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This Musician Couple Headlined Their Own Rock Opera Wedding

Two local musicians staged their wedding at a Mission concert venue—complete with original songs, psychedelic video effects, props, and costume changes.

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The couple’s friend Michael Sui, a visual designer, officiated the wedding. “I always say he’ll be the next Oprah,” says Rebecca Bortman.

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Bortman’s mom, a psychologist, jokes that her daughter is “clinically, pathologically exuberant.”

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Bortman wore a secondhand dress from the Berkeley boutique Emerald City Gowns. “I wanted something fantastical,” she says. Husband Bryan Garza’s multiple costume changes included a studded tuxedo, a cravat, and a mariachi tie. “My first-ever concert was Paula Abdul,” he says. “That forever shaped my impression of what a show should be—a new outfit for every song.”

Photo: Amber Gregory

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Bortman and Garza squeezed past pipes in the attic of the Chapel to have photographs taken on the roof. “They failed to mention that the way up there was not made for humans,” Bortman says. “Especially not humans in huge dresses.”

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When friends asked about her wedding colors, “I was like…‘Sparkly?’” says Bortman. Her bridesmaids wore sequined dresses that Bortman describes as “transcendental disco balls,” topped by jackets customized by the bride. They christened their one-night-only girl band the Bortmanteaus.

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Garza and Bortman enlisted their fathers to play Statler and Waldorf from The Muppet Show, heckling them from the VIP booth.

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Most grooms are prone to a complex cocktail of emotions on their wedding day, and Bryan Garza was no exception. “This wave of feeling washed over me as I walked through the crowd: If I had a heart attack at the end of this aisle, I would die happy,” he says. But when Rebecca Bortman, his pink-coiffed bride, strode down the aisle behind him carrying a bouquet of fireworks, he temporarily tabled his weepiness. “I thought, ‘Let’s see if we can pull this fucker off.’”

For their September 2015 nuptials, Garza, 39, and Bortman, 32, didn’t plan a traditional ceremony—they staged a live rock opera. The show was the culmination of a modern San Francisco love story: two local musicians who found love through fandom.

Garza is the lead singer of the indie rock band Scissors for Lefty; Bortman is a visual designer and the front woman of the band Happy Fangs. The pair met in 2013, when Garza went to see his friend’s band play at Bottom of the Hill and caught Bortman’s set. “She had this commanding power and stage presence,” he recalls. “I felt lost in it.” A year and a half later, on the Day of the Dead, Garza proposed on the same Potrero Hill stage. “I had a skull painted on my face,” says Bortman, “and Bryan was dressed like skeleton Elvis.”

As musicians, the pair wanted to incorporate live music into their wedding. “I said, ‘What if we write a couple songs together?’” says Bortman. “What if this whole thing transpires onstage?” Garza countered.

Inspired, the couple took a weeklong trip to Joshua Tree to compose what would become eight autobiographical songs. “I was really wary of not wanting it to feel like a high school musical,” says Bortman. “But in the end, it was more Hedwig than Les Miz.”

Garza and Bortman originally wanted to stage the performance at Bimbo’s, the legendary North Beach jazz club, but Bortman’s mom nixed that vision. (“She said, ‘No daughter of mine is getting married at a place called Bimbo’s!’” says Bortman.) They agreed on the Chapel, a nightclub in the Mission.

Bortman designed wedding concert posters, band pins, and lanyard badges for each of the 350 guests. The couple enlisted Sam Sharkey, stage manager for the drag performer Peaches Christ, to oversee the production, and Howard Wong, an interactive designer, to create stage projections. Bortman’s bridesmaids—wearing spangled dresses and faux-leather jackets—and each of the couple’s bands provided backup. For their vows, the couple sang lyrics from an Erasure song: “Always I want to be with you / And make believe with you / And live in harmony.” The grand finale, the couple’s first kiss as husband and wife, was accompanied by an explosion of glitter confetti and an unexpectedly epic drum solo. (“We made out for way too long,” Bortman says.) The ensuing dance party lasted until 1 a.m.

Since their honeymoon to Greece, Italy, and Montreal, the newlyweds have continued composing songs together as the band Love, Jerks. “I’ve never written love songs before,” says Bortman. “Both of us are aware of the cliché places a love song can go.” Cliché, this couple is not.

 

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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