We all know that TLC's super-popular Say Yes to the Dress is about much, much more than picking the perfect wedding gown. It brings up family drama and deep-seated class issues—and we get to judge everyone's taste level in the process. Now gay guys get to get in on the action instead of being on the sidelines (and we're not talking about Randy or the other guys who are busy selecting dresses). No, it won't be a groom getting married in bridal finery, rather the July 12 episode features Michael Ivy and Chris Gage, two grooms, Southern boys, who are completely in love, but not with each other’s ideas for groomsmaid dresses.
Yes, you read that right: a groomsmaid dress would be a bridesmaid dress for the significant ladies in a guy's life (do we smell a new movie plot?). While most brides pick dresses that play down her bridesmaids so they don't show her up, what does a gay guy look for? Well, Chris prefers a more traditional “church” dress like the ones from his mother’s wedding pictures, while Michael wants something classy and updated with this decade. We caught up with Michael Ivy to ask more about the whole ordeal and found out a few shocking surprises in the process.
Michael Ivy: We actually met at a birthday party. We had a mutual friend that invited both of us. We met that night and started talking, having drinks and stuff and literally, since then, we haven’t been apart. We just started hanging out a lot and our friendship turned into a relationship. I think the biggest reason that our relationship has worked so well is because we built that friendship first.
I think a lot of people would agree with that. And you were the one who proposed?
Yes. I was. It was Labor Day weekend and we were with his family on vacation in Pensacola, and I had it written out in the sand when we were walking on the beach. It was all mushy gushy.
Did you plan it a lot beforehand?
I went and talked with his parents beforehand, of course, because he always said that he wanted it done the old-fashioned way. So a couple of weeks beforehand, I talked to them about everything and I actually got his little cousin in on it. She’s 14 years old and was so excited to help out. She was actually the one who wrote, “Will you marry me?” in the sand so that when we walked by, I could propose.
Wow, that’s so great that his family was so involved! And when were you actually married?
Our ceremony was April 6 of this year.
Obviously that was before everything with the Supreme Court happening, but were you very excited when you heard the news a few weeks ago?
Yeah, when I heard about it, I was really excited. It doesn’t mean a whole lot for us because in Georgia, the state we live in, it’s still not recognized, but I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. This whole nation is coming around to being more open-minded. It’s a great feeling. I believe that we’ll see marriage equality in our lifetime, and that Chris and I will eventually be able to sign those papers and be legally recognized. But the important part is over with us—we made the commitment to each other and we had the ceremony. We got the expensive part out of the way now!
I agree that's the more important part, not the paperwork. In the show, you knew, even before you proposed, that Chris is more of a traditionally minded guy. Did you know that he was going to want some traditional look?
He kept calling it a “churchy dress”—you think of an 80-year-old lady going to church with her big hat. That’s not what we were looking for. We just wanted something that was a little modest.
I understand what he meant by wanting something more traditional and not really flashy, but when the picture came up of his parents’ wedding with his mother’s dress, I was a little taken aback, like, “I hope that’s not exactly what he means!” I was a little bit scared for you and the groomsmaids.
No, we both grew up in the same way, with traditional values, in church and everything, so we wanted to honor that with the ceremony. We did get to pay a little homage to his parents—one of the songs that they had at their wedding, we also had at ours.
And what was that?
The Rose by Bette Midler. It was a surprise. They didn’t actually find out about it until the ceremony.
Did you do anything else to pay homage?
No, not really specifically. It was just very traditional. We had the pastor, who is a longtime friend of Chris’. Most of the vows were taken from the Bible. It was just about as traditional as gay weddings get.
Was there anything else planning-related that there was contention about?
At the beginning of the whole planning process, we had a little trouble deciding on colors. I had one idea and he did not like it, so we compromised. I wanted to do coral and turquoise because we were trying to plan a beach wedding, but then plans changed so we decided that we both really liked turquoise and we also went with white and grey.
Was there anything other than the traditional style that you quickly decided on? No suite contention?
Oh no, we both agreed on the suits. Once we had the colors down, we went and looked and it was a quick decision. We didn’t want a formal tuxedo or anything like that. A little more casual, but still clean-looking.
What advice would you give to any couple who are having some disagreements or difficulties with wedding planning?
I think the biggest thing to remember is why you’re doing this in the first place. You’re doing it because you want to build this partnership for a lifetime, so start out at the right place. It’s give and take for each person and nobody gets what they want 100% of the time and I think the biggest thing that helped us was finding happiness in the fact that the other person was happy.
