M EMOR IES
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K EEP FROM FAINTING AND MORE …
SEE THROUGH THE EYES OF LOCAL PHOTOGRAPHERS A NEW TIMES SPECIAL PUBLICATION
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Photo by: DJ Ellis La Bella Vita
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2 BRIDES 2 011
Photography by Mike Larson inc.
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Photography by Mike Larson inc. Photo
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BR I DE S
t takes at least two people to have a wedding. Of course, you should also have someone to officiate. And witnesses are a good idea. While you’re at it, you might as well pick some attendants, invite friends and family to celebrate, and set up a musician or two. Then there are photographers and videographers, florists and bakers. A whole crowd of people, seen and unseen, makes a wedding. But it really takes only two. This edition of our annual Brides issue explores that idea from various traditional and unexpected angles. From simple photos of happy couples to examinations of marriage traditions from other cultures, we decided to look at brides and grooms through a variety of lenses. In these pages, you’ll see what they look like as cake toppers. How love can bloom from arrangements at which many Westerners would balk. How fainting at the altar can happen to anyone. You’ll find emcees who can handle the vows, skin art that compliments a nuptial couple, and tips for a rocking, homegrown bachelorette party—because even one can have fun before the two officially join. We hope that this special Brides publication inspires you and surprises you, sparks an idea, draws a sudden smile, or tugs at a romantic memory. Enjoy.
A TWO …
Ryan Miller EDITOR
1010 Marsh St.
San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Brides © 2011
EDITOR Ryan Miller
ADVERTISING Topher Cajas Jon Fox Colleen Garcia Katy Gray Anica Julian Rhonda O’Dell Laura Reese Rene Rodriguez Tracey Joyner Scuri Georgia Shore Jaime Zlotky
See through the eyes of local photographers
Emcees keep the wedding day f lowing
C OVER PHOTOS BY : (MAIN PHOTO) M IKE L ARSON, (LOWER L-R) M ICHELLE WARREN, SAR AH K ATHLEEN, M IRELLE CARMICHAEL , A MY WELLENK AMP, AND DANIELLE C APITO
PUBLISHERS Bob Rucker Alex Zuniga
PRODUCTION Amy Laun Dora Mountain Brendan Rowe Christy Serpa EDITORIAL DESIGNERS Heather Walter Jody Harmon
Top your cake with something original
PHOTOGRAPHER Steve E. Miller CONTRIBUTORS Amy Asman Matt Fountain Robert A. McDonald Nick Powell Colin Rigley Ashley Schwellenbach Ariel Waterman Anna Weltner
Henna makes its mark on couples
Brides and grooms can really work together
Meet couples who love arranged marriages
You might not want to mail order a bride
Bring on the bachelorette party!
Catch yourself before you faint
Please call (805) 546-8208 to make your reservation for the next issue of BRIDES.
R ESERVATION DEADLINE: January 19, 2012 P UBLISHED: February 9, 2012
Brides is published every February throughout San Luis Obispo County and Northern Santa Barbara County.
Felicia Kieselhorst Photography www.FotosByFlee.com 805.423.5226
Specializing in outdoor and alternative weddings. Fine art film photography. 4 BRIDES 2 011
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moments BR I DE S
L O CA L W E DDI NG P HO T O GR A P H ER S U SE T H E I R TA L E N T S T O R E C OR D T H E BIG DAY
BY RYA N MILLER
COMPILED BY STEV E E . MILLER
t’s difficult to write about photographers without stepping into cliché territory. There’s that old saying about a picture’s worth, and plenty of phrases involving memories and the like. After wracking our brains for some fresh and unique words, we realized: Why waste space on letters and punctuation that could actually go to the photos themselves? Why not let the images do the heavy lifting? Thus, we asked local photographers to submit work for inclusion in this Brides issue. A team made up of editors, designers, and a professional photographer looked over the entries and picked
their favorites in a blind judging. The three photographers who got the most votes overall—Allyson Magda, Dean Sullivan (also featured
Many photographers submitted their work to New Times for consideration. Here’s a list of some more wedding options: • Amy Wellenkamp Photographers: amywellenkamp.com, info@ amywellenkamp.com, 709-7273. • Dana Hodgkinson, Blessed Beyond Belief Photography: blessedbeyondbeliefphotography.com, 710-1468. • Danielle Capito: daniellecapitophotography@gmail. com, daniellecapitophotography.com,
as a fainting groom on page 34), and Richard Fusillo—received two pages each for showcasing their work. Brides and grooms on the hunt for
More (925) 336-6636.
the perfect person to capture their wedding ceremony and reception can peruse the images. We’ve included bio information and pricing, too. We also put together a list of other photographers who sent us their work. Take some time to visit websites or shoot some e-mails. Now stop reading and start looking. ❧ Contact Executive Editor Ryan Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.
continued on page 8
PHOTOGR A PH ER S • Trina Dart: trinadartphotography. com, email@example.com, 610-6535.
• Jane or Al Valdes: bellacastlephotography.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 528-0262.
• Jen Rodriguez: jen-rodriguez.com, email@example.com, 598-1530.
• Mike Larson: mikelarson.com, mikelarson.com/blog, firstname.lastname@example.org, 549-0166.
• Maxwell Tuman, Dorothy Tuman, Hillarie Tuman: tumanphotography.com, hillariebphotography.com, 481-7385, 801-4969. • Sarah Kathleen Photography: sarahkathleen.com, sarahkathleen email@example.com, 748-6373.
• Mirelle Carmichael Photography: mirellecarmichael.com, mirellecarmichael.com/blog, hello@ mirellecarmichael.com,253-3686.
• Nicole Boughton: nicoleboughtonphotography.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 748-2239.
• Michelle Warren Photography: mwfoto.com, email@example.com, 929-3683.
