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BRIDes 2012

When hell


oVeR …



t all started when confirmed bachelor Glen Starkey popped the question to paramour Anna Robertshaw—details to follow on page 6. Most of the staff was dumbfounded that a) Robertshaw said yes and b) a confirmed bachelor of advanced years would pop any question besides “will you pass me the Pabst” at all. The incident got us thinking about what marriage means (a question posed by News Editor Colin Rigley, complete with references to alien spaceships, on page 36), who it’s traditionally for, and what prompts someone to make the terrifying, headlong matrimonial leap by asking that duplicitously simple question. We began to wonder whether the couples who choose to forge their own path, who take a casual glance at the arrows pointing down the worn trajectory of tradition and then opt for another route altogether, were perhaps the most sincere of all. Like Liz Cordoba, who tossed gender stereotypes to the wind and proposed to her partner of eight years during a romantic getaway in Santa Cruz [28]. And Diana Stanton, who eschewed an ordinary white gown to make a powerful visual statement on her wedding day [40]. And yes, Glen Starkey, who didn’t settle in his 20s or 30s or even 40s, but elected to wait for the right person and the right moment. As an incentive to help adventurous newlyweds-to-be launch into the colorful and quirky abyss of the unknown, we solicited engaged couples across the county. They sent us their stories, and we selected three to be featured in a story about engagement photos tailored specifically to their personality. Collectively, they leapt to heights to which most couples can only aspire [22], strolled into a fantasy world of romance and humor [10], and armed themselves for the challenges that attend wedded bliss [16]. So, whoever you are, individually and together, propose a different sort of wedding, one that reflects you as a couple: your history, interests, community, maybe even your guilty pleasures. As you’re affixing Star Wars paraphernalia to your centerpieces, you may just discover yet another reason to love your partner.

It’s never too late

Unicorns, guns, and trampolines

28 He said yes!

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San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

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Brides © 2012

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PUBLISHERS Bob Rucker Alex Zuniga EDITOR Ashley Schwellenbach

ADVERTISING Colleen Garcia Katy Gray Anica Julian Meg Korgan Leslie Neighbors Rhonda O’Dell Laura Reese Rene Rodriguez Tracey Joyner Scuri Georgia Shore Chris Terry

PRODUCTION Jenny Gosnell Dora Mountain Brendan Rowe Tony Koster EDITORIAL DESIGNER Alex Zuniga

30 Get a little dirty


? What is marriage?

40 There’s more than white

44 Save yourself!

Ashley Schwellenbach managing editor



46 Eat what you want

PHOTOGRAPHER Steve E. Miller CONTRIBUTORS Anna Weltner Matt Fountain Colin Rigley Amy Asman Ryan Miller Nick Powell Michael McCone

Please call (805) 546-8208 to make your reservation for the next issue of BRIDES.

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t may intrigue legendary New Times staff writer and music columnist Glen Starkey’s ultrahip followers to discover there’s

a softer, more sensitive side to the man, cloaked behind a shroud of boob jokes and machismo wisdom of all things rock n’ roll. Yes, the very same man who runs afoul of busty blues singers and laughs in the face of exploding squirrels is dropping the anchor. Many—including the man himself—thought the day would never come.

6 BRIDES 2 01 2

The illustrious Starkey will be 50 this summer when he weds his partner in crime, the 27-year old piquant firebrand Anna Robertshaw.

Americans during the latter half of the 20th century, as well as increases in the proportion of unmarried and nevermarried adults. There aren’t many statistics available on first marriages over the age of 40. However, data compiled by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2002 offer a snapshot of who’s getting married in this country and how old they are when they do it. According to the stats, more than 70 percent of Americans between the age of 25 and 44 have been married at some point—79 percent of women and 71 percent of men. Most relevant here, however, is that by the age of 30, chances a woman will have been married is 74 percent, while it’s a 61 percent chance for men. By age 40,

percent of men have remained unmarried by the age of 40, as have 12 percent of women. But 40 is where the data ends. That means our man Starkey will have beaten the odds. Given a lack of data, one can only assume how those additional 10 years will affect those figures. “There’s probably too many zeros and decimal places to calculate,” Starkey said. But he’s not alone. We know others are out there, thanks to tips from local wedding professionals. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much luck getting those couples to agree to an interview. Something about talking to a complete stranger about their age and married life didn’t seem to fly as well as expected. “Uh, thanks, but not interested,” replied one recent groom. “I really don’t think so,” answered a bride. Strike two. PHoTo BY STeVe e. MILLeR

Starkey is no stranger I wasn’t totally up a creek, BLE ATING It’s true: New Times’ music madman to being the odd man out, though, because—luckily for HE ARTS and ultimate bachelor archetype Glen but his later-in-life nuptials me—Starkey and Robertshaw Starkey and hellcat Anna Robertshaw are tying the have never been accused of aren’t as rare as one may knot. Can SLo County survive the Starkey Bunch? being uptight. think. Fitting into tuxes at Starkey, in his younger the semicentennial mark is years, always pictured himself those probabilities jump to 86 percent for on the rise. marrying—eventually. But over the women and 81 percent for men. According to U.S. Census data from course of the last 15 years, he said, he’d But wait, there’s more! According to the 2001, there were notable increases in National Center for Health Statistics, 17 a person’s age at first marriage among STARKEY continued on page 9

