Ruben & Joaquin's Mexican Dia de los Muertos wedding

By on Nov 20th

We gave you a taste of this wedding with a tease of Ruben & Joaquin's first dance video last week. Here's the rest of this awesome Day of the Dead wedding.

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

The Offbeat Groom: Ruben, Fundraiser

His offbeat partner: 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo by Aaron Tamayo

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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.

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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.

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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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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!