wedding extremely small for a few reasons. One, we were paying for almost all of it ourselves. Inviting extended families, such as uncles, aunts, cousins, cousins' spouses, children, etc., would have increased our guest list - and the cost - exponentially. We really couldn't afford to invite each member of our extended family. Two, we thought about who in the world meant the most to us and who had supported us and loved us throughout our relationship. We wanted our wedding to be a private event shared with our favorite people and not a large stressful circus filled with people who received obligatory invitations. Therefore, it was easier to limit the guest list to only immediate family and a few close friends. Including our parents, siblings, grandmothers, and close friends, our guest list totaled 30 people.

One additional note before we get to the pictures: we had an "unplugged" ceremony and reception, which means no cell phones, no cameras, no electronic devices of any kind allowed.

Out of every decision we made about our wedding, having an unplugged wedding was by far the best decision we made (besides getting married) and I would highly recommend it to anyone. Only one guest made a remark beforehand about not being able to bring in a cell phone, and almost everyone remarked on how great it was to just enjoy themselves and not be preoccupied with phones and cameras. Also, it was great to look over at the guests during the ceremony and see everyone engaged and present in the moment, not holding phones in front of their faces and vying to get the best shot. 

Now, on to the pictures! Special thanks to Connection Photography for doing such an amazing job with our pictures.

Our invitations were the first place we incorporated our love for beer. After looking at a few designs from the awesome team at Mom and Pop's Print Shop, we decided on having hops on our invitations. Other ideas included growlers and bottles, but we didn't like those as much because it focused on the drinking of beer rather than the elements of beer.

When it came to the decorations, we wanted a similar light touch so the reception didn't end up seeming too frat party with bottles laying around. The main focus of our centerpieces were the flowers, so we opted to wrap empty brown beer bottles in twine to use as vases.

Burlap and twine featured heavily into our design concept for the wedding, which was outside in April, at Copperhead Island in Charlotte, North Carolina. As you can see from the pictures, the island is lush and green and we wanted to keep our decorations simple and natural so as not to compete with our beautiful surroundings. I'm also a big fan of little touches, so we used brewing grain in Mason jars to elevate the candles inside to a height that allowed them to be of use later in the evening after the sun had set.

I initially thought whole cone hops sprinkled around the centerpieces would complement the theme as well as add a touch of color to the tabletop, but whole cone hops are not in season until the fall and all I could find were dried whole cone hops. They ended up looking like the tables got really dirty, so I scrapped that idea. However, if you're getting married in the fall, it shouldn't be too hard to find fresh hops. Another idea is to use the hop bines as wreaths, which is something I would have liked to do were it not for hops being out of season.

If we had allowed cameras at our wedding, I may have been able to insert pictures here of the beautiful four-tap bar a member of our homebrew club made for his (now) daughter-in-law's wedding the weekend before ours and was generous enough to let us use for our wedding. As homebrewers, we had three of our beers and one of our ciders on tap: a brown porter aged on Fernet-soaked oak chips and two IPAs we received from a club wort share courtesy of NoDa Brewing Company. We each had five gallons to ferment and dry hop however we chose. My five gallons (ahem) kicked before the evening was over. You'll just have to trust me that the bar was absolutely gorgeous and our homebrew was absolutely delicious.

Cooking with beer is a newer interest of mine, and I knew I wanted to incorporate beer into our cake and dessert table somehow. As I mentioned above, I had met Cara Jorgensen, the owner of Gateau Baking Company, at a pop-up event and really liked her aesthetic as well as her baked goods. Over drinks one night at Rhino Market, we discussed how she could incorporate beer into the desserts. The decision ultimately ended up being a stout chocolate cake.

The last place where we incorporated beer was for our toast. I remembered one day somewhat soon before the wedding that we needed to get champagne for the toast. The thought occurred to me, why not use beer instead? Tom doesn't really care for champagne and I know some of our guests didn't either. As soon as I had the idea, I had the perfect beer: Blushing Monk by Founders Brewing Company. Blushing Monk is a smooth, decadent Belgian raspberry ale that Founders releases every few years. It's one of the most elegant beers I've ever had and by far one of my favorites. As it happened, I had seen several bottles of it at Brawley's Beverage earlier in the week, which made a great idea even better as Blushing Monk is not an easy beer to find.  

If you're planning a wedding, I'm going to repeat something I know you've heard over and over again: it's your wedding, so do it your way. Even being as laid back as we were in planning our wedding (we ordered $10 wedding rings on Amazon Prime three days before the wedding because we forgot we would need some), there were plenty of times when we felt pressure to have something a certain way at our wedding because "that's what you have at weddings." Malarky. Do it your way and you'll be pleased with the result, just like we (and all our guests) were.

Hopefully some of the pictures here offered you inspiration. Here are a couple non beer-related pictures from our wedding:

A huge thank you one more time to Connection Photography, Gateau Baking Company, Mom and Pop's Print Shop, and everyone else who helped make our wedding spectacular!