our '59 ford
Photos by Jackie Canchola

The offbeat bride: Julia Ghoulia, Sideshow Performer and Graphic Designer

Her offbeat partner: Kory, Sideshow Performer, Musician, and Mandalorian

Location & date of wedding: Gasworks Park and SoDo Pop, Seattle, WA — August 14, 2010

What made our wedding offbeat: We're colorful, artsy people and we wanted a wedding to match. We are both circus sideshow performers and musicians so that created the underlying theme for the day. One of the first things we discussed was that we wanted everyone to be able to be themselves. We wanted them to wear whatever made them feel their most fabulous and to feel free to drink and swear.

invitation front

Our wedding featured:

  • Self-designed invitations based on classic circus sideshow posters.
  • An informal, mixed-gender wedding party. The extent of our coordination was a text saying “BTW, you're in my wedding party.”
  • Audience participation flash-mob ceremony with kazoos and bubbles.
  • Self-designed wedding dress of safety orange, lime green, and black, with a corset made by my mom.
  • Bouquet, centerpieces, and boutonnières made of duct tape. No real flowers were harmed in the making of this wedding.
Duct tape flower bouquet by Valoree Kaye
No joke — those flowers are made of DUCT TAPE.
  • Taco and nacho bar along with snacks of circus popcorn, sangria, and alcoholic Sno-Cones.

alcoholic sno-kones

  • Three-tiered cake covered in patchwork fondant. Inside were orange and green striped layers.

Cake by Valoree Kaye

  • Hiring a concert photographer. We didn't want a lot of forced posing in our photos. We decided to hire Jackie Canchola, who has done a lot of concert and performance photography. This experience made her the perfect photographer for us because she was used to working with available light, being unable to direct her subjects, and shooting moments that couldn't be re-created.
Kory likes cake
Kory vs. Cake

Tell us about the ceremony: Our ceremony was very informal. Once all of the guests had arrived, we swarmed our chosen site and started the ceremony (bonus: not paying for chairs). I counted on the scariness of our wedding guests to act as a natural deterrent to anyone who might not get out of our way. It worked.

Wedding party
The awesome, motley crew wedding party

I used to perform in a Rocky Horror Picture Show cast for many years, so we had an audience participation-style ceremony. Every guest received favor bags with kazoos to play the processional (“Here Comes the Bride”) and recessional (“The Imperial March” from Star Wars).

There was also a duct tape flower to coordinate with the bride and groom, bubbles to blow at the end of the ceremony, and a cocktail monkey swizzle stick for their drinks. It was very important to us to have our guests be active participants in the whole event rather than just be witnesses.

wedding party playing processional on kazoos

Apparently our location (Gasworks Park) wasn't too original since we saw at least three other wedding parties milling around while we were there. We even delayed another wedding party who was approaching the same hilltop during our ceremony. We started off our married life by inadvertently cock-blocking someone else's. 🙂

Swarming the hill for improv ceremony

Our biggest challenge: The biggest challenge was trying to have an awesome party on a very tight budget. Almost all of the guests were coming from out-of-state, and we wanted to make their traveling worthwhile. We were able to accomplish this by being resourceful, prioritizing the things that were worth spending our resources on, and being crafty as all hell.

I work as a graphic designer and photo retoucher, so I handled invitations, place cards, made my own dress, and did the retouching and layout for our wedding album. My friend Valoree and her moms made our cake, bouquet, 50 duct tape flowers for the wedding favors, and duct tape flower centerpieces. They also helped make popcorn and prep all the snacks.

parasol, table marker & bouquet

We also happened to know many other entertainers, so we had performances from our guests Philemon Vanderbeck, creepy magician, and Spinergy Arts, spinning glow poi. Other friends brought video cameras, decorated, cleaned up, tended bar, and took turns DJing. It was definitely a group effort and with help from our friends we were able to have a pretty awesome wedding for less than the cost of most traditional wedding dresses.

mentalism by Philemon

Money was also a challenge for a lot of our guests. Even though it was a local wedding for us, we're both originally from out-of-state so it was a destination wedding for everyone else. This did help keep the guest list small but it also became cost-prohibitive for a lot of people we wish could have been there. If I had a few thousand more dollars to plan the wedding I would have spent it all on plane fare to bring these people out.

