Event planner Jason Mitchell penned the first ever planner for men marrying men
Jason Mitchell helps put the "gay" in engagement. At least that's what he promises in his new book, Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms. The how-to guide definitely delivers by considering the differences and similarities to planning a gay wedding as opposed to a straight one. The beauty of it all, he explains, is the fact that traditions don't yet exist, so grooms are free to create their own based on personal style and taste. An event planner at the Soho House in the Meatpacking District, Mitchell writes using his extensive experience, combined with a light-hearted sense of humor. The icing on the two-groom topped wedding cake is that the book was born right around the time same-sex marriage legalized in New York.
Your husband came up with this book idea.
As a professional event planner myself, I knew we weren't going to work with one, so I said to my husband, "I just want to get one of those handy books they make with checklists and calendars, so I don't miss anything." In searching for them, I grew really frustrated because all of them were for brides. In expressing that to him, he looked at me and said, "Why don't you write the book for gay grooms?"
Tell us your engagement story.
My husband did a very nice job surprising me; I really had no idea. I thought we had plans to have an early dinner before a show of his favorite cabaret artist, Barbara Cook. He wanted to leave the house so early to get there, but he likes to be early to everything, so I didn't really think it was that weird. We got all dressed up to go and I came out into the living room and he said, "I just need you to sit down; I have to ask you something important." He came back in the room with this big bouquet of flowers and said, "Will you marry me?" I started crying and said, "Yes." And then he said, "We have to be at Tiffany's. We have an appointment and they're waiting for us to pick out our rings."
And what happened once you were at Tiffany's?
It was really funny going to the engagement floor of Tiffany's as two men at the time. It's a very touristy place on 5th Avenue, so there were people snapping pictures of us as "the engaged gays." We were just living it up - drinking champagne and talking rings. I learned how nice it is to pick out your own ring, because it's the question that's really most important, not the object.
You have seven years of experience as an international event planner. Was it always at Soho House?
Yes, that's really where I started. I've gotten so much great experience here, but have always done freelance work on the side. It's definitely the kind of field where, the more you do, the more you learn.
What are the challenges to planning a wedding in the city?
Finding a venue that will suit your needs and being able to plan on whatever budget you might have. Depending on how many out-of-town guests you're having, taking their needs into consideration and being able to find accommodations for them, ideally nearby the venue. Having to not think like a New Yorker when you plan this. We are very used to commuting and getting ourselves wherever we need to be. But a lot of out-of-town people find that to be a big challenge.
In your book, you discuss the fact that some families will have a difficult time finding their place in a gay wedding. How do you take that element into account?
If a family is not going to be involved, that probably won't come as a surprise to the groom. It's not like all of the sudden they're going to announce marriage and that's going to be the thing that's going to change someone if they were accepting. There are assumed roles in most straight wedding planning - what the mother of the bride does, and what the father of the bride does. So at gay weddings, it becomes up to the grooms to say to their parents, "This is what we would like. This is what we expect." Parents are not mind readers and can't be expected to know. I think all families have to really decide what's comfortable for them.
Let's talk about fashion choices for two grooms. You and your husband each wore a different shade of grey.
For gay grooms, I've seen so many different looks. I've seen them totally matching from head to toe, or just wearing whatever they look great in. I planned a wedding for a lesbian couple who did their ceremony in heels, and after, when it was time to start dancing, they changed into gold Converses and gold Toms. It was a cute statement.
Your bridal party consisted of best boys and groomsgirls. Did you come up with those names?
Yes. That felt very fitting for us. Within our circle of friends, we call a lot of our guy friends, "the boys." I have more than one best friend, as does my husband, so we didn't feel like there was one person to whom we could say, "You're the best of the best." We had seven guys and three girls. Since we didn't have an even number of people, and a decent amount were really mutual friends, we said, "Why do we need separate sides? Why can't they all just be our entourage?"
You say that a wedding should tell the couple's story. I love how you gave out kits for Bloody Marys, your and your husband's favorite drink.
To me, as an event planner, the more personal you can make a wedding, the better. And that's what always has more of an effect on the guests. Being able to explain why you made some of your choices is exciting for them. For us, to give a Bloody Mary kit for the next day was not just because they are good the next day - they're our favorite thing to have in the afternoon.
What was the coolest favor you've gotten?
A flash drive of music that was heard at the wedding. And it's something you can really use. Some wedding favors, I feel, people just don't put thought into them. Therefore they feel impersonal and you just take home this random item that you don't really have a connection to. Now every time I hear the music from that flash drive, it makes me think of their wedding.
You give a tip for saving money by having an iPod instead of a DJ or band.
Sometimes you don't need something more elaborate than that. I was at a really fun wedding with a big dance floor, where everything was handled with an iPod. You just need someone to operate it.
Joan Rivers gave a quote for your book's cover. Is she a friend of yours?
I'd like to consider myself friends with her. I'm a huge fan of hers and met her a few times after seeing her perform. She is the loveliest person and when we pitched the idea of putting her name in some way on the cover, she said, "Absolutely, I think the idea is great." So for me, that was a major honor.
Is it true that you are coauthoring a wedding planner sequel for lesbians?
Yes. When we first talked about this book, we asked if we should make it for lesbians and gay men. We then decided that the point of it was to be as specific as possible, so better to keep them separate. And I think I need to [coauthor] with a lesbian to make sure I really understand.
Follow Jason on Twitter: @MrJasonMitchell