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from page 6
llyson Magda Photography was founded in 1999 while Magda was attending art school at UC Santa Cruz. “My husband, Dan, brought home a ‘job’ off his college career board: a couple looking for a wedding photographer,” she wrote. “As I was already in the process of building my portfolio, I decided to give it a shot. The couple was from Denver, and their wedding was to be held at the bride’s parents’ home in Capitola. I shot the wedding for $10 an hour and $10 per roll of film—hardly enough to cover the costs to process! When I came home, I knew I was hooked, and this was what I was going to do. “Since then, I’ve shot weddings all over the state of California to the East Coast to Hawaii, and have clients all over the world, from Dubai to South America. You will find Allyson Magda Photography filling the hearts and homes of happy clients far and near. I find it an honor when couples choose me to capture their wedding day as an artist. “My preferred shooting style is to watch and shoot as the emotions and joy unfold. My approach stems from the philosophy that people look best when they are comfortable and natural. I pose as little as possible, watching for the pure natural state of couples and individuals as I click away. “In 2008, I added an associate photographer to fill the needs of more couples: Jill Hewston, who works more locally. And in 2010, we were thrilled to announce the addition of a second associate. “Between the three of us, we know a thing or two about marriage. As rare as it is, each of us married our high-school sweethearts and have more than 37 years of combined marriage experience (you could say we are experts in our field)!”
Contact Allyson Magda, Jill Hewston, and Ali Dusi at allyson@ allysonmagda.com. Visit allysonmagda.com for more information, or call 459-2704. Associate coverage starts at $2,500, and Magda starts at $7,400. 8 BRIDES 2 011
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PHOTGRAPHERS continued on page
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from page 9
ean Sullivan, owner and principal photographer for Sullivan Studios, realized the awesome responsibility of wedding photography one day while watching the news. The hills above Los Angeles were on fire, and the first thing most people saved were family photographs. “I realized that what I do for a living is create one of people’s most prized possessions; it took the importance of that to a whole new level,” he wrote. “Being part of one of the most important days in someone’s life, capturing it for them and their family to look back on for the rest of their lives, is pretty cool. It is something I do not take lightly. “One of my favorite compliments is, ‘When I see your images, I can tell how much fun everyone’s having.’ Most people
SULLIVAN continued on page
Contact Dean Sullivan at 528-6011 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit sullivanstudios.biz. He offers small custom packages starting at $1,000, up to the Full Boat, from $5,500 to $7,000.
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from page 10
dislike having their photo taken. At the end of an engagement session, the couple almost always tells me in amazement, ‘That was fun!’ When you’re having a good time and are relaxed, the images show it. It’s great to hear couples, their friends, and families say they have never had that much fun with a photographer. That’s how it should be.” Dean has been photographing weddings and other things on the Central Coast for more than 30 years. He’s proud to now be shooting weddings for the children of couples he photographed 20 years ago. He’s a certified professional photographer through PPA, and a member of local, regional, and national professional organizations. He teaches photography locally and attends continuing education seminars throughout the country.
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PHOTGRAPHERS continued on page
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ichard Fusillo is originally from Los Angles, where he became addicted to taking photographs for his high school yearbook staff. He wrote: â€œInspiration grew after graduating and relocating to the Central Coast of California. After a couple of years living in almost every city in the county, Richard put his own twist onto his art and came up with a style that he says tells stories. His photographs concentrate on the simplicity in life and our surroundings. A rotted out, old, abandoned building is just as beautiful to him as a landscape capture of the Grand Canyon. â€œMost of his images are heavily influenced by what he considers real hidden treasures. Over the years, he created a style that combines grit and beauty, and now it transcends into his wedding images. Focusing on small details, obscure angles, and more of a modern-day approach to portraiture, he captures emotion
FUSILLO continued on page
Contact Richard Fusillo at 1-818-3226048 or richardfusillo@ hotmail.com. For more information, visit richardfusillo.com. Prices range from $1,800 to $4,500, depending on package. Engagement sessions are $350, unless included in a package.
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FUSILLO from page
and story perfectly. Exploring the regions of California, expanding his curiosity one shutter click at a time, he shares the unknown and narrates through vision. “In his gallery-based images, he goes from dodging the homeless to navigating over barbed
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wire, such as in his ‘Dereliction’ series, and when he’s shooting a wedding, he aims to please by showing couples their true passion of not only themselves but their surroundings. “Richard Fusillo shoots constantly, improving his eyes and skill with a camera; his jobs include, but aren’t limited to, weddings, portraiture, fine art, band work (live and promotional), and fashion.”
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speak BR I DE S
DJS AND M ASTERS OF CEREMONY
HOW T O S TAY ON A S OU N D T R ACK F OR YOU R W E DDI NG B Y A R I E L WAT E R M A N
edding music used to be so simple. As the bride came down the aisle, an organist would play Felix Mendelssohn’s traditional “Wedding March” from his suite of incidental music (Opus 61) to William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The couple would exit to the strains of Richard Wagner’s “Bridal March.” Three Central Coast masters of ceremonies (a title they all prefer to DJ) offered their insights on how to keep today’s ceremonies in sync and make receptions swing. Ronnie Simons is a transplanted Lon-
doner with a lovely British lilt in his voice. “I hate the term DJ,” he said. “I’m not a juke box. What I do is more than that. I’m the guy that brings everything together and blends families together. I take the nervous edge off and give them permission to relax and have fun.” Some companies, he explained, send an employee emcee who has never met the clients. This can result in confusion—and even disaster. “I’m there for the start of the event to the last dance,” Simons said. “I stay focused for the whole event. Guests will ask questions about seating, where the restrooms are, when the cake will be served—because I
am the emcee, and they turn to me for all the answers. I tell my clients that they own the ship, they set the course, and I’ll steer. They are in control; I’m just there to guide them through.” The key to success for any emcee is to listen to what a couple likes and doesn’t like. “It only takes one song to upset the bride,” Simons said. The most requested song for the ceremony is Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major,” he said. “Going from CDs to computers and iPods makes carrying vast lexicons of music very easy. I have a separate library for ceremonies and receptions,” he added. “Couples can select their songs on my website. I later burn a CD with all the music from the ceremony and reception, which I give the couple as a memento.” Asked about a most memorable event, Simons laughed. “I hosted a Renaissance wedding,” he said. “The wedding party were dressed in Renaissance attire, and the groom wore full chain mail on a summer day. That guy was sweating bullets!” Some emcees, like Manny Mestas, may also officiate at weddings. “I’m the emcee, an ordained officiant,
and a classical guitarist,” he said. “I can conduct the ceremony vows, then pick up my guitar and play a romantic song. After the ceremony, I’m all set up for the reception with lighting, music, and everything.” Mestas makes a CD recording of the ceremony, the vows, and the toasts for the bride and groom. He said the most important thing an emcee must do is pronounce names correctly and stick with the timeline and flow of the ceremony and reception. Mestas has hosted a diversity of weddings, from traditional Hispanic, Portuguese, and Filipino affairs to Japanese rites that include a tea ceremony. “Weddings are more active with different rituals,” he said. “So the music is more active and more festive. There is a broader range of styles, and music is more diverse for various cultures and ages to relate to.” Mestas agreed that Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major” is most popular for the ceremony. He added, “There is a unique approach to the music now. I am performing the Vincent Guaraldi theme for ‘Peanuts’ on guitar for a wedding. I’m a walking music lexicon and appreciate the challenges that come my way.
