When planning for a wedding, you are probably making sure all your bases are covered. Will the menu have options for everyone’s dietary concerns? Do we have enough seats for everyone? Open bar or cash bar? What pictures are on our “must-have” list?
These are just the questions a good wedding planner asks couples during the process of getting everything absolutely perfect for your big day. But, if you decide to plan your wedding with Scott Hammond, the list of questions will look a little different. Instead of an event hall or church, you’ll be strolling through the Short North. And rather than your family, friends, and closest colleagues gathering around in chairs or pews, they’ll be standing on the side of the street as a part of the heckling crowds at the Doo Dah Parade.
In fact, the one question you’ll be asking yourself the most is: Is this even possible? And if you ask Hammond, he seems to believe the answer is yes.
The idea is simple: get four engaged couples to plan a wedding during the Doo Dah Parade. Since the Doo Dah Parade has no strict rules on themes (as long as you are not overtly advertising for a business) or an upfront amount to pay to be a part of the parade, Hammond said the permission side is handled. Thanks to a friend who got married last year, he’s already gone through the legal steps of becoming able to officiate weddings. The only thing he’s missing is the couples. Hammond explained that since the parade is an hour long, he could perform four 15-minute weddings during the parade.
So why the Doo Dah Parade? It’s a complicated answer, and it all starts with an infamous sign in Clintonville. In early 2018, WOSU was looking into the origins of a “Kangaroo Crossing” sign that had been posted on Clinton Heights Avenue as a joke for several years. Though it wasn’t the intent, the investigation prompted the city to remove the sign for safety and permitting reasons, causing a community outcry to get the sign returned to its rightful spot near Clinton Elementary School.
Eventually the sign was ceremoniously replaced, and a large part of that effort was thanks to the work of Hammond. He and a team of community members came together to bring back the weird, yet iconic sign, even creating a Doo Dah Parade entry around the experience. However, the Doo Dah planted a seed in Hammond’s mind: How could he be a part of the Doo Dah Parade the next year? And furthermore, how could he make a unique statement in a parade that is quite literally the embodiment of unique?
“What if I’m in the Doo Dah Parade? As in, I’m walking as I’m marrying someone. And even further, what if it’s several weddings?” Hammond questioned. “We’ll have all the trappings of a wedding, but a mobile wedding. We’ll be walking the entire time.”
The Doo Dah Parade serves as a time to laugh and poke fun at serious and polarizing topics in the political news as well. While the weddings don’t hold any political statement, Hammond thinks these ceremonies can provide positivity in a political climate that seems to lack it.
“I’ve been affected, just like many others have, by this political climate with all this negativity and I thought this would be a way to sort of send out positive energy which I think is one of the points of the Doo Dah Parade.”
So, who’s in?
To get in contact with Scott Hammond about planning your wedding during the 2019 Doo Dah Parade, [email protected]
After the ball drops and the last of the confetti and regrets are swept away, the new year inevitably marks our annual cultural commitment to self-improvement that always tends to fall flat.
But it also marks the unofficial start of the wedding season. What used to be a decidedly springtime phenomenon has stretched into summer, with autumn now the most popular time to exchange vows, rings, a face full of cake—and plan for that inevitable first dance.
So if some regular exercise and overcoming social anxiety are on your New Year’s to-do list—or that awkward waltz from your high school prom could use a little polish before the big day—Tony Meredith might just be the mentor you need. As artistic director at Danceville U.S.A., the nationally acclaimed studio in the Short North, he’s committed to finding the dancer in all of us.
“I had a dance studio in New York called Dance Time Square. I’d lived in New York for 20 years and the competitive entertainment environment was a place to hone my skills with that excitement and energy,” Meredith recalled. “I was going to Los Angeles as well, but I really wanted to find somewhere more relaxed, the perfect place where I could still share my work. There’s a competition called the Ohio Star Ball, so I’d been coming here for 15 years. The authenticity of Columbus was inspiring.”