And what would you say was the best part of planning the wedding?
Well, probably being able to put all your ideas down and being able to be creative with how we wanted to express our love and show it to the world and all the people who were there. That was the most fun, being able to put both of our ideas together.
It definitely seems like a fun, creative process, not that I’ve done it. And now, since April, what has been the best part of marriage, if you could try to pinpoint something?
Honestly, since the wedding, things have been a little rough. Chris was in a car accident.
Oh, no! I hadn’t gotten any details! I’m so sorry.
It’s OK. He was in an accident on May 13, and he had some pretty serious brain damage and the doctors told us that he wasn’t going to live. It was really scary. Really scary. I thought that the biggest part of my life was ripped away from me.
We spent the first night in the hospital and they said he would most likely pass that night. And he survived, and then the next day, and then the next day, and the next day and then the doctors didn’t know what to tell us anymore because he was proving wrong everything they were telling us was supposed to happen.
It’s been a long process now, but he’s on his way to a miraculous recovery. He’s currently at the Shepherd Center, here in Atlanta. It’s a rehab facility. They specialize in neuro- and spinal rehab. He was in a coma for the first two weeks and then he started waking up. Now he’s to the point where he’s learning how to talk again. He can carry on a conversation. He’s learning how to walk again, and do things for himself.
That is, as you said, miraculous and it sounds like he’s making a pretty fast recovery if he’s able to start doing all of those important things, relative to being in a coma for two weeks.
Yeah it’s crazy. The first six weeks there wasn’t a whole lot—he just kind of started waking up and not responding a whole lot, but he was awake. Over the last two to three weeks, it’s like he realized that he was still here and can still do all these things and he’s coming back around. He was fighting so hard.
I’m sure that his determination has helped immensely in his recovery and that’s why he’s able to do it. That’s a testament to how strong a person he is.
Absolutely. He’s the strongest person I’ve ever met. I knew that before all of this happened. But this is just more proof that I get to spend the rest of my life with an amazing person.
That’s the kind of determined, committed person anyone would want to be with.
I’m just so so thankful the miracle that happened, that he’s still here with us, and we’re still going to have a chance to live the life that we wanted. Right after the wedding we were in the process of buying a house and we had started thinking about family, adoption or surrogacy or whatever. I think maybe it was just God’s way of saying it just wasn’t the right time. He had a different plan for us, but Chris is still here and that’s the important part.
And there will be sometime in the future when you can plan those things again and keep moving forward.
I think it makes our relationship that much stronger. When he woke up he still knew who I was and he can still tell me that he loves me and he acknowledges when I say that I love him. That feeling is still there for both of us. That was the best feeling in the world, the first time he said it to me.
Although it's terrible news, it doesn’t change the depiction of your wedding. It still displays you both as you are—happy, fun, positive people and seeming really happy together and your wedding looks beautiful. I think you’ll be very happy when it airs on Friday.
Thanks. I’m so looking forward to it. The biggest thing out of all of this was the message we wanted to get out there. Chris and I both said when we were approached with this opportunity that it wasn’t about fifteen minutes of fame. It was about showing other people that may be struggling with being gay or wanting to marry a person that society thinks isn’t right for you, that you can still have that happiness, that everyone deserves that happiness.
Exactly. Well, people will hopefully see they can still have traditional weddings, or whatever kind of wedding they want, and people can also know that the government is moving slowly—kind of like molasses—but still moving in the right direction. It’s so great you can help put that message out there.
That was the goal from the beginning. I’m glad TLC is doing it justice and is going to get this message out there.
I am so very sorry for what you had to go through after the wedding, but I’m happy that he woke up and you guys can move forward. That’s miraculous and wonderful. Is there anything else you would like to say?
The only thing that comes to mind is knowing that—this is something that Chris helped me relearn—God loves everybody and he wants all of his children to be happy. That was something I struggled with for a long time and I know that the majority of the people in the gay community struggle with it. Chris always stressed that to me and helped me find that peace. I just hope we can do the same for other people by doing this show.
I think you will, and I’m glad you have someone as strong as him who can have that much of an impact on your thinking and your happiness and I’m sure you do the same for him.
Watch the full episode on July 12 at 9 p.m. EST on TLC
Meet the happy couple in this clip:
After the first round of dresses, see more of the drama between "traditional" or "trashy" as it unfolds here: