The offbeat groom: Justin
His offbeat partner: Mercedes, artist
Date and location of wedding: Zorthian Ranch, Altadena, CA — September 19, 2015
Our offbeat wedding at a glance:
In his first outing as a wedding officiant, Mayor of Pasadena Terry Tornek married Pasadena residents (us!), Justin and Mercedes (#Merstin). The wedding took place at the infamous and wacky Zorthian Ranch in the Altadena mountains. 200 people attended including family and friends from as far away as Switzerland, Toronto, Muskoka, New York, New Jersey, Vancouver, and even Uganda. (In 2012, I traveled across eight countries in Africa by bus, train, and boat and spent time with Father Kizito Ssendi of Uganda, who traveled all the way to the U.S. to speak during the wedding ceremony!)
The wedding theme was “Embrace your inner creature.” Mercedes, friends, and family handmade all the decor, including the hand-drawn invitations, a dozen papier-mâché animals that served as centerpieces, masks for the photo booth, and the bridal party’s bouquets and boutonnieres. In the spirit of the Japanese tradition, Mercedes and friends made 1,000 cranes for the wedding out of old bills, scripts, emails, lists, printouts, and other paperwork from her past, which served as the ceremony altar backdrop and decor around the ranch.
Tell us about the ceremony:
Guests arrived and had to park at the bottom of the mountain and be shuttled in passenger vans up a long, winding, narrow road and over a rickety, old wooden bridge to Zorthian Ranch. They sang the Indiana Jones theme song along the way. As they waited for the us to arrive, they drank Prosecco and ate fresh oysters flown in from Washington State.
Devendra Banhart's “Foolin’” played as guests took their seats and the wedding party began walking down the aisle, including the our dogs, Chihuahua mixes Nico and Fiona, who served as the cutest ring bearers.
I appeared from behind the bar and took my place next to Mayor Tornek at the altar, which overlooked horses, goats, a llama, chickens, old school buses, broken down automobiles, Burning Man-style art installations, and the San Gabriel Mountain range. The ceremony mood was festive and lighthearted, exemplified by the bride twirling down the aisle.
At the end of the ceremony, the Mayor made the marriage truly official by directing the bride and groom to change their Facebook statuses to “Married,” which they did on their phones in front of the guests. Their wedding rings were also particularly special, as both came from Justin’s late grandmother, Norah. Mercedes’ wedding ring was Norah's engagement ring, and Justin’s wedding ring was Norah’s wedding ring.
- Venue: Zorthian Ranch
- Catering: Gourmet a go go
- DJ: Music Mania
- Photography: Siouxzen Kang
- Videography: Jaq Schmidt
- Band: Stoop Steady 6