1. My book, role-playing and puzzle themed wedding!

    August 24, 2018 ♥ Posted in: Family, Nerd Topics, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    Joe and I have officially been married for almost four months now, which is amazing on two counts: 1. because that feels like a super long time and I still feel so happy and lucky and 2. because there were days I told Joe we were only doing some of our ridiculous wedding ideas so that I could write a blog post about it all later. The fact that I haven’t done it yet astonishes me, but on the other hand, I was so thrilled to be done with the wedding that it’s been hard to do literally anything else related to it.

    Time and space have finally given me the energy I needed to put this together. Because if I’m being honest – we put on a damn cool wedding, and I literally can’t wait to see people’s reactions.

    I’m not even sure where to start. So here’s a picture of Joe and I looking happier than we’ve ever looked on the actual day of the wedding:

    I guess I’ll try to go in order.

    The very, very first thing that inspired this wedding was my insane desire to have a book arch. You know that standard floral arch people often get married under? Yeah. I wanted mine to be made out of actual, literal books. I’m not high maintenance at all, guys. Joe’s dad was a saint and took it upon himself to make this dream a reality for me, and that jumpstarted us into hyperdrive for the rest of our wedding’s theme.

    The second thing that was purchased was my dress. I struggled with my initial wedding dress search because I really didn’t know what I wanted. “Something that doesn’t actually look too much like a wedding dress,” I would say to baffled shop owners as I perused their endless racks of vaguely different white gowns. “Maybe something that makes me look like a wood nymph,” I said a few times, not even really knowing myself what that meant. “Sparkly?” I’d compromise, when my fitting attendant would start to look exasperated.

    And then I found this:

    Everyone always says that like, time will stop, and everyone will forget to breathe as a collective gasp encircles the planet, and I’ll be honest — I thought everyone was being a bit silly about ~the magic of dress shopping~. I tried on some nice dresses. I had a few options that I “could get married in, I guess”.

    But when I walked out of the fitting room wearing this dress, a hush literally descended across Alfred Angelo. I think my mom immediately burst into tears. The group at the next mirror-station over even stopped what they were doing to stare at me, and said, “….wow. That’s the one.”

    So we bought it. I didn’t try on a single other dress. And then we lost it, because Alfred Angelo is the worst and went out of business without warning anyone, bailing on thousands of orders. But – then we found another one just like it online from a second-hand dress shop. But that’s a story for another time.

    Joe and I started our wedding day out with a ‘first look’ on the balcony of our suite in the Washington Athletic Club. It was a beautiful, elegant spot for us to capture this special moment, and oh yeah — I wore shark hands.

    There’s a bit of backstory here, but I’ll shorten it just enough to say: the night before the wedding, Joe mentioned that with less than 24 hours to go before saying “I do”, the only thing that could possibly still be a dealbreaker would be if he found out I had sharks for hands.

    So my bridesmaids and I used Amazon Prime Now to get these little devils delivered to our hotel the very next morning. And this is how Joe and I started the road to our marriage:

    When it came to planning this wedding, I wanted to do something that really and truly represented Joe and I as a couple, highlighting the things we each love — but moreso the things we love together. It took a fair amount of ideating, and many Pinterest boards, but we landed on books (me) and role-playing games (him). The cross section of that was our shared love of escape rooms, which I’ll come back to later. The whole thing combined nicely into a larger “storytelling” theme, which was subtle and yet represented in every nook and cranny of the event, if that makes any sense at all.

    First I’ll talk about the books. We incorporated them everywhere.

    It started with our invitations, which looked like little novels. These were designed by the same lovely person who designed my website theme – she designed many elements of our wedding!

    We had to hand cut those edges, people. The dedication started from day one.

    wedding invitations shaped like a book

    Then, in keeping with the theme, the very first thing guests saw upon entering the venue was this large book sign, welcoming them inside.

    They were not invited to sign a guestbook, because guest books are boring and who goes back and reads them, honestly? Instead, we instructed guests to choose a figure on this giant framed picture, and color it in to look like them. They were now characters in our story.

    We kept our guests busy before the ceremony with trivia we had included on the back of our programs. In hindsight, programs were one of those things I probably didn’t need to spend the money on, but how cute were they?

    fun and nerdy wedding programs

    And of course, when they went to choose a seat… there was no bride or groom side. We had our guests make a much more important choice.