EMCEES continued on page
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EMCEES from page
His most memorable event was the wedding of a special needs couple: “It was just incredible to see all the obstacles they overcame to function independently. To be a part of their ceremony was very moving, and, yes, I do cry at weddings!” Paul Thompson describes himself as a wedding day ambassador on behalf of the families and guests. “I use the term ‘servant-leadership,’ because I am going to serve them and lead their guests at the same time,” he explained. “Playing music is 15 percent of my job. I try to be helpful on the day of the wedding, without being intrusive, to make sure everything goes smoothly.” Thompson coordinates, emcees, provides LED atmospheric lighting and music, and, as a licensed officiant, can perform the ceremony. “I am licensed, insured, and part of an organization in the wedding industry to keep up on current trends,” he continued. “I have a comprehensive online wedding planner where clients can choose their play list. I’ve been asked for everything from ‘Ave Maria’ to Pachelbel to Elton John for ceremonies. Weddings today are not traditional; couples want music by The Beatles, Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, Nora Jones, and even Etta
BR I NG I N T H E • Ronnie Simons: Visit thecentralcoastdj.com, call 772-0407 or 801-5116, or e-mail email@example.com. • Manny Mestas: Visit mannymestas.com/music. htm, call 260-3046, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. • Paul Thompson, Escape Entertainment: Visit escapedj. com, call 441-6192, or e-mail email@example.com.
James singing ‘At Last’ for a bridal march.” His most memorable event was at a ranch: “The bride and her dad walked down a path with the sunset behind them. All you could see was their silhouette and golden grass all around them while I played spaghetti western music by Hugo Montenegro. It was amazing!” ❧ Contact freelancer Ariel Waterman via firstname.lastname@example.org.
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outsiders BR I DE S
toppers TOP OF T H E
Pochylski (buildersstudio) can also be found on Etsy.
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O R I G I N A L A R T W O R K B Y H E AT H E R P F E I F E R
ers,” said Cynthia Spencer, another topper artist. A popular Etsy seller, Spencer specializes in bird toppers made of an all-natural material B Y A N N A W E LT N E R called paper clay, a medium with characteristics that more closely resemble paper-mâché than ceramics. much, it’s almost scary. A legally ordained rancesco Giannini freely admitted Spencer, who works under the name Universal Life minister of 15 years, she’s that cake toppers weren’t among Red Light Studio, takes custom performed wedding ceremonies for eight of his top priorities when he and fianorders for her roly-poly lovebirds, her close friends. When she isn’t marrying cée Chelsie Romulo planned their though her wait list is daunting. off those close to her, she creates custom Paso Robles steampunk wedding Spencer’s favorite assignments are wedding cake toppers from scrap wood. in the summer of 2008. military toppers. Brides often send Somehow Pfeifer, who christened her “As a guy, I did not particularly care what pictures of their grooms’ uniforms, business after her one-time penchant for the topper looked like,” he said. “As a matter which Spencer recreates in detail. dressing as a giant rabbit, has time for a of fact, it hadn’t even occurred to me that we Las Vegas artist Staysi Lee has tandem career as a sculptor. In fact, the artist would have one.” specialized in Day of the Dead topapproaches each topper as specialized, smallBut his wife had other ideas, and compers since making one for her own scale sculpture. missioned a topper from Etsy.com seller wedding several years ago. Lee’s Her experiences as a wedding minister, Builder’s Studio, an artist known for his grinning, glittery skulls are painted Pfeifer said, also shaped her current work charming retro-tech, sci-fi, and fantasyon pre-made forms and shipped to with brides- and grooms-to-be. themed objects. customers across the United An aerospace engineering grad from OR IGINA L A RT WORK BY C Y NTHI A SPENCER States. Cal Poly, Giannini is instantly recognizably reflected in his topper—despite One of her most the fact that it looks like it’s been eye-catching pieces pieced together out of spare airplane depicts two grooms, one parts. A silver propeller protrudes from in white, one in black, his chest, and runway lights illuminate bodies joined at the hip. the base. His bride’s likeness stands The piece is one of several GR AB Chelsie Romulo and proudly beside him, the leafy skirt and same-sex toppers Lee sells, YOUR Francesco Giannini single flower in her hand a nod to her though she’d like to receive GOGGLES turned to Etsy.com artist career as a wildlife biologist. more gay and lesbian orders. Peter Pochylski, otherwise known as Giannini realized the topper was “I’m hoping that one day, Builder’s Studio, for their steampunk more than mere decoration; it was same-sex weddings are more acwedding cake toppers (above). a poignant, carefully crafted tribute cepted in this country,” she said. “ to the couple’s lives, by one of many I want everyone to have the artisans in an overlooked art form. wedding of their dreams.” “Weddings, especially for a young Giannini and Romulo, couple, really pull together everything our steampunk wedding LOV E Cynthia Spencer, who works under the important about their lives—and their heroes, now live in Vienna, BIR DS name Red Light Studio, specializes in relationship—up until then,” said Va., far away from the bird toppers, but makes people, too. Pictured is a topPortland sculptor, ordained minister, dusty Paso ranch where per commissioned by two California brides-to-be. and topper artist Heather Pfeifer. they married. The topper Often a last-minute buy, toppers has taken up residence on “There are several intimate outsiders tend to be the only wedding accoutrements their mantelpiece, a reminder of involved in a wedding,” she clarified. “The that don’t immediately die or get eaten after their late-summer wedding during minister is often one of them.” the ceremony. The best toppers tell the the chilliest East Coast winters. A topper artist is another. Pfeifer often couple’s unique story. “From time to time,” Giannini learns a great deal about her customers’ lives Heather Pfeifer, otherwise known as said, “I