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Br i de s 2 01 2

STARKEY from page

until a later age to take the plunge isn’t the time, have been with women who 6 uncommon, nor is it incomprehensible. are younger than me because women resigned himself to the fact that it probably “When you have people living longer, my age are so angry,” he said. “If they’re wouldn’t happen. Then the duo hit it off in and they become aware of the longevity not married by my age, they’re divorced that golden summer of 2010, at the muchof life, many think, hey, it’s not too late and pissed or—and nothing personal to missed Sustenance Cooking Studio where for me,” McAfee said. those women out there who aren’t angry Robertshaw worked as a chef. The traditional stigma of turning and pissed—it’s just that I had a hard “She won my heart with buffalo into an old maid or a creepy old guy isn’t time finding women my age who didn’t strudel,” Starkey said. what it used to be. In fact, McAfee said seem resentful or distrustful of men. He made a couple valiant attempts to popular culture seems to be moving in “And Anna, well, she’s still naïve and ask her out, but she at first declined. She the opposite direction. obviously eventually caved to “From what I’ve seen in the charm, and they’ve been ‘she wOn my heart popular media, the stigma now together since, assembling a seems reversed: There are more small army of canines at el w ith BuffalO strudel.’ unmarried couples than ever Casa de Starkey. When they G len S tarkey before; it’s more acceptable to not first broke the matrimonial have children,” McAfee said. news, the family was “a little He was generalizing, but incredulous” at first, but soon foolish enough to think that everything’s McAfee said he envisions certain everyone was on board. And the dogs? going to be ok,” he said, turning to his benefits to marrying at a later, more “They didn’t seem to acknowledge it,” bride-to-be. “And it will, honey! It will!” mature age. He cited finances as one of Robertshaw said. “By the time I’m you’re age, the major factors in the success of many “or care,” Starkey added. “You see, you’ll be so old and senile that my relationships, and money management this is really the story of a man named bitterness will be ineffective anyway,” skills typically grow stronger with age. Starkey, who was busy with two dogs Robertshaw countered. other helpful factors include being more of his own. Then she comes in with her According to people who deal with comfortable with yourself, knowing what two dogs, and the next thing you frickin’ married couples every day, the longer one you want, and having the time to find know it’s like the goddamn Brady Bunch waits for marriage—generally speaking, the right person who shares common of dogs at our house.” of course—the stronger and more interests and traits. There was no polite way to breach the enduring the relationship. Bob McAfee, Yes, I just used the word “common” topic, so I just asked: Why’d he wait till a marriage and family therapist based in in an indirect reference to Starkey and 50 to marry? Grover Beach, said the trend of waiting Robertshaw. “Most of my relationships, most of

“We both have such very independent lifestyles that it just seemed to work,” Robertshaw said. “It was just the perfect time for both of us.” “We were totally just friends at first, into the same things. And we still are, you know? We’ll be talking, and we’ll end each other’s sentences,” Starkey said. “Man, that sounds lame.” And as both the couple and McAfee attest, timing is everything. “She’s everything I needed at this point in my life, because I was totally done, you know, trying to date people. I was just over that. I wanted to be with somebody that I wanted to be with, someone I feel comfortable with,” Starkey said. “So it was just the right time, you know? “I’ve dated some really great women who probably would have been great wives, but I would have been a real shitty husband then,” he added. “I’m finally at the point where I think I’m going to be a good husband.” To this, Anna replied, “And I think if I had met Glen when he was younger, I would have thought he was a pretty big douche.” ∆ Matt Fountain heaved a big sigh of relief when he finished this story. Reach him at

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Make the bold call and opt for engageMent photos that show off your personality More than your ring B Y A SH L E Y S C H W E L L E N B AC H PHOTOS BY STEV E E . MILLER

DRESS continued on page 10 BRIDES 2 01 2



e’ve all seen them. the photos of a couple wearing semi-formal matching shirts, walking along the beach or standing on a pretty hill. he’s sitting on the ground, and she’s smiling behind him with her arms wrapped across his chest. and they’re great. the couple looks good, the background is nice. on the surface, nothing is missing. except personality. even the wildest couples with the most outgoing personalities

BR I DE S 2 01 2 and quirkiest interests have fallen victim to the traditionalism of the engagement photo, the kind that you post on your refrigerator out of kindness and secretly wonder “what happened to the girl who was arrested for trying to dress puck like a drag queen?” she’s disappeared behind a façade of wellmeaning, inoffensive blandness—and you’d kind of like her back. inspired by the belief that somewhere in the great matrimonial abyss, amid the f lowers and centerpieces and endless yards of tulle, there had to be a

few adventurous couples eager to break with tradition, New Times posted an ad seeking three such couples, promising a free outside-the-box engagement photo shoot and 15 minutes of fame in our brides issue. twenty-five couples entered and, with great difficulty, we whittled our selection down to three couples with personality to spare: a couple who met while performing in Annie Get Your Gun at the slo little theatre, a duo who got their hunting license together, and a pair with a daring streak that qualifies

lacey McNamara and Danielle Dutro

them to run away with the circus, if they ever felt like it. so, without further ado, we present casey Mayville and ryan hanson, Jennifer szalay and beau gallagher, and lacey Mcnamara and danielle dutro. Just try to keep your gaze trained on a silly ol’ rock. ∆ Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach believes personality beats rock. Throw shiny stones at aschwellenbach@


bought a ring and made plans to propose to Danielle during a trip to visit Danielle’s family in San Diego. the plan was to have brunch at a lovely golf course during our last day in San Diego, take a walk on the course to a bench in the trees, and pop the question followed by a day at Sea World (Danielle’s favorite place). All went well until the walk on the golf course. A man came chasing us down with a golf cart yelling at us that we couldn’t be walking on the course because we could be hit by a ball. (And we were only feet from the bench!) So we went back to the car and were getting ready to leave. “Wait!” I yelled, as Danielle was starting the car. I took off her sunglasses and looked her in the eyes. “Danielle, this isn’t how it was supposed to go, but I need to tell you how much I love you. I love you more than I can say, and I know that you are the one that I want to spend my life with. I even have the hardware to prove it.” At which point, I pulled out the ring, “Danielle Dutro—will you marry me?”’ Lacey McNaMara, adveNturous bride-to-be

