Photos via Punk Rock Weddings
Yesterday morning, Asian Man Records and Plea for Peace founder Mike Park unveiled his latest project: Punk Rock Weddings. It’s exactly what it sounds like: For a nominal fee, Park—a licensed officiant—will preside over your wedding and provide both a full service wedding photographer and a reception DJ (many of whom have been hand-selected from within his label’s roster). While this new venture might seem a little out-of-left-field for a guy who’s spent the past couple decades releasing records and fighting racism, he’s already officiated 60 weddings, according to his site. But what the hell is a punk rock wedding? And where did this idea come from? We talked to Mike to find out.
Noisey: As far as I know, you’re the first and only record label founder to also have a wedding business. What kind of reaction have you received since you unveiled the site?
Mike Park: I posted info on the site seven hours ago, and so far we've had over 70,000 views and around 30 emails looking into rates for the wedding package, and I've confirmed three dates so far. It's extremely exciting.
How did this all start? Matt Skiba asked you to officiate his wedding, right?
Well, that's exactly how things began. Matt asked me to officiate his wedding and then slowly more friends asked me to officiate their wedding. And then when I started posting photos on social media, strangers were getting in touch, and it just keeps growing and growing.
Tell us about that very first wedding. How did it go? What did you learn?
[Laughs] I think it went well, other than the fact that I felt like the wedding was doomed from the beginning. I did a lot of online research and just customized a ceremony that I felt was both entertaining and heartfelt. I kind of wish it was recorded so I could critique the ceremony. But I definitely think it was a success, and I kind of took the good parts to the next one and ditched the not-so-successful parts. Since that first wedding, I've come up with a perfect ceremony—at least in my mind—and it's made things a lot less stressful.
Have you officiated any other “high profile” weddings since Matt Skiba?
I guess it depends what's considered high profile. I've done a bunch of weddings for people in the punk community, including Ted from This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, Eric from O Pioneers!!!, Issa from Good Clean Fun, Brendan from The Lawrence Arms, Chris from Chotto Ghetto, Heidi and Sylvia from the Hot Toddies, Bob from Shinobu, and a bunch of other band people. Those are always fun, and it's nice to kind of bring that DIY mentality into an environment that can be extremely stressful and try to make it more enjoyable for everyone involved.
What made you decide to now turn officiating into a full-time wedding business?
Well, it's going to be far from full time. I did 12 wedding this year and that felt like a lot. I hope to keep it down to around the same amount this next year. Maybe a few more, but I just want to continue to have fun and involve some of my friends whom I think would just make the whole experience better for everyone.
Is this going to cut into your time running Asian Man?
Nah, most weddings are on weekends, so I can just fly in and out and be back for work.
How do you generally feel about the whole process before, during, and after each wedding?
First of all, I love weddings. I love dressing up, I love eating cake, I love to dance, and I love having fun. So it's a win-win situation. I usually have one phone meeting with the couple a couple weeks before the wedding, and I'll create a unique service just for them, and then I'll follow it up with a few texts/emails to iron out any of the details I may have missed. I try to emphasize to them that there are no rules. They can do whatever they want during the ceremony and to not worry about what is supposed to be the correct way to get married and just have fun. And once things begin, it's pretty much like a show almost. I get butterflies—which I generally feel is a good sign that I care—and then once it's over, there's a big relief and then I just enjoy the festivities of the night.
What can couples expect from a Punk Rock Wedding? When you say you’ll add “even more over-the-top fun,” what do you mean?
It depends on the couple. I usually ask them to trust me and just enjoy the wedding. I want it to be an enjoyable adventure and for them to be excited during the ceremony. Sometimes there's some requirements they want, and that's more than fine. I'm definitely okay with doing whatever they want to do.
As for over-the-top fun, I'm just putting together a group of friends that enjoy life and aren't your typical wedding photographer and wedding DJ. We're gonna do this strictly for fun. We're not relying on this to make a living but using it as an excuse to get together and have fun. So far, I've only officiated weddings without providing the DJ and photographer, so I can only speak for myself. When I'm at the wedding I just try my best to have fun. Even at weddings where I've never even met the bride or groom until the wedding day, I'll do my best to talk to everyone [and] get out on the dance floor for hours and hours (I'm serious). But with the addition of super photographer Hiro Tanaka, things are going to be insane.