will see it there while I’m through their orders, and her work reguBunny with a Toolbelt, loves weddings so lighting a fire, and it makes me larly becomes a focal point of the strangers’ smile. I think it’s because even special day. Couples have commissioned though the figurines are highly everything from power-hungry dinosaurs to stylized weird assemblies of metal college mascots to pets’ likenesses. parts, I can still recognize it as “I try to withhold judgment as to whether Chelsie and I. They are standing I think that someone’s idea is going to work together, looking unmistakably See Hilary Pfeifer’s work on POW ER-HU NGRY Pictured is a or not,” the artist explained. happy—and that’s not bad at all.” ❧ bunnywithatoolbelt.com or at BRONTOSAURI custom wedOne of her most challenging orders incorher shop at Etsy.com. Staysi Lee ding cake topper by Heather Pfeifer, or Bunny New Times Arts Editor Anna porated references to the Florida Gators, the (localovespirate), Cynthia Spenwith a Toolbelt. The sign is a reference to the Weltner can be reached at aweltner@ game Halo, and the band Coldplay. cer (redlightstudio), and Peter J. sci-fi series Firefly. newtimesslo.com. “My best ideas come from my custom-
PHO TO B Y K Y L E DE L M A R , OR IGI N A L A RT WOR K B Y PE T ER J. POCH Y L SK I
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peacock stretches wristward from the palm, bounded by paisley. The entire design—elegant, suggestive, feminine—tapers to a lone fingertip. The richness of color might be interpreted as an indication of the strength of a couple’s feelings for one another. In some countries, the henna’s longevity acts as a stay against household chores; as long as the bridal henna stains her fingertips, the newlywed’s motherin-law will not expect her to assume the burden of housework. For most Westerners, however, henna is simply another opportunity to beautify and distinguish.
Mohammed is said to have dyed his hair and beard with henna—a practice referred to as “mehndi,” which applies to both hair and skin. But local henna artists credit Madonna with popularizing the tradition in the United States. Its history as a bridal adornment dates back to the Neolithic period and spans more than 60 countries and a half-dozen religions. For Debra Reiser, henna artist and proprietor of The Henna Crone, knowledge of mehndi culture feeds into the application process. The Riverside resident mostly works from fairs and markets, although she’s been commissioned to do bridal henna on several occasions. For many brides of Indian or Pakistani descent, however, there’s no need
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to look beyond the extended family for an experienced henna artist. “If it’s part of your culture, you probably grew up doing henna, or your mom did henna, or a cousin does henna,” explained Reiser, who compared the practice to Western women doing one another’s hair or makeup. There was a brief period when brides of the East disdained the henna tradition as old-fashioned, but the practice has seen a powerful resurgence in the past decade.
Wisdom and tradition call for elaborate designs, which Reiser describes as giving the appearance of lace gloves and stockings. “The aunties want to see it very dense,” she explained, referring to the bride’s older female relatives. “If I have any negative space, they’ll immediately want something put there.” But Reiser emphasizes that the bride’s tastes must be reflected in the design. And many contemporary brides favor a single strip of henna, usually with a floral motif. But there are as many designs and traditions as there are brides and grooms to display them, from simply dipping fingers into the henna to adornments cunningly hidden as an erotic jumpstart to the wedding night. Flavia McQueen, one of 10 Henna Caravan artists, pointed out that a wedding night can be an uncomfortable occasion for many couples. Henna affords an invitation to touch, an excuse for playfulness. Like Reiser—and most practitioners of mehndi—McQueen is self-taught. Her daughter started Henna Caravan, a group of artists who travel from San Diego to Fresno. “There’s a whole lot of jockeying between family members to try to get the most henna,” McQueen revealed.
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But as with love, both Reiser and McQueen 24 advise that you take precautions if you intend Usually the Henna Caravan will dispatch to indulge. Be sure to locate a henna artist multiple artists for a bridal henna party. The who uses natural, brown henna. Black henna bride alone can often require three to eight is, in fact, derived from infusing henna with hours of attention, during which her family p-phenylenediamine—an amalgamation of and friends are called upon to entertain her. gasoline, kerosene, lighter fluid, paint thinner, After the grueling henna session with the and the like—a practice banned by the FDA. bride, family members and friends receive But as long as you locate artists who know henna as well, though their adornments what they’re doing, it’s an opportunity to are less lavish. According to McQueen, the tap into thousands of years of tradition and Henna Caravan doesn’t see a lot of male beauty, while paying homage to your own participants in this ritual, mostly because experiences and perspective. Western men are afraid they’ll be mocked. “It’s all about those things we want to And the few who do agree to participate draw into our lives,” Reiser said of the favor designs inspired by Western tattoo symbols in each design. But she supports art—tribal designs and dragons. couples who want to forge new paths with Reiser agrees that Western grooms tend to their design. Like any totem—a wedding shy away from the practice, but she’s witnessed ring, for example, or certificate verifying your several meaningful exceptions, among them relationship—its significance is what you designs that only achieve their greatest aesascribe to it. ❧ thetic potential when the couple is together. “When their hands are clasped, the deContact New Times Managing Editor Ashley signs match, and it will create one beautiful Schwellenbach at aschwellenbach@newtimesslo design,” Reiser explained. .com. Henna lends itself to metaphor, especially to elaborate parallels about union and love from its early green beginnings to its first orange stain, ripenFor more information about the Henna ing into a rich shade of black Caravan, visit hennacaravan.com. For cherry or red-brown.
