When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “For it not to feel like a wedding!” But in a monsoon of flower crowns and macaron towers, how do you see beyond the usual tropes and actually pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answer, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal — right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.
Breanne Thomas and Chris Osborn are two filmmakers who met in their native Pacific Northwest before relocating to Brooklyn. They married in back home in Oregon in September, and approached the planning “like film production” — with a 100-person-long table, cascading florals inspired by the Dutch masters, and salmon caught by the bride’s grandfather.
Breanne: I was inspired by that Outstanding in the Field event series. We thought, “How cool would that be to have one table with 100 of our closest friends and family?” I posted on my Instagram stories that I was looking for a wooded area where I could have a long table in the Pacific Northwest — that’s where Chris and I both grew up, and where we started dating, through OKCupid, in 2011.
Chris: I try not to think about the profile, because Bre and I were both very aggressively twee back then. We had very earnest descriptors.
Breanne: After the Instagram story asking for venue suggestions, a friend DMed about her friends, both wedding photographers, who owned a house 45 minutes from Portland and they wanted to start hosting weddings. The minute I drove up to the Woodlands House, I was like, “This is absolutely it.” This beautiful house, a long driveway for the table, we could stay on site, not have to be in and out the same day ($4,300 for the property, with room for 11 guests to stay throughout the long weekend).
Chris: We ran this like film production, sort of cast the wedding and crewed it up the way that we would any movie — I work as a writer and director, and Bre has produced every film that I’ve made. We picked the best possible team, specifically vendors who knew each other and who had worked together before. The vendors knew how to negotiate the challenges of bringing everything in themselves, working in a nonconventional venue. And we were planning it from across the country, from Brooklyn, where we live.
Breanne: For my dress, I did a lot of research (a recurring theme). I’m a size 10, and some wedding shops cap at 8. I knew, going in, I might have a problem. I went to one traditional boutique and was put off by it — the sales associate didn’t listen to my budget cap. I found Shareen Bridal. Her studio is near Union Square but she has this massive vintage warehouse in L.A. where people go for costumes or rentals. Chris came with me and Shareen is such a funny character — she’s an actress and has this old New York accent — and she said, “I think it’s better if the bride is here by herself. Why don’t you go downstairs to the bar and leave her with me?” Her sizes off the rack fit me, but everything is made to wear so she made suggestions like, “The top of this, the sleeves of that, this skirt, da da da!” I felt really taken care of, and it cost $2,300. I felt beautiful in it.
Chris: The Sandro pink linen-blend suit ($450, on sale) was the first I tried on. I knew I wanted something eye-popping, and I was not interested in going the traditional masculine route. It was perfect. The big find, though, was my shirt. I searched everywhere for something that was just as eye-popping, and everything was too boring or masculine. Then I went to the Real Real shop in Soho and I saw this sheer pink Helmut Lang shirt on the rack ($180). I thought, There’s no way this is going to fit, this is impossible. It fit like a glove. I got genuinely emotional about it.
Breanne: We stayed in the house on the property the night before, and I got ready in the master suite, with Chris in the other bedroom. Our friend Monica Ninh did both our hair and makeup for $500. We’ve worked with her on a lot of film sets. For our first look, our photographer Caitlin Cooper had Chris go out first, with a covered face, and then I stepped out. We knew we wanted this moment before the ceremony between us — I had a lot of anxiety about being in front of that many people. I wanted to make sure we had this time to connect and reassure each other, “It’s just us. This moment is about the two of us.”
Chris: Seeing Bre for the first time in her dress, it just crushed me. It’s just the most overwhelming experience where it does hit you, Oh, okay. This is what this feels like. We’re doing this, we’re getting married.
Breanne: The ceremony area, I had this vision of three frames with flowers cascading at the bottom. I showed our florist, Sarah of Selva Bridal, and she was really excited. She specializes in these installation-style arrangements ($5,000). We wanted free-flowing, natural, like part of the scenery, very romantic. The Dutch masters were a big influence with the flowers. We actually gave her paint-chip samples. We wanted darker tones, like purples, grays, even black, accented by orange and light pink and forest green.