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‘I decided that us both being women, we

both deserved a proposal! So, during a trip to Disneyland (one of our favorite places to go together) I decided to ask lacey to marry me. I had planned on asking her on the steps in New orleans Square because it is a relatively private place and her parents had a photo of them at the same steps not long after they were newlyweds. When we got to Disneyland, there was a crowd by the stairs, of course, and not wanting to make a scene I quickly racked my brain for another place that might not be terribly crowded. So, I took lacey over to tom Sawyer Island and made her walk around the entire island before finding a suitable place. I finally asked her behind the Fantasmic stage, which is our absolute favorite thing about Disneyland. She said “yes,” and we both walked around the rest of the day with a spring in our step and a giant smile on our faces! taking every opportunity we could get to catch a glitter of sunlight on our rings.’ Danielle Dutro, aDventurous briDe-to-be

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Jennifer Szalay and Beau Gallagher

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â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;the couple we have become today is definitely an adventurous one! We

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‘We met in high school. I was a junior, and he was a sophomore, and we had advanced auto shop together. I was the only girl in the class, so it was hard to fit in, but Beau made it more comfortable when we hit it off on our first day of class. I had no idea or intention of meeting “the one” in my auto shop class—I am the type of girl who truly loves cars and wanted to learn about them!’

JeNNifer szaLay, adveNturous bride-to-be

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‘My fiancé Ryan hanson and I

met in the third grade at Gold oak Elementary School in placerville, california. he was the cute (and kind of dorky) boy with curly blond hair, and I still sported scrunch socks and feathered bangs. We were friends through junior high school, and in 1998 we were voted “Best personality” by our 8th grade class.’ casey M ayviLLe, adveNturous bride-to-be

‘Ryan is my perfect complement. he

is the goof to my ball. the laces to my sneakers. the ketchup to my French fries. he is easygoing, whereas I plan out every detail of our lives. he likes to vacuum, and I like to do laundry. he makes me laugh when I get irritated about standing in long lines at the grocery store. he drives the speed limit and I … well, I drive a little over the speed limit. We are partners in crime, and with him, I feel like I can take on the world. he is smarter than the average bear and can fix anything from a power steering pump to leaky faucet. I should mention that he cooks too … .’ casey M ayviLLe, adveNturous bride-to-be

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our planet turns on its axis precisely 365.242374 times per year. Very well, but what on Earth to do with that sad, unwanted quarter of a revolution? The answer was simple, according to Julius Caesar. Every four years, add

leap day. He declined, offering instead a kiss and a silk gown—gifts that became standard for men turning down hopeful women. Nothing in that story, said to have taken place in the 5th century, is remotely verifiable. But the leap year nonetheless became one of gender role

on 11/11/11, she proposed to George Griffin, her partner of nearly eight years. She simply knew the time was right. The two had shared their lives, and their San Luis Obispo home, for so long that it almost felt like they were married already. In fact, many acquaintances assumed they were. But when the topic of marriage had come up, she had always shied away from the idea. “I’ve been the one that was like, ‘No, I don’t know if I believe in marriage anymore,’” Cordoba explained, seated beside Griffin in their living room. Both had been married before. So the simple question tumbling from her lips late on rainy afternoon, as the two took refuge in a Santa Cruz wine bar—the weather having postponed a planned beach bicycle ride—was a twist Griffin hadn’t seen coming. “It took my breath away. I was floored,” Griffin recalled. “It brought tears to my eyes. And of course I said, ‘Yes. Of course

proposing to men. For Cordoba, the decision was a chance to play a bigger role in the engagement than she had in her previous marriage. The first time she wed, she found her proposal less than romantic. (She isn’t alone. According to a 2011 survey of 3,000 men and women by online wedding planning resource and Men’s Health magazine, one in four brides says she wasn’t in love with the manner in which the groom proposed. These women wished their proposal had been “more romantic, more original and personal, more private” or thought it was “simply too over-thetop,” according to And these are the brides who still said yes!) While she’s certain a proposal from Griffin would have been thoughtful and romantic, Cordoba is careful to clarify, she simply felt it was her turn. Why didn’t 90 percent of married women feel this way? Perhaps because matrimony is steeped in tradition, and asking a man for his hand in marriage


an extra day. And on that anomalous, nearly non-existent day, British folk tradition later added, let women propose marriage to men. The when and wherefore of the tradition has mostly faded to myth. An Irish legend has St. Bridget beseeching St. Patrick on behalf of her longsuffering gender, St. Patrick offering to give women one day on which to propose every seven years, and St. Bridget haggling it down to four. But St. Bridget, you see, had an agenda. Once the leap year—and the leap day, specifically—had been decided upon, she popped the question to St. Patrick, as it just so happened that that day was a

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Liz Cordoba planned to propose to George Griffin, her partner of nearly eight years, on a bike ride during a romantic getaway to Santa Cruz. But when the weather was less than accommodating, she improvised.

reversal, and the extra day, Feb. 29, was used to fix two flawed systems—the calendar year and gender inequality—in one go. Vestiges of the tradition linger in United States traditions like Sadie Hawkins Day, a holiday with no set date, but which is generally celebrated near November. But Liz Cordoba had none of these antiquated folk traditions in mind when,

I’ll marry you! Tomorrow!’” Nearly 10 percent of marriage proposals come from women (this according to the book The Romantic’s Guide to Popping the Question, by Michael Webb). Statistically, one can count on it happening, but it never seems to lack the element of surprise, rather like lefthandedness. Griffin and Cordoba’s story reveals several advantages of women

is, on most days of most years, a non-traditional choice. Ask a man to marry you, and there’s no protocol to follow. Should you ask his mother for permission first? His father? Is it necessary to get down on one knee? Must you buy the rings yourself? And what about taking his name? You figure it out. Sure, this route isn’t for every woman. But for those looking for just one more reason, the next leap day falls at the end of this month. ∆ Arts Editor Anna Weltner might have a few romantic aspirations of her own. Send rings to

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wedding dress represents purity, a vast swath of white from the veil to the sweeping train. The problem with such an unblemished field, however, is that it’s vulnerable to even the slightest smudge. One spilled drink, one wayward puddle, and what’s likely the most expensive, most scrutinized, most belabored outfit of a woman’s life is suddenly f lawed on what’s likely the most expensive, most scrutinized, most belabored day of her life. When viewed through that lens, a wedding dress comes to represent something more: stress.

