Legend has it that Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards once treated a fan who had jumped up on stage during a concert to a swing of his iconic Fender Telecaster and then proceeded to keep playing. (“The guitar stayed in tune,” said an unfazed Richards after the fact.) Fortunately for the feisty brides and grooms of the world, latter-day event entertainers have a more relaxed attitude toward impromptu stage invasions. “Couples have rushed the stage for years,” says Marianne Bennett, one of New York’s preeminent live music entertainers, “although now we find it happens very frequently. It’s so much fun for them because they get to feel the energy that exudes from their friends and families.”
This energy is real. Neuropsychology studies show that performing on stage actually releases endorphins (remember what Elle Woods said!), and when matched with the requisite consumption of champagne, it means one thing: couples that jump up on stage feel really, really good. “There was a little bit of memory loss due to euphoria,” confesses Jonathan Aubrey, who wound up on stage at Cipriani Wall Street with his wife Stephanie at the very end of their party. (And while Jonathan jumped up on stage by himself, Stephanie was lifted into the limelight by her photographer, Ira Lippke of The Day Collective, who—full disclosure—happens to be my husband.)
“A wedding is one of these times when a couple is ‘on stage’ just in general,” says Lippke. “They’re jumping to this new stage of their relationships and life and everyone is there with them. I think to have them jump on stage just feels right.”
Though the usual run of show contains key ingredients like the initial jump, mic-grab and various forms of PDA, not all stage invasions are created equally. “My favorite was when the groom and groomsmen all sang to the ladies as a group,” says Bennett of her frequent encounters with the phenomenon. When asked if she’s ever jumped on a stage like her clients, the seasoned singer laughs. “I love being a spectator,” she says. “The only time I jump on stage is when I’m invited.”
Below, a field guide to the curious and sometimes unpredictable behavior of wedding bumrushers.
1. The Performers
Every now and then a couple gets on stage with the intention of actually playing with the band. In the case of Jessica Lustgarten and Peter Courtemanche’s Rainbow Room star turn, the couple surprised their guests by jumping up on stage and letting loose with “Take Another Piece of My Heart” by Janis Joplin and “Good Lovin’” by The Rascals. “That was the highlight of the wedding for both of us,” remembers Jessica, whose lively, soulful performance brought the house down.
2. The Serenaders
The most common reception scenario is when a couple gets up on stage, grabs a mic and hold hands. Although they are usually in front of hundreds of people, Serenaders like Lindsay Tillis and Seth Levine only have eyes for each other. (The fact that they were singing into light bulbs instead of microphones did nothing to dampen their duet at The Plaza.) “I was surprised at how comfortable I was,” says Lindsay of her time on stage. “I’m usually not one to get up and ‘perform’ in front of so many people, but I was so happy and excited in the moment I could have stayed up there all night!”
3. The Swarmers
When Katharine and Andrew Sylvester got on stage at their wedding at The Biltmore in Santa Barbara, they were anything but alone. The more the merrier is a motto that goes for Swarmers, who populate stages with entire wedding parties. “Being on stage is sublime,” says Katharine. “You are at the single best party you will probably ever throw, having the time of your life, able to look out at all of your friends and family enjoying the moment with you.” A caution to future brides though: swarms often lead to stage dives, so prepare for the possibility!
4. The Stage Divers
Which brings us to Maressa Criscito and Jared Berkey, who started out their time on stage at their Fisher Island Club wedding with some simple dancing before things got serious. Was it a call from the maddening crowd that inspired the couple to fall backwards into their friends’ upraised hands or just instinct? Looking at Maressa’s nose-pinching gesture, it looked more like lots of experience on the side of swimming pools than time clocked crowd surfing at punk clubs. “We were so happy with taking the leap together during our marriage ceremony, that we just couldn’t help but take another one during our reception . . . this time off stage!” she says.
5. The Strippers
The rarest species of bridal bumrushers are the Strippers—more often than not grooms who respond to the adrenaline rush of the moment with a momentary shedding of clothes. “Jamie’s classic party trick is removing his shirt,” says Heather Oliver of her husband’s stage finale at The Pierre. And if the suspenders-on-skin look wasn’t enough to spark the party, Marianne Bennett’s version of “Firework” definitely was. “It felt like we were at a rock concert,” says Heather. “I remember just looking out and I think almost every one of our 300 guests was on the dance floor!
6. The Lets-Get-This-Party-Starters
Stripping down is definitely one way to get the party started, but Jordana Imershein and her husband Jeremy Miller took to the stage at Cipriani 42nd Street with the express purpose of showering fellow revelers with confetti and glow-in-the-dark party favors. “We actually planned for the after-party to start with confetti shooting out of cannons,” says Jordana. “We didn’t realize they were going to give us those handheld confetti shooters, but they were super fun. We were having the time of our lives!”
7. The Burn-Down-the-Housers
The wedding of Tracey Lockwood Beckerman and her husband Scott had a number of distinctives, not the least of which was a décor at Cipriani Wall Street that integrated kale, carrots, and cabbage into floral arrangements referencing the bride’s career as a nutritionist. Maybe it was all the greens coursing through their bodies that energized the fit couple to jump up on stage and absolutely crush it with the band. “It was epic,” remembers photographer Ira Lippke. “At the end everyone just collapsed on the floor elated and sweaty.”
—Andrea Codrington Lippke