The Gay Groom’s Guide to the Perfect Wedding

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The modern love story goes a little something like this: Boys go online. Boy in Los Angeles meets boy in Canada. Boy in Canada flies to Los Angeles. Boys fall in love. Boys marry at a fabulous wedding.
Nothing could be simpler.
After all, you’d think a gay wedding wouldn’t be that much different from any other, except for renting the extra tuxedo and finding two sets of best men.
You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
At least, that’s the word from Robert Blackmon, author of the recently-released The Gay Groom’s Guide to Planning Your Perfect Wedding. According to Blackmon, who married his Canadian husband in 2009, the gay wedding is much like the issue of same-sex marriage as a whole: it can be contentious and divisive, but possibly the most wonderful and inclusive thing going if it’s done right.
“I always thought a traditional wedding was out of my reach,” says Blackmon, who was once engaged to a woman, has a step-daughter from a previous same-sex marriage and shares another step-daughter with Connell. “I always thought I’d be married, have a wife, two and a half kids and a station wagon. But I never thought about the wedding itself. So when I had this epiphany that I get to do it all, have it all…I wanted everything. I wanted the details to be perfect for us, an expression of who we are.”
Yet putting a gay wedding together proved a little more challenging than he expected. While the gay community has embraced same-sex marriage as a basic human right, the same can’t be said of all vendors, suppliers, businesses and even family members, all of whom can bring down any wedding, gay or not.
In some cases, businesses have refused to deal with same-sex couples, while some suppliers simply haven’t caught up with the trend. Blackmon’s website, TheGayGroomsGuide.com, offers a directory of gay-friendly vendors.
“Living in a major city like Los Angeles, I naturally expected to have a wealth of resources at my fingertips,” notes Blackmon, who live near a small town south of Ottawa with his husband, Martin Connell.
“Until recently, businesses were hesitant to create products and merchandise for the gay wedding market.”
And while that’s slowly changing—finding a wedding cake topper depicting two men can be as challenging as locating a teenager with a tidy bedroom—it’s far from the only issue same-sex wedding planners face.

The Gay Groom's Guide to Planning the Perfect Wedding.
The Gay Groom’s Guide to Planning the Perfect Wedding.

Telling your family.
Families love weddings. Parents love weddings. But not all families and parents support a gay wedding. Part of the problem is that whilst a family may be supportive of your sexual orientation, many have conflicted feelings about the sacred nature of marriage.
Although their families were supportive, they’re also “of a southern mind and said to us, ‘Do you have to call it a wedding?’ They were literally trying to get us to alter things to make themselves feel more comfortable.”
The solution? “We just said, ‘This is what we’re doing and if you can’t live with that, we understand.’”
“If you’re progressive and someone in your family is conservative, you have to respect their opinion. While your parent may not want to be involved, say to her, ‘Mom, I love you. This door is always open and I hope one day that you’ll be able to see how happy I am. I know you just want me to be happy.’”
In the end, being married in front of family and friends offered both men “a liberty and freedom neither of us felt before. We were truly our authentic selves. For gays and lesbians, not only the process of planning, but the accomplishment of being celebrated and validated is what makes it worthwhile.”

Decide on the style of wedding.
“When it comes to planning the event, everyone needs to be on the same page or it’ll be a catastrophe,” advises Blackmon. “I tell people to each communicate their vision and execute from the middle ground. Your fiancé needs to get a sense of what you want and not feel he’s consumed by it.” For example, Connell wanted a small, simple ceremony, “my perfect wedding would be a scene from Dynasty.”
For Blackmon and Connell, the colours were reflective of their bi-racial relationship, with a bit of red thrown in. “It was a play on the race thing and that our families both came from the South.” That theme was reflected in other aspects of the wedding, too, from the menu featuring southern comfort food to the end of the ceremony, where the couple ‘jumped the broom’, traditionally used by black slaves.

The bachelor party.
If any issue can send a well-planned wedding skittering off into the shrubbery, it would be the bachelor party.
“It’s the one thing that really differentiates the straights from the gays,” notes Blackmon. “With gays, if two guys have separate parties, it would end the relationship before it starts. You get a bunch of guys drinking, a ‘Magic Mike’ stripper and a jealous streak. Let’s not put ourselves in that situation of having a fight the week before the wedding. Don’t be a hung-over, blood-shot eyed, hot mess in your wedding photos.”
Rather, he recommends hiring a party bus to accommodate everyone on a trip to have a “fun, gay day” of manicures and pedicures, an indoor sky diving simulator, day at a water park or the theatre.
“If you decide to do the straight thing and head off to Vegas, get tickets to see Cher or Celine,” he adds. “You know they’ll be on tour forever.”

The guest list.
Ah yes. Who to invite, who to avoid. While that issue is hard enough for any wedding, Blackmon says it’s double jeopardy for gay couples who also the disapproval of family, ex-boyfriends and best friends to manage.
“When you marry someone, you’re bringing all the people you know into the relationship. In the gay situation, you tend to know a lot of the same people—it’s a small community so it has to be thought out and discussed. It becomes sticky, especially if there are ex-boyfriends involved who are still friends,” he says.
For Blackmon and Connell, however, the situation became even more challenging when their curious, small town neighbours heard “the two gays in the village were getting married. Curiosity was getting to those who might have objected, but couldn’t bear to be left out of the loop.” Ever the diplomat, Blackmon sent out Connell to hand deliver late invitations.
Having averting major disaster and minor upsets, Blackmon said his favourite moment came when he spotted his sick father, tears of joy in his eyes.
“I lost it all over again. This time, it was the ‘Oprah ugly’ cry. The sight of my dad being that happy for me made me know this was the right man for me and the right thing to do.”

The Gay Groom’s Guide ($17.96 paperback) can be purchased at www.TheGayGroomsGuide.com or through Amazon in paperback ($17.95) or Kindle ($9.37), and from the iBookstore.