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Which may explain why a growing trend in the industry is trashing that satin-and-lace focal point after the vows have been shared and the guests have gone home. There are websites devoted to lush images of brides in full array diving into pools, rolling in sand, and sitting in muddy junkyards while their stoic grooms pour wine over their shoulders. Locally, wedding photographers tend to encounter couples more interested in sort of scuffing the dress, eschewing all-out destruction in favor of some playful sartorial roughing up. Cindy Franklin, owner of the


Ashley Blake photographed Joel and Erin Reeves’ salty engagement session in Shell Beach. Blake said it’s the only dress-messing engagement shoot she’s heard of.

Paso Robles-based Cindy Franklin Photography, offers what she calls “rock the dress” packages to her clients. After the hustle and bustle of the big day has settled, the bride will don the gown again—this time without the pressure of perfection weighing on her shoulders—and head into the unpredictable and often messy wild. They may go to the beach, where salty spray could kiss the hem of the dress as the new bride and groom kiss each other. Or they could walk some dusty trails on Franklin’s property. Or poke around an old barn. The idea is to seek out a locale that ref lects the couple’s personality. At the time of the interview for this story, she was prepping for a baseball-based rock-thedress shoot involving a woman who played Olympic softball for Greece. Franklin loves such shoots, she said, because of their relaxed feel and the opportunities for women—and men— to f lex their creativity. A bride whose bouquet is, at the time of the shoot,

already wilted may buy some cheap f lowers at Costco and tie them up with a ribbon, expressing more of her own eye for design than anything seen at her wedding. The photographer said that husbands often get more involved, too, showing up in everything from shorts and f lip-f lops to tuxedos of their own. Franklin contrasted rock-the-dress shoots with engagement sessions and the actual wedding day, pointing out that soon-to-be brides and grooms can be nervous, while ceremonies and receptions are busy and activity filled. Scheduling shoots for a week or so after the main event guarantees less stress—and also frees Franklin to focus on a wider variety of shots during and immediately after the wedding. One of Franklin’s couple’s, “Andy and Mandi,” sent an e-mail explaining why their dress-rocking pics are among their most-treasured photos: “We had entertained the idea of a beach wedding,

DRESS continued on page


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but decided to avoid the breeze and the sand. i was talked into wearing my hair up for my wedding, and later wished i had worn it down. Our wedding day flashed by, filled with out-of-town guests, toasts, dancing and fun. By scheduling a ‘Rock the dress’ session, we were given a second chance for photos. in the end, we were blessed with

packing the gown and sticking it in a closet for perpetuity, a bride can get some use out of it again a year or two after she said “i do.” Franklin said that the dressmessing trend first started gaining popularity three or four years ago. That’s roughly when Ashley Blake began noticing it, too. Blake, also a Paso Robles-based photographer, hasn’t done a post-

guests at the ceremony, where the photo was displayed. “i personally have not heard or seen anyone else do that for an engagement,” Blake said. The owner of A. Blake Photography explained that dresses are usually treated with extreme care—getting back to the “keep it pristine at all costs” mentality. Many brides she encounters are concerned about dirt,

one side, the sheer volume of minute decisions to be made can lead to obsessing over everything—including the sainted dress. On the other side, the details can be so visually interesting. in fact, they’re something Blake keeps an eye out for. “you’ve tied that bow for a reason,” she said. “you placed those f lowers there for a reason.” She watches for what’s creative, what’s different: the way the light in PHOTO By BRiTTAny APP

so much more than pictures. We spent the day at the beach—by the pier where Andy proposed. i wore my hair down; Andy wore a casual button-up with slacks. We were barefoot, frolicking in the waves, hand-in-hand, watching the sun go down. it was pure bliss! And it shows in every picture. What girl doesn’t want an excuse to wear ‘THE dRESS’ again?!” Timing can be everything. Amanda and Kaleo Clissold wanted to wait for “the fall colors to be in all their glory” for their session. Franklin also recommends rock shoots for anniversaries— even if she wasn’t the couple’s original wedding photographer. Rather than

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a certain space hits a wedding dress-trashing POOL Brian and Michelle Weiss dunked the particular veil, or the shoot, but she has handled PART Y dress—and all the formal wear they had way it f lows when the an unusual variation: a on—for a one-year anniversary shoot with Brittany App. bride glides down the gown-bruising engagement aisle. session. Blake said that while dress trashing though some stress about wrinkles in The bride knew what she isn’t her personal style, and that not the fabric, too. wanted: something fun, yet tasteful. many people are “gutsy” enough to do it all comes down to details. So much Something that would surprise her it, it can be a fun way to bring fresh of a wedding day is made up of the litguests. energy to the whole wedding package, tle—but intentionally planned—things: So she bought three gowns. She to help the new couple start their exact shades of violet, for instance, or had one for the wedding ceremony, a marriage with creativity. perfectly accented napkin rings, or cocktail-esque one for the reception, and “My husband would have been too the ideal serif on an invitation’s font. one to treat a little rough in advance of shy,” she said. “The thought of him it makes sense that so much intensity the ceremony. She and her groom-to-be doing trash the dress makes me kind translates into a sort of hyper-sensitivity waded into the surf to splash around of giggle, actually.” to the smallest of factors. and create a memorable image, one that it’s a double-edged cake cutter. On Blake said surprised and delighted their DRESS continued on page 34


