A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding | Weddings | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
Shawna Morey and Mark Mulligan's first dance as a married couple.

Shawna Morey and Mark Mulligan believe in the magic of rock 'n' roll. "There's an artist for every mood. There's a song for every moment. There's a lyric for every life lesson," explains Morey, a native of the Hudson Valley who wed Mulligan, a native of Ireland, this past October. "For both of us, it's amazing how one song can bring you back to a specific date, time and place. Music helps us relive all aspects of life and serves as a time-traveling medium." So, when the two began planning their nuptials in July of 2021, it didn't take long for them to settle on a lyrical theme for the event: the English glam rock band Queen.

Morey was first introduced to Queen by her late mother, Shirley. "Our Christmas tradition was to bake cookies to the tune of Queen's Live Killers on vinyl," says Morey. When her mother became ill, one thing that could lift her spirits was listening to Freddie Mercury and the band play their iconic hits. "One day, after my mother had spent all night being treated in the emergency room for sepsis, I was driving her home and 'Bohemian Rhapsody' came on the radio," remembers Morey. "Even though she'd been struggling to breathe, she told me to turn up the radio and she sang. Every. Last. Word. Queen brought her to life."

click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
All essential “personnel” on the day of the wedding were provided credentials.

Queen's longevity as a group was also an inspiration for both Morey and Mulligan, who is a longtime fan as well. "When you look back into their history the band really functioned like an old married couple," explains Morey. "They were motivated and although behind the scenes they were sometimes dysfunctional, together they were unstoppable."

To both Morey and Mulligan, the band's creative relationship exemplified resilience, strength and acceptance—qualities they wanted to emulate in their married life. "It doesn't matter if it's a friendship or a marriage, the message is: Be who you are, but be true to the arrangement. Be patient and don't be quick to give up on yourself or one another." The couple wanted to capture that potent cocktail of qualities as well as Freddie Mercury's indomitable spirit on the day they made a lifelong commitment to one another. A Queen-themed bash also seemed like the perfect way to honor both sets of parents, who had all passed on. "It seemed like the best way to bring their spirits to life," says Morey. "If we set a table for them spiritually, they wouldn't miss our special day."

click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
Queen Flash and the newlyweds gather for a group photo at the end of the tribute band's set.

You're My Best Friend

The couple, who have been an item since 2016, began collecting wedding intel soon after their engagement. They made notes whenever they attended someone else's event and asked lots of questions of other recently married couples. Soon they were able to narrow down their findings, not just to the band Queen but to one of the band's most iconic performances. "We took all that information and dressed it up in a package that was bound by the structure of Freddie Mercury's vibrant presence and Queen's Live Aid performance," explains Morey. A highlight of the band's career, Queen's Live Aid set is still considered by many as one of the best rock 'n' roll performances of all time.

Instead of traditional wedding invitations, the couple sent out Ticketmaster-style concert tickets, admitting invitees to their October 8 nuptials at Lagrangeville's Mid County Rod and Gun Club. Morey threw a pre-wedding bridal shower on Mercury's birthday (September 5), where friends served "Fred Tea Mercury Bohemian Raspberry" tea and gave out wooden spoons engraved with "We will crock you" and "I want to bake free" to guests.

click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
Centerpieces were designed by Shawna Morey and Andrew Mulligan. Table names and numbers inspired by Queen's Live Killers album track listing.

Largely a DIY affair, Morey and Mulligan relied on a few close friends and family to create the magic of their one-of-a-kind wedding. A recording of Mercury's piano and vocals, along with the live-recorded uproar accompanying the "Somebody to Love" track, called attendees to attention and began the ceremony with the line, "Are you ready? Are you ready brothers and sisters?" The bridal party walked down the aisle to the tune of "Somebody to Love." The ring bearers were all dressed in Mercury's iconic white tank top, stonewashed jeans, pyramid studded belt, and Adidas Samba sneakers worn during his Live Aid performance. The flower girls also wore colorful Adidas Samba sneakers, with the oldest dressed in a copy of Mercury's yellow leather biker jacket and strewing matching yellow guitar picks instead of flowers. Mulligan also wore Freddie Mercury-inspired attire, including Adidas Samba sneakers, "Show Must Go On" Freddie Mercury socks, a pyramid studded belt, and a Freddie Mercury tie from Ireland.

Dreamer's Ball

After the ceremony, guests were greeted to the reception with a glass of champagne and a sign quoting Mercury: "May you all have champagne for breakfast." The reception's decor and food played homage to Queen, down to the smallest details. Guests were directed to their seats with a seating chart based on the Live Killers album cover with all the table names and numbers arranged based on the album's list of tracks. "The seating chart included a table set for our late parents," says Morey. "We had a Bavarian pretzel and bread station titled 'Another One Bites the Crust' and a cheese station titled 'You Say Smile, I Say Cheese,'" recalls Morey.
click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
All essential “personnel” on the day of the wedding were provided credentials.
The couple also had a "Donut Stop Me Now" donut station as well as a chili station, Mercury's favorite, prepared following the chili con carne recipe provided by his longtime personal assistant Peter Freestone. "Our chili pot sported the 'Under Pressure' decal featuring Mercury and David Bowie," adds Morey. The cake stand also quoted Mercury with a banner saying, "Let them eat cake, she says, just like Marie Antoinette." Each table included a golden glitter Queen crown as centerpiece, and each place included a silverware rollup held together by a bicycle bell, as well as a "Bohemian Rhapsody" lyric card and the statement—often quoted by Morey's late mother Shirley: "If you don't sing, you can't be trusted."

However, the highlight of the reception—and a surprise for Mulligan planned by Morey—was a performance by the Queen tribute band, Queen Flash. "The wedding would have been unique enough without Queen Flash, but I wanted to push this over the top," says Morey. "Live music is usually a big hit at weddings and for a Queen-themed wedding, aside from securing Queen themselves, I knew I had to bring in the best."

click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
Montreal-based Queen Flash is headed by Mercury impersonator Jonny Zatylny.

The Montreal-based Queen Flash is headed by Mercury impersonator Jonny Zatylny who explains they had never performed at a wedding before. Among other hits, the band performed their own versions of "Bicycle Race" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." "Performing at a Queen-themed wedding was quite unique, to say the least," says Zatylny. "We met so many great people and enjoyed ourselves very much. It was a kind of magic."

Radio Gaga

"As cliche as it sounds, our wedding really was the best day of our lives," says Morey. "Everyone embraced the theme and the magic of the event was created." Two days after the wedding, the couple was off on their honeymoon in Montego Bay, Jamaica. It was time to finally relax, so they went out to a local BBQ restaurant to eat jerk chicken wings and listen to reggae music played from a local radio station.
click to enlarge A Queen-Themed Hudson Valley Wedding
The newlyweds dancing to "I Want to Break Free" with a decked out vacuum, a nod to the song's famous music video.

The day also happened to be the 41st wedding anniversary of Morey's parents. In the middle of lunch, unexpectedly, the radio became full of static and we heard a familiar voice deliver the famous line, 'Mama, just killed a man.' Then there was another brief moment of static and the reggae music ensued," remembers Morey. "Mark and I just looked at each other in disbelief. 'Did you just hear that?' We both asked each other." The two took it as a sign of love and support from those passed on. "If you set the table for them, they will come."

Mary Angeles Armstrong

Mary writes about home design, real estate, sustainability, and health. Upstate, she's lived in Swiss style chalets, a 1970's hand-built home, a converted barn, and a two hundred year old home full of art. Now she lives with her son in a stone cottage outside Woodstock.
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