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IT TAK ES
A N E W LY W E D BR E A K S D OW N C OU PL E S ’ W E DDI NG PL A N N I NG BY A M Y ( A SM A N) BL A SCO
edding. It’s a little word but, boy, is it powerful. It can mean a joyful union between two people who love each other (the ideal). Something done out of duty and expectation. A stressful hodgepodge of budgeting, planning, and drama. A lavish boozeinfused party (sometimes the reality). The truth is, the rollercoaster to matrimonial bliss can be all those things at one point. And as the definition of marriage is changing, so is the way people are celebrating it. There are, of course, pros and cons to both the traditional and contemporary wedding-planning styles. As a recent bride, I suggest blending both to make your wedding a true reflection of who you are as a couple and a family. It’s important that the bride and groom—or brides or grooms—are both actively involved in the wedding planning process, because it’s a good indication of how things will go once you’re married. Unless you’re incredibly thrifty, weddings are expensive. And usually, the wedding is the first big-budget item a couple works on together, making it the perfect test run for managing a household. A wedding also begs several questions: Where do you stand on important issues like faith, finances, and family? And how will you work together as a couple to incorporate those things into your lives? Of course, every couple is different. But weddings tend to be similar in many ways. To illustrate my point, I’ve included— with my husband’s grumbling approval (he doesn’t like having his picture in the paper)—a breakdown of our wedding planning process. Mazel tov!
Once you’re done toasting the engagement and ready to start planning, it’s time to sit down and make a budget. No matter where the money is coming from, it’s important to decide where it’s going and, above all, to plan and spend within your means. It’s no bueno beginning a marriage in debt. Student loans are enough to worry about, believe me. Admittedly, my husband is better at handling money
than I am (he’s an engineer), so he took the lead on this task and assembled an Excel spreadsheet of costs and payment deadlines (again, he’s an engineer). We made a similar sheet for the guest list, complete with names and addresses, which came in handy, because we ended up sending our guests save-the-dates, invitations, and thank-you notes. We chose to split the actual addressing of the letters in half—groom’s side and bride’s side—to save our individual hands from paralysis. I asked one of my bridesmaids, a professional graphic designer, to put together the invitations, programs, and thank-you notes.
When most people think about their wedding, they fantasize about the awesome party they’re going to throw: the beautiful clothes, the delicious food, the drunken dance-floor boogying. Honestly, I love me the shiny bling, and I’m usually the first person in the buffet line and the last person on the dance floor. But when it comes down to it, a wedding is really about two people choosing to spend the rest of their lives together. Weddings tend to have significant religious and cultural meaning, so it’s vital the bride and groom discuss what traditions are important to them. Likewise, all families have their own unique traditions and beliefs. The ceremony can be a great opportunity to involve family members, but it should be a collaboration, not an ultimatum. For example, my husband, who is agnostic, knew I really wanted to be married by my college pastor. Together, with the help of our pastor, we were able to create a ceremony that recognized both of our backgrounds and beliefs.
The ceremony might be the heart of every wedding, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect the rest of the body, i.e. the reception. The reception will probably take the greatest amount of planning, so make sure to start early. But don’t forget to have fun, because it’s probably going to be the biggest party you ever throw. When my husband told me he wanted
TO THE BRIDE A ND GROOM!
Peter and I celebrate the big day in style on the front steps of the Victorian Pitkin Conrow Estate in Arroyo Grande.
to have ribs at our wedding, I was wary. Ribs made me think of the scene from the Father of the Bride remake where Steve Martin is flipping “bride and groom burgers” in his backyard. I also had nightmares about giant barbecue stains on my pristine, expensive wedding dress. But eventually, we compromised: We could have ribs at our wedding, but only if we had the proper linens and china to go with them. And to ease my barbecue-stain fears, my husband ordered 200 custom-made bibs with big, purple pigs on them and the slogan “Eat, Drink, and be Married.” There were several other wedding components that were two-person jobs: Together we selected our venue (the beautiful Pitkin Conrow Victorian estate), caterer (the fabulous Anacapa Barbeque Company), baker, photographer, and DJ (the equally fabulous Clementine Cupcake Company, Sarah Kathleen, and AMS Entertainment, respectively). Selecting your vendors can be stressful, but don’t let it get the best of you, because it’s truly worth it in the end. I was so thankful for the outstanding group of professionals we picked to help make our day the best day ever. It’s also a good idea to pick a lead person in the couple for certain tasks. For example, my husband is quite the beer connoisseur, so I was happy to let him
manage the booze. We ended up stacking so many cases of wine, beer, and champagne into our hatchback, it looked like we robbed a convenience store. For decorations, I recruited the help of some artsy friends, a former sorority sister, and New Times Managing Editor Ashley Schwellenbach. Together we picked out flowers and centerpieces. For the sake of frugality and creativity, we bought a bunch of cheap vases and food in our wedding colors.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER
It’s been five months since our wedding, and I’m happy to say my husband and I are still married (hey, we’re doing better than most celebrities), and we had a blast on our honeymoon in Maui (swimming with dolphins really is all it’s cracked up to be.) But before I make you vomit with more rub-it-in-your-face romantic blather, I’ll leave you with this: Your wedding day really can be the happiest day of your life; just never lose sight of why you love each other and remember to have fun! ❧ Contact Santa Maria Sun Managing Editor Amy (Asman) Blasco at aasman @santamariasun.com.