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PHOTO By Cindy FR AnKLin

Britanny App, a photographer and self-proclaimed “vagabond” based out of San Luis Obispo, also did a trash-the-dress shoot “once upon a time.” Two of App’s friends got married when she was out of the country, but a year later, for their anniversary, the couple donned their fancy duds again for a shoot. First, Brian and Michelle

GEt Down AnD


See Cindy Franklin’s work at Yellow House Photo Studio on Facebook, or visit For more information, call 610-1214 or e-mail Check out Ashley Blake’s photography at ablakephotography. com. For more information, call 234-5775 or e-mail ashley@ Visit to look at Brittany App’s work. For more information, call 704-3996 or e-mail Weiss walked on the beach, hand in hand. Then they laid down in the surf. “Then, they went freakin’ body surfing,” App said. The session ended with them running around and ultimately jumping into a pool and soaking in a hot tub—all still in their formal wear. App said they spent a couple hours taking pictures, which was a fun way for them to celebrate their anniversary. The idea of digging out the gown long after the thrown rice has been swept up and the thank-you cards have (hopefully) been sent could be appealing to someone who realizes that the dress would otherwise never see the light of day again. “Most of us save things forever, and that’s all we end up doing with them,” App said. An irreverent photo session means something that’s typically a single-use only item could be enjoyed more thoroughly on a different level on a different day, she explained. She added that she’d be willing trash her dress if she was under the

3 4 BRIDES 2 01 2

veil, “but i guess that’s not saying that much, because i would do a lot of things.” ∆ Executive Editor Ryan Miller didn’t wear a dress at his wedding. Contact him at


Cindy Franklin offers “Rock the dress” sessions so the happy couple can have more relaxed portraits that show off their personality and creativity in locations where the gown could get scuffed and rumpled after the wedding. Pictured is SPC dustin and Alysha Flood.

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magine an alien ship hovers briefly overhead, then lands in the middle of your wedding ceremony. Your guests look aghast as a hatch opens, revealing a narrow stairway shrouded in plumes of smoke. From the haze a tiny, green, bug-eyed creature slowly hobbles toward you and your respective bride or groom. Its eyes spin in its oblong head, scanning the strange scene, before it points a glowing finger at you and asks—somehow in English—“What exactly are you doing?”

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At first pass, the answer seems easy. But the more you think about it, the concept of marriage is ridiculously obtuse, mired in myriad questions of whether it’s a strictly religious practice, cultural, legal, or some hybrid of them all. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, it’s clear the debate over gay marriage has thrown the very definition of marriage up in the air—and a lot of us are waiting to see where it lands. Once, it may have been commonly accepted that marriage was a purely symbolic

union with some legal perks between a man and a woman. Now, sociologists, lawyers, and judges are diving into the debate to define, or perhaps redefine, one of the pillars of adulthood second only to a career, a white picket fence, and 2.5 kids. According to a 2010 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, “As many people acknowledge, marriage involves: first, a comprehensive union of spouses; second, a special link to children; and third, norms of permanence, monogamy, and exclusivity.” The article makes the argument for a “conjugal” view of marriage, that marriage is between one man and woman and geared heavily toward pumping out babies; versus the “revisionist” view, which the authors portray as “merely a social and legal construct.” According to California Family code 300(a): “Marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between a man and a woman, to which the consent of the parties capable of making that contract is necessary.” Even the Random House Webster’s Dictionary defines marriage as “the

social institution under which a man and woman live as husband and wife by legal or religious commitments.” Problem solved, right? Marriage is a civil union, hopefully a pleasant one, between a man and a woman. Except that five states—Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont—and Washington, D.C., now permit same-sex marriage. And hell, you can legally marry someone you don’t even really like all that much. It seems that the historic definition of marriage is up for debate. “The conversation has been changing and developing over time; indeed, the idea of public debate over same-sex marriage [50] years ago would have been unfathomable,” Ryan Alaniz, a Cal Poly lecturer and Ph.D. candidate of sociology with the University of Minnesota, said in an e-mail. “In recent years, however, we have seen the [gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer] community gain numerous rights, including the right to serve in the armed forces openly, the ability to adopt and raise children, the option to obtain insurance benefits for one’s partner, and


continued page 38

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legal recognition of civil unions in some states.” For someone like Eric Harrison, an openly gay man and interim executive director of Love Honor Cherish, which was recently given approval to gather signatures for a ballot initiative that would re-establish same-sex marriage in California, marriage is a human

same formal commitment offered to straight couples. “Marriage is a very loaded term in our society that places a badge of inferiority on gay and lesbian couples,” he said. so from the legal standpoint, the specifics of marriage are still a gigantic gray blotch in most parts of the country. From a sociological standpoint, however, most people would talk about the “social

