Wednesday, May 22, 2024

When Stephen Le Duc posted on a Reddit forum proposing a meet-up at a music festival, he had no idea he would meet his future wife.
In 2019, Mr. Le Duc, a mechanical engineer, was headed solo to the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas, an annual dance music festival. He met up with Olivia Le Duc, then Olivia Brents, who had responded to his post, and soon realized they shared not only a love of raves, but also swing dancing and retro culture. At the festival, they fell in love.
Two years later, at that same festival, Mr. Le Duc, now 38, traded “kandi” — beaded bracelets typically exchanged at a rave — with Ms. Le Duc, a 28-year-old e-commerce merchandiser. The beads spelled out “marry me.”
The couple, who live in Long Beach, Calif., knew from the start that they wanted an unconventional celebration; their families did not. When his wife’s grandmother suggested a church wedding, “I was like, ‘Oh, no, that can’t happen,’” Mr. Le Duc said, with a laugh.
In recent years, many couples have swapped out more traditional receptions for raves and all night dance parties, prioritizing the music over (almost) all else. Celebrations can range from rave-themed after parties to million dollar, multiday productions that rival a music festival. On The Knot, a wedding planning site and vendor marketplace, searches for electronic dance music genre D.J.s jumped 156 percent in the first nine months of this year from the same period a year ago.
“I think couples are really feeling empowered to reimagine tradition,” said Hannah Nowack, the senior weddings editor at the Knot. “Weddings aren’t one size fits all.” Décor like disco balls, neon lights and LED dance floors — things that make dancing “a focal point” — are popular, she said.
At the Le Ducs’ wedding this March at the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs, Calif., a piano rendition of their favorite EDM song sound tracked the bride’s walk down the aisle. In addition to rings, they traded aquamarine- and garnet-studded kandi bracelets during the ceremony, which included a mention of “PLUR,” a mantra popular in the rave community that stands for “Peace, Love, Unity, Respect.”
For a certain demographic, a massive festival-like wedding has long been popular. “The average wedding I do has a $3 million budget,” said Vikas Sapra, a D.J. who works with 4AM, a management company for D.J.s and producers, in New York. “They are well-traveled, so they’re hitting all the international party spots: Ibiza, Mykonos, St Barts, St Tropez — that whole ecosystem. And obviously Burning Man, Coachella.”
Many couples he has worked with host their weddings at estates in Mexico, Israel and Morocco where there are fewer limitations — often in deserts where they can “basically build structures from scratch to hold all the speakers and the lighting and the sound,” Mr. Sapras said. One wedding with more than 400 guests in Mexico that he D.J.’d went until 9:30 a.m. and involved pyrotechnics, a drone show and a replica of the Colosseum. “There’s also generally a lot of substances at some of these weddings — to go until 9 in the morning, to make it like a 15-hour day, it requires a little help,” Mr. Sapra said. “These days, psychedelics are much bigger.”
In the United States, cities like Palm Springs are popular for more alternative outdoor weddings. Trish Jones, a wedding planner in Palm Springs, has organized parties with CO2 guns, cold sparklers and many neon lights. “I have friends that are planners in L.A. and Pasadena and Orange County and their weddings are all really basic,” she said. “They’re a lot of times in hotels, ballrooms — you can’t really modify those very much. You’re kind of working with the template. Out here, we have a lot more freedom.”
For Michelle Phu, a wedding planner in Dallas with a primarily Asian American clientele, couples have requested EDM music for their receptions for years. “But lately it’s been like, hey, let’s just forget about the father-daughter dance, forget about all this stuff — it’s just a full-time rager from the beginning to the end,” she said.
“I’m Asian myself, and I feel like we value our parents’ opinions a lot,” Ms. Phu said. “With that, you just want to make sure your parents are happy with it, listening to their guidance on how to plan your wedding. Lately, a lot of my clients are like, let’s just do what’s best for us versus what’s best for our parents — that’s the biggest shift I think so far.”
Alison Kalinowski, 29, bought her first Tiësto CD when she was 10 — her brother and Polish parents exposed her to dance music early on. So when it was time for Ms. Kalinowski, who works in health tech, to plan her wedding to William Arendt, a 29-year-old engineer, music was the priority. She knew what she didn’t want: “If you put on Pitbull, your laptop is being thrown into the Hudson.”
Ms. Kalinowski, however, acknowledged that “if I did four hours of straight rave music, no one will have fun except me.” So, for their April 15 wedding at Maritime Parc in Jersey City, N.J., she told the D.J. that “for at least a few minutes, I want my wedding to feel like a nightclub in Berlin.”
Some couples go straight to the source by simply getting married at a dance music festival. Adrian Rudow, a 29-year-old accountant, and her husband, Adam Rudow, a 30-year-old games programmer, have attended E.D.C. in Las Vegas nine times together. In May, the couple, who also live in Long Beach, married at a chapel on the festival grounds in a ceremony that took 15 minutes.
Ms. Rudow wore a custom sparkling outfit with platform heels and fluffy earrings, while her husband wore a white sequin suit. Her two younger sisters, who acted as her maids of honor, were each clad in rainbow print. “I feel like there’s no rule book anymore,” she said. When they held a larger reception in October, the music turned to “everything that we really like — trance, progressive house,” Ms. Rudow said. “Seeing my grandma dance to that was the funniest thing.”
And that is often the couples’ intention: to expose their broader communities to their passions. At the Le Ducs’ wedding reception in Palm Springs, Moses Samuel — a friend they had met at a rave who acted as officiant — performed a 30-minute fire spinning set. Ms. Le Duc danced with her LED hula hoop and Mr. Le Duc took out his light-up baton. They also handed out light-up crowns, mini-fiber optic whips and light sticks — party favors that even their parents’ friends enjoyed.
“I was concerned about my mom because she’s in her 70s and this is not quite her cup of tea,” Mr. Le Duc said. But “she pulled me aside and she goes, ‘I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had.’”

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