Weddings: Christina Dorffner and Daniel Shank mix Christian and pagan rituals

Complete with a zombie cake, severed limbs and 140 weddings guests dressed in their Halloween's best, Daniel Shank and Christina Dorffner say 'I do.'
By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 2, 2009

Thick, ashen clouds streamed above the quiet hillside and a fierce gust blew below, tossing a broom off the makeshift altar and sending shivers down the spine of a fairy princess.

"All right, there are enough witches here, let's get this wind away," implored one woman among the gathered crowd of maidens, knights, wizards and dark angels.

But perhaps the wind was meant to blow when the auburn-haired bride made her entrance, veil flying, long silk gown glinting with 1,500 garnet and citrine jewels, escorted by her father and the otherworldly strains of the theme from "Edward Scissorhands."

The black-robed high priest and priestess presiding over this sacred rite would call forth the wind, along with water, earth and fire, to consecrate the vows exchanged Saturday by Christina Dorffner and Daniel Shank, one self-described Catholic witch and one pagan.

"All I've ever wanted out of anything was to spend the rest of my life with you," Shank said, taking Dorffner's hand on Halloween, or, to pagans, Samhain (pronounced "SOW-en"), the day when the barrier between the living and the dead is supposedly most porous.

With that -- and the power vested in millionaire lottery winner Ellwood "Bunky" Bartlett by the gods and goddesses, "the Lord and Lady," and the state of Maryland -- the two were wed.

Linganore Winery in Mount Airy played host to the 140 costumed guests who gathered to witness the couple exchange vows in a 20-minute ceremony in an outdoor pavilion that combined Christian rituals -- the unity candle -- with pagan traditions, such as handfasting, an ancient practice in which the couple's wrists are bound with a rope.

Inside the vineyard's converted barn, family members and friends -- many of them non-pagans -- were met by a mix of sacred pagan symbols and Halloween house-party kitsch. Plastic skulls hung from wooden posts, and severed limbs were strewn throughout the dance floor. A plastic, two-headed animatronic goblin sat on the gift table, a groom's cake shaped like a zombie oozed blood (raspberry filling), and guests posed with a demon baby in a photo corner.

Before dinner was served, Shank, who leads a paranormal club that investigates hauntings, asked for a moment of silence out of reverence for the Samhain ritual of "the dumb supper," which honors deceased ancestors. An empty table was laid with a plate of Macaroni Grill pasta and a glass of Linganore chardonnay for the deceased.

Count Gore De Vol (a.k.a. Dick Dyszel), the local legend and horror movie host on WDCA in the '70s and '80s, provided the entertainment, putting 10 wedding-goers, including the groom, into hypnotic trances. When the hypnotized Shank was told he was an alien and was asked to speak in his native language, he replied: "Ahhh, bip, bip, bip."

When boy met girl

The bride and groom met in the suburbs of Baltimore. He was 16, skateboarding and making trouble with Dorffner's older brother. She was 13, a "pesky little sister" trailing along during the day and confessing her crush to a diary at night.

When her family moved away, they forgot each other. Five years later, he walked into the video store where she worked. There wasn't even a glimmer of recognition, but Shank, then a 21-year-old punk rocker with an orange mohawk, caught Dorffner's eye -- she was in her black-lipped Goth phase. "Cool hair," she said.

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