    I bought a heart-shaped paper-puncher and cut literally thousands of hearts from book pages, which we scattered all over the place.

    book arch wedding

    I had zero interest in paying for live flowers, so my bridesmaids carried “book-quets” instead, made out of beautiful classic books I purchased from Barnes and Noble. Any flowers you do see are fake ones I bought on sale at Jo-Ann and hot glued just about everywhere.

    bridesmaids bouquets made of books

    Even our wedding cake looked like a stack of books. And before anyone says anything – yes. We’re aware the cake shop got the name of the D&D Player’s Guide wrong. *facepalm*

    book themed wedding cake

    We had a number of desserts available, including the above cake, which included cake toppers that were little medieval versions of us painted by one of our bridesmaids.

    Medieval cake toppers

    We also had cannoli baked by Joe’s mother, which, unbeknownst to me, were unicorn-themed.

    Unicorn themed cannoli

    Next up was Joe’s inspiration. I’m almost more proud of the role-playing game elements of the wedding to be honest, because it’s all just so, so fun. My favorite bit was the boutonnières, which we made out of gaming dice. Honestly, out of everything at the entire wedding, these are the piece I still think about and just smile. Our wedding was so cool.

    boutonniere made of dice

    We supplemented the book decor with dice, using large paper ones we’d nicked from a nerdy charity gala months earlier, and actual D20s in our wedding colors that were scattered pretty much everywhere there wasn’t already a paper heart or a book.

    wedding dice D&D

    Not to mention the dragons and unicorns we slipped in wherever we could. Because it’s us.

    unicorn wedding

    We gave our wedding party different role names, because everything about weddings is so formal and weird and we wanted to fix that. Our officiant was the “Wedding Master”, our parents were the “Elders”. Our flower girl and ring bearer were the “flower fairy and ring guardian” and we treated our wedding party like an actual adventuring party, giving everyone party roles.

    Wedding party is adventuring party

    dungeons and dragons wedding

    I gave our flower fairy two options for her headwear. We made her a flower crown, and at the last second, we also made her a unicorn headband.

    She chose the unicorn headband.

    She also dropped more of those paper hearts from her little basket instead of flower petals, because obviously.

    Our ring guardian was way too young to perform the actual duties expected of him, so we gave him a sword and sent him on his way. It was a disaster. We (and the entire audience) loved every second of it. Here he is, going the wrong way:

    ring bearer going rogue

    We also veered pretty far from tradition and threw in a few of our own… like rolling for initiative to see who got to say their vows first during the ceremony. We used a giant D20 in our wedding colors that we had commissioned from on Etsy.

    I rolled an 18, beating Joe and setting the tone for our entire marriage.

    rolling for initiative at wedding

    Most people would say this was probably enough. Fun thematic elements all over the place, plenty of crafts, many ways for our guests to be continuously delighted and engaged over the course of the evening.

    Good job, bride and groom, on an excellent wedding!

    …Have you met Joe and I?

    This wedding was just getting started.

    When our guests made their way to cocktail hour, they were greeted with this set of puzzle pieces. They were instructed to find their name, then take the puzzle piece with them to the table number they had been assigned to.

    wedding puzzle seating chart

    Once they arrived at their table and met their other table mates, they would soon realize that their puzzle pieces went together, creating a larger puzzle with strange letters on it. If they had assembled the puzzle correctly, these letters would give them instructions.

    Following the instructions, which actually included deconstructing parts of the puzzle and putting it back together another way, gave guests additional instructions on how to use their seemingly innocuous table number to light up the random wooden box that had been on their table. Surprise! It was a lantern. I don’t have a photo of one lit up, but imagine it lights up.

    escape room wedding

    Then — if guests tried to lift the table number back off of the lanterns, they would find that they were magnetized, so this action would reveal a trick opening on top. Hidden inside the lantern (they were there all along!!) was a set of “quest logs”, which instructed guests to find a series of additional puzzles around the venue.

