The bride wore blood, and the happy couple pledged to be faithful to each other in gout and in health as they decay together and fall apart – or someone impales their heads.
Such were the trappings of a zombie wedding that took place Saturday at Tanganyika Wildlife Park, part of a pre-Halloween Wichita Zombie Run for charity.
While 500 volunteers appeared on the scene in Goddard made up as zombies to chase more than 1,100 people signed up for the 5K, a real in-love couple decided to dress up accordingly and get married during the run.
White chairs were set out in a field, and the zombie wedding party put the finishing touches on their unfinery as the first runners gathered at the starting line across the parking lot.
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“You just need blood on it,” bridezilla Jay Mills said to her niece serving as flower ghoul, 9-year-old Ryley Kirk, as she handed her a basket of wilted foliage and tea-stained rose petals.
“I’ve got some blood,” volunteered Joyce Kirk, Ryley’s mother and the bride’s sister, serving as matron of horror. She produced a bottle of red liquid and started spraying.
It was the first time for many in the bridal party – including the bride and the groom, Randy Smith – to dress as zombies, and Ryley wasn’t exactly sure about it. After “blood” was added to the “flowers,” she held her basket at arm’s length and dropped it as soon as she could – at least until the “blood” had dried. She had also balked at getting made up to look like a zombie that morning after she saw what her mother looked like, until she was assured that “zombies can still have glitter,” her mother said. Pink was added around her eyes and was painted on her lips and nails.
“We found that a cheese grater and coffee grounds work,” Trisha Berry said, referring to the method she used for distressing her “monster of the bride” dress.
Not everyone got with the program.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said the groom’s nephew Ryan Adelson, dressed in coat and tie and sitting in the front row. The son of the groom, 14-year-old Garrett Smith, said he wasn’t into it and wore jeans.
As a band across the parking lot played “White Room” by Cream and the first of the 5K participants bolted from the starting line and into the arms of their first zombies, the bride limped down the grassy aisle on the arm of her son, Brandon Westervelt, who was dressed in street clothes. (“I have to work,” he said after the wedding. “Government job.”)
Second-grade teacher Marti Campbell of Goddard, who said she had been ordained online, married the pair, counseling them that sometimes they would find themselves dragging along the path of married life but that the need for fresh brains – and love – would keep them going. She advised Mills and Smith to “please place” the wedding rings “on your remaining fingers.” She then pronounced them zombie and undead wife.
“You may now gnaw on your bride,” Campbell said. The couple obliged, not touching – and then kissed and smiled.
They thanked the undead and, especially, the living – because they brought the food.
Mills-Smith (her newly married name) said that she had the idea for the wedding after a friend who was one of the coordinators for the 5K put out a call for volunteer zombies, including those who could make up a wedding party.
“We were going to get married this month” anyway, Mills-Smith said.
After the nuptials and wedding cake from Cheri’s topped with icing that looked like blood-addled brains, the bride and groom joined the volunteers on the race course to haunt participants.
The run was a benefit for Consumer Credit Counseling Services, and the response from the public was beyond the organizers’ wildest dreams, spokesman Chris Taylor said.
The 5K participants each wore a belt bearing three Velcro-attached flags. As the runners navigated the haunted course, zombies came after them, attempting to remove the flags. Runners who lost all their flags were declared undead, while those with at least one flag intact were still living – and eligible for prizes.
“We love to be challenged by running, and we thought running from zombies would up it one more,” Amy Driskill of Wichita said before she and her husband, Cameron, started the race – though she held out the possibility that she would be distracted by the zombies.
Amber Wimer was at the head of the line of the first 100 runners to be sent out on the course. She said she didn’t realize until after she signed up that she could have come as a volunteer dressed up as a zombie. “I probably would have been a zombie instead,” she said.