Are you thinking about making the full wedding commitment to the one you love?
After 28 years together, we are now Mr and Mr and couldn’t be happier. However, there were some important decisions and careful planning which had to happen before our wedding day. We’re guessing our checklist might provide inspiration for others.
From the excitement of the proposal it was all systems go. The romantic question was ‘popped’ on Christmas day. Why only have one celebration in December when you can fill your stocking with a new project that will take up almost the entire year? After the shock of being asked, a yes was eventually received.
Consider this step carefully. Those slick proposals we see on TV, where everything is perfectly orchestrated, sometimes don’t go according to plan. Be prepared for minor hiccups and factor in the ‘startled deer in the headlights’ initial response.
Our first decision was to set a date, taking into consideration the weather, particularly the least likelihood of rain. We chose the 4th August because of the dry, mild, sunny days where we live. A perfect choice so it turned out. This also meant our guests had a lot of notice to put our special day on the calendar before making their visit to the travel agent to lock in their annual vacation. This year would definitely include a long weekend on the glorious Gold Coast.
The Venue & Budget
Now came the more difficult part, deciding how much we wanted to spend on our wedding. We set our budget and started looking at appropriate venues. We are beach devotees so it had to be somewhere close to the beachfront. The stunning Sheraton Grand Mirage Resort on Queensland’s glittering Gold Coast is close to home and a perfect location for us. The wedding and event planner was so excited about hosting the hotel’s first same sex marriage. Their package for 50 guests met anticipated bottom line figures and included everything we needed for our big day. We quickly made a decision that this glamorous 5 star hotel with its modern, seaside decor and magnificent views was the ideal place for us and we locked in the date.
One of our dearest friends is a wedding celebrant so the next phone call was to her. She was overjoyed and generously offered her services as a wedding gift. Having one of our close friends join us together in marriage made our ceremony more relevant, personal and significant.
The Guest List
The guest list is always a little tricky, but for us it was a combination of family and friends both gay and straight which surprised many who thought ‘gay wedding’ meant exclusively gay guests.
We sent out invitations for our wedding well in advance (six months) and that was greatly appreciated by all. Almost everyone we invited accepted and only those who had previous plans for overseas travel declined. Actually, to our great surprise some of our nearest and dearest who reside overseas were the first guests to RSVP with an acceptance.
Then it was time for the fun bits. There were long discussions and searches on the web for what we were going to wear. Pinterest offered unlimited ideas for our dress code of ‘elegant casual’. In the end we decided to dress identically in white linen suits. Shirts, ties and bringing everything together with a colour theme was all decided a little later. We finally agreed on a mauve, purple and white palate as our signature colours, teamed with fresh Singapore orchids for a truly tropical touch.
One of us has an aversion to jewellery of any sort while the other is always happy to slip on a bit of bling. Consequently, there would only be one ring which was designed using a diamond borrowed from a family heirloom. So, if you aren’t exchanging rings during your ceremony, what symbol of eternal love should you use?
Instead of rings we decided to exchange a floral lei or garland while saying our vows to each other. After all, we have been giving each other flowers for the past 28 years on special occasions like birthdays, graduations, promotions and Valentine’s Day. Nothing says, ‘I love you’ better. We had two beautiful garlands of fresh mauve orchids prepared for the big day to represent our renewed commitment to enduring attachment. We continued the orchid theme with small vases of blooms on each table at our reception.
Although we wanted to have elements of a traditional wedding we were anxious to reflect that we were a ‘gay’ couple getting married. We differed from others by arriving at the ceremony together with no best man, no bridesmaids, no one giving us away, no seating sides at the wedding ceremony and we took the journey up the isle hand in hand. We were each other’s best man, of course.
As the ceremony was included in our wedding package we were able to plan this carefully in consultation with our wedding coordinator and the celebrant. It was to be held outdoors in the hotel grounds on what is known as ‘The South Island’, a palm fringed garden oasis set aside for this specific purpose.
Our vows were the result of our shared contributions, divine inspiration and the wisdom of our experienced celebrant. We thought creating our unique ritual would be the most challenging part of the preparation but it turned out to be one of the simplest and most satisfying.