Simply describing Tony Meredith as a dancer is like calling Joe Hunter a piano player. Neither is necessarily a household name, but their hidden influence on their respective industries is enormous. Just as Hunter helped craft the Motown sound, Meredith has had a hand in the ballroom dance revival for decades. From film roles in Evita, Let it be Me, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Shall We Dance?, to choreography for television’s So You Think You Can Dance, to host of the PBS series America’s Ballroom Challenge, he also founded ICON DanceSport, an annual event that brings professionals and enthusiasts from around the world to Columbus every October.
“That confidence and how you carry yourself doesn’t stop when you leave the studio. You just have to take the first step.”
The former U.S. Professional Latin Champion is technically retired from competition, but has hardly slowed down. “We started five years ago with a few clients; now there are groups doing Thriller every year. We used to do 10 numbers, and I just finished choreographing 40 pieces for our fifth anniversary,” he explained. “Our performers come from all walks of life, college students to CEOs. It’s engaging, interactive, and everyone is involved in the experience.”
Much like food, fashion, and film, Meredith hopes Columbus becomes better recognized as a city that cultivates dance as much as any other art form by breaking down the barriers between artists and audiences, who tend to coexist without much mingling in the middle.
“Clients come in for a few lessons and get hooked. I’ve seen transformations in personality. Those who may be shy in their everyday lives come out of their shell,” he explained. “We work with couples before their wedding on their first dance, then they continue as a regular date night. It can be an intimate experience that becomes a part of them.”
Meredith doesn’t deny it can be difficult, but the routine and rewards are a tempting alternative to another grueling afternoon at the gym. Professional competition is still fierce, but a casual evening on the dance floor offers encouragement often in short supply.
“Our students support each other, and that’s something they may not always find in their jobs or relationships. They cheer each other on,” he revealed. “With our showcases, they’re the only ones on the dance floor. There’s an energy and exuberance—putting it all on the line. And they walk off with a sense of accomplishment.”
Even if you aren’t a celebrity searching for your next act, ballroom dance offers an outlet for self-expression difficult to find in a digital world. Sure, gymnasts admittedly have a leg up and wide receivers are already fleet of foot, but if Dancing with the Stars is any indication, it’s less about winning and more about the journey.
“Life to me is like a dance, because it can be a life skill—taking risks, trying something new, conquering your fears,” Meredith explained. “That confidence and how you carry yourself doesn’t stop when you leave the studio. You just have to take the first step.” •
For more on Danceville U.S.A.’s classes, visit dancevilleusa.com
The Big Night Out
As you prepare for your Big Day, your friends are hopefully planning your ceremonial last night out with the guys or gals. Traditionally, the evening revolves around fun, food and booze. We want to tick off all those boxes for you, and maybe avoid the plastic penis bead necklaces and nightclub shitshows that are becoming increasingly passé in the capital city. Much like at weddings, good things come in twos. So we’ve included a group activity where you can cut loose, and then a nearby spot to cool your heels and whet your whistle. Whether the bride and groom are out partying separately, or they’ve decided on one big joint bash, you’ll want an evening of fun and bonding with your besties.
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We created pairings around the city, so you’re always an uber-able ride from your final destination.
Since the low head dams were removed from the Olentangy and Scioto rivers, you can take a kayak or canoe uninterrupted from Dodridge up in Clintonville, all the way down to Greenlawn on the south side of the city. Rent some kayaks from Olentangy Paddle, and head south on your vessels. You can float through secluded wooded areas that make you feel like you’ve left the city for a while. You’ll flow right past the ’Shoe and into downtown, where you can pull in right behind Huntington Park to catch a game and a Dime-a-Dog night. Then off into the Arena District for a night of fun following your river adventure. If you’re really trying to sink all that money you saved on travel into going all-out, book a night at the historic Hotel LeVeque.
Throughout the year, COSI hosts their “After Dark” series, where adults 21 and up have their run of the place. There are refreshments and special guests putting on cool science-y shows. (Last time I went, I got to freeze stuff with liquid nitrogen and then smash it, and I got to pet an opossum. All in all, I’d call it a successful evening.)
