I really love the fun color choices in today’s wedding: purple & red! From the groom’s grandfather’s sword to cut the cake, to their spice favors, and quotes from their email & google chat exchanges, Amanda & Colton chose so many elements from their personal experiences and families’ traditions and wove it into an offbeat, DIY wedding at the Workhouse Arts Center in Virginia. I loved how Amanda shared that their wedding was offbeat & nontraditional because they paid for it themselves. Which, I always recommend to couples if they can because then you get to make every choice yourself – and that’s exactly what Amanda & Colton did! Thanks to Amanda Dorian Photography for submitting this one!

Amanda & Colton’s Offbeat, DIY Workhouse Arts Center Wedding in Virginia

DIY offbeat Virginia wedding red purple


Photography:  Amanda Dorian Photography | Ceremony: Whole Word Fellowship, Oakton, VA | Reception: Workhouse Arts Center | DJ: Steve Burrows, MSE Productions | Caterer: Lumpia Pansit | Florist: Twinbrook Floral | Wedding Cake: Sweet City Desserts | Bride’s Dress: 4EverlyAfter | Bride’s Hair and Makeup: Jordan K. Winn

Details on their fun color palette & addition of newsprint to their decor:

Our colors were red, lavender, and newsprint. Red is my favorite color, and some online Martha Stewart quiz said that lavender would go well with that. My mother was a journalist, so we wanted to honor her memory by including that black-and-white print accent.

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Colton’s family was a supreme help to me. Since my mother passed away when I was in high school, Colton’s family stepped in during the planning and helped with various other details, including researching flowers (which were dedicated in honor of my mother) and hosting a super awesome rehearsal dinner.

Below, a beautiful portrait of Amanda’s mother, which was displayed while they were getting ready. Love this.

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As for the dress and veil, my maid of honor, Elizabeth, went with me to various mainstream dress shops and had figured out a few dresses that they liked, but I was drawn more strongly to a small boutique at a wedding expo. We went to the boutique and described what we were looking for, and the first dress that the dressmaker pulled off the rack was exactly perfect. We also chose the veil because it reminded us of a Spanish mantilla, which we thought was a nice way to pay homage to my Filipino heritage.

mismatched purple bridesmaids dresses

Click inside for SO MUCH MORE of Amanda & Colton’s super fun, offbeat DIY Virginia wedding at the Workhouse Arts Center.

Colton’s hands were tied with regard to the number of groomsmen, since we wanted to maintain balance, but he had four closest friends along with two brothers and my brother to stand with him—two men too many. So his college roommates, Andrew and Jack, graciously accepted their roles as ushers, knowing that they were groomsmen—even best men—in another universe.


An inspiring maid of honor:

My maid of honor, Elizabeth, was a wedding superstar. Since Colton and I were long distance during our year of engagement (Colton in Boston for grad school), Elizabeth drove me to wedding venues, helped me find my dress, chose the bridesmaid dresses, and coordinated a dozen other details. All of this happened while Elizabeth was actively battling cancer. Fortunately, Elizabeth was able to attend the entire ceremony and reception—and her head was beautifully henna’d for the occasion.


I think it’s also worth mentioning that the priest who married us was a man who knew my mother, and my whole family, since I was little. He was the man who baptized me as a baby.

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On their venue choice:

Since I’m a playwright, we wanted to get married in a place that celebrates art and performance, and the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center was perfect for this—supportive of local artists with a beautiful campus and completely affordable. Plus the bonus fact that it used to be the Lorton prison, so the jokes would write themselves. (My dad kept asking if he could wear an orange jumpsuit).

arthouse workshop wedding virginia offbeat red purple wedding offbeat virginia wedding venue former prison offbeat virginia wedding venue former prison offbeat virginia wedding venue former prison

The paper flower centerpieces  were handmade: they were made from regular tissue paper and old papers from my mother. (Some of them are press releases from the Hailey’s comet orbit in 1986.) All the paper flowers around our reception appealed to us on another level as well, because I wanted something that was more permanent than fresh cut flowers. It’s also worth noting that all of the paper flowers and wedding favors were handmade by my bridesmaids and close friends, through many hours, in our little no-pay living room sweatshop, because they love me. Special shoutout to Giselle, Kristine, Gabby, Ren, and Sarah, the “paper flower crew.”

DIY tissue paper newspaper flower centerpieces DIY tissue paper newspaper flower centerpieces

The whiteboards and Scrabble tiles we put at every dinner table were not “handmade” per se, but it was our idea to put them together to create a game our guests could play throughout the reception. At the end, we asked everyone to take them home, along with the paper flowers and vases that served as centerpieces. It’s cool going to our friends’ houses now and seeing that they still have the Scrabble tiles on their fridges!

DIY whiteboard centerpieces DIY whiteboard centerpieces

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Our wedding favors were spices handmade by the Coushatta Indian tribe of southwest Louisiana, with whom Colton did some fieldwork in college. The generous friends he made there donated their special seasoning blend in abundance for the occasion of our wedding, and we used it to fill salt shakers with little red ribbons and tags on them.

spice wedding favors

My favorite part of the wedding was the food, because Filipino parties aren’t quite fiestas unless they have a lechon (roast suckling pig). All of the dinner was traditional Filipino food. Even the cake was made by a local Filipino bakery and consisted of chocolate cake with ube (purple yam) frosting and mango cake with raspberry frosting. Because you can never have enough dessert, Colton’s godmother gifted us a traditional Pittsburgh cookie table: dozens of different cookies handmade by her friends in Pittsburgh.

cookie table weddings

The cake toppers were Fry and Leela because we love Futurama. (“I miss you so much, Leela, even more than when you were here….”) The guest book was a lab notebook because Colton is a scientist and had an extra lying around. We cut the cake with Colton’s grandfather’s sword—he was a Vietnam veteran, and everyone in the Schmidt family tree has cut their wedding cake with that sword.

futurama cake toppers cut wedding cake with sword

Not many in attendance were familiar with the song we chose for our first dance. It was a waltzy love song by the band Mae. In high school, our friendship had first blossomed when we shared musical tastes with each other, mostly discussing songs by Mae and one or two other groups. When we were students at the College of William and Mary, Mae played a concert on campus. It was that night, after the show, that we shared our first kiss.

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Congratulations Amanda & Colton! Thank you for sharing your beautiful, personalized & DIY Virginia wedding with us. A special thanks again to Amanda Dorian Photography for sharing the images for today’s feature.

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  1. Oh, how crazy to see a familiar face! Amanda, it’s been a long time (first year physics, then we both transferred universities), but you look wonderful, and congratulations! I really love all the bright colors and I adore the centerpieces. Also a big fan of that cookie table. I could get behind that kind of cultural tradition.

  2. Hello!

    I am considering having my wedding at the Lorton Workhouse Arts Center. These photos are really inspiring. Do you know where they got the decorations- tables, chairs, linens, etc? I see the food came from Lumpia Pansit but after visiting their web site, I’m not sure if they provided those items as well as servers.

    Thank you,
    -Janet and Joe

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