When Pittsburgh Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams first sat down with his wedding planner, just 10 weeks before his July wedding, his fiancée, Risalyn Burzynski, was running late. That gave Angela Dacus of Memphis’s Southern Event Planners the chance to ask the groom-to-be what he really wanted out of the big day.
“He was like, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter because this isn’t my wedding, it’s her wedding,‘” Dacus told Yahoo Style. “He said, ‘If it was my way, I would have had a zombie wedding.'”
Risalyn’s vision of their nuptials was a little bit more traditional than that, but when Dacus proposed a compromise — a zombie photo shoot the day after their July 23 wedding — they were both all in. After a little bit of convincing, their wedding party, three children, and even Williams’s childhood pastor were also on board with staging a zombie attack on the newlyweds. The event even caught the attention of ESPN, which sent a crew to film the whole thing for a video that has since gone viral.
Inspired by an image in The Walking Dead comic, they re-created their wedding-day photos at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. “Then they wanted where the wedding party was attacking them and turning them into zombies,” Dacus explained. “We had [the Williamses] go back upstairs and get their zombie makeup done, and then we all left the hotel and went to a local cemetery that has these amazing old Gothic-like ruins.”
This outdoor part proved to be the day’s biggest challenge.
“In Memphis, the heat index has been 110 degrees,” Dacus said. The wedding party began being made up at 12:30 p.m., and they weren’t finished shooting until after 8 p.m.
“They were really nice people, and the wedding party was extremely tolerant,” he told Yahoo. “I did over 20 people in about five hours. That was scary, because I wanted it to look good.”
Dacus said the shoot really illustrated the importance of including truly good friends in your wedding party. “They had to sit in that latex mask for hours, and they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t talk, and they had to drink through straws.”
Though this is her first zombie apocalypse, Dacus is a big advocate of helping her clients think outside of the box to express themselves at their weddings. (She also hired a Michael Jackson impersonator to surprise Williams during the reception, because he’d told her that if his mother had been alive, they would have danced together to “Keep Your Head Up.”)
“Each couple needs to search their soul and find out what makes them happy,” Dacus said. “What’s normal anymore? It’s hard to define. People plan their weddings for other people and not really for them, and I hear regrets. That makes me sad.”
Zombie weddings aren’t exactly a new phenomenon. Offbeat Bride founder and publisher Ariel Meadow Stallings said the peak of this trend was from around 2009 to 2014, beginning before the premiere of The Walking Dead.
“It’s a playful way to riff on the concept of till death do us part,'” she told us via email. “We’ve also seen a lot of couples integrating Dia de los Muertos elements into their weddings for similar reasons.”
Even if couples might one day look back and think zombies were so 2016, Stallings thinks that’s not necessarily a bad thing. “Realistically, part of what makes weddings fun is looking back and feeling like your wedding was a reflection of the times,” she said. “The idea of a ‘timeless’ wedding is an impossible goal. Have fun and don’t worry about it. Your impeccably tasteful wedding will look silly in a few years too.”