Food and Beverages
Our wedding package included beer, wine and soft drinks, pre-dinner canapés served in the cocktail bar and a choice of dining styles. We opted for the Sheraton’s famous seafood buffet, featuring a carved ice swan centrepiece cradling hundreds of freshly sucked oysters, succulent crab and prawns. There were also hot and cold selections and tables laden with desserts, all being a total hit with our guests.
We didn’t want a wedding cake after all this delectable food but we thought it was important to have a traditional cake cutting ceremony so we chose the more modern idea of cheese wheels and this turned out to be fabulous decision. Three delicious cheese wheels layered on top of each other decorated with fresh fruit, nuts, crackers and accompaniments was an innovative surprise for our guests who grazed at the wedding ‘cake’ right up until the end of the night. No one was leaving this wedding hungry.
There were long discussions about novel entertainment options like photo booths and an old style juke box operated by the guests for interactive and nostalgic music choices. However, we decided on a DJ to get the entertainment part of the evening underway. We planned the format with him in advance. Many of our guests remembered the disco hits of the 70’s and 80’s and nothing gets people in the mood for a dance like a a bit of Village People, an ABBA hit single or a Priscilla party starter. He began with quiet dinner time moods and ramped up the pace just after eating and formalities were completed.
Many of our guests came from interstate and quite a number from overseas so we wanted to make it a weekend of celebrations rather than just one day.
For the night before the wedding we organised tables at a local BYO restaurant and simply asked people to let us know if they wanted to attend. To our surprise two thirds of our guests accepted and this was a great start to a magnificent weekend. By the day of the wedding most attendees who hadn’t met previously were on a first name basis and some had even become friends on social media. A casual pre-wedding dinner to break the ice was a huge success and highly recommended.
On the Sunday after the wedding we hosted a curry evening at our home and guests who were still in town joined us to relax and chat, something we had only managed for a few fleeting moments on our busy wedding day.
The Big Day
When the big day arrived the weather was 23 degrees and a brilliant, shiny, clear, blue sky. We had already checked into our room at the Sheraton the day before and had one final meeting with the hotel’s event planner. We felt so confident with the hotel’s organisation and preparation that we went to the beach for two hours before getting ready for the ceremony.
At 4pm we walked down the board walk hand in hand past aquamarine pools and running fountains and soon arrived at the South Island which was graced with our smiling guests and a wonderful friend who so kindly and magnificently played some favourite songs on his flute for our walk down the aisle.
Our devoted Celebrant was waiting to receive us and after these very personal vows:
“Please accept this floral garland as a symbol of my eternal love. I take you to be my husband and partner for life. I promise above all else to live in truth with you and to communicate fully and fearlessly. I give you my hand and my heart as a sanctuary of warmth and peace and pledge my love, devotion, faith and honour as we continue to share our life and our journeys together. You are and will always remain my brother, my friend, my husband, my lover, myself. We have always known we had found the stars, you and I, and this is given once only.”
….she declared us married.
After lots of congratulations and photographs with family and friends the majority of our guests were guided to drinks and canapés while a group of ‘the boys’ ventured to the beachfront with us for some sunset shots.
From our initial discussions our photographer made it clear this was a job he took very personally. Capturing the right images to best represent this special day and unique couple was his particular challenge and he approached this task very seriously. We met prior to the wedding to check out locations, lighting and schedules and his unobtrusive, friendly demeanour was such a bonus on the day.
We decided to limit speeches to what we termed the ‘husband speeches’. Although few in number they were totally appreciated by our guests on the night. We thanked our coordinators and our brilliant celebrant but this also gave us an opportunity to thank our guests, many for traveling such long distances, and all for making our day so memorable by sharing this important event with us.
Do we want gifts? At our age and after 28 years of living together we are trying to give things away rather than collect them so we asked our guests to make their presence at our wedding their special gift to us.
Every wedding is different and must be a reflection of the couple getting married but for us the combination of superb organisation by the Sheraton Grand Mirage, a stunning tropical beach location, perfect Gold Coast weather and fabulous supportive family and friends made our gay wedding just perfect.
Ms Merinda Hutchison (Merinda.Hutchinson@sheratonhotels.com)
Dr Craig Morgan