Forget Jordan almonds wrapped in tulle, some couples are opting for a more unique, and permanent, favor for their wedding guests—tattoos!
While the idea of wedding tattoos may not be new—from rings, to initials, to latitudinal coordinates—a new trend in wedding tattoos is gaining traction. Couples are hiring a tattoo artist to set up shop at the reception and offer tattoos to all comers.
Anyone who wants to participate is welcome, from the heavily tattooed to novices. This sort of joined experience celebrates the community who supported the happy couple, the family and friends who brought them together, and will be with them throughout their lives. To say nothing of the fact that it makes for a memorable party! From the mother of the groom, to the bride’s best childhood friend, couples use wedding day tattoos as a way to bond families together, and make some great memories.
There are some extra logistical steps and considerations for anyone who wants to make a tattoo party happen at their reception.
“It’s a bit of a gray area in terms of insurance or health department regulation,” says Sara Antoinette Martin, a Manhattan-based artist at Sacred Tattoo who has been tattooing people for over 12 years. “It can be a lot of fun if its handled correctly but there’s a lot that goes into it.”
For starters, check local and state regulations as these vary depending on where you live. Most regulations can be found online.
Working with your tattoo artist to set parameters and expectations early is also key. Know what equipment they will provide, what they need you to bring, and what the venue should have on site. It’s important to make sure there is adequate light, semi-privacy, access to a sink, and enough space to be sanitary. It’s also a good idea to tour the venue together to walk through all of the logistics.
Martin will only work off of a flash sheet for an event and will only tattoo certain areas of the body.
“I stick to arms, shoulders, maybe some upper back or legs, but since I don’t have a bed at an event it needs to be areas that don’t require a lot of twisting and turning,” said Martin. “There’s definitely a performance and entertainment aspect to it which is what makes it fun, but there’s a lot of technical skill that goes into tattoos so you want to balance that really well.”
Some couples find it helpful to provide four or five design options for guests to pick from. These can be simple flower outlines, maybe one matching flowers used during the ceremony, or other images that feels personal and meaningful. It’s also nice if the design can be used as a base for someone to then turn it into something more complex at a later date. You may also want to instill a drink limit for anyone prior to getting their tattoo done to ensure your guest is in a proper state of mind. Your tattoo artist should also provide waivers, as well as plans for after care to prevent infection.
Most importantly, work with a tattoo artist you know well and trust. Martin recommends working with someone who has at least five years of experience and someone whose style you are familiar with so you know what they are capable of, and what you are offering your guests.
“I don’t think I would do it without a prior relationship with someone,” Martin says. “You need a degree of trust with the client, somebody you regularly tattoo. That’s how you have open communication, they know what you’re capable of doing and what your parameters are for high quality work.” This relationship also helps make sure the tattoos themselves are what couples and their guests would be happy with long after the wedding.
If bringing someone to the reception doesn’t fit in your plans, but you still want this memorable experience, Martin has a suggestion.
“Most tattooers accept day rates,” she says. “It would be a really intimate experience to book a session at the studio with the people who are most important and whom you know want a tattoo. It can still be a spectacle and a fun party, but it’s also permanent and there’s a degree of intimacy you build with people when you work with a client to come up with a design.”
Of course, if you like the idea of tattoos but not so much the permanency of them, you can always opt for a temporary tattoo station!
Written by Erin Sernoffsky | Cover photo by Antoni Shkraba