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BarBara Koenig, non-denominational minister

construction of marriage: the idea that marriage is a community-created institution designed to fulfill particular roles in society,” Alaniz said. “In the U.s., our particular religious, historical, and cultural experiences provide a particular framework of marriage, which often looks like the typical nuclear family (a man, a woman, and two children),” he added. “Many

right, and one that should be open to all people. Harrison said it’s silly that his straight brother has a right to get married and he doesn’t, despite the fact that they grew up in the same community and were raised by the same parents. At its core, marriage is about commitment, Harrison said, yet he and other gay couples are denied the

scholars are investigating how this definition is changing and what aspects of our culture are pushing for a new definition of marriage and family.” The economy, increasing rights for women, divorce rates, and even the age at which people get married are all factors that play into the shifting perspective of marriage as an institution. “Marriage remains an integral facet of our society,” Alaniz said. “It assists in recognizing and conveying who is within and who is outside our family group.” A lot of the current debate in California is tied in courts—a federal appeals court recently heard arguments on whether an earlier trial judge’s decision to strike down Proposition 8 should be overturned—and appears to boil down to a question of church and state. Barbara Koenig, however, is a nondenominational minister (she likes to be called a “celebrant”) who’s performed all types of weddings over the past 23 years. she’s an interior designer by trade, but she also attended a school of ministry for a time before she got “churched out” and was encouraged by a friend to start performing weddings. Before a ceremony, she sits down with

each couple and runs them through a list of 16 questions. Her pop quiz focuses primarily on each person’s values, spirituality, and how they balance one another. Asked what marriage is, Koenig paused and then started shuffling through a stack of papers. “I’m actually doing a ceremony tomorrow,” she said before relaying some of the things she planned to tell the couple-to-be: “It is the deepest and sweetest understanding between friends,” “a gift,” and “an invitation to refine your love and deepen it.” And it will change over the course of the marriage itself. Couples who’ve lived together for four years may think they’ve got it all figured out, but they haven’t gone through the first day of kindergarten, or the death of a parent, she said. “It’s going to change on a daily basis, and you have to remember that commitment every day,” Koenig said. so maybe the best thing to do is just look back at the alien, shrug, and direct it to the bar. ∆ News Editor Colin Rigley believes marriage is between a man and a woman, so long as one of the two is a body pillow. He can be reached at

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elieve it or not, wearing a white wedding dress on that special day hasn’t been the custom since the dawn of time. Despite the whimsical admonition in the decades-old “marry in white” rhyme, the idea of a white wedding dress is a very recent, Euro-American idea. Traditional Chinese wedding dresses are red

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because it’s a lucky color. Over the years, Jennifer Blue of Something Blue in Santa Margarita has seen many dresses and done many alterations—but they have, for the most part, followed two particular trends. “It’s expected that they are going to do white,” Blue said of dresses she’s made for brides to be. “When the


Diana Stanton made a major dramatic impact when she asked everyone at her wedding to wear black and white, while she entered in a startling red dress. That gasping woman is her mother.

dress is not white, the first reaction is, ‘Is it a first-time wedding?’” Along with that color rule, Blue has also seen that styles have centered on, as she puts it, “the same old strapless dress.”

Paula Herr married on Nov. 5, 2011. Her dress was a traditional white, though she did consider pink. She admits that the pale pink would have only been a short step away from

COLORFUL continued on page 42

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tradition, but it wasn’t tradition itself that kept her from taking a risk. “Every pale pink dress was Italian made and retardedly expensive,” Herr said. Blue said it takes an adventurous bride to go with something of a different hue—or any hue, for the matter. One bride willing and eager to stand out was Diana Stanton, an assistant professor of dance at Cal Poly. Stanton was married in 2008, and while her dress was strapless, it was anything but the same old. “I really wanted to stand out,” Stanton said. “I was pretty comfortable knowing that day was all about the bride.” Stanton’s Fiorenza gown was a jaw dropper. “I asked everyone to wear black and white,” she explained. “I was red.” Blue, who did alterations on the dress, hasn’t seen many like it. “Over the last few years, the trend has been about the shoes,” Blue noted. While the majority of brides are going with the white, strapless bridal gown, they’re making it their own with accessories. Blue’s seen everything from

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green to polka-dotted shoes. “I have one bride looking for salmon-pink shoes,” she said. “It was only when Queen victoria came out in white that white became popular,” Blue explained. “Before that, you wore your best dress.” In fact, medieval wedding dresses were a mash-up of colors. Each color represented a trait. Where green now represents a woman who has stained her dress by “rolling in the grass,” it used to stand for hope and loyalty in love. And before the turn of the trend, a woman who wore all white on her wedding day was seen to be trying to convince others she was, in fact, pure. As often is the case, fashion trends follow the limelight. Just as Jennifer Aniston’s character Rachel set the tone for the American female in the mid ’90s, Queen victoria set the trend for the white wedding when she bucked the traditional silver of royal weddings for her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. Since then, young girls have dreamed of their wedding day, meticulously planning down to the details, all the while expecting to wear

the white, f lowing wedding dress. “The vote is that it is very me. That’s a great boost of confidence. It’s But not all. supposed to be me,” Gregory said, her “I never once thought that I was words echoing Stanton’s. going to get married,” said Dayna “Make it personal, something Gregory. “So when I got engaged, it that’s fun. It’s about the bride and was never in the context of just me.” the couple,” Stanton said. “If a white Gregory, originally from Orcutt dress isn’t going to make it, then do but now living in long Beach, is something else. It’s not about being blasting several traditions and trends. gimmicky.” ∆ She describes her wedding dress as a material representation of herself. And Contributor Michael McCone is a a white gown hasn’t entered her mind. colorful character. Contact him via “The white doesn’t fit my personality,” she said. “Everything from the dress to what’s on the table should be representing me and us.” Aside from sporting a A traditional rhyme reveals old multi-color dress, her feet superstitions related to colors on the Big Day: will be adorned with f lipMarried in white, you have chosen right, f lops—another extension Married in blue, your love will always be true, of her personality, and Married in pearl, you will live in a whirl, extremely comfortable. Married in brown, you will live in town, Married in red, you will wish yourself dead, While she hasn’t shared Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow, the details of her wedding Married in green, ashamed to be seen, attire with many people, Married in pink, your spirit will sink, Gregory said the reception Married in grey, you will go far away, of her design and color Married in black, you will wish yourself back. scheme has been good.


