Years later, Liza is still a pagan. Her “Hallowedding,” a year ago today, was conducted as a Wiccan “handfasting.” Here she and her new husband, AJ, both wearing steampunk versions of the traditional getup, end the ceremony by jumping over a broomstick.
My daughter Liza, who figures prominently in today’s blog, was married exactly a year ago. That’s right, on Halloween. Though I suppose most teens who dabbled in magic in the 1990s got bored and gave it up, Liza continued to identify spiritually as Wiccan. She did have a Christian upbringing (of an eclectic sort), but she made this choice, while still in high school, to stick to a set of notions and practices that better fit her view of the world–and, in the bargain, offered many opportunities to make and wear great costumes.
The practice of Wicca is a far more creative endeavor than the rote liturgy and somber gear that typifies the established religions in the US. You often write your own services and devise your own rituals. Each observance needs its candles, its herbs, and, especially, its dress code. You choose them all yourself. Every gathering for the holidays–Samhain (Halloween), Yule (Christmastime), Beltane (May Day), and Lammas (late summer)–is a community challenge to stage a great show, using symbols appropriate to the season of nature and the calendar of the sky.
All this is perfect for Liza because, today, she is a costumier for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated, first from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then from San Francisco’s Academy of Art. Though she started out in computer-generated imagery, she moved, late in her training, to puppetry and theatrical fabrication, doing things that must be done by hand, not by computer. Having abandoned a career in CGI (not least because of the sexism), she now makes her living quite literally through craft. She is one of the best examples I know of someone who did not follow the digital herd and ended up in a better place for it.
In a roomful of serious costume people, my sister Kathy was, I am proud to say, the best dressed.
Halloween has always been Liza’s favorite and it is the big deal pagan holiday. Like Christmas is for Christians. So, it made all the sense in the world when Liza announced that her wedding would be on Halloween and that costumes would be required of all in attendance. It was like a glove thrown down to her friends—who are themselves creative and very “into” costumes, theatrics, and the like—as well as her family.
I was all wound up to go as Morgan Le Fay, shopping lazily online for velvet capes and crescent moons, when both daughters and their husbands told me I really should go as Carmen Sandiego. Because they were always wondering where in the world I was, right? It was too perfect. So, I spent hours on Etsy, looking for red trench coats and fedoras. We argued for hours over what color the scarf should be. Still conceptualizing my own outfit, I was completely intimidated when I visited my sister Susan in New York and she already had her costume made. She had found the most amazingly slithery dress and had purchased these oddly slinky tubes that she wound into her hair, then stuck orange ribbons cut with Vs here and there. Voila: Medusa.
Behind the chalice and the candle, there is a painted box with multiple compartments, each with a little scene inside. I made this altar for Liza when she was still in high school. Little known fact: I, too, went to art school—though I stopped because I was just too lazy—and my medium is. . . . little narrative boxes. Really.
Meanwhile, Liza and AJ’s friends acted like a typical Wiccan community and got into the mood of designing the event. They shopped and planned, then gathered to make decorations themselves. On the tables were beautiful pumpkins made of a variety of materials, autumnal candles, and funny props, like a sign that said, “You are never to old to beg for free candy.” Instead of a salad bar, there was a candy bar—bite size candies of the typical trick or treat variety.
The ceremony itself was conducted by three Wiccan priestesses, all dressed in robes of black velvet. They stood at an altar with elaborate candles and a silver chalice. You might have thought the night would be deadly serious—until the bridesmaids literally danced down the aisle. Once the hands of the couple were “fasted” with ribbons, they turned toward the audience, jumped over a broomstick that looked like a witch rode it in, and the party was on.
The dancing was hilarious. Snow White with Prince Charming or Beetlejuice with Little Red Riding Hood. Liza and AJ made the playlist—a little something for everyone and, of course, “Monster Mash” and other seasonally-appropriate musts. And it was wonderful because there were many children, having a fabulous time in this Halloween night grown very large and festive. When did we start discouraging children at weddings?
Was it odd to have a daughter throwing a Wiccan wedding? Well, yes, a little. There was worry at first that the big Italian Catholic family Liza was marrying into might be shocked. But there they were, in full costume regalia, having a great time with everyone else. My children’s father comes from a family that fancies itself aristocratic and is rather stiff. They may have been appalled, I don’t know.
Young couples today can create a wedding that reflects their own identities and choices and, somewhere along the line, their families have learned to roll with it. I remember so well when “mixed” religious marriages were thought a disgrace and the parents, not the couple, planned the wedding. It’s hard to imagine now. This offbeat and fabulously creative “Hallowedding” had an exuberance that, to me, allows a far more auspicious send-off than the archly competitive ceremonies of yesteryear. My heart was full for both of them.
Liza and AJ in their bridal gear. Did they make these clothes? Of course they did. In fact, Liza bought yards of different fabrics, then dipped each one in a progressively stronger concentration of tea to create the tiered effect in the skirt.