Lindsay Morris and Stephen Munshin didn’t have to step inside a tattoo parlor to get their first tattoos. All they had to do was attend the wedding of their niece Leslie Merinoff to Brian Kwasienski last October in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Ms. Morris and Mr. Munshin were aware there would be tattoos available during the reception. “And we were not planning on getting one,” said Ms. Morris, a photographer.
But by the end of the night, the Sag Harbor, N.Y., couple, who managed to stay ink-free into their early 50s, were using up a tattoo artist’s last needles to have the number “11” put on their wrists. Both were born on that day of the month.
“I guess the idea of it being small and quick made it more inviting,” said Mr. Munshin, the publisher of Edible magazines in the New York area. “It didn’t seem as much of a challenge or investment. It was Lindsay’s encouragement. I was just drunk enough to concede.”
The occasion of a beloved niece’s wedding imbues the tattoos with more meaning, and it was, Mr. Munshin noted, “a cool party.”
Not surprisingly, both bride and groom sported tattoos. Ms. Merinoff’s designs make up what she calls a “road map of her life” that signify special moments. When she pulls up the sleeves of her sweater in an attempt to get a count, she gives up almost immediately. While planning her wedding, she said she thought, “What better moment to really keep forever?”
Ms. Merinoff and Mr. Kwasienski, who are opening a boutique distillation company in Greenport, N.Y., chose the tattoo artist Bryce Oprandi of the Los Angeles area to work at their wedding. Ms. Merinoff had become a big fan of his work after following him on Instagram.
When they met for drinks in New York, she said, she immediately asked him to be at the wedding simply for his laid-back energy. “I thought to myself, ‘I want this guy around,’” she said. The couple covered his travel and accommodations, as well as a flat rate for his time. They had planned for only a few of the 400-plus guests to get small tattoos from a limited selection featuring a coupe glass, the wedding date and others. But Mr. Oprandi ended up working on a couple dozen guests up until the end of the night.
Tattoo artists are one way to subvert and personalize longstanding traditions, much like having mixed gender bridesmaids and groomsmen.
“Social media has created a world where individuality is celebrated and personal brands are curated, so we find that same notion being implemented into weddings,” said Kristen Maxwell Cooper, the editor in chief of the Knot, a wedding website. “Couples no longer want something cookie cutter. They want to throw an amazing party that truly feels like who they are as a couple.”
Robert Fiore, an artist from Lansdale, Pa., who has been tattooing for 22 years, recently made weddings his whole business. He started the Wedding Tattooer last June, and since then, has gotten more than 2,000 inquiries for his services.
For these events, Mr. Fiore creates a set of four to six small designs, each about the size of a golf ball, from which guests can choose. He’ll tattoo onlegs, arms or shoulders. Chests and other more risqué body parts, he says, are generally off-limits.
Mr. Fiore started this business almost by accident. “In November of 2016, my cousin was getting married, and a few months prior, he called me to say he wanted to have something ‘awesome’ at the reception,” Mr. Fiore said. “We were going over ideas and I said, ‘What if I just came down there and tattooed?’”
His most extensive package costs $1,250, which covers as many guests as he can tattoo over four hours. Each design takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and he brings an assistant who places the stencil on each client and bandages the tattoos after they’re complete.
Mr. Fiore is not just called upon by the heavily tattooed. “Couples and guests who wouldn’t generally seek out a tattoo, when they’re amongst their family and friends, they’re feeling the moment,” he said. “That would be the one time that someone who has no interest in getting tattooed would.”
What makes the wedding circuit so exciting, he said, is “the crossover.”
Karen Glass, a Brooklyn artist, tattooed at one wedding more than three years ago and found it to be a transformative experience for the attendees. “We were busy the whole night — a lot of people got tattooed,” she said. “We did a few people’s first tattoos, including the mother of the groom. The guests were cheering and taking so many photos. It seemed to be an amazing experience for everyone.”
Even those who didn’t get inked were entertained. “Most people love watching it happen,” Ms. Glass said. “It’s a great crowd-pleaser.”
At Ms. Merinoff’s wedding, not just aunts and uncles got their first tattoos, but friends as well. “Everyone was so happy,” she said. “The space was so beautiful. There’s a feeling that you don’t want it to end, so you take a little bit of that energy and keep it forever.”
Some guests, though, were not quite up to taking home such a permanent wedding favor. “There were some people who were too drunk to get tattoos,” Ms. Merinoff said. In those cases, a groomsman “ran interference” as an ink bouncer.
Mr. Munshin and Ms. Morris look back fondly on their decision to get tattoos. “It was a little bit romantic,” Mr. Munshin said, “and a little bit for amusement.”
“I like the way they peek out from whatever shirt I’m wearing,” Ms. Morris added. “It makes me happy.”
This content was originally published here.
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