That my wedding to Felix Eddy was going to be steampunk was something that was never really in question. As an artist whose work delves into steampunk rather heavily, as well as an excellent seamstress and overall fan of the genre, my fiance seemed to have been put on this earth to bring about a steampunk wedding. However, we had some obstacles to overcome, not the least of which was money. The past year had not been kind to us, at least financially, and we were going to have to throw the wedding for roughly the same amount of money that most marrying couples would pay for roughly nineteen seconds worth of open bar. Still, we had one thing going for us: we were weird. Not just a regular amount of weird either. We were extra weird, with sugar on top. If we were going to have a great wedding, we were going to have to make weird work for us.
We went through our list of other assets, which, admittedly, were pretty slim. We were in possession of what usually strikes me as roughly a third of all of the world’s genuinely valuable steampunk art. This would need to be displayed, probably using the wire mesh walls that my bride-to-be and I have carted to art shows and steampunk events all up and down the northeast coast. I had a homemade steampunk computer, complete with a wooden mouse and a keyboard that looks like a typewriter. This could be used to play music, and show pictures. My fiance had a professional sewing machine, and perhaps most importantly, access to an embroidery machine that we could use when it’s owner wasn’t busy cranking out t-shirts with company logos on them. Also, we had friends. I quickly came up with the rule that everyone who came had to have a job. A lot of these were fun jobs, like making sure my cousin talks to someone other than her mother, or bringing along your nice camera, but there was a message behind them- namely that at some point, I might need a favor. That was just how it had to be. That said, Felix and I sat down, and had began to plan our wedding.
From the start it was clear that there were a bunch of things we weren’t going to do, things that normal people probably would have thought of as fairly traditional. The bride wasn’t going to wear white for one thing. Neither were the bridesmaids, nor the groomsmen, for that matter, going to be wearing matching outfits. We were not going to hire someone to make an overly large wedding cake, or to provide flowers, or to tell us which things were good ideas, and which weren’t, or tell us who the best photographer was. Since the best man was the son of the groom and had just turned eight, he would not be making a toast. A band was out of the question. Food would have to be done on the cheap.
A lot of these decisions came out of necessity, but my fiance found a way to make them work for us- allowing everybody to dress how they felt allowed us to utilize costume pieces we already had, for instance, but it also allowed people to express themselves in different ways, and choose things which they thought looked good on them. Instead of getting an enormous wedding cake, we went with a small one, made by a friend of ours, topped with a specially made glass wedding topper depicting a steampunk owl and pussycat, and supplemented with cupcakes topped with little chocolate gears. A printer for the invites was absolutely out of the question, but Felix’s design skills were better suited to using Vistaprint anyway. Instead of flowers for the maids of honor, we bought a batch of fairly ordinary toy ray guns, which were taken apart, spray painted, and decorated with suede handles and cheap copper gears. (These would inevitably prove very popular with the children in attendance, and equally unpopular with their parents, but hey, you can’t have everything.) For entertainment, we contacted a local troupe of belly dancers who were willing to come out and do the show for about a fifth of what a band would cost.
Most of this was accomplished by my fiance, who is not so much a person as some sort of artistic force of nature. She was involved in the creation, selection, design and implementation of almost everything, almost down to the last detail. Felix made the invitations, she made the cupcakes, she supplied at least a dozen people with hand embroidered vests, she made the ring bearer’s cape, she cooked the cupcakes and made deviled eggs, she molded one hundred candy mustaches on sticks, and in one of the more nerve-wracking moments in my life, she would end up making her own dress. In striving to accomplish all of this, she would rely on the embroidery machine rather heavily. The dress, a number of vests, and the brims on several hats would all be embroidered with gears, or keys, or ocotopi, or some combination of all three, as it suited the bride. Felix also discovered that lace could be created using the same machines, and would use this function to create a whole series of mini top hats, and lace dirigibles. These would hang from a series of inexpensive mini rosebushes, and would serve as centerpieces for the tables. How she managed to do all this, I haven’t the foggiest idea. In several cases, it generally seemed easier to simply shrug, and assume their was some sort of magic, or time travel involved. In general we drafted, threatened, blackmailed and otherwise cajoled our friends and family into providing assistance where ever and whenever we could.
As a man, I had been raised with the general belief that when the time came to get married, I would be handed about as much responsibility as the valedictorian at a kindergarten graduation ceremony. This proved largely to be the case, although I did my best to fight against the tide in this regard. I programmed a slide show and the set list for dancing (a larger effort than would seem, my steampunk computer, while magnificent to look at, is Linux based and short on memory.) and wrote a nice speech on how I met Felix, and what a wonderful woman she is. I was also burdened with the prosaic tasks of picking up the groomsmen (in Boston, no less) and fielding questions from friends and relatives. Variations on the phrase “I don’t really know anything about steampunk” showed up in my inbox fairly regularly As the day closed in, everyone was tired, and tensions were running a little high, but it seemed as though everything was pulling together. One of the last details to come together was the food, an area where we would have loved to put in more of an effort, but were simply limited by funds. We had found some elegant looking paper plates with antique looking maps on them, and had ordered chicken, vegetables, and few other odds and ends from a local restaurant. To supplement this, asked people to bring a side dish, if they could. For booze, we bought what we could afford.