    Every table succeeded in lighting up their lanterns, and some people dropped off after that in favor of chatting and drinking. We expected this. A very large handful, however, took the next stage very seriously. Joe had created four ingenious stations with various kinds of puzzles to solve, each one sending each “adventurer” further along a storyline we’d created. They had to play a game against an invisible foe, assist a wizard with making a potion of courage, and help a giant up a tricky set of stairs.

    puzzle wedding, escape room wedding

    puzzle room wedding

    escape room wedding

    escape room wedding

    escape room wedding

    escape room wedding

    Each puzzle station gave them a code, which they’d then use to open a lockbox, which contained stickers for them to put on their quest logs. A completed quest log would have one final meta-puzzle to solve within in, which gave our guests the final code for the final lock box. Once guests were able to open this final box (thus completing their adventure and arriving at the wedding of Queen Kristina and King Joe), they were able to take a wedding favor as their prize.

    D20 dice wedding favors

    The night happened in a blur. I am so, so thankful for our incredible photographer and videographer for capturing the event in such detail, because I hardly remember even being there. I do remember feeling incredibly happy — because I knew the whole experience was almost over, but also because the joy we could see on the faces of our family and friends made all the stress and work of the last year feel so completely worth it.

    This wedding would not have been possible without the incredible support of our friends and families. I cannot tell you how many hours of their time people gave us to make this as incredible as it turned out. I honestly don’t know why we have friends anymore at all. But apparently, they like us a lot, because they helped us pull off this ridiculous, gargantuan thing and they still want to hang out with us today.

    There were even a few surprises from some of those amazing people, including warm milk and cookies that showed up late into the night from our friend Katrina, and the t-shirt slingshot that was brought out during our best man Alexander’s toast. Yes. I’m serious. He flung out t-shirts that said “I went to Joe and Kristina’s wedding and all I got was hit in the face with this shirt.”

    A lot of people say your wedding won’t be the best day of your life. That it won’t be the day you’re the most in love. That many things will go wrong, and that you’ll laugh, and you’ll have great stories, and you’ll move on and do many bigger and more important things with your life.

    …I dunno, man.

    slow motion book pages wedding picture

    We had a pretty excellent wedding.

    Pink haired bride, dyed hair bride

    And I think for both of us, seeing the culmination of all the hard work we were both respectively putting in, for months, and how happy we’d made pretty much everyone we know… I think we fell in love all over again that night.

    dyed hair bride

    I know there are amazing things on our horizon, and doing things like having children and creating a home together and growing old will definitely all be amazing things, and I know we’ll love each other a little more every day.

    mopop wedding, dyed hair bride

    But our wedding was really, really goddamn cool.

    All I wanted – my mission statement throughout this entire process – was for people to say they’d never been to a wedding quite like ours before.

    I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that was repeated to me, verbatim, at least fifty times over the course of that night. I’ve never smiled so hard in my whole life.

    nerdy wedding

    Even though this wedding made me crazy for many months… I wouldn’t change a thing.

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  2. Discovery Park – Hike #2

    July 11, 2017 ♥ Posted in: Hiking, Journal, Travel, Wedding by Kristina Horner

    We were supposed to go on our second hike sooner than this, but we had to skip our next planned outing because Jenn’s ankle hadn’t properly healed yet and then we had a couple of busy weekends. But then our friend Ariana was in town, and she’s all about that hiking life as well, so this past Saturday was the perfect time to (literally) hit the dusty trail.

    The Hike: Discovery Park
    Description: Discovery Park is a 534 acre natural area park, located next to the peninsular Magnolia neighborhood in Seattle. It overlooks Puget Sound, with views of the Cascade and Olympic mountains. The park is built on the historic grounds of Fort Lawton, which was originally a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp during the Civil War. Within the park is two miles of protected tidal beaches, a lighthouse, open meadow lands, dramatic sea cliffs, forest groves and more. While it’s advertised as a 3.9 mile heavily trafficked loop trail, all the branching paths and trails can leave a person wandering for hours.
    Length: Advertised as 3.9 miles, but that’s just for the loop trail.
    Elevation Gain: 570 feet
    How long it took us: We switched roads/trails at least six times, so we probably spent at least 3.5 to 4 hours walking around. No concept of how far we actually walked.

    Thoughts and anecdotes:

    So originally we had planned on checking out a different hike, and wanted to make more of a day trip out of it. Ariana had mentioned Lake 22 (which is on my list for sure) – but when the time came, Discovery Park made more sense.

