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Halloween Haunts: A Halloween Wedding in the Cemetery by Denise Dumars


Halloween Haunts: A Halloween Wedding in the Cemetery

by Denise Dumars


A remembrance of Meg (Susan) Groeling, 1949-2023


Last October I officiated a wedding between two horror writers: Ashley Dioses and K.A. Opperman. It had a Gothic theme, held in a beautiful forest setting. I’ve officiated weddings in various places, but as yet I have not officiated a wedding on Halloween itself.

But that doesn’t mean I haven’t attended a wedding on Halloween. I have attended one, and it was performed in a local cemetery. At midnight.

“Old Sunnyside” is the common name for the Long Beach Municipal Cemetery in Long Beach, CA; not to confuse it with the Gothic mausoleum and the cemetery of Forest Lawn Sunnyside, also in Long Beach. Several memorable characters in Long Beach history are laid to rest in Old Sunnyside: some famous, some infamous.

I don’t know how Meg and her intended got permission to have their wedding on Halloween night in the cemetery, but they did. Meg was an active part of the local Goth scene, and she was the force behind the Undead Poets Society, a vampire/gothic poetry performance group that I was a part of. In the 1990’s we read in bookstores, coffeehouses, art galleries, small theaters, metaphysical shops…but never in a cemetery, to my memory. Under the umbrella of Preternatural Productions, Meg also published a poetry anthology for each of the years that we performed, called Rouge et Noir. She published one of my poetry chapbooks, called Preternaturally Yours. When Meg moved away the group disbanded, but several other groups were inspired by and included members of the Undead Poets Society, including The Vampiric Bards and Casketeria.

So when Meg was going to get married, in 1997, I received the invitation which stated that it would happen on Halloween night, in Old Sunnyside Cemetery, at midnight.

Do you have any idea how dark it is in a cemetery at night? Old Sunnyside is in a mostly industrial area, so not a lot of ambient light but for the streetlights. But there are no streetlights in cemeteries. None. So a few yards from where we parked we might as well have been in total darkness. It’s something you almost never see in an urban environment, and although, obviously, it wasn’t total darkness, it damn well felt like it. And it was, frankly, terrifying.

Silence is the other unusual aspect of a cemetery at night, especially one in an industrial area where all the businesses are closed, and for that reason there is virtually no traffic, and any houses are too far to add background noise. My then-husband and I had no fear of the cemetery’s residents, but clumsy me feared tripping and falling in the dark and cracking my head open on a tombstone.

After walking through slippery mud and grass for what seemed like a long time we could see some pale lights…yes, the wedding was deep into the cemetery. The lights were wan white luminarias, which afforded at least a tiny amount of light to guide guests to the wedding location. At the wedding site itself, once the ceremony was about to begin, a generator was set up and a too-bright spotlight made our eyes, which were accustomed to the dark by then, painfully aware of the imminent ceremony.

In those days it was unusual to see people in Gothic clothing or costumes at a wedding. This was in the previous century, you see, before 9/11, before Covid-19, and in some ways a more innocent, yet more proper, time. But it was, after all, Halloween. And both Goth wear and costumed attendees were there. I took a lot of pictures—this was before cellphones—and some of them actually came out as visible. The bride was radiant in her black wedding gown and veil—the first one of those I’d seen as well. Now you see black wedding dresses in traditional brides’ magazines. Oh how times have changed….

The reception was held in the cemetery, too, and I’m fairly sure it wasn’t in the permit that alcohol and, er, other substances were served, and of course there was cake. Some Goth music was played and a bit of dancing and silliness ensued. It was an experience.

Eventually, Meg moved away, and married once more, and she had always been a history teacher but eventually became known as a Civil War expert, authoring two books: The Aftermath of Battle: The Burial of the Civil War Dead and First Fallen: The Life of Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, the North’s First Civil War Hero. The news of her passing hit me particularly hard, but brought back so many happy memories of Undead Poets Society performances, and especially of that wedding in the cemetery, at midnight, on Halloween.


Once a year the cemetery discussed in this blog offers tours where Historical Society members dress and speak as notable persons interred in the cemetery:

The 27th Annual Historical Cemetery Tour, Sunnyside and Municipal Cemeteries, https://hslb.org/historical-cemetery-tour/, October 28, 2023, 9 AM to 3 PM.

Need a wedding officiant? My page on Wedding Officiant services and other ceremonies is on my Rev. Dee’s Apothecary, A New Orleans-Style Botanica webpage: www.DyanaAset.com

Find my books on my writer page: www.DeniseDDumars.com

And if you need a black wedding dress:

Moore, Sophie. “12 Elegant Black Wedding Dresses for every Bridal Style,” Brides Magazine, 17 April 2023, https://www.brides.com/gallery/black-wedding-dresses



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