Our thanks to newlyweds John & Clayton, for sharing their heartfelt & beautiful story with us here at RainbowWeddingNetwork! Please enjoy this sweet & insightful Q&A with the grooms, from their first meeting online through to their honeymoon highlights in Amsterdam. Best of Luck, John & Clayton!
(Photos courtesy: Douglas Benedict, www.douglasbenedict.com)
RainbowWeddingNetwork (RWN): Tell us the story of how you met... Was it love at first sight? What were some of the qualities that attracted you to each other, and made you realize that 'he was the one'?
John: Clayton and I met online. It initially started as friendly chat, but as time went on we realized how much we had in common and how much was lacking in our lives. It was not love at first sight, but rather something that grew over time.
The qualities that initially attracted me to Clayton (and still do) are how outgoing and personable he is. I am much more shy and guarded – especially around new people – so in that way he complemented me. Additionally, Clayton is a very kind, generous and giving person. All these qualities were missing in my previous relationship and something I didn’t realize I could get from a partner until I met him. That is when I knew he was the one.
RWN: How did you propose to each other? Did one of you surprise the other?
John: Clayton had actually discussed marriage a few times before he proposed to me. I had never thought of getting married when I was with my previous partner and since it was such a long relationship I pushed the idea of ever getting married so far in the back of my mind so that when he did bring up the topic I did not take him seriously at first…. That is until one night when we were out with friends. It was an icy cold night and Clayton asked me to marry him. For some reason this time I realized he was serious. Being a very analytical person and one to consider both sides of any decision, my initial response was “let me think about it”. I know, not very romantic but that is my reaction to just about any decision. It took all of about 20 minutes to realize that Clayton is the best thing to ever happen to me and that he truly completes me and makes me a better person, so I went back to him and said “Yes!”
RWN: How did your family and friends react to the engagement? Any insights, thoughts or feelings you'd like to share?
John: Nearly everyone was very supportive. The only real negative reaction was from my father when I asked him to walk me down the aisle. His initial response was “Are you the woman?” Now at first that may seem harsh and my initial reaction was of surprise and a bit of anger. But I quickly realized he was reacting to me asking him to do something that is traditionally done by the father for his daughter. At the time my father was 85 years old and old school in many ways, yet he was always supportive of our relationship. So I explained to him that Clayton’s mother was walking him down the aisle and if my mother was still alive I would have asked her. Once he understood that, he was completely on board and did walk me down the aisle. Clayton’s family was completely supportive and excited about the two of us sharing our lives together.
RWN: What was the initial ceremony planning like? Any particular issues with non-accepting wedding vendors? Any wonderful moments with extremely supportive wedding vendors?
John: Neither of us ever dreamed about our ideal wedding or really ever thought of even getting married so when it came time for wedding planning details we were like two fish out of water. After we were asked by the florist what the color of the flower girl’s hair band was going to be, we knew we were screwed. The thought of that never even entered our minds. After that, we made it a point to let every vendor know to not assume we thought of anything before we came in to talk with them and really ask about ALL the details.
We did not experience any issues with any vendors – all were extremely supportive and most seemed quite happy to be dealing with a same-sex couple because it is not the norm.
RWN: What type of wedding did you have? Ceremony colors? Any themes? Did you include particular rituals or traditions?
Clayton: We actually had two ceremonies. The first one was in Connecticut on May 15, 2009 and was a very small ceremony by a lake with a Justice of the Peace and John’s one brother and his family. It was a very bucolic ceremony in the country and we all had a nice lunch afterward in a very typical New England waterfront Inn. We live in Pennsylvania which does not recognize gay marriage but thankfully does not have a constitutional amendment against it and we wanted our marriage to be “legal” somewhere, hence the decision to get married in Connecticut. We chose Connecticut because 1) John’s bother lives there and 2) there is no waiting period in order to get married.
But we also wanted a traditional wedding ceremony with close friends and family, which we did on June 21, 2009. We chose that date because 1) it is the first day of summer and 2) it is the longest day of the year – allowing maximum daylight for our outdoor wedding. We had a rehearsal dinner the night before.
