Historic Cemetery Wedding with the Bride Arriving in a Coffin: Kristen & Jo

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It feels weird to start a real wedding post with a disclaimer of sorts but this is just one of those weddings that I share with a small sense of trepidation. Without wanting to sound like anybody’s mother, let’s just remember that this is two people’s actual wedding day and their way of expressing their love. I am under no disillusion that parts of the wedding may well divide opinion, but as always, let’s keep the comments constructive and remember what Rock n Roll Bride is all about…

Kristen & Joe were married at Mountain View Cemetery Oakland, CA. “I knew before Joe and I even got engaged that I wanted to be married in a cemetery”, Kristen explained. “We searched multiple cemeteries from Sacramento to the Bay Area, and Mountain View was perfect for us. It was welcoming and alive with people enjoying the beauty and history of the place. It was challenging to find a place to hold a ceremony and have 150 guests without them feeling uncomfortable by ‘sitting’ on people. We had almost scoured the entire place and given up when the main crypt came into view. We had found it!”

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“The path to the ceremony site was long and we spent ages thinking of different ideas on how to get me up to the ceremony without having to walk forever as well as how to keep me hidden from view until the right moment. We originally planned on using a car, so I told Joe that my mother had a friend who would use their classic car for the ceremony without charging us. Yes, I admit I started our marriage out on a lie… but I was working on a surprise for my groom and all of the guests.”

“I decided I wanted to show up to the ceremony wheeled up in a coffin. There was only my mother, her husband, my mother in law, and the man who built the coffin in on the secret. An hour prior to the ceremony I had the photographer grab the groomsmen for photos with the bride. Little did they know, that they had been chosen as the pallbearers. They practiced picking up the coffin, wheeling it on the gurney, setting it up and dropping the front door for me to walk out. They only had one shot to make it happen and there was no turning back. The ceremony started and the bridesmaids made their walk alone, to Joe’s confusion until he saw a coffin being wheeled up the hill by his groomsman. At that point he knew…”

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“The infamous coffin itself was actually used as a prop in a play and sealed completely shut prior to me discovering it in a storage room. Luckily, it was tall enough for me to fit in and could be unscrewed to be revamped. Because I would have surely freaked out if the lid was closed on me, we decided the cut an opening in the top so I could see out. We then lined the coffin and made the door hinge so that to could drop and I could walk out when the time was right. The cemetery was all for me showing up in a home made coffin and were actually kind enough to let us use a gurney so the men could wheel me safely. The coffin was delivered to the cemetery a week prior to our wedding and was hidden away. I didn’t even see it 100% finished until I was about to get into it. I was so excited and nervous about the entrance all at the same time.”

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But what I really wanted to know was how the guests reacted. So, of course I had to ask Kristen just that! “From what they told me they had to second guess if what they were seeing was real,” she replied. “‘Shocking’ is a term that I heard used. Once they figured out what was happening many of them said they couldn’t help but smile and laugh to themselves. Guests appreciated that I had a wedding that was so ‘us’. We did what we wanted and thought it was pretty bad ass that the coffin was a huge surprise to EVERYONE.”

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“However the initial plan was to have Joe’s dad, my mom’s husband, and the three groomsman be the pall bearers. Once I told everyone about it Joe’s dad decided that it was too weird and he chose not to participate. I was a little upset by it, but of course I understood. There were some others who did not agree with even having the wedding at a cemetery and those individuals chose not to come at all. I believe most people who attended had an open mind. No one that I was aware of were upset or angry about the entrance. If they were they didn’t say anything to us. I still wouldn’t have changed it though. I mean who else can say not only did they arrive in a coffin, but also surprised their groom and their guests? I think I am the only one, and I am damn proud of that!”

The theme for the wedding was obviously ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ – but these guys took it to another level! “When I would tell people my ideas they would either say “’That’s badass!’ or ‘Really? Why?’” the bride continued. “For the people who didn’t get it I would tell them that death does not have to be a scary thing. We all know that life comes to an end so why not celebrate our time we have together and start our marriage in the same place where it will eventually end.”