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TR A DITIONAL M ARR I AGE A R R A NGE D M A R R I AGE S A R E A LIV E A ND W ELL B Y ROBERT A . MC DON A L D
ishal and Lille Mulchandani love each other madly. It’s not difficult to notice. On a warm, early January morning, the couple sat together sipping coffee, laughing, and exchanging glances as they visited with friends in Arroyo Grande. “We’ve been married for 4 1/2 years, and it worked out well I think,” Lille said. The story of the Mulchandanis’ wedding and marriage is a tale of remarkable compatibility and a love that seems to be the stuff of adolescent, romantic dreams. There are some details of the story, however, that stray
from the usual romantic script. “We only spent two, maybe three hours together before we were married,” said Vishal, enjoying the surprised look on a reporter’s face. “That’s how it works where we’re from. It usually works out well.” The Mulchandanis have an arranged marriage. They were allotted little input when it came to selecting their spouse. Both sets of parents were determined that their children should marry when Vishal and Lille were in elementary school. “They didn’t tell us [at that age], thank goodness,” Lille said. “We didn’t like each other. … I kept on the opposite side of the
“I do”with an
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house when he came over with his parents.” The Mulchandanis’ marriage isn’t unusual, at least in much of Asia. Arranged marriages are the norm in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, and, as more immigrants from the Indian subcontinent come to America, these marriages are quietly becoming less rare here, too. In India, “love marriages”—when the groom and bride choose each other—are traditionally considered abhorrent, though the Western method of matrimonial choosing has begun to creep in. The Mulchandanis say they understand the appeal of love marriages, but think arranged marriages are a far wiser choice. “Look at what love marriages have done to you all,” said Lille, who used her hands to emphasize her words. “Divorces and all this nonsense. There is no commitment. You just rely on your feelings. That’s no good.” But could the Mulchandanis’ happy marriage color their opinion of arranged marriages? “Just because we are happy doesn’t mean it did not come out of dedication and commitment,” Lille said. “Commitment and a dedication to friendship and family fosters real love.” Arranged marriages are nothing new in the West, said Stephanie Coontz, a
professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College and a well-known author on the subject of marriage. Historically, most marriages have been arranged. Before the 19th century, virtually all marriages in America were arranged, she said. The shift in Western culture to love marriages was a trade-off: Love marriages have made it possible for an individual to marry anyone he or she wants, Coontz said. They’ve also raised expectations that marriages should be happy and completely fulfilling, she added, which is a big reason marriages fail in such high rates. Coontz said in patriarchal societies, arranged marriages traditionally tended to make women property. “Most marriages favored the man and were essentially business transactions,” Coontz explained. “The dowry went to the man, and women were forced to marry.” Fans of arranged marriage point out that the institution has adjusted to meet presentday needs. The Mulchandanis are Tamils from the south of India, and though a dowry was involved, the bride’s family receives the dowry from the groom’s family in their culture. In parts of northern Nepal and southern
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Tibet, there are cultures that are matriarchal; women lead the families and make all the decisions. Men have very little input on who marries whom. Lille said she was allowed some input. â€œIf I saw him before the wedding and I didnâ€™t like him, my parents would not have made me marry him,â€? Lille said. â€œBy the time he was of age, he was charming and thoughtful.â€? Shalish, also a Tamil, said his father let him help choose among some eligible candidates. â€œThere is more choice than you think,â€? Shalish said. Both Shalish and the Mulchandanis said marriage in their culture is a marriage of familiesâ€”not just the joining of two individuals. Entire villages can be entwined in marriage. In the big cities, marriage bonds can solidify business relationships, they say. There are restrictions on these marriages, however. Hindus rarely marry beneath their caste, and even Muslims and Christians tend to marry close to their class. â€œA badly thought-out marriage can bring down a whole family,â€? Shalish said. â€œSocial status is more important than you can imagine.â€? Listening to the Mulchandanis, Shalish, and some of their friends speak about arranged
marriages can be an eye-opening experience. To hear them tell it, â€œlove marriagesâ€? are foolish, illogical, and downright anti-family. â€œIn the West, people treat a marriage like a house. They move in, and itâ€™s great, but then they get bored of the drapes and the kitchen layout and they want to move into another house. People keep houses they like more than their love partners,â€? Lille said in obvious disgust. To Lille and her husband, marriage is more than feelings. â€œOur parents were very wise in their choice for us,â€? Vishal said, laughing. â€œBut in the beginning, it was very difficult, and that awkwardness drew us together. â€Ś That is where the love was born. We had no expectations, but real love has its way.â€? As good as the Mulchandanis and others are at presenting the case for arranged families, Coontz said itâ€™s highly unlikely that arranged marriages will make a comeback. â€œI donâ€™t think that could ever happen,â€? she said. â€œThe cultural differences are too many. In the last 20 years, Japan has flipped from arranged marriages to love marriages, so I donâ€™t think it could ever flop back here.â€? v Contact New Times Staff Writer Robert McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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f you’re like me, you’re holding this issue of Brides, weeping that you’re a lonely single with no possibility of finding someone to walk down the aisle with any time soon. For guys like me, with little-to-no social skills or athletic prowess, skipping the whole dating thing and just having my bride handed to me on a silver platter via international matchmaking services might be just the ticket. Or not. For this story, I set out to find my soul mate. With so many sites to choose from, I
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quickly became overwhelmed: Which sites can I trust? Do I want a blonde? An albino? “Okay Matt, keep it simple,” I thought. “After all, when it’s love, you’ll know.” Encouraged by testimonials like the one from Bill and Irina in Akron, Ohio, who apparently were soul mates and would have never met if not for the services of Elena’s Models, I started my exploratory journey on Russianbrides.com, because, well, that’s kind of what I was looking for. The website looked a little sleazy, boasting “Wild Cats” and “Snow White Princesses” with professional-looking glamour shots. I wondered why so many were in bras.