I believe that all weddings go through three phases in planning- knowing that you have a lot of work to do, but thinking you have a lot of time, believing that the entire thing is going to be a disaster, and then discovering that in fact you have massively over-prepared and in fact the whole thing is going to be fine. I entered this last phase around the time I arrived at the wedding site, a rather ordinary pavilion in a state park near my hometown. Although the bride had doubled back to the house to change, she had clearly been at work all day. Chairs were set up for the ceremony, the picnic tables had been arranged. Her art had been hanged on the wire walls, and an archway had been set up for the big moment, as it were. I had been concerned that there wouldn’t be enough food, but already this idea is clearly laughable- three enormous tables stretch out with a wide variety of dishes. My kids begin eying a chocolate fountain with marshmallows greedily, but are quickly distracted by the toy ray guns, normally a forbidden fruit in our household. I am dressed in a red vest and top hat, which make me look a little like a ring master, which strikes me as a fairly apt metaphor for being a groom. The best man is wearing a similar outfit, although in black, and with ray gun in hand looks like a character from a Jules Verne novel. The ring bearer is decked out in a fedora, cape and matching vest, which make him look a little bit like the steampunk version of Clint Eastwood’s man with no name. Even our dog is running around in a vest and bow tie. “I’m a lucky man,” I think to myself. “This is going to be fun.”
Generally speaking, there tends to be a sort of bell curve at steampunk events. Yes, there’s always the couple who has clearly spent most of their time and energy looking like time travelers from the distant past, but there’s also the guy walking around in a t-shirt that says ‘costume’ on it in. In general, I had expected that our wedding would follow this kind of a pattern, but as people begin to wander in, I see that our friends and family have steampunk’d it up, almost to a man. Everywhere I look there are bow ties, top hats and bowlers. There are women in bustiers and bustles, and men in spats, carrying walking sticks and top hats, and goggles- good lord, there are goggles everywhere. Almost everyone seems to have gone along with the theme of the day, and judging by the large number of smiles, this has been pretty voluntary on their part. As I greet guests and mingle, a thought occurs to me- Steampunk is something they can all do. The original punk rock revolution, for all of it’s triumphs, was pretty inaccessible if you had reached, say, the impossible old age of thirty, or if you lived all of thirty miles outside of New York, or if you just didn’t want to listen to angry guitars all of the time. Steampunk, on the other hand, seems pretty inclusive. My father, having been born in 1939, was a little to old to enjoy the psychedelic revolution forty-five years ago, but looks majestic today in a top hat (with goggles, of course) and a set of tails that appear to have been made out of upholstery fabric. Likewise, the youngest members of the crowd, and there are roughly a dozen people under ten, look absolutely adorable in their steampunk finery. Another thought occurs to me- my family and friends are really nice. This is a lot of effort that they went through, and they did it just for us.
At last the ceremony begins. My future brother in law, decked out in a bowler hat and an enormous leather coat, has dragged his electronic keyboard out of the basement and is serenading the crowd with a rendition of the theme to Raiders of the Lost Ark, which earns more than a few smiles from the audience. The ring bearer comes down the aisle, carrying the rings in a small green treasure chest, accompanied by the flower girl, who has no flowers at all, but instead is holding a bubble gun and spraying bubbles everywhere. The bride comes down the aisle to a few bars of the Doctor Who soundtrack, then the officiator says “Greetings chrononauts” and we begin.
For several weeks my wife had been promising to well up at some point in the proceedings, and as promised, the tears start about two seconds into the ceremony. This causes me to cry too, although my tears are mitigated by the sound of my oldest son compulsively squeezing his bubble gun at his brother. I find myself wondering, at what instant will we be married exactly- Is it now? Or when we kiss? Or when the witnesses sign the application for a marriage license? It doesn’t matter, I’m just excited. In any case, in a few minutes the deed is done. As the officiator says, my wife and I “will be together in our adventures throughout space and time.”
Somewhere after our first dance, I start to relax. People seem to be having a good time. All of the children dancing to “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones is a highlight, and my best friend from high school has dipped an entire cupcake, including the wrapper, into the chocolate fountain. Looking around, I can’t help but think that my wife has highlighted several problems with the more traditional bride-all-white-with-matching-bridesmaids version of a wedding. There’s so much to look at here, everywhere your eye goes there are details to take in. Once more, if she had worn nothing but white the dress would have gone into the closet for all eternity. As it is, I’m sure we will wear these outfits again at Steam City in the fall and the Steampunk World’s Fair next year. All in all it’s a wonderful evening. Eventually though, it gets late, and everyone heads home.
I’m not going to lie to you, while I wrote this, I wore jeans. I don’t wear a bow tie to work all that often, and my top hat usually stays on the shelf. Steampunk isn’t something we do every day, nor do I think it should be. On my left though, my wedding ring is adorned with gears. Steampunk will age with time, and while I can’t really say how well pictures of my wedding will hold up, I can tell you how proud I am that my wife and I made it a part of our special day.