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“Exchanging our personal vows meant so much to us. We wanted to express how we felt personally, and to make sure it had our personality in it. We both felt that reciting traditional vows that the pastor has you say didn’t express how couples feel about each other. The time we spent alone with the photographer after the ceremony in the cemetery meant a lot to us too. Although we were parading around all dressed up we still felt like ourselves. Joe actually asked me if I felt any different and I said I didn’t  He started laughing because he agreed.”

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Kristen wore a Mori Lee dress which she personalised by making a belt made of chains and necklaces. “Some things in the wedding industry are just really pricey”, she explained. “Of course everyone has to make a living so I understand it but I had fallen in love with an Enzioani belt for my dress but could not see myself spending $400 on it. My mother is pretty crafty and said she could make me a belt without a problem. We ended up finding a multiple chain necklace and some feather clips for hair accessories. She used some jewelry making rings and attached the chains together in a drape and covered the ‘bling’ appliqué on my dress with the black feathers. All in all the custom belt cost $15 and it meant so much more because it was one of a kind and my mother had made it for me.”

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It wasn’t only the bride who went all out personalising their wedding day look look, Joe wore trainers and an Atlanta Braves baseball cap because he and his groomsmen are obsessed with baseball! “He found orange and black hats that they could wear since most of them are never seen without a baseball hat on. It was our gift to them to remember our day and it was of their favorite team. It was cute that they asked us to ‘autograph’ the bills by the end of the night. My gift to Joe the night before the wedding was cuff links made from a baseball played during an Atlanta Braves game.”

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Finally, they had their dog, Nietzsche, as Kristen’s made of honour! “Her attire was just as important as mine!” she laughed. “I designed a collar for her to wear on this very special day. I also had cuffs made for the bridesmaids as well to match her collar. One of the sweetest things Joe did for me while I was getting ready that morning was to have one of his groomsman deliver a stuffed Labrador retriever wearing my own matching cuff around its neck. It was a life saver since Nietzsche did not go on the honeymoon.”

I just love these guys and their amazingly original wedding. Thank you Kristen & Joe for sharing with us today!

Supporting Cast

45 comments

  1. Good on them – their wedding day is about them and I think they did something that was consistent with that.

    Great post Kat, I think it’s great that you’re not scared of pushing the boundaries to encourage more open mindedness from people.

  2. Ang

    Oh sweet baby Jesus…this is just 50 shades of wrong! I’m all for getting your freak on, but this just looks too staged, inauthentic and different for the sake of being different. I’m cringing for the hubby!

  3. This is a great post. I believe every couple should have the wedding they want. I had an unusual wedding and had some comments before hand. However on the day(s)- (as we had ceremony and a meal and then a reception a week later) everyone had to agree it was just very us, and concede that it worked. Sometimes you just have to go with your true desires. Well done to them xx

  4. Toomanytigers

    Not exactly my cup of tea, but hey they look incredibly happy doing it their way on a day that looks amazingly well thought out and beautifully styled. Loving the beautiful burnt orange, the scrumptious hair, the happy hound and the Mummy DIY! Congratulations Kristen & Jo… thanks for sharing with us.

  5. SashaCat

    Wow… just wow – this bride is the ultimate Rock N Roll Bride!!

    Not that I agree with the coffin or cemetery but I totally agree that they wanted to do something and did it. That rocks. This wedding rocks. This day belonged to this couple and nobody can ever take that away from them no matter how prudish they are or how offended they got from not being supplied with sugared almonds upon arrival.

    Congrats guys! And I am super impressed that you pulled the entrance off keeping it a secret from the groom! Very theatrical.

  6. SPFXChic

    I think it is great to see couples step out of the traditional box and really bring parts of themselves into their weddings, whether their guests or the rest of the world like it, or not. They stayed true to themselves and I applaud that. I also applaud you for posting this article, because I am sure that there are more couples out there who do this, but we simply don’t get to share in it because it isn’t the wedding “standard.” So, thank you, Kat!