    I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. As a new hiker I am very eager to try out exciting hikes, ones a bit further away from home, with exceptional views promised to me for the effort. Discovery Park is right here in Seattle, and while I’ve never actually been there for hiking, I couldn’t imagine a trail so close to where I live being anything to write home about. I live by a lake with a well-known walking trail – I imagined it was going to be of that caliber. I left my cool hiking backpack at home. I prepared myself for a nice little walk.

    Let me take a moment to admit I was wrong.

    Discover Park is probably one of the most incredible things about my city, and I’ve lived here almost thirty years without knowing.

    How have I gone about my day to day life, folding laundry and running errands and eating sandwiches and trimming my fingernails with a view like this just twenty minutes away? Literally, how does that happen to a person? How is this not some sort of mandatory Seattle resident onboarding information, like “welcome to the city – there’s a Starbucks on every corner and also this view will take your breath away, make sure you check it out as soon as possible.”

    The thing about Discovery Park is that there are a million little trails and paths. If I went back right this second, I don’t think I could retrace my steps. There are little paper maps offered at the trailhead of the north parking lot, and we tried to follow along with where we were going, but mostly our strategy was to go a new direction every time the path diverged. We walked on classic trails, dirt roads, paved paths, old wooden stairs, and spent a significant amount of time following the beach trail around the tip of the peninsula. We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    We kept being surprised at how few people we saw in each new stunning location. That’s the thing about Discovery Park though – it’s just so big that even though it’s full to the gills with people, it’s still pretty easy to find your little piece of seclusion. Maybe it’s because everyone else is just as lost as you are, or maybe it’s because there’s so much to explore that everyone keeps moving.

    I saw a lot of different amazing things on this hike, but for some reason I only took pictures of this incredible view. I think this is the point at which I realized how wrong I’d been about Discovery Park. That even though you’ve lived in a place nearly your entire life, you can never really know all there is to know about a place. It will find ways to keep surprising you.

    The main reason we stuck to our neighborhood in terms of hiking on Saturday was actually that we planned to come back on Sunday, and wanted to kill two birds with one stone and use this day’s hike for a bit of location scouting. Ariana had offered to take some engagement photos for Joe and I, and thought this park would be the perfect backdrop for our very Pacific Northwest relationship.

    Here’s the thing I realized about engagement shoots that had never occurred to me before. On Saturday, we hiked in workout clothes, ponytails and hiking boots. We sweat a lot and got dirty. On Sunday, we dressed for pictures. I wore a skirt and a cute sweater. Joe wore his nice new jeans. I wore little velvet black flats.

    But we walked on the same dirty trails. I stepped in the same mud.

    I’ve seen hundreds of engagement and wedding photos taken in the woods, in front of a waterfall, on the edge of a mountain. I’ve seen people in high heels, wedding dresses, suits, and with immaculate hair and makeup.

    And it has never once occurred to me how those people got out there.

    The obvious answer is that they probably brought a change of clothes. But that doesn’t explain the perfectly curled hair, the beautiful makeup, the fact that hiking with a garment bag isn’t much easier than trying not to get black velvet shoes dirty on a path made of literal dirt.

    It wasn’t actually a very pleasant experience if I’m being honest, between the rocks in my shoes and the constant worry that I’d accumulated some kind of nature in my hair. I now have a renewed appreciation for my hiking gear for all future hikes. I also have so much respect for the people who look flawless in their very extreme wedding and engagement photos. Unless they were somehow helicopter dropped into their location, those people are intense. Those people worked way harder for that picture than I ever stopped to consider before. And while taking pictures with Ariana was a delight on the interpersonal level, and I’m sure they’re going to turn out lovely, I so wished I’d brought a pair of sneakers. Or a mirror to check how I looked.

    On the other hand though, Joe and I aren’t the kind of people who’d think to bring a mirror on a hike, so maybe it’s a more accurate representation this way. Just like how I told Ariana I’d probably mostly keep the photos others would deem mess ups, the ones where we’re laughing or making silly faces, I probably wouldn’t like our pictures quite as much if Joe’s shirt wasn’t a bit wrinkled, or if you couldn’t see any dirt on my shoes.

    That’s just us.

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