Lesbian brides have performed a memorable stunt at their wedding, setting fire to their dresses at the ceremony.
Performers April Jennifer Choi and Bethany Byrnes have been together for seven years and got married on October 13 in Iowa. The couple are no strangers to professionally playing with fire—they have both modelled and assisted ‘fire-trashing’ dress stunts for years as part of their job.
The couple are proud of their pyrokinetic ability to control one—and arguably the most spectacular—of the four main elements. “What we enjoy the most about performing with fire is feeling like a firebender from Avatar: The Last Air-Bender,” Choi tells PinkNews.
The brides are not new to pulling amazing stunts. Choi is a multiple Guinness World Record holder for her precision whipping skills, and, along with Byrnes, was awarded a world record last year for “most straws crack whipped from the mouth in one minute.”
The pair were excited to perform in front of their wedding guests, many of whom were fire performers themselves, so they made sure to pick dresses made for the occasion—with detachables train to ensure they could hop out of them.
The stunt was only possible thanks to the performers’ experience and the team of experts and medics that were on hand in case something went wrong. Choi wanted to publicly thank Olive Marie at Harmonic Thread for providing the protective layers, as well as the safety team headed by Master Pokes, including Joe Spanier and Adriana Coyne, who were respectively her fire and her fuel safety, and Avalon Woodard and Jenn Piatak, who looked after her wife’s fire and fuel safety.
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Recalling the thoughts that were running through her head as the flames engulfed the dress, Choi says: “I was just running through if we missed anything. Are we posed correctly? Are the slits adequate? Is Beth okay? Is she nervous? Is the fire climbing correctly? Is there any way I can comfort her better?”
“By the time I started answering my own questions, Beth hopped out of her dress and then I double checked that she was OK, then hopped out of my own,” she added.
Happy as she was with the result, Choi was disappointed to see that, as their photos grabbed attention and made headlines around the world, they also attracted a number of negative, homophobic reactions.
“I’m surrounded by LGBT,” she says “Beth encounters anti-LGBT people way more than I do. I occasionally forget straight people exist.”
Choi described the kind of comments the pictures received in a Facebook post published last week: “I have seen directed at us and received multiple threats of violence and death from people, people wishing me to die, people thanking god we already started burning before going to hell, men telling me I needed to be raped before my wedding so I would have picked a husband instead, many other hateful comments and messages regarding this photo, and can only assume there are many more I haven’t seen or will still receive. So, there was indeed danger from creating this photo, but not from what you would think.”
“It seems more people are concerned about same-sex marriages than are concerned with someone on fire,” she added.
Choi did some research of LGBT+ deaths in the US compared to fire performers’ deaths and concluded that the most dangerous part of her wedding was not the fire element, but the fact they were a same-sex couple getting married.
“In the U.S. it is, by far, more dangerous to be LGBT than it is to be a professional fire performer,” she wrote, adding that, in the last decade, there have been “over 100 times more LGBT deaths than performer deaths associated with professional fire stunts.”