When you attend a wedding, you'll likely walk – or stumble – away with photos from the event, a full stomach, and a renewed sense of optimism on love. But for those who attend weddings with Robert Fiore, The Wedding Tattooer, you may go home with a permanent piece of art on your body.
You heard correctly. Fiore, a tattoo artist for more than 20 years who specializes in a variety of tattoos, attends weddings and tattoos the guests. A little more than a year ago, in November 2016, his cousin was getting married. Fiore made an offhand joke about coming to the wedding and tattooing there as a gift. His cousin and bride-to-be actually took him up on it, which led to what is now his business, The Wedding Tattooer.
Fiore collaborates with couples to create six to eight personal, minimalist designs that take inspiration from the wedding décor to family jokes. He asks about how the couple met, and interests they have together. Fiore allows some variation in the design, and sometimes creates something personalized in advance for a special guest, like close family members. At one wedding, Fiore designed the groom's boutonnière for his mom. "She cried when she saw it," says Fiore.
The tattoos are sized around two by two inches, and Fiore can tattoo a guest in 10 to 15 minutes. His favorite design he has done at a wedding is a lock and key, which, he says he can do many different ways, and is always a crowdpleaser.
"I've come full circle in finding beauty in the most simple of designs," Fiore says. "The most simple ones are home-run hitters at the event. It captures the love story of the couple — the reason the family and friends are there that day."
While not all would be able to walk into a wedding and walk out with a tattoo, surprisingly, Fiore does tattoo guests who have no existing ink on their body. In fact, he says he has tattooed more than 50 first-timers. Fiore attributes this to guests wanting to remember such a monumental day in their friends' and family's lives.
"It boils down to finding a lot of meaning in the day itself," Fiore says. "The gathering, the collection of people — they're feeling the love. If I'm going to get a tattoo once in my life, it's while I'm sharing this event with my friends and family."
At one wedding in Vermont, the bride's father didn't want Fiore to attend. But, Fiore says, the father became so moved by it all that he ended up wanting every single design Fiore had at the wedding. And he got them.
"I want it to be something that means something to every guest, and a personal keepsake to stay with them forever," Fiore says. He varies the simple designs enough so that everyone can find a tattoo that they like.
I asked Fiore if guests knew who he was before attending the wedding. The past few that Fiore has done started with a buzz. Literally, when Fiore sets up his machines they generate a buzzing sound that garners the guests' attention, prompting them to ask if he's really permanently tattooing.
Fiore says, "The tattoo machine buzz is a way to make an entrance and let everyone know we’re ready to party."
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