Feature by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Lisa Robjant.
Marriage is something that has never, ever appealed to me. In my view, weddings are an expensive social construct and the idea of religious nuptials is antiquated and reductive. You have to wear uncomfortable clothes, wait to pose for awkward photos and narrowly avoid drunkenly embarrassing yourself in front of someone’s new in-laws. The only upside is the occasional utterance of the magic words: open bar.
Or so I thought. In the last year I’ve heard of some brilliant wedding celebrations that have made me jealous, to say the least. Seeing some of my punk friends tie the knot is enough to make me re-evaluate the whole institution of marriage. Maybe it isn’t a complete farce after all?
I suppose organising a wedding is a lot like booking a gig: you’ve still got bands, beers and a heap of drunk mates to consider. Far from the notoriously shite cover bands and mobile discos that infest traditional weddings, we spoke to three very different couples who introduced their love of punk into their special days in an inspiring way.
Over these three articles, you’ll hear what it’s like to play a gig at your own reception, to have your first dance to Wonk Unit live, and to say “I do” just before watching Bad Religion headline.
First up are Will Spicer and Felicia Dahmen. Spicer’s known for having previously played in Luvdump, although he’s recently joined a new band, Cheap Heat. Felicia plays violin with Danny & The Moonlighters and the pair are on their way to forming their own hardcore band with some mates in Bury St Edmunds. Spicer’s a born and bred East Anglian, but Felicia’s all the way from Melbourne, Australia.
What made their wedding different was their DIY approach, and the fact that Felicia’s own band played at the reception. Spicer even had to leave his own wedding for half an hour to go and seek out an amplifier. I spoke to Felicia to find out a bit more.
How did you and Will first meet?
We met at Brighton Punx Picnic in 2013. Luvdump were playing and I was attending with a friends. Eventually, we got together at Boomtown a few months later. In fact, Spicer told me he was going to Boomtown after I mentioned I was going… and then got home and promptly bought a ticket! Nawwwwwww!
Although your ‘proper’ wedding was in August of this year, you were actually already married…. Tell me a bit about the first wedding and how this one differed.
In 2015 my visa was about to come to an end and my job sponsors declined to re-sponsor me. We had a long conversation about our options, to find a way to stay together. All the options involved quitting and finding new jobs, or spending a lot of money, or time apart in different countries. Surprisingly, the best option was to get married as soon as possible!
A few weeks later we announced to friends that we were engaged, but we didn’t actually tell many people when we got hitched three and a half weeks later! We were supposed to keep it a secret and then have a proper wedding, but it was too hard to keep to ourselves.
We celebrated with five friends at the actual ceremony, and went out for a couple of nice meals. Essentially we just spent the day crawling through multiple pubs in town wearing really nice clothes!
So this August was your ‘proper’ wedding. Where did you get married this time?
Having promised our friends and family a proper reception, we decided to call our second wedding A Joining of the Families. It occurred in August this year in a nice Tudor hotel in Great Barton, Suffolk. My parents came over from Australia, and we organised the usual three-course lunch, band, buffet and DJ over the course of the day.
What made your wedding different? What elements of your punk/DIY backgrounds did you bring to the event?
Although it was a second wedding, we didn’t plan a mock ceremony again. Writing vows and making sentimental promises in front of others wasn’t our thing so we skipped straight to the best part – food! Also, my band played, so I was able to perform for a good hour and a half in front of our closest friends and family.
The DIY aspect came into it in the way we organised things: we tried to do everything ourselves. We sourced all the band equipment from friends if we didn’t have it already. We made decorations from paper, including origami flowers, stars and cranes, so that guests could take part of the wedding home with them. We made our invitations and signage on Publisher and printed them… at work (shhhhh!). We bought seat covers and ribbons so that we could sell them on and make back some of the money we spent, which was cheaper than renting from the venue. We asked for only raw images from the photographer, and we plan to edit and print our photos ourselves.
For the meal we made sure there wasn’t any meat or poultry to try to reduce the environmental impact; I had a gluten-free vegan option that was incredible. We didn’t swap rings (we didn’t for the first official one either) and I haven’t changed my surname.
Your own band, Danny & The Moonlighters played at the event, and you had the whole band crashing on your floor – a bit different to your normal wedding-night set up! Did that make it more stressful or add to the fun?
The most difficult part of getting the Moonlighters to play anywhere is that there’s twelve of us! For this gig we had ten of us playing and, yes, putting up nine others plus everyone’s partners was only doable because we had a house that we weren’t staying in that night. This all definitely added to the fun!
Did you perform in your wedding dress?
Yep, performed in my dress but had to change from heels to flats halfway through the set. The other difficult thing was that I had to stay relatively sober for 90% of the wedding day until our set was finished, but I really made the last 10% count.
What other musical entertainment did you have?
A DJ followed the band, playing well-known but not cheesy electronic hits. Even though we forked out for four hours of entertainment the DJ played less than two hours. The band ran over as I was having far too much playing with them!
Is there anything you would do differently?
I forgot one vital piece of equipment: an amp for the second guitar. Spicer had to leave his own wedding for half an hour to source and pick up an amp so that we could play. He saved the fucking day!
What advice do you have for anyone else looking to incorporate a punk/DIY aspect into their wedding?
Do whatever you want. It’s your wedding! If it stresses you out don’t do it! And try to remember all the equipment for the band…
What was the best thing about the whole day (apart from your betrothal!)?
The boring answer is that our friends and family from all over the world were all able to meet for one day over food, booze and music. Other than that, it was fun trying to find ways to cut costs, to do as much of it ourselves and then to see the products of our efforts (decorations and especially performing). It was like putting on a gig and getting to wear really fancy clothes.
Keep your eyes peeled for the next two installments of our Punk Rock Weddings special, featuring Bad Religion, Wonk Unit, Faintest Idea, Elvis, Tartar Control, Black Volvo … it’s basically two big punk festivals, if I’m honest.
Feature by Sarah Williams.