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

Heather Elizabeth Photography

March 26, 2013


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!”


“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…”


“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.”


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.”


“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.”


“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.”


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.”


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.”


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!