Chris: Our officiant was one of our good friends, Dylan Pasture. He is also a filmmaker in Brooklyn. It was a very emotional ceremony, serious, there weren’t many jokes or anything. It was just overwhelming to see all of these friends and family who had never been in the same place at the same time together. I almost fainted. Dylan said something about our relationship, then we read our vows we’d written, and then we were married. It was a very heightened, concentrated, romantic experience.
Breanne: Dylan said, “You’re married,” and the DJ cued up Mariah Carey’s “Heartbreaker.” We knew it would get the energy back up from serious to lighthearted and fun. There was a little clearing for the ceremony, then a path to this greenhouse and the cocktail hour was there. We had a bar with beer, wine, and specialty cocktails — a French 75 with grapefruit instead of lemon for me, an old-fashioned for Chris, and a rose ginger punch for our sober friends. It was a lot of finger foods, cheeses. For catering, I always knew I wanted my friend Jenn de la Vega of Randwiches (the package was $4,250, including alcohol). We cared a lot about food, and wanted someone who wasn’t going to just churn out a menu, someone who was collaborative. We wanted a focus on foods of the Pacific Northwest — a focus on seasonality and sustainability.
Chris: Bre’s “papa,” her grandfather, is a fisherman and he caught fresh all of the salmon that Jenn cooked for the wedding. That was the main dish at dinner, and then for a vegetarian option she made a mushroom-stuffed gnocchi. Shared sides were an apple salad, roasted acorn squash, pickled stone fruit with yogurt.
Breanne: I think people were really blown away when they saw the long arrangement of the dinner table. I was so happy to see their reaction! The tables were rented from Classic Vintage Rentals, the flowers were by Sarah, and the tablecloths and napkins we had made on a vacation to Vietnam. The brass candlesticks on the table were my mom’s — she brought them from Michigan — and the serving bowls and platters were my nana’s. This connection to our family was really, really important.
Chris: Bre’s parents gave speeches, her nana gave a speech, my parents gave a speech, my brother gave a speech, and then our respective maids of honor.
Breanne: My college friend, Janey, ended with hers with a Malaysian chant, the yam seng toast.
Chris: You had to exhale.
Breanne: You breathed in as much as you possibly can into your lungs, and you exhaled with this very loud guttural sound. Having everybody do it together, it was just very fun. When I think about the dinner, it was just so fun. We had a sweetheart table and it was nice to sit back and observe all these friends meeting and talking, sharing food and wine. It was like watching a movie of my life. It felt like love.
Chris: About three weeks before the day, our DJ fell through. This was the biggest tragedy because music was the thing I wanted to be perfect. I was adamant. Our friends love to dance, I love to dance. We then got connected to Jeffrey Perez — he spins on vinyl and his focus is Italian disco. We immediately clicked on the phone about these obscure records, and after the call I created what is in hindsight an absolutely deranged document: an emotional map for what I wanted the entire wedding to feel like. I wrote descriptions like, “The default vibe should be glittery Champagne jams.” I said, “We’re not afraid of deep cuts. We’ve got to deploy a healthy portion of nostalgia.” Middle-school dance vibe, Britney and Cam’ron, J.Lo and Nelly. I’ll just quote it because it’s the dumbest thing, but I wrote, “This crowd is extremely open to getting a well-timed curveball. If you want to drop System of a Down’s ‘Chop Suey!’ at some point, this would absolutely be the wedding to do it.”
Breanne: Past the table a dance floor and bar was set up. We were running a bit behind, so we only had an hour, hour and a half for dancing: My mom got on the microphone and said, “Everybody go to the dance floor.” Sometimes you go to weddings and it’s a little slow to get the dance floor started, people need more to drink, but the floor was packed the entire time.
Our first dance was to Jai Paul’s “Do You Love Her Now,” which felt like the right vibe.
Chris: In lieu of the wedding cake, which we didn’t want to do because it’s too expensive, we got vegan donuts from one of our favorite places in Portland, Doe Donuts.
Breanne: There was a noise ordinance, at 10 p.m. or whatever it was, we kind of had to wrap things up, and get the people on the shuttles. We were going to go for an after-party at a bar down the road, but we had to clean because it was going to pour the next day. They totally didn’t have to, but all of our friends stayed to give us a hand, pack everything up.
Chris: That was something that was genuinely moving to me, that everybody wanted to help out. We were breaking the set down, and when I think about film productions that I’ve been on, usually the teardown is the best part. This grunt work, you’re getting through it together.