  7. Nitewish

    Stunning yet different!! Weddings are about the couple and I think its awesome!!!

  8. Not sure about the coffin – it could have just been used as a prop for photos, so it was brave of the bride to actually use it for her entrance. Everything else is really cool and love the bold colours. They’ve certainly given their guests something unique to remember!

  9. I don’t agree with Ang (not that everyone isn’t entitled to their opinion of course), it’s really not that staged I’ve seen far less dramatic weddings alot more staged and fake than that! Plus if you watch the film you can totally see they are genuine people, just a little eccentric! It’s their day and if she wants to rock up in a coffin then why shouldn’t she! I love the fact that she still did and totally made the day about her and her new hubby getting married in a unique way. The photography compliments the day so well and that dress is da bomb! Love!

  10. I don’t have this in my personality, but I love the fact that they did their wedding their way. What a brave woman. The styling of the dress and flowers is stunning. They look like they had a blast and that is what it should be about. This post is inspiring and so glad you put it out there Kat.

  11. Wow! I think Kristen looks amazing and how imaginative she is! I don’t see anything wrong with being controversial if that is who they are and it suits their personalities. I guess in a cemetery, it’s likely that there will be people visiting who are mourning the loss of a loved one. I think as long as the cemetery was sensitive to this and kept the area closed for the wedding then I don’t see how anyone would see this as bad taste.
    I love the photos, the light looks beautiful. And their dog! How gorgeous to have her as the maid of honour. :)
    Well done Kat for sticking to your principals and continuing to show weddings which are imaginative, different – and not necessarily to everyone’s taste. (cos that would just be plain old boring)

  12. Sam

    I am in awe of this wonderful couples attitude. To have your wedding your way seems absolutely impossible to me. I am currently planning mine and it is just not at all how I want it. If you want to arrive in a coffin, then why the hell not! And the idea of getting married in a cemetery.. its sweet, to me, we give so much time to mourning at cemetery’s and only going to them to grieve and reflect on loss, cemetery’s are such beautiful places! to celebrate the most special day of your life and with the ’till death do us part’ theme is incredible. I hope people understand that it was THEIR wedding and they did it how THEY wanted too, I so wish I could do it my way! x

  13. Ashley Scattergood

    If you can’t have a bit of theatre at a wedding then when can you! Fantastic idea and good on them for going with a theme that suits them, what a lovely sentiment :)

  14. Sarah B

    Wow that crypt is so beautiful! Loving the photos, especially the dog with the rings on it’s nose! Congrats x x

  15. The Littlest Hobo

    I also think the ’till death do us part’ theme is a sweet idea and really quite touching. (Not what I would chose, but if everyone was the same the world would be such a boring place…) For me marriage is, at is core, about the spiritual joining of two souls (or three, let’s not forget the dog!) and the wedding an expression of that. The beauty of the circle of life, but also its transience and regeneration – an apposite backdrop in many ways. And the dog ROCKS!

  16. Could have been unintentionally gloomy if it’d rained, but cemeteries in sunshine can be beautiful and I guess, for these two, romantic.
    Well done to them for doing it their way, anyway. Lots of people bend to convention and end up pleasing everyone else, instead of thinking about what’s right for them- good on Kristen and Joe.

  17. When I saw the sneek peak I think I stated that I would like if the backstory and meaning behind it was right, and I’m glad to say after reading the brides words that they didn’t do it just for shock factor. a true love story of till death us do part. I don’t just like it I love it

  18. Maike

    I have some trouble with the cementry-location. If the couple and their guests are ok with the location it is their choice. But people who come there to mourn the dead might be irritated by a happy wedding (with even a bride in a coffin). Just imagine having the burial of a loved one just beforehand – I think I would not appreciate that. Its somehow a matter of respect to me.