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Tr adiTion’s no longer The V I rgI N W e ddI Ng S grOW S CA rCe A S S O C I e T y e m Br ACe S PrOm I S C u I T y B Y N I C K P OW E L L


rides wear white. It’s a tradition that evolved from the centuriesold expectation that man and wife would wait to be intimate until their commitment to each other was publicly declared and sealed in marriage. While modern weddings mostly retain a superficial nod to such ideals, virginity is a rare condition in this day and age (like reading any good news on the newspaper page). For better or worse, “traditional” marriage is mostly a thing of the past. According to Hollywood, television, music, and my own fuzzy recollection, the standard experience of American adolescence these days is a desperate and constant quest to get laid. Other pursuits are thrown into the mix—school, sports, hobbies, the occasional part-time job—but that stuff is only enriching on accident. Primarily, those activities serve as a means to meet and impress the opposite (or same, depending on your persuasion) sex. The whole process can be confusing, distracting, depressing, and even dangerous, but everyone’s doing it. The National Center for Health Statistics reports that the average American loses his or her virginity at age 17, and only 10 percent make it to their 23rd birthday with their V-cards intact. Though most people are having sex early in life, they’re waiting longer to get married. In 1880, roughly half of the population of 20-year-olds was married, but in the year 2000, only 10 percent of people the same age had tied the knot, according to a study published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives. Today, the median age for marriage is 26 for women and 28 for men, which makes for fewer and fewer magically mysterious


Jason and Sandra Byard waited until their wedding day to kiss, let alone engage in intercourse. They say the delay helped deepen intimacy and build trust in their relationship.

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wedding nights and honeymoons. For most, the marriage bed is just another

mattress, but a select few resist their sexual urges until they find, and legally shackle, their soul mate. “Waiting was a no brainer for both of us,” said Jason Byard. After roughly a year of dating, he married the love of his life, Sandra, in January 2010. They didn’t even kiss before saying “I do,” and both were in their mid-20s. “The world doesn’t blink twice when young people sleep together,” Jason said, “but by the looks on coworkers’ faces [when we told them about the wait to kiss], you’d think I confessed to shooting JFK.” Jason and Sandra are both dedicated

Christians who are active in their church, hosting youth groups and bible discussions at their home. They’re proud of the abstinent path they walked for so long and explained the decision to keep physical contact to an absolute minimum before marriage by likening sex to a cliff. “We knew we didn’t want to fall off the cliff, so we set the boundary far enough away so that we wouldn’t be in danger,” Jason said. They say the wait was worth it. By removing lust from their early courtship, the couple had to rely on communication

VIRGIN continued on page



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VIRGIN from page


to build trust. They went on normal dates, but used them to get into each other’s hearts, not pants. The result was a deeper, unique bond. To the Byards, the moral mandates of their religion are more than “rules;” they’re the keys to happier living and healthier relationships. Still, even Christians are human. They have deep-seated desires no fervent beliefs can quash entirely. A network of supportive friends kept the Byards in line and allowed them to express frustration and longing without being judged. They kept their dates public and made sure there were no long spells of alone time that could turn into anything amorous. “It also didn’t hurt that my wife holds a blue belt in judo,” Jason added. When the big night finally came, the pair said there were feelings of tension and anxiety that would accompany any big performance, but nothing akin to fear. Instead, they described a beautiful connection free from shame, expectations, or comparisons to previous partners. “We were both new to it, so it was like ‘Oh well,’” Sandra said. “We got to enjoy being with each other without any worries, and it was so special. There were definitely no regrets about waiting.”

No regrets? didn’t an entire generation just win a decades-long battle to escape the confines of these traditional relationships and gender roles? Isn’t the freedom to fornicate a cherished American right? As a red-blooded, morally stunted American male, I approached this article expecting to find the abstinence crowd filled with desperate virgins who had gone crazy from the constant effort to subdue their primal urges. I expected to find a “give and take” model when it came to relationship patterns. The abstinence route would certainly have some benefits, but I assumed there would be down sides as well, and that promiscuity would have an equal set of pros and cons. It’s got to be good on some level to experiment sexually and figure out what fits you, right? Nope. Hollywood lied to us. After an entire afternoon of research and a few interviews with local sex experts and marriage counselors, I could only find two positive aspects of promiscuity: It’s fun, and it feels good. Now, let’s take a look at the negative aspects: disease, distrust, unwanted pregnancies, broken homes, fear of commitment, shame, lack of intimacy, sexual dissatisfaction, disorders, and

addiction. Sign me up! On the other hand, a recent study in the Journal of Family Psychology found that couples who waited longer to have sex reported more satisfying sex lives and more happiness in their relationships. The findings were constant among couples of all religious backgrounds or lack thereof. “True intimacy leads to the best sex,” said Scott Peterson, a local marriage counselor. “A sense of trust develops when the relationship is based on friendship and not just passion. It allows the partners to share themselves completely when the time comes.” Peterson said that even couples with past sexual history can attain high levels of intimacy, but it helps tenfold if they agree to postpone intercourse in the new relationship. He said that sexual dysfunction stems from feelings of shame, and that some churches and parents mistakenly use shame as a tool to promote celibacy. Instead, he encourages adults to talk openly with emerging adolescents so that they understand why waiting for sex is rationally a better idea. “you have to approach with empathy,” he said. “The ‘Just say no’ approach doesn’t work. It tends to make kids hide their relationships and feelings.”

