Punk Eleganza: A Homage Vogue Ball Culture & Queer Art Spaces

Aaron Ehinger Photography

March 20, 2024

When asked to describe their wedding theme, Kaaren and Crispin said it was “A homage to first wave and post-wave venues and basement shows and vogue ball culture and queer art spaces.” They drew inspiration from the DIY punk scenes, drag ballroom aesthetics, speakeasies and underground culture from the 1980s and 90’s gay liberation movement. They wanted their wedding to be a big celebration of their ancestors from the first wave of alternative and queer punk/rock music.

Their story began in 2011, when Kaaren auditioned to be the drummer for Crispin’s punk band. Safe to say, they got the job! With the groom being transgender, and the bride queer, this was event that was not just a wedding, but a testament to their journey through music, activism and love.

“We wanted to interrupt the ultra-elegant gala aesthetics that often feel unwelcoming to gender-diverse people,” Crispin explained. “We created a space where our guests would feel absolutely glamorous while being surrounded by a slightly deteriorating (yet gorgeous) mansion. We also gave a surprise basement style punk show! After the opening of the dance floor, a few songs played and a partition was released, revealing our entire band. As soon as that came down, we ripped a long distorted chord to the tune of Rebel Grrl by Bikini Kill and our truly flabbergasted guests clamored to the stage as we played a set of a few of our favorite canonical punk and alternative songs.”

The punk music and aesthetic was palpable throughout the day. They asked their guests to wear black tie attire but required that they wear ALL BLACK – most people complied! For the ceremony, they had a healer friend give a crystals blessing and they provided our guests with a crystal upon entry. “They held it during the ceremony and during the blessing they were asked to hold it and send their deepest wishes of love and blessings to the couple–and any other energies they wanted to send”, he continued. “The stones were collected and we have them in our home where we carry the love of all of our guests in our daily lives. We held this blessing as a way to make folks from all walks of faith and spirituality or agnosticism as comfortable as possible while receiving their blessings and good wishes long after the wedding.”

Their party was a vivid reflection of their personalities and shared history. They incorporated black, gold and dark green velvet elements though the signage, cake and napkins. They had had a custom neon sign made, too.

The groom’s sibling, who is also queer (and was wearing the most fabulous gown and leather accessories) did an impromptu sibling dance to Never Let Me Down by Depeche Mode, “This is their and my late cousin Louie’s favourite song. It was a very powerful and moving celebration of queer life and love that was very unplanned but will live in my memory forever.”

The planning process, while challenging, was also a journey of self-discovery for the couple. “We learned a ton about ourselves and how to manage expectations from both our given and chosen families,” Kaaren reflected. “The industry has a long way to go with being more inclusive of queer, trans and multicultural couples. We were so lucky to have found a planner who was affirming for us but that’s really not the case for most folks. It was sad to see how many vendors, venues, etc. still have basic forms that only have ‘bride’ and ‘groom’ as an option of even something as simple as a ‘bridal suite’ that could just be a ‘wedding suite’. The language hasn’t caught up and neither have folks assumptions about couples and gender expression. I am glad to say that overall we had positive experiences but there’s so much change that needs to happen.”