  19. WOW, that really is a ‘ROCKNROLLBRIDE’ sort of wedding. Well done, it’s really refreshing to see something different from the ‘norm’

  20. Wow. I think it’s awesome that they did exactly what they wanted. So many times during my planning process I’ve said ‘but what will everyone think about that?’ and luckily my boy has been there to say ‘screw everyone else!’ Clearly this couple had the same idea.

    However I do think it’s terribly sad that some people didn’t turn up because they were uncomfortable with the setting. I’m pretty sure that, even if I had my heart set on something, I would have to rethink if guests were genuinely uncomfortable – the thought of my friends or family not being there on the day because of a decision I made kills me.

    That’s not to say that Kristen should have done things differently at all. If anything, it’s the guests’ loss for saying no and a sign that they were being closed minded.

  21. Cheryl Yearwood

    Guess what,people get married in a church where you have funerals and no one bats an eyelid!This couple are right to do what they like,well done.Death is a part of life,embrace it,accept it.The only sure thing about LIFE is DEATH.ROCK ON!!!!

  22. Hayley

    The venue is stunning, how is a cemetry any different to a church where funerals are held? Or a castle where there would inevitably have been a dungeon or jousting or torture? Or a register office, where births, marriages… and inevitibly deaths, are registered? Its awesome. Especially the photo of the dog with the rings on its nose! I find the entrance of the bride a bit Lady GaGaesque, but clearly it is them doing it their way.

  23. Blimey talk about arrive with a bang! I hope they didn’t have any guests with pacemakers fitted lol. This is not my style of a Wedding but I will give it to them for their wild originality, I’m sure there isn’t another Wedding quite like this one and never will be ha ha. Best Wishes to the newly weds x

  24. Joe

    @Ang as the “hubby”, I felt I should respond. While I respect that you may not understand my or my wife’s personality, style or love for one another, your “cringe” comment rubbed me the wrong way. Our day wasn’t “staged” or “inauthentic”, but a true representation of the end of one life and the commitment to a new one until the end of time. I “cringe” at those who are too afraid to be themselves and follow a basic and unoriginal path in life. I have one piece of advice for you as well as those brides-to-be and that is to have fun, be yourself and don’t ever be too scared to do whatever makes YOU happy.

  25. Great I say each to their own… but what I will never understand as a florist is how someone so unique could have a hand tied bouquet, a beautiful one but oh the possibilities in this world!

  26. Kevin

    Haha! I had never even HEARD of anything like this before the groom, ya I work with him, told me about the wedding. Awesome looking event. Congrats again to both of them.

  27. Kristen

    “The Bride”
    I enjoy reading all your comments and understand how this wedding is not for everyone. It was not meant for everyone, but for us as a couple. I am so happy that there are so many open minds in the world. My hope is that plenty of future brides see this and say to themselves “Yeah, I don’t have to do what people want me to do. I can do what is perfect for my groom and I”
    My utmost respect and gratitude to Kat for sharing our wedding with the world!
    PS @Hayley, your comment couldn’t have said it better: “The venue is stunning, how is a cemetery any different to a church where funerals are held? Or a castle where there would inevitably have been a dungeon or jousting or torture? Or a register office, where births, marriages… and inevitably deaths, are registered? Its awesome. Especially the photo of the dog with the rings on its nose”

  28. Abe

    This wedding ROCKED! I was very lucky to be part of it and will always remember the unique location, the awesome entrance, and the happiness Kristen and Joe had for each other that day. Plus the guests were treated to a big shock/eye-opener!

    Now, if I was a buried dead person in that cemetery, and I could see what’s happening (assuming the worms hadn’t eaten my eyes), I would be like…’I’ve been buried here for a 108 years…It’s about damn time someone came and had a kick-ass event instead of all the crying/sorrow/sadness. Umm..I hope the reception is here, too! Can I have some Cake?’

    Just saying…

  29. I am all for weddings being different and original, but I feel that a death theme is just wrong. I feel it is insensitive to those who have passed away. Perhaps if this couple had experienced grief, they may have felt differently. If it had happened in a cemetary where my loved ones were buried, I’d have been extremely upset.