My favorite moment: After the ceremony, Kory, the photographer, and I drove to the reception in our '59 Ford that Kory had been restoring for a few months. It was nice to have a moment of quiet, driving through the city, and listening to love songs on AM radio.

best ring shot EVER

On the way there we stopped with our photographer to take pictures in front of Club Motor where we met performing in the same variety show.

outside Club Motor, where we first met

My funniest moment: Kory had been bragging for weeks about how he had his vows written and memorized while I hadn't started mine until days before. By the time I was done reading mine, he was so flabbergasted that he forgot his entirely and just started babbling.

During the reception, there was a “Paradise City” air guitar jam.

"Paradise City" air guitar jam

The funniest moment after the wedding was when I picked up the photos from our photographer I saw that almost all of the wedding guests had taken turns getting photographed in Kory's Mandalorian helmet (like Boba Fett from Star Wars). I think this was payback after many heated discussions of me not letting him wear his armor during the wedding.

Steve in Kory's Mandalorian helmet

Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? One thing that concerned me a lot was my health. I have Fibromyalgia and get migraine headaches when I am stressed and both of these issues came up and could have ruined all of my fun.

This was minimized by:

  • Wearing flats. I wore my most comfortable and kinda grungy Doc Marten Mary Janes because I would have rather been able to walk than look taller.

poofy dress

  • Carrying meds! Lots of them! I even made a pocket in my dress so that I would have these essentials with me in case I needed them — and boy, did I! When a migraine popped up in the middle of the reception, I was able to take my medication as fast as possible and prevented my headache from getting much worse.
  • Having a place to escape. There was a sitting room upstairs that I went to lay down in for a while to wait for my headache to pass.
  • Having a great support system. I was surrounded by people who understood my health issues and how to help me. We were going to do a fast dancing song for our first dance, but my husband didn't mind when I needed to pick a slower one at the last minute.

center pieces- duct tape lotuses by Valoree Kaye

My advice for offbeat brides:
Going from engaged to married in four months is a fine idea.
Planning your own wedding is a fine idea.
Paying for it with the income from an artist household is a fine idea.
Making your own dress and invitations is a fine idea.
Doing all of the above? Not so much.

This is definitely a case where it should be DIO (do-it-ourselves) rather than DIY. Ask for help whenever possible, and if you are going to do a lot of it yourself without lots of money, give yourself lots of time to be frugal and crafty.

Cake topper by Chris of Sabretooth's Workshop

What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? If you or any of your loved ones have relocated, this may be the last time you see them all in the same place until you are looking up at them from inside a pine box. Make as much time to spend with them as possible.


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Comments on Julia & Kory’s casual rock ‘n’ roll sideshow wedding

  1. your eyemakeup! your dress! that car! Tacos AND nachos! Alcoholic SNO CONES!!! holy cow this is the coolest wedding EVAR! So much to love here I just need to say ALL.OF.IT.

    Well done, and congratulations.

  2. Thanks for the tips on dealing with migraines on your wedding day. I have to deal with that too and I was just trying to figure out what I needed to have in place to help me deal. Thank you!

  3. I *LOVE* your idea of using a concert photographer. I’m trying to convince a concert photographer friend of mine to shoot our wedding. I’m really shy and I hate having my picture taken. She’s the only person who has ever taken a good picture of me, and that’s due to her stealth. They’re all pictures from when I didn’t know I was having my picture taken.

    • YES. I think it was the best possible decision for my wedding. I hate formal, posed photos and people who need you to fake recreating moments so they can get another shot.

      Plus, I now have the awesome anecdote that my wedding photographer shot a Gogol Bordello album cover. Awesomeness.

  4. Everything about this wedding is completely awesome! And those duct tape flowers… AMAZING!

    • If you’d like a tutorial I can help. Some of the flowers were tricky, but once you pump out a few of them they get a lot easier to handle. I made a few rough drafts before I got the awesome bouquet you see before you. Most duct tape flowers I’ve found on google and deviant art are bulky from too much tape/folding and I wanted to avoid that so I altered techniques and removed some of the excess tape from previous designs and I think it came out pretty light and not bulky looking at all.