I tried another: the Phoenix-based matchmaking service A Foreign Affair. I filled out my personal information and was asked for my preferences in women. Naturally, I want a 21-year-old who smokes and drinks. Turns out there were 9,414 women out there who fit the mold, such as Eugenia, a petite blonde in Odessa; Natali, a gorgeous green-eyed brunette in Minsk; and Tatka, a bikini-clad redhead in Ukraine. Tatka, it turned out, was online and “available to chat” at that very moment! Unfortunately, it cost 5 credits to initiate a chat session. The site sells credits at a scale of $15.99 for 20 to $399 for 1,000 —a bit steep for a chat—and seeing as how I
didn’t actually want to spend money until I checked out all the sites, I moved on. On another site, Elena’s Models, I was instructed to comply with a background check immediately after I filled out my profile. Otherwise, I couldn’t peruse my matches— of which there were 11,515. The site offered different ways for me to meet these women in person. Elena’s Models, unfortunately, is one that makes you buy a membership before you can actually communicate with your matches. Membership plans range from $16.50 per month for Silver Membership to create your profile, add photos of yourself, and create your List of Favorites. To actually communicate with the ladies, I was told I had to upgrade to Gold or Platinum Membership, at $99 for three months or $259 for three months, respectively. There were a slew of add-ons, like translation service fees, and it wasn’t immediately clear what the difference between membership plans were, besides “unlimited mails” and “extra-large photos of ladies.” Why would I need extra-large photos? Turns out I’m right to be asking questions. Anyone thinking of diving into this relationship pool should be, too. Do your homework. While legitimate
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sites exist, according to an article on dangersofinternetdating.com, some people use them as the latest manifestation of one of the oldest scams in the book. There are various ways guys can get scammed, the article said: After a man has selected his bride and they’ve corresponded for a short time, she may offer to come to visit him. But of course, she needs money for airfare, a temporary visa, etc. Once he sends the money, that may be the last he’ll ever hear from her. But potential scams aren’t the only reason some people are up in arms about international dating services. According to the National Organization for Women, some are little more than thinly veiled human trafficking networks, often putting women in harm’s way. Such statements as, “Russian women try to create a comfortable home and please their husbands in every way”—taken from Russianbrideguide.com—and “a true life partner who is beautiful, significantly younger, educated, is unspoiled by feminism and whose culture is one of support and respect”—from eastern-europe-women. com—tend to attract a certain type of man, said Heather Heiman, public policy attorney for the Tahirih Justice Center,
a Virginia-based nonprofit that provides protection resources and advocacy for immigrant women and children. But Heiman admitted that some of these marriages do work out. According to statistics from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the United States approved 28,514 conditional K1 visas, which are for people who enter the country as a fiancé, in 2009. Sharon Rummery, public affairs officer for the USCIS northwest regional office in San Francisco, clarified that figure by saying the Office of Immigration doesn’t keep track of the number of people entering the country from bride sites, but if they did, they would be included in that figure. She did, however, say it’s true many people meet on these sites—and it often leads to actual marriage. Heiman said the Tahirih Justice Center estimates the number of mail-order marriages in the United States has more than doubled between 1999 and 2007, at approximately 16,500 marriages. In the end, I decided I wasn’t destined to be one of those. Maybe I’ll try speed dating instead. ❧ New Times Staff Writer Matt Fountain learned a few words in Russian. Say dobroye utro at email@example.com.
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Photograph courtesy of David Lloyd Photography
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o matter how in love a woman might be, settling down and giving up the freedom and spontaneity that are staples of single living can be hard. That’s why bachelorette parties are so important. They allow the bride-to-be one last chance to give in to reckless abandon, to cement lasting bonds with her single girlfriends, and to get honest bedroom advice for keeping the multiple O’s in monogamy. Traditionally, the task of planning the event falls on the maid of honor, and it’s not always easy. The first step is to talk to your bride and find out what she wants. Not every girl is looking for debauchery and decadence. Let’s be honest: Most women aren’t relinquishing
any freedom when they tie the knot. Few husbands can stop their wives from going out with their friends. What’s he going to do? Refuse to put out? In reality, the one thing every bride needs after months of wedding planning is a relaxing day at the spa, and there are several in the area. Sandalwood Spa at Trilogy (343-7520) in Nipomo and Bliss Body Spa (787-0970) in downtown San Luis Obispo are only a couple of the places that offer full body massages, facials, pedicures, and manicures for large groups. Each person would have to spend a minimum of $200 (more if everyone splits the bride’s tab) for that type of luxury treatment, but it doubles as preparation for the big day. Wine tasting serves as another low-
Some brides-to-be want a wild and crazy send-off, but others may want a mild evening with friends.
