Benjamin Moore & Ray Parisi
By Andrew Villagomez
Photos via An Lalemant
Now known to many for being the first gay couple to be featured on J.Crew's Wedding Album section, Benjamin Moore, 31, and Ray Parisi, 