This Wedding in Spain Had a Chinese Tea Ceremony and Dance Party DJed by a Drag Queen
"We had no official theme but after a rocky, 18-month start (this was the first same-sex, mixed-race, British-Chinese wedding either of us had ever seen let alone thrown ourselves!) we decided that we could elope, skip all the drama and change nothing, or throw a big wedding with zero compromises and turn it into a shining, disco-ball beacon of queer love," says Alice of her destination wedding to Mel in Menorca, Spain. "We felt a responsibility to past and current LGBTQ+ generations to try, in a small way, to make things smoother for the next. Starting with normalizing a same-sex wedding—the first in both our families—without making ourselves smaller or heteronormative. We wanted our families, but more importantly, the nine kids in our bridal party, to see two women get married completely on their terms. And to throw a bloody brilliant party for all the gorgeous gays! After we decided that it all fell into place."
When it came to securing a venue, Alice's aunt "generously lent us her beautiful house on the island of Menorca; she’s lived there for nearly 30 years so it’s filled with wonderful memories. Everyone was invited from the first openly transgender member of a White House administration to Mel’s elderly aunt from Hong Kong to homophobic Brexiteers who voted to ‘keep the immigrants out’ but against all odds turned up to a lesbian, wedding, full of immigrants, in Spain," recalls Alice. "We wanted to be subtle and understated so our dress code was Judy by day, Liza by night, I wore a red and pink ballgown and gold vagina necklace, we had a dramatic balcony entrance with nine children to Dolly Parton's 9-5, gave all speaking roles to women and gays and had a bearded drag queen dressed as a bride. At midnight we danced underneath a shower of Dolly Dollars—fake $100 bills with Dolly’s face on them like camp, stripper brides. (In hindsight it sounds like we had a Dolly-themed wedding but that wasn’t the intention, we just love her a lot!)"
Although Alice and Mel ended up including some Chinese wedding traditions as a nod to Mel's heritage, Mel was initially "reluctant to include any traditional parts of Chinese weddings which are famously patriarchal," she shares. "Alice encouraged us to adapt them and hold them on our own terms. Once we had decided that we couldn’t ignore the heritage that I am so proud of, we kept the crucial tea ceremony where you kneel and offer tea in return for blessings, 'red pockets' of money and gold jewelry. My sister and cousins helped us to serve the elders (who were bemused at having to give us two sets of jewelry for two brides!) with a tea set brought over from Hong Kong and my cousin lent me her beautiful red qun kwa embroidered with silver and gold thread for the costume change. My mum gave Alice the most expensive necklace—that is real love from a Chinese mother-in-law! Instead of wedding door games designed to make fun of (and sometimes humiliate) the grooms in order for them to 'earn' the bride, we decided to recruit a small army of our cousins’ children to walk us out together to Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5. Then we gave them all Hello Kitty-themed ‘red pockets’- envelopes filled with money that are given out at Chinese weddings. We also had a traditional red silk people could sign instead of a guest book, and Mahjong sets for the pool party after the wedding—for the avid gamblers!"
Beyond celebrating the couple's culture, it was also important that the youngsters in the family be celebrated as well. "Having our cousins’ nine kids aged one to five as our bridal party was such a delight," says Alice. "Children get forgotten about at weddings and we really wanted them, and their parents, to have a good time. We hired several amazing childminders who played games and did face painting and they ran around like a hilarious, feral pack. At dinner we made them personalized party bags with toys, coloring books and games. Then before the boring, adult speeches started we set up a movie in the house where they could enjoy themselves before joining us on the dance-floor or being put to bed and watched over whilst their parents had some fun!"
One of Alice's favorite parts of the wedding was the drag queen they hired to perform. "I am a huge fan of drag so one of my favorite parts was seeing our guests' jaws drop when our surprise guest Baby Lame, a punk-horror, bearded drag queen from London, interrupted our first dance dressed as a bride and singing George Michael’s Freedom! Baby Lame roasted the guests, led us all in karaoke of Aretha Franklin’s Say A Little Prayer whilst we danced under the Dolly Dollars, before DJ-ing until the early hours. He was such a wonderful addition, kicked the night off with a bang and was a particular hit with the children who still talk about him (and the trays of chocolate churros that came out on the dancefloor). I had so much fun I lost my voice." As for Mel, the Dolly Dollars and the contributions from loved ones are two of her favorite memories from the destination wedding weekend in Menorca. "Spending weekends in the run-up to the wedding printing and cutting out Dolly Dollars was a treat, especially when Alice said we needed more …though she was definitely right. More is more and I had the papercuts to show for it," says Mel. "Over the years I have managed to cultivate a tremendously talented group of friends who we weaved into the day. They sang acoustic Van Morrison and Beatles songs, read Allen Ginsberg poetry and Supreme Court rulings and gave fantastic speeches. My textile designer cousin and her partner, a graffiti artist, made our really cool wedding invitations – each one of which was a unique piece of art. One thing a lot of people loved was the Guest By Numbers infographic I compiled for the back of the ceremony book that told everyone they were 25% LGBT+, came from ten countries, spoke 15 languages, had 8.5 PhDs and included 17 artists and two of my exes."
Beyond the personalized elements from Dolly Dollars to the drag queen performance, the unity and love seen at the wedding remain a highlight for the couple. "I adored how our chosen family surrounded us with so much love that day," recalls Alice. "It was a very special moment to have everyone together for a wedding where our community and culture was finally in the spotlight and where our families could see dozens of happy, thriving queers. Several guests said it inspired them to call friends they hadn’t spoken to in years. Months later one friend, a teacher from France whose family disowned her after she came out, said: 'It gave me hope.'" Mel goes on to share how much she valued "seeing the two parts of my life that I had kept so separate out of self-preservation reveling together. There was a lot of me which was scared about it beforehand. It all hit home when my mum started bawling during the tea ceremony. I know that she must have given up on the idea of having a tea ceremony with me when I came out almost 20 years ago and this was such a special moment for her too. To have on the same day my shy-of-five-feet mother dancing with a drag queen clearing seven feet in heels was a perfect full circle."
Looking back on their wedding weekend, Alice encourages LGBTQ+ to-be-weds currently struggling through wedding planning to remember "that you aren’t alone! We are pioneers of a new right that is a powerful symbol of the evolution of marriage and the world into a fairer, more egalitarian place for everyone. And whilst society may not have completely caught up yet, you have the right to a wedding and marriage that reflects who you are and is filled with love and support. So, don’t feel like you have to fold yourself into the flawed, heterosexual mould as the price of acceptance. Change what you want to change, wear what you want to wear, surround yourself only with kind, loving people who want the best for you and don’t worry about offending people. In the words of comedian Doug Stanhope from my new hometown of Boston: 'Tradition…is dead people’s baggage. Quit carrying it.' So, more gay bridezillas and groomzillas please! Throw out those elbows, take up more space, invent new traditions. Stomp, stomp, stomp. And if some people are still being awful and you have to invite them then just do what we did and gently troll them by naming the tables after the six children of the far-right British politician Jacob Rees-Mogg."