After that, it’s a quick walk east through downtown to Pins Mechanical Co. You can bowl, get some good food truck eats, and play their other big kid games while you celebrate your friend’s upcoming nuptials.
There are plenty of options for adventure and a bite on the south east side. LVL UP Sports Park is a sprawling area focused on paintballing. You can re-enact all your favorite video game moves in real life while you work out all that wedding stress. There’s a castle, woods, and even a post-apocalyptic yard full of cars, piles of tires, and shipping containers to sneak around for cover. LVL UP has complete equipment rentals, or you can bring your own gear if this ain’t your first rodeo.
Once you’re done sniping your pals, get yourselves all cleaned up and head over to Cimi’s Bistro at Pinnacle Golf Club. They’ve got a killer wine list, and everything from steak to pizza. It’s just the right amount of fancy to class up your evening after rolling around in the dirt for a few hours.
If you want to see how your friends operate under pressure, an escape room is a great low-stakes way to get them primed for the pressure of the Big Day. You can choose from three themed rooms to escape from at Lockology, and the clock will count down while you and your pals think fast to solve the puzzles and win your freedom. Conveniently located right down the street is one of the best hidden gems in Columbus: Alegria’s Seafood. This colorful little spot has some of the best west coast Mexican fare around, plus gigantic margaritas that you can share with your wedding party. Or not.
Nothing will push the thoughts of matching chair sashes to the back of your mind quite like zipping around an indoor track, inches from the ground at over 30 miles an hour. With helmets and neck support, and soft walls of tires to soften your crash landing, you can live out all your racecar fantasies at Grand Prix Karting—and still be in mint condition for your wedding photos. After you’re done playing speed demon, gather the goons and head to The Top Steakhouse. Hands down one of the best steakhouses in the city, the mod atmosphere is largely unchanged since the days when the Goodfellas of the city would meet there.
A couple’s engagement photos often reflect something specific about them—sometimes they’re posed with horses, other times at the Horseshoe. (And it also seems that couples really like leaves). For Colleen Dunne and Stephen Woosley—they decided to make a scene.
The newlyweds, regular performers at MadLab Theatre, decided to make their own love story—framed around some of the most famous moments in cinematic couple history.
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Theatrical, yes. Dramatic … no. The couple who “tries not to take themselves too seriously,” got married in a 10-minute ceremony at Ethel’s Bar (“reception” at Jimmy V’s) and then had their playwright friends write out versions of their vows and acted them out.
Plus, thanks to cheeky cheap Photoshop edits, the couple was able to keep their project extra simple and silly; recreating a scene from Ghost in their case, meant doing so without creeping out folks at the arts center—or getting clay in parts unknown.
Two people who love each other—and getting goofy—this much, had to get an second screening in (614). Here’s looking at you, Colleen:
Did you fight over which ones to choose? No, we had a list of possibilities, and it came down to the ones we could most easily gather the costumes/props to recreate. Stephen is still sad we didn’t do Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but he’s coping.
What’s your favorite RomCom? Mine might be Return to Me—mostly because I’m crazy about David Duchovny, and because it makes me laugh and cry and feel all the feels.
What are your thoughts on traditional engagement photo sessions? I think they are beautiful and (usually) classy and if they fit the couple, good for them. They just weren’t a good fit for us. Well, for me. Stephen’s a much better model than I am.
If you had to give your marriage a title and subtitle, what would they be? DoozleyPaloozla: The Tour Goes On. “DoozleyPaloozla” was the name of the party we had for our friends/family instead of a wedding reception.
If you two have starring roles, who is the director? Supporting actors? The director is our cat, Chloe. She is completely in charge of us and our home—the best boy is always our friend Casey, who we’ve “adopted” as a member of our little family. Supporting actors would include all of our friends—most of whom are conveniently actors, and all of whom are very supportive.
Is there anything in the course of your engagement, ceremony, etc. that you were serious about that you wish you hadn’t taken so seriously? Vice-versa? We didn’t take much seriously, except the legalities. I wish I had gone cake tasting. We didn’t buy a wedding cake, and I totally missed my chance to eat all that cake for free. That’s probably my biggest regret.