Remember Ruben & Joaquin's first dance video? Here's the rest of this awesome Day of the Dead wedding.

Lead photo by Kari Nye. All other photos by Vero Image

The Offbeat Grooms: Ruben, Fundraiser & Joaquin, Education Policy Wonk

Date and location of wedding: The Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC — November 5, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Joaquin and I are both Mexican-American, so it was important for us to have elements of traditional Mexican weddings. We also love the Dia de los Muertos holiday in Mexico, and thought that it could be a very cool way to invoke the wedding mantra of “'til death do us part” in a very colorful way that celebrated our Mexican heritage.

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The wedding invitation used a papel picado theme and we worked with graphic designers Señor y Señora Fine Paper Goods to develop a logo for the wedding that was two male skeletons in wedding top hats with one wearing glasses. We also worked with a fantastic store in San Francisco's Mission District to create custom papel picado mini flags.


We used iconic images from the Mexican loteria game as table names, and worked with our friends on a very fun DIY project to create images embellished with glitter and sequins to display the table name and image.


My brother/best man and a groomswoman created 75 decorated sugar skulls for guests to take home as favors. The other 75 guests took home miniature crosses in our wedding colors (turquoise and marigold) that were decorated with Mexican bottle caps, Dia de los Muertos images, and milagros. These were also handmade by my mom and aunts.


One of my favorite parts of our wedding that really made our wedding caterer say WTF was a dessert buffet set up like a Dia de los Muertos ofrenda (altar). One side of the altar was dedicated to Frida Kahlo and included candles, photos, and Mexican desserts like pan de muerto and Mexican wedding cookies.


The other side of the altar was dedicated to Michael Jackson and offered American desserts like whoopie pies and featured papel picado shaped like sequined gloves (made by me).


Tell us about the ceremony: Marriage equality for gay couples had only been legal for less than a year in Washington DC, so we wanted our guests to understand the political significance of the celebration as well as the romantic part. The first reading was taken from the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision which legalized gay marriage in that state.


It was also important for us to incorporate aspects of traditional Mexican weddings into the ceremony. We included a lasso ceremony and asked my aunt and uncle to place a lasso made of marigolds (traditional Dia de los Muertos flower) around us.


Joaquin also choreographed a higher energy entrance that included all of our siblings and moms to Florence + the Machine's “The Dog Days Are Over.” Here is the video:

Our biggest challenge: We dreamed up many DIY elements for the wedding and enlisted friends and family in Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Phoenix to help us execute them. Joaquin even made and froze gallons of his famous tortilla soup to serve to our guests as one of the passed appetizers. We had to drop a couple of ideas (like emerging at the end of the wedding in full Dia de los Muertos makeup) but we were able to realize almost all of what we wanted.

To deal with our growing guest list, we came up with an idea to create an invite for drinks + dancing + dessert only and invited friends and coworkers to join us after dinner for the open bar and DJ.


My favorite moment: We took advantage of four nooks in the rotunda where we were married to have our families create Dia de los Muertos altars for our four grandparents who have passed. Our families collected photos, favorite foods and items, and arrived at the site early to create the altars.


It was amazing to do this with the enthusiastic support of our families. Many families are still struggling to embrace the idea of their sons or daughters in a same sex relationship, so to be able to do it with so many family members participating is one of the most amazing parts of it. It also meant so much to us to have our friends help us with all of our crafting for months leading up to the wedding and baking all of the desserts for our dessert buffet.

gay first dance offbeat wed alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Photo by Aaron Tamayo

My funniest moment: Joaquin and I are huge fans of reality dance shows (So You Think You Can Dance is our favorite) and we wanted to do something special for our first dance. We decided to do a hip hop dance that would start with “You're All I Need to Get By” by Marvin Gaye and transition to “You're All I Need to Get By” by Method Man and Mary J. Blige. A friend choreographed it for us and it was really fun.


My advice for offbeat couples: During the wedding planning, people always say, “Please let me know if I can help with anything.” We didn't refuse anyone. Everyone who asked got a project. All of the help prevented any groomzilla moments and all of the great energy from getting people involved built up until our wedding day.


What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? Choose three words that you want to use to describe your wedding. Ask your partner to choose three words as well. Compare lists and consolidate to three shared words. Use those words as a framework for upcoming wedding decisions and prioritization.


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Comments on A colorful gay Mexican Dia de los Muertos wedding

  1. We are thrilled to be featured as Offbeat Grooms! We loved the wedding planning and really miss our crafting weekends with our friends and family leading up to the big day 🙂

    Note: the fantastic store in the Mission District in SF (yes, they ship) who made the papel picado flags is Casa Bonampak Also, our brother, Aaron Tamayo, is also a profesh photog (Los Angeles) and took the image of us during the first dance that was featured. He can be found at Cheers!

  2. the venue! the papergoods! the lighting! the dancing! the gorgeous grooms! *swoon*

    • Thanks! The graphic designers/printers we worked with for our invites are based in Detroit and we’re in DC. I thought it would be difficult managing it all via phone and email but they were so fantastic to work with.

  3. So much gorgeousness! Looks beautiful, and heartfelt and fun. Congratulations to all on such a cool event! Oh, and as always, thanks for sharing it with us.

  4. This wedding just rocks. I love the energy, the dancing, and how fun it all looks! congrats!!

  5. I think this is the most beautiful wedding I have seen in a while. I teared up a little bit. Doesn’t happen much. Congrats, guys.

  6. Your makeup in that first picture is amazing! Can totally see why it wouldn’t be practical to take time out of the reception to apply something that awesomely elaborate. Congrats, it looks like it was an excellent day.

    • It would have been an awesome reveal but we would have missed most of our wedding! 😉 we did the makeup again for Halloween and could not get it done in under an hour.

  7. I loved the video posted before… OMG I’m completely floored by everything. AMAZING. <3

  8. I have never commented on an offbeat wedding post but my God, ur personalities shine so brightly in these videos I’m moved to post! I am so ginuinely happy for u both.

  9. Thanks for all of the lovely comments, Offbeaters! Joaquin and I loved reliving our wedding memories on the site and are so proud to share it with you. We had so many more ideas for our wedding we may do the whole thing over again when CA legalizes marriage equality! Best of luck in all of your wedding planning and Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. This is quite seriously one of the loveliest, most vibrant events that I have ever seen. I am smitten.

  11. The details, the energy and the grooms are giving me LIFE! I’m planning an offbeat lite wedding in Mexico and I can’t wait to incorporate some of these ideas for inspiration!

  12. I love that you accommodated your growing guest list! I am having this issue now and I think the drinks, dancing, and dessert is a perfect fix. I am at a strict 160 person limit for each person to have a seat at the reception, but I have several co-workers as does my fiancé that I would hate to leave out. So glad I saw your wedding on here.

  13. OMGoooodness!!!

    This is what marriage is about – people coming together to celebrate LOVE!

    The first dance – AWESOME! May the rest of your married life together be as amazing as your wedding! Blessings!

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