Wedding was grave ceremony California morticians tie knot at mausoleum

November 02, 1998|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Susie Altamiram and Dave Searcy had a big wedding, with 1,900 guests on hand.

Of course, 1,800 of them were dead.

They married on Halloween in the Melrose Abbey mausoleum -- surrounded by 1,800 crypts embedded in the marble walls and the floor. Outside, thousands more souls rested in a cemetery.

The groom wore an old-fashioned undertaker's suit. A cosmetologist who usually works on the dead did Susie's makeup. And Susie herself wore a garter with two dangling silver skulls.

A skeleton bride and groom topped the wedding cake.

It was only natural.

The newlyweds are morticians. They met at a Cypress embalming college.

Dave stumbled into the profession when he needed a night job. Susie enrolled after a computerized test told her she should be one of two things: a saleswoman or a funeral director.

One day two years ago Susie had to embalm a 2-year-old boy who had been hit by a car. It was heartbreaking and emotionally draining. She called some classmates for support and found solace in Dave's counseling.

"After that, we started to date," she said.

Dave says they don't want people to get them wrong. They're not being ghoulish. In fact, they have the utmost respect for the dead and could think of no better place to celebrate the start of their new life together than surrounded by their souls.

"Look -- there's Joe," Susie said, pointing to a crypt in the wall. "I embalmed him."

Some of the kids in attendance thought it was spooky. But not Erica Porras, 7. "I would like to get married on Halloween," she said. "Then you can go trick-or-treating right after."

Pub Date: 11/02/98

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