Peterson said free love doesn’t work either. That’s the opposite extreme, and it cuts intimacy out of sex entirely, creating an addictive pattern of behavior. even Jill denton, a progressive sex counselor from Los Osos, agrees. “more people today are sexually compulsive,” she said. “When you use sex as a mood-altering experience, it becomes an escape from intimacy instead of a move toward it.” denton’s website advertises counseling on subjects ranging from straight sex to gay/lesbian and kink. She’s no prude. Still, she lamented the proliferation of pornography on the Internet and the warped view of sex that teenagers can glean from it. She’s encountered plenty of well-intentioned, religious teens who found creative ways to remain technical virgins without staying celibate. In most cases, the emotional guilt outweighed the physical release. “It’s hard. There’s a lot of temptation out there, especially in the college scene,” said Jason Byard, “but it’s possible to wait, and it is a blessing.” ∆ Calendar Editor Nick Powell never expected to be a champion of celibacy, but what can you do? Send comments to

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674 Higuera St • San Luis Obispo, California (805) 544-8988 BRIDES 2 01 2 4 5


feast A fAncy

MOR e C Ou PL e S A R e S Ay i Ng ‘ i d O ’ T O SeRV i Ng de L iC iOu SLy di F F eR e N T F O Od AT T h e i R W e ddi Ng S BY A M Y ASM A N


ot long ago, weddings were family events people endured out of love, friendship, or guilt as opposed to something they enjoyed. First, everyone would have to sit through a ridiculously long nuptial ceremony. Then, they’d stand around drinking warm champagne

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and picking at a Velveeta cheese platter until the bride and groom showed up. Next, guests would f ile through the buffet line to load their plates with bone-dry chicken breasts or mushy f ish f illets, limp vegetables, and more Velveeta cheese. That would be followed by some awkward non-dancing and a

slice of sheet cake from the LOV E NEV ER Many couples local grocery store. TASTED SO are opting for Luckily, weddings have TA NGY unconventional evolved over the years— food—such as barbecue or ethnic dishes especially the catering. And, from far-off lands—for their weddings. in many cases, the prices are Pictured is bride-to-be Jen Felgenhauer still reasonable. devouring Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ ribs. So whether you and your beau love barbecue, like the National Rif le Association, or you’ve always dreamed at company parties, and, of course, of hosting an all-out pig-in-the-pit at weddings. luau, there are plenty of options “We bring our barbecue pit on for people getting married on the site and we cook in front of all the Central Coast. guests,” Wright said. “We’re very self-sufficient. We can go anywhere.” Who says barbecue All of Mo’s food is homemade, doesn’t go with champagne? including the sides and barbecue Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ offers sauces. Customers can pick from authentic hickory barbecue and all three different sauces: Original, the f ixin’s at two popular locations a combination of Memphis dry in San Luis Obispo and Pismo rub and vinegar; Philthy Phil’s, a Beach, as well as catering services mustard-based sauce; and Sweet for special occasions. Carolina, made with brown sugar Catering manager Janet Wright and other spices. said Mo’s has prepped, cooked, and The catering package includes served food at events for big groups FOOD continued on page 47

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FOOD from page


three main entrees—ribs, tri-tip, and chicken—but people can trade one of those out for another dish, like shredded pork sandwiches. garden burgers are also available for vegetarians. “Most places only offer two options for entrees,” Wright said. it’s important to note, however, that Mo’s doesn’t offer any sit-down services. The catering crew brings the pit, tables for the buffet only, and dishes and utensils. But Wright said the food more than makes up for any discrepancies in service. “it’s delicious food, absolutely outstanding food off the oak, and the people are friendly,” she said.

The aloha spirit

For people who are interested in serving a mix of cuisines, there’s Zoe’s hawaiian BBQ in Santa Maria. Zoe’s offers island-themed barbecue ranging in size from teriyaki spareribs to a whole roasted pig.

Owner Rex Matsunaga said he’s held several wedding luaus, but he added that Zoe’s cooks much more than just hawaiian food. “We can offer a variety of different cuisines. We can give you a taste of everything: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Hawaiian,” he said. “We’ve even done Mexican food.” Recently, Zoe’s staffers cooked a traditional Thanksgiving meal for the Santa Maria Fire department. The goal, Matsunaga said, is to complement the clients’ tastes while working within their budget. “i like to sit down with the client and go over their budget and find out what their needs are,” he said. “i like to take the burden off of their shoulders and tell them right there whether i can help them or not. i haven’t had to say no to too many people. “it ’s not about what i want to cook, it ’s about what they want to eat. if they want three different k inds of food, no problem, i’m f lexible,” he added. “i come in on budget without sacrif icing qualit y. ever y thing is homemade, even the

marinades. A ll of the veggies are cut here.” The restaurant, at 2880 Santa Maria Way, is also available for rehearsal dinners or small wedding receptions.

Exotic alternative

got a hankering for curry? Shalimar Restaurant in San Luis Obispo can feed anywhere from 50 to 500 wedding guests. “i always take extra food with me [to the reception site] because you never know what’s going to happen,” owner Asim Sajjad said. One time, Sajjad said, he had to run to Walmart to get more serving spoons because an extra 50 people showed up to the wedding. When planning their menu, clients typically order off of the restaurant’s menu. Some popular choices include appetizers like samosas and veggie pakora, vegetarian entrees, and chicken dishes like chicken tikka masala or tandoori chicken. “We can make it mild, medium, or

spicy,” he said, adding that many nonindian people are afraid to try spicier food because “it’s going to be scary.” To alleviate his clients’ fears, Sajjad often holds food tastings prior to the wedding to test the level of spiciness. When it comes to the big day, the food is typically served buffet style, but Sajjad said he can do sit-down meals for smaller weddings. he requires that people order at least 15 plates of an individual item, and he doesn’t charge more than $15 per person. ∆ Sun Managing Editor Amy Asman had ribs at her wedding. Contact her at

W ho’ S h u ngRy ?

For more information about the catering services mentioned in this article, contact • Mo’s Smokehouse BBQ , 550-8071, • Zoe’s Hawaiian BBQ , 357-7635, • Shalimar Restaurant, 781-0766,


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