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OCTOBER 2013 USA $4.95 CANADA $5.95





by Matthew Wexler

edding bells are ringing. With the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this year, more gay and lesbian couples than ever are considering marital vows. Specifically, many gay grooms across the country will embark on unchartered territory, spending a significant amount of time and money to create the perfect wedding experience with very little frame of reference. Enter Jason Mitchell, author of Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms (Chronicle Books, 2013). Mitchell has drawn from his own personal experience as well as years in the special event industry to create a streamlined guide for grooms planning their perfect day. Mitchell says that even though he has viewed his parents long-standing marriage as a benchmark for an ever-growing and evolving relationship, the possibility of taking traditional vows (and the ensuing celebration) didnt seem possible until recent shifts in state and federal law. Its incredible to me to think how far weve come with marriage equality in a short amount of time, says Mitchell. I realized with [my boyfriend] Michael that I had found somebody really special. Coincidentally, it was when things were shaping up with marriage equality. His boyfriend proposed to Mitchell before the couple was scheduled to see Barbara Cook in concert. After a tearful Yes! they dashed off to Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue in New York City and picked out rings amid the celebratory tourists. With the blessings of both families, Mitchell set out to plan the wedding of a lifetime. While he was fortunate to have many industry connections, what he didnt have was a strategic guidebook to keep the massive undertaking on track.





I spent a lot of time reading books that are on the market for brides. Theyre very long and targeted for women who cant get enough of the wedding process, observes Mitchell. Getting Groomed is streamlined. Its short and to the point, even though its full of information. Any subjects that require further expansion can be explored online. But the core of the book guides a couple in the most concise way possible. Mitchell also brings more than seven years of international event planning experience to the project. Overseeing event operations at Soho House New York, a stunning 45,000-square-foot private members club and hotel in Manhattans Meatpacking District, Mitchell has executed hundreds of events at the location and other Soho Houses, including Academy Award and Grammy parties in Los Angeles, Art Basel in Miami, and events at the brands original London location. You learn the most by doing versus studying, says Mitchell. In addition to the major launch parties and high-profile receptions, Mitchell has overseen more than 30 weddings with an assortment of couples both gay and straight. No stranger to the written word (he is the author of two critically acclaimed plays: The Boys Upstairs and The Red Box), the idea of writing a gay wedding planning book seemed like a natural extension of Mitchells creative talents. I wanted to express to couples that it doesnt have to be a serious, stressful period of planning. I injected it with my sense of humor to help couples laugh along the way and incorporated iconic gay references. Its for gay people because we have earned our own book. Mitchell also points out that Getting Groomed is specifically for gay men and that two women will have their own sets of specific needs and questions. He intends on co-authoring a sequel for lesbian brides-to-be. Mitchells background in the theater and as a playwright also informs his on-theground wedding planning strategy. Events are like productions. Double- and triplechecking is the same as stage managing. When I work with couples, I look at it the same way as I write a play. What is going to be their most beautiful story? A lot of couples dont think of it that way, but were shaping and molding their story for their most perfect version. For some its not a lot of fuss, and, for others, its more elaborate. important for grooms to identify those roles and create them. Mitchell says that what is challenging for many grooms is that they dont know where to begin. The very concept of a wedding throws them off because they havent necessarily fantasized about it their whole lives. Mitchell suggests that its the couples responsibility to create the big dream, prioritize what is most important, and always go back to that vision as a reference point. That dream is quickly becoming a big business as the dollars and cents of the gay wedding industry moves at breakneck pace. A 2011 report from the Independent Democratic Conference projected a three-year economic impact of more than $310 million in New York State alone. Thats a lot of boutineers and chocolate fountains, but who is paying for it? Parents of gay sons might not even have it on their radar in terms of financial support, how theyll be involved, or what they might be asked to contribute. All of those factors should be decided early on to manage expectations and stay within budget. Getting Groomed is mapped out like a choose-your-own-adventure workbook with Mitchells no-fuss guidance easing the reader through the pre-marital obstacle course. There are plenty of spaces to add notes and comments as well as hands-on checklists including a master timeline, song choice outline for ceremony and procession, menu tasting, and for those lacking Oscar Wildes turn of phrase, a vow writing worksheet. Then theres the fashion. Mitchell writes, Deciding what to wear to your wedding might be the best opportunity to disobey any notions you have of whats required or expected at a wedding. This goes beyond the dizzying options for the grooms themselves, which may range from black tie (formal) or white tie (superformal) to a well-tailored suit. Tie or bow tie? Cufflinks and studs? The list goes on, including how to incorporate the wedding party, who should receive fashion guidelines to keep the overall look from turning into a bad production of Godspell. Even with Mitchell as fairy gayfather on ones shoulder, some grooms may find themselves overwhelmed by the magnitude of this special day. If youre not working with a wedding planner, its important to have a checklist of your bases to cover, advises Mitchell. What you dont want is to be scrambling so close to the event. The beauty of the newness of gay weddings is

