The three chimes of the Cal Poly bell tower were in tune with a flash mob of 93 wedding guests rushing onto Dexter Lawn. In their respective formation, participants commenced the wedding of alumni Melissa Kasai and John Zhuang on Thursday, March 2.
“When the wedding started, everything fell into place,” Zhuang said.
Three minutes after guests showed up, Kasai walked down the grass with a small bouquet to meet Zhuang and a pastor. The couple then exchanged their vows on the same grounds that brought them together years prior.
Just as quickly as it started, the bride, groom and guests dispersed.
“[The guests] enjoyed how quick, original and different this wedding was,” Zhuang said. “It wasn’t boring.”
When researching wedding ideas, specifically flash mob weddings, Zhuang only found performances on the internet, not a real flashmob wedding where everyone runs to a place for a wedding ceremony. The flash mob wedding consisted of a crowd of people rushing onto Dexter Lawn in pre-planned spots to set up a wedding ceremony during the 3 o’clock bell.
“I thought, why not do something original,” Zhuang said. “So this is the world’s first flashmob wedding where we show up, do the wedding, and then we leave. Dexter Lawn is the prettiest lawn out of everything, and you can’t really do a flash mob without an audience.”
Zhuang is from San Francisco while Kasai is from San Diego. The long distance couple decided to get married at the university as a halfway point for traveling for both themselves and their wedding guests. Both graduating from Cal Poly in 2020, Zhuang majored in architecture while Kasai was an animal science major.
Ring Pops were exchanged between Kasai and Zhuang, as well as between their guests. The couple proposed to one another with Ring Pops and decided to keep the theme consistent during the ceremony.
“We got married with Ring Pops because that’s the best way to get a ring that’s bigger than everybody else’s,” Zhuang laughed. “We both aren’t really materialistic and we don’t really believe in the whole ‘ring’ thing.”
Zhuang and Kasai met through a mutual friend during their undergraduate time at Cal Poly, and reconnected after graduation by playing tennis recreationally. They decided to start dating long-distance and have made it work all for three years due to the lessons Zhuang learned from psychology professor Don Ryujin.
“At Cal Poly I took his Intro to Psychology class and he talked a lot about his long-distance relationship and how it works, why they don’t work and how to make it work,” Zhuang said. “When me and Melissa started dating, all the knowledge that I gained from his class from the back of my head came flushing back in, and I put them into effect.”
Ryujin has been teaching the core philosophy about relationships and coexisting and connecting with a partner for years. He said he hopes for more education and courses at Cal Poly about understanding relationships and emotions.
“People thrive on being understood and understanding others; it’s all about comprehension,” Ryujin said. “We don’t teach enough about emotions so we don’t understand our relationships often. I like being able to give that theory about relationships — it’s rare that it works.”
Zhuang and Kasai traveled to see one another every six to eight weeks when they were dating and avoided topics that could cause a disconnect in their relationship. They made an effort to meet each others’ friends and family and kept reminding themselves of what they have in common.
“Melissa traveled up to San Francisco and met all of my friends, and then I traveled down to San Diego to meet all her family and friends,” Zhuang said. “That way whenever we talk about somebody, there’s a face to the name.”
When it came time to propose back in June, Zhuang came up with two proposals: one fake and one real. The fake proposal consisted of a scenic cliffside near Grover Beach, where Zhuang presented a ring to Kasai, then proceeded to drop it into the ocean.
“I took out a nicer ring and then pretended like I had butterfingers and tossed the ring off the cliff,” Zhuang said. “She thought I dropped it and then we both cried.”
The real proposal took over a year of planning and took place in New York. Zhuang created individual Instagram posts that contained a letter, spelling out ‘Will you marry me?’ by the end. He had to hide some letters and add extra ones in fear of anyone finding out his plan too early. The day he proposed, he posted a final post with all the letters photoshopped perfectly for Kasai to read it.
“I didn’t have Instagram downloaded at the time because I was doing internships in New York, so I deleted all social media to not have any distractions,” Kasai said. “He made me redownload Instagram in the rain on top of this huge building and we’re all just awkwardly waiting as I redownload Instagram and try to remember my login. It was like a ten minute process.”
All their hard work paid off, and while still being long-distance from one another after the wedding, they plan to reunite in a few years in the Bay Area.
“Our wedding theme is “nothing changes after,” Zhuang said. “So nothing will change until Melissa is done with her studies and we move in together then. We are going to use all the money we got from the wedding for dates and air fare to visit each other for the next two years instead of spending it all at once.”
Kasai is currently studying at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Midwestern University in Arizona, with dreams to specialize in neurology and do a small animal rotating internship after graduation. Zhuang works as a technician in the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, and has a goal of being a stay-at-home husband while Kasai works towards her career as a veterinarian.
“Our values align and everything aligns and everything works out,” Zhuang said. “We made a verbal contract when we first started dating and my favorite rule is that we don’t want to change each other because that’s one of the reasons why we like each other.”