The wedding ceremony took place outdoors at Morgan Hill Country Club in Easton, PA which is on top of a hill which provides picturesque views of the land below. The reception was held in a tent adjacent to the ceremony area. Our theme was “black and white”. Being an interracial couple we thought it would be fun to play on the fact that John is white and Clayton is black. The colors were black, ivory and red. The men and ring bearer wore black tuxes with ivory ties and red roses on their lapels. The women wore black dresses with ivory corset-like lacing on the back. The flower girl wore an ivory dress with a black bow. The bouquets consisted of white hydrangeas and red roses.
We wanted to be as traditional as possible for our “non-traditional” wedding. We had a wedding party of 12 – 5 groomsmen, 5 bridesmaids, a ring bearer and a flower girl. We were married by a Catholic priest who is a very good friend and also happens to be gay.
The ceremony started with a string quartet that played prior to and during the wedding ceremony and during the cocktail reception. We performed a sand ceremony during the wedding. This is where each participant mixes sand of different colors into a container to symbolize two becoming one. The sand colors were of course black and white.
The ceremony was immediately followed by the traditional receiving line and the cocktail hour. We took the wedding party pictures during the cocktail hour which was followed by the reception.
We switched to a DJ for the reception who did the traditional announcement of the wedding party followed by the traditional first dance of the wedding couple.
RWN: How did you feel on your Wedding Day? What was the range of emotions? Was it different than you'd expected?
Clayton: We felt extreme happiness with perhaps a tinge of anxiety at being the center of attention. Having family and friends witness our marriage to each other felt like we were finally recognized as being “official” and being on par with other married couples… a feeling we never thought we would experience.
Our attitudes toward other couples’ weddings also changed after that day. Prior to the wedding, we both were a bit disinterested in the whole process knowing that we could never be part of it. After the wedding, we now approach weddings with an entirely new attitude of celebrating the love and partnership that a marriage is.
RWN: Describe some of your Ceremony & Reception Highlights.
Clayton: One of the funniest moments during the ceremony occurred right after John’s father and Clayton’s mother walked them down the aisle. The priest asked who gives Clayton away and his mother and father stood up and said “we do”. Then the priest asked who gives John away and his father stood up and said “I do”. After he said “I do”, there was total silence. Out of nowhere he yells out, “Good luck fellas” which got a huge chuckle from everyone.
As mentioned, we tried to keep the wedding as traditional as possible. We both had rainbow garters on before the wedding started which we were going to use in lieu of the traditional bouquet/garter toss. The song ‘The Stripper’ came on and the activities began. We each seductively removed the garters from one another, getting tremendous roars from the crowd. We had the men and women lined up to catch the garters. Ironically enough we had one straight male friend and one gay male friend catch the garters. Now everything got real interesting. Both guys were great sports about what was just about to happen. Slow and steady in a very playful manner both men put the garters on one another. All of our guests loved what was playfully going on. We still laugh and joke about this today.
RWN: Did you choose to go on a honeymoon? Where?
John: Just as we had two ceremonies, we also had two honeymoons. The first one was right after the second ceremony and we escaped to Fort Lauderdale for five days. The second honeymoon was that following September and we went to Amsterdam and Germany for 10 days.
We have a friend who lives in Amsterdam that we stayed with which was great because we got to experience the “real” Amsterdam – including riding bikes all through town. We also took the ICE train (very fast train) to Cologne, Germany for one overnight. We stayed adjacent to the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) which began construction in 1248. The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires and largest facade of any church in the world.
RWN: Why are marriage rights important to you? What is your advice to other committed couples, as they consider whether or not to have a wedding of their own?
John: Marriage rights are important because we would like all same-sex couple to experience the official acceptance.
RWN: Favorite Quote from our Happy Couple?
John: “When you are in a healthy relationship it should be effortless”. We all have to work at maintaining our relationships, but a relationship should not feel like a job.
Photos courtesy: Douglas Benedict, www.douglasbenedict.com
"I have never been to - or photographed - a more moving, beautiful or loving wedding than theirs. Their supportive families and tight-knit friends made for the perfect wedding."