hough many gay men already have a keen eye for details and a certain visual aesthetic, planning a wedding is different than redecorating a room or packing the perfect vacation wardrobe. It all begins with the groom. Make that grooms. The way our society is structured with weddings, its all about the bride, explains Mitchell. In a straight wedding, the groom shows up and just supports the bride. In this case we have two grooms. Just that notion changes everything. So the event is equally about the couple. This fact alone may be a mental trip for even the most supportive family members as they struggle to determine their roles. Families dont necessarily know their place in a gay wedding. So its


Organization: Its important that you start with the big picture and work from the outside in. Communicate with Your Guests: Dont forget the Save the Date, and to include whether its drinks and dessert versus dinner. Its easier for guests to have a good time when they know what theyre in for. Enjoy the Process: Try not to get overwhelmed. Why are you getting married? It should be nothing but a happy, positive experience.


Losing Track of the Details: Every moment should be highlighted. The second you dont think about things is when you end up with a generic first dance! Pace Yourself: You dont want to become too inebriated to enjoy your special day. Leave that for your guests. Surprise!: Not always a good thing. Understand contracts with your vendors so everyone can manage expectations.




that we dont have years of traditions. Its a fabulous opportunity to say, This is what we want. This is what we dont want. And were going to customize it to suit us. or those with a more adventurous spirit, Mitchell suggests that destination weddings can be the perfect fit for a small wedding of family and friends, but as the list grows, so will the responsibilities of plotting and planning via e-mail and phone callsoften with vendors who might be operating on island time (a.k.a. very laid back). He also offers this Getting Groomed tip (one of many that appear offset throughout the book as call-out boxes): If an exotic destination wedding is your dream, make sure that the venue (and town) is gay-friendly. While all eyes will be on the two of you at your wedding, you dont want that to be the case on your honeymoon because youre at a place that only welcomes straight people.

He also offers a gentle warning about what to expect after the festivities calm down. Be prepared for some post-wedding blues. Theyre common once all the excitement and anticipation you grew accustomed to fade away. But you got to wed your chosen partner. Isnt that the most exciting concept of all? Mitchell hopes to parlay Getting Groomed and his growing roster of happily wed couples into his own business or a gay-specific division of an established wedding planning company. Whether it is a simple backyard ceremony or a reality TV-worthy escape, its safe to assume that his services will be in demand as more gay couples join the ranks of trailblazers who have fought for marriage rights. And that number is wildly different depending on the source. The New York Times recently reported that at least 82,500 gay couples have married since Massachusetts became the first state to legalize gay marriage in 2004 while the

Census Bureaus estimate is more than double that at 168,000 couples. No matter what the statistics indicate, Mitchell is riding the gay-marriage crest in the most authentic of ways. One might say that Getting Groomeds genesis began far before he met his future husband and set out to create the perfect gay affair. Mitchells parents set the benchmark and helped define how he viewed a loving, committed relationshipregardless of sexual orientation. I think marriage is two people being committed, who make each other better people and are in it together and grow together. My parents have a relationship that was solid from the beginning and grew with time. And they always let each other be themselves. I think its important to have independence in a marriage and that is something I took from my parents. Looking at their marriage and the one Im in, its definitely work sometimes, but the result is definitely worth it.