  5. I love the exquisite corpse game, I used to play that with my mom and friends at birthday parties and had completely forgotten about it. Thanks for the reminder!

    p.s. your wedding is awesome.

  6. Um, I love this couple! Those duct tape flowers are seriously the coolest things ever!

  7. I love EVERYTHING about your wedding!

    By the way, I was rocking out to the “Time Warp” while reading this!

  8. This was the greatest wedding I have ever been to (besides my own, of course). I was honored to have been there, and only wish that I wasn’t so hugely pregnant at the time, so I could’ve hung out longer. XO

  9. “This is definitely a case where it should be DIO (do-it-ourselves) rather than DIY.”

    Yes, THIS. So, so much.

  10. What a beautiful wedding! Thanks for the migraone tips. My fiance deals with them when he gets stressed too. SO excited about duct tape flowrrs. I knew I wanted leopard print flowers and now I don’t have to hand paint them! Congrats on your marriage!
    PS Love love looooove the dress! I’m a Halloween baby, so you used all my favorite colors 🙂

  11. LOVE this wedding. My fiance and I are going to do an audience-participation style ceremony, too. We’re going to give guests whistles, flags, ribbon wands, and kazoos, and have a “word of the day” type deal where everybody cheers/plays cheap plastic instruments when the word is said.

  12. Jackie Canchola is the absolute greatest lady on earth! (We went to the same college, and she used to photograph our theater productions, and I always preferred hers over the occasional professionals who came to take photos. She’s amazing.)

    And your wedding looks utterly fabulous! And I also would love a tutorial on duct tape flowers, those are incredible.

  13. “Carrying meds! Lots of them! I even made a pocket in my dress so that I would have these essentials with me in case I needed them — and boy, did I! When a migraine popped up in the middle of the reception, I was able to take my medication as fast as possible and prevented my headache from getting much worse.”

    OMG that is the best idea EVER! I have the same condition but walk with a cane so I can’t have a bag, I’m so going to adapt the dress pocket idea!

    • THAT is the upside to sewing your own dress- the ability to add pockets. Even pre-made stuff can have pockets added if you have a good seamstress, and I highly recommend it. Unless you have a dress with a more form-fitting bottom, of course.

      Most of the time, I am able to function like a mostly normal person, but I went in to this being realistic and expecting craziness, stress, long days, lots of time on my feet and all the physical issues that follow.

      Just be nice to yourself, be comfortable, and plan for those “oh-crap!” moments.

  14. Thanks for everyone’s comments and compliments. It feels really good to be inspirational to others who are going through the exciting yet trying ordeal of planning their own weddings.

    Most of all, thank you to ALL the amazing people who helped make this happen (especially you, Val, and your family). I could not have done this alone.

    • It was my pleasure. Thanks for including me and allowing me to help shape your day into the awesomeness that we see above.

  15. THanks for the venue idea, maybe we’ll check it out. not expensive at all!! We might get married at gasworks park too, we could walk there from home.

    • Yes! SoDo Pop is awesome and the owner is really helpful and knowledgeable about hosting parties. They also have an option where they provide all the booze as part of the venue fee 🙂

  16. I think this my favorite offbeat wedding I have seen so far! I love the duct tape flowers and alcoholic sno-cones!!!! My 2 favorites from your wedding. Fantastic!
    Thank you so much for sharing this!!!

  17. your note on self-care literally made me tear up. i’m not sure why, since i don’t know you. but i’m just really really glad that you were able to prepare to take care of yourself so that your day wasn’t fucked up.

  18. I want to hop into my way-back machine and COME TO YOUR AMAZEBALLS WEDDING!!!! (And kiss the cheek of your moustachioed, top-hat wearing, purple-kazoo playing guy in your photo, because he is adorable!)

    Also – I am gobsmacked that your flowers were made out of DUCT TAPE. Well done!!

    Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂

  19. Thank you for pinning this…my fiance and I are also from a state not where we currently live and are stressing some over making travel worthwhile for our guests. It is nice to read about others going through a similar situation and making it happen!

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