key but fun option. The Wine Wrangler (1-866-238-6400) will drive you and your girlfriends to four to six North San Luis Obispo County wineries in a comfortable shuttle, pay most of the tasting fees, and provide lunch for $112 per person. While these day parties can provide a soothing prelude to wedding festivities, many brides will want something more … adventurous. For whatever reason, ladies across America have decided that all decorations and food stuffs for bachelorette parties must be phallic in nature. Now, you can go to Diamond
Adult World in Atascadero (462-0404) and buy everything from wiener-shaped straws to shot glasses a la shlong, or you can fashion the phalluses yourself and save some singles for the stripper (more on that later). I’ll have you know that I made a dirty dessert so life-like that its image could not be legally featured in this article, all with common bakeware found in my kitchen. You’re also going to need some entertainment to make your bachelorette party particularly memorable. Breathtakers Entertainment (303-317-
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5867) will send “members” to the SLO area for $260 an hour. Their muscular male dancers will shake their groove things and embarrass the hell out of anyone in attendance. “They do lap dances and party games,” said Justin, the new talent manager. “It’s a high-energy show that makes for a memorable experience.” Justin said his dancers will arrive in your choice of costume—from cop to cowboy to pizza delivery—and strip down to their banana hammocks. Another entertainment option would be to call Brown Bag Parties (294-3227) and ask for Kama Sutra Karen. She hosts “Tupperware parties with a buzz” that feature adult toys and cosmetic products. Karen doesn’t charge an appearance fee, but she does expect people to buy $250 worth of products to make her trip worthwhile. Besides presenting perfumes, powders, and other stimulators, Karen conducts various games to make the party more fun. Karen said she’s often amazed at how little women generally know and talk about sex. While fun, her demonstrations focus heavily on sex education that aims to empower women and reduce the feelings of shame that are usually associated with an issue so central
to life and relationships. In the end, a wild night out is all about hitting the clubs. If you’re going to party hard, chances are you or someone in your group is going to embarrass herself and want to leave. It’s best to go to downtown SLO, where there’s a plethora of alternate options. A good starting place is MoTav (541-8733), where ladies can reserve a private room above the dance floor for bottle service. Earl Olson has seen hundreds of bachelorette parties in his 12 years at the bar. “The ladies are usually pretty tame compared to the guys,” he said. “It’s definitely better when the bride’s not pregnant.” Olson said the best bachelorette parties feature costume accessories such as a sash or crown designating the bride-to-be as well as scavenger style to-do lists, with tasks such as “making out with a stranger, getting a guy’s underwear, and kissing another girl.” Olson said MoTav is willing to take music requests for special events, so bring a preprogrammed iPod with the bachelorette’s favorite dance tracks. Ultimately, the perfect party means tailoring the night to your bachelorette. ❧
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He later learned Shari joked with their guests that as long as no one heard a car engine start up, she probably hadn’t lost her husband entirely. Luckily for Sullivan, his photographer stopped snapping when he was out. And in his 35-or-so years shooting weddings, he’s never seen anyone go down the same way he did. “I’ve seen ’em waver; I’ve never seen one drop,” he said. “No, I’m the one who dropped.” Amy Levinsohn has seen one drop. Actually, she was the photographer at Sullivan’s wedding when he dropped. “Dean was a hard one, because he was actually sick,” she said. But she’s seen others go down, too. A couple of grooms and a bride have taken a literal and proverbial plunge with her as a witness. At one ceremony, she saw a bride “crumple.” At another ceremony, a groom went down hard. “I just remember it was hot. We had just begun the ceremony,” Levinsohn said. “It wasn’t like deathly hot … it was a warm day. And I’m sure it was just nerves, but in the middle of the ceremony, he just went straight as a board. So he didn’t buckle, just
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home, where 180 people would be packed in for a large catered reception. Sullivan’s a burly guy. At 6-foot-4 with a thick red beard and low gruff voice, he has the appearance of a lumberjack in street clothes. It would take a lot to take him down—a point of pride for him. During his work as a photographer of 40-plus years, he gloated that he’s saved three peoples’ lives, including a small boy on whom he performed CPR after a car accident. And Sullivan’s been shooting weddings for most of his career. With all of his experience, he even coaches people on how to stay
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f the ceremony had started only a few minutes earlier, Dean Sullivan might have made it through his vows. At, least, that’s how he likes to look back on his wedding day. It was Sept. 10, 1999. About an hour before the ceremony, Sullivan was feeling a little peaked. His hands were clammy, and he was slumped over in a chair while his friends amusingly poked at him for being nervous. But Sullivan wasn’t nervous—not the way he tells it, anyway. He was exhausted after spending the day fixing up his
vertical and conscious during the ceremony: Don’t lock your knees, drink lots of water beforehand. Basic stuff. “So I’m solid,” he said proudly. “So if someone said I’d have buckled on my wedding day, I would’ve said, ‘Go to hell.’” Sullivan puts fainting into two categories. First, there’s what he calls “wavering,” where someone wobbles a bit, but doesn’t lose it entirely. Then there’s full-blown buckling, involving classic tunnel-vision eyesight and muffled voices before you take the plunge into unconsciousness. At his own wedding, Sullivan buckled. “And all of a sudden, I came to, and I went, ‘Oh my God!’” he remembers thinking when he realized what happened. He awoke in a chair, looking at the faces of the minister and his bride-to-be, Shari. The whole ordeal was over in about a minute, because as soon as he came to, Sullivan was bolting down the aisle, past guests, making for the bathroom. Locked in, bent over a toilet with the flu, and vomiting after he passed out at his own wedding—“I literally tossed cookies,” he said—Sullivan was angry with embarrassment. “I’m just in the bathroom going, ‘Son of a bitch’ … because I could hear them out there laughing,” he said.
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phoo, and he hit his head.” Perhaps the toughest part is the comeback. According to Levinsohn, most of the people she’s seen faint recoup fairly quickly and muscle through the remainder of the ceremony. Like all things expected to be simple, there’s a fancy term for fainting. In the medical community, it’s known as syncope (“sin-co-pee”) and is defined by the American Heart Association as a “temporary loss of consciousness and posture, described as ‘fainting’ or ‘passing out.’ It’s usually related to temporary insufficient flow to the brain.” For those who see an almost-spouse keel over at the altar, don’t worry: It’s not necessarily nerves. According to Jason Blank, an assistant professor with Cal Poly’s Biological Sciences Department, bent knees causes leg muscles to flex, which in turn squeezes veins that help fight gravity and pump blood back to the heart. A bride or groom standing with legs locked make it more difficult for that blood to re-circulate through the heart, back to the brain, to keep it doused with oxygen. Fainting, it turns out, is a natural way to level the brain with the heart, thereby making it easier to pump blood and keep a cranium oxygenated. “But it can be rather inconvenient,”
Blank said. Fainting at the altar is probably a sign of nervousness, too. Sorry. Blank explained that fainting can be the result of emotional stress, which can trigger the “vaso vagal” response—basically a sudden surge of electrical signals that slow the heart, reduce the strength of each heart beat, and send blood to other organs. Essentially, the vaso vagal response is a quick way to lower blood pressure. “That’s a good thing if you’re relaxing,” Blank said. “You don’t have a particular need to run away from anything.” Here’s how it works with stress-induced fainting: Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system— that “fight or flight” response—which jacks up the heart rate and increases blood pressure. But with no imminent threat, your body compensates by kicking in the parasympathetic nervous system, or “rest and digest,” which drops blood pressure. In the right circumstance—or wrong depending on how you look at it—the body can overdo it. Then it’s WHAM! Lights out. ❧
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New Times News Editor Colin Rigley isn’t married, but if he was, he sure wouldn’t faint. He might run away, though. Try to catch him at email@example.com.
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