    It also seems that this wedding was more about shocking people, than about being in love.

  30. Joe

    Emma, to say “if this couple had experienced grief” is a bit ridiculous. Everyone has experienced grief. I as well as my wife have experiences grief in our lives. Our theme wasn’t “Death”, it was a symbol of committing out lives together until death. In no way was our wedding about shocking people. It was about our love and commitment to each other for the rest of our lives. I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you were way off.

  31. Annette

    Funny, I thought I had commented on here before but I can’t see it now.

    Anyway I just wanted to say that I understand wanting to have a wedding in a cemetery. There are beautiful monuments and statues, and can be wonderfully peaceful and spiritual places. Arriving in a coffin could be seen as amusingly symbolic – the bride’s old life has died and she will now be starting a new life.

    It’s a pity that so many people have attached so much disgust and horror to death. To me, death is peace after suffering.

    Oh and I especially love the black belt the bride’s mum made. I wish I could get her to make me one too!

  32. incredible wedding theme, never did it cross my mind to have a wedding in a cemetery, hehehe,can’t blame you, the venue is so aristocratic and you’re entrance is soooo amazing, and you’re really brave to lie down on a coffin i’m really lost with words, so i’ll just congratulate you and your husband and best wishes :)

  33. Shotgun Susie

    Almost 8 years ago, my first fiance was killed in a motorcycle accident just as we were planning our wedding.

    I say this not to shame, or upset, but to illustrate that, obviously, due to that event, I saw this and was immediately conflicted about the whole thing.

    Then I took a step back.

    In the end, I love it. This was their style and what they wanted, the symbolism is great too, on a couple levels, til death do us part being obvious, but also a life in reverse, not so much “i was dead til i found you” but that a part of them both that may have been dormant before this relationship comes into being, comes to life from this day forward. It’s also a great reminder to cherish their relationship as finite on this earth.

    As for being upset if this happened in a cemetery where my loved ones were buried – I wouldn’t be for a myriad of reasons. I personally don’t believe the spirit stays with the body, it’s clear that the wedding party was respectful of the property. Why can’t something joyous happen on a piece of land so marked by sorrow? I’d by far prefer a wedding to underage drinking and vandalism. My family takes photos after each marriage in the column barium behind the family church because my mother’s parents’ ashes are resting there, so I may be more accustomed to seeing wedding pictures in graveyards than most.

    It’s just struck me that I will be the first of 4 grandchildren not to have her photos taken there as I will be getting married well out of town.

    And the belt is AWESOME – I had to check out that detail shot to get a good sense of it – it looks great up close and from a distance, it’s a great “final touch” for your dress!

    Congrats – and wishing you multiple lifetimes of happiness together!!!

    (please don’t worry about me – I’m on a wedding website because I’m newly engaged to a wonderful man – things really do “get better” in this life)

  34. Well it sure beats looking at any more vintage china!

    As others have already said, it’s not my thing but it’s refreshing to see couples embracing the reality about who they are and what floats their boat rather than weddings contrived to create a false impression. Too many brides are planning weddings to convey who they want to be rather than who they actually are.

  35. Kristen B

    I can’t believe tomorrow marks one year since I “rolled” down the aisle. I wanted to thank everyone who has shared the joy and creativity that went into our special day. I also understand that our wedding was not perfect for everyone, but most importantly it was perfect for us! Thank you Kat for sharing our story.
    -Kristen

  36. Totally spiritual and there is this sense of deep fulfilling love that makes life worthwhile. Congrats! I totally love the rhythm and mood of the wedding that is like a poem to me.

  37. Lizzy Rox

    Ive always wanted a cemetery wedding and my bf always wanted one so we decided that when we get married, we’re gonna have a cemetery wedding. Ive always loved cemeteries and have felt a strong bond with the dead. Im a very spiritual person so it be nice to have spirits all around. the coffin idea she chose was amazing but id do something different. Id do nightmare before Christmas theme cuz its my favorite movie and Jack & Sally were always my 2 favorite lovers

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