Yeah, can you tell us a little about Hiro?
Seriously, the best person in the world. I can't figure out how he does it, but he is my best friend in the world and my most favorite person to be around. He's toured with bands like Har Mar Superstar, Minus the Bear, Cursive, and a ton more bands, and he'll make the negatives of touring into a positive experience. Though my touring days have dwindled over the past few years, he's a must on any of my tours just to keep me sane. I've been in Bavaria to London to Sioux Falls, Idaho, and I'll be doing some business stuff and I will hear kids chanting his name in the other room. I'm serious, it's crazy how people gravitate towards him and his insanely wonderful personality.
Can you tell us a little about your roster of DJs and how each of them became involved in this project?
This list will grow, but so far it's just friends I've asked: Brendan from the Lawrence Arms, Chris #2 from Anti Flag, Chris Candy from Chotto Ghetto, and Bob from Shinobu. It was nothing more than telling them about the project and seeing if they were down to be part of it.
I’m a huge Lawrence Arms fan, but I’m having a little trouble imagining Brendan Kelly in the same room as my extended family… So, uh, how similar is his DJ banter to his regular stage banter?
Well, I think he'll understand that this is a special day for a couple, and he'll keep things extremely respectful and articulate so that the family doesn't look at the DJ as some drunken asshole ruining their most important day.
I know couples will have some input, but what kind of records do your DJs tend to play? Is it strictly punk stuff, or is it more of a mix?
I think it will be a huge mix. It really will depend on the couple. If they want straight hip-hop, we'll do it. If they want 60s rock-n-roll, we'll do it. Or if they want standard wedding stuff to keep the family appeased, we'll play “Shout” and then “Thriller” and then slow dance with “Unchained Melody.”
Punk couples probably aren’t getting married in churches, so what sorts of venues have you encountered so far?
The normal situation is doing a wedding at the same place as the reception. But I've done a house weddings, beach weddings, and even illegal weddings on private property.
Most memorable wedding so far?
It was hands down a wedding from an old friend named Craig who was married in Monterey, California at a lavish country club. I think this wedding must have cost more than all the weddings I've officiated combined. It was like out of a movie. Maybe this is what the Kardashian wedding was like. It was like caviar hors d'oeuvres and bottles of Dom Perignon and filet mignon served table side with maine lobster. It was ridiculous!
Would you ever turn down a wedding for any reason?
If Charles Manson asked me to officiate his upcoming nuptials, I'd definitely pass. That would go for any member of the Westboro Baptist Church.
Tell us about your own wedding. Who officiated?
My wedding? Oh geez. Well, nine years ago my then-girlfriend and I went to the city of San Jose to see what was required for a city hall wedding, and the lady said, "We have an opening right now if you want to get married now." And we looked at each other and said, “Let's do it.” I was wearing shorts. We had to pay $10 extra to have one of the employees there be our witness. When my mom found out—think old school Korean parent—she was so angry I thought she was going to commit suicide. I'm not kidding either. But man I'm glad I did it because otherwise it would have been months of hell trying to appease a very straight-laced, conservative 70-year-old who lived through the Korean War and thought that my Italian wife was the anti-christ.
I know punks who might view “punk rock wedding” as a contradiction of terms. How do you feel about that mindset?
It's just a name for a website. Get over it.
The site is covered in photos of you making the Vulcan salute with newlyweds. What’s the story behind the salute?
I first did it with Maura Weaver from Mixtapes ‘cause she kind of looks like a Vulcan in the most attractive way. And then I just started doing it with everyone, and it kept going and going and going. It's fun and everyone is happy.
Do you cry at weddings?
I've definitely cried at weddings. Usually if it's somebody I know and especially if the groom starts to lose it, then I start to lose it. I'll pinch myself as hard as I can to pull it together.
Scott Butterworth isn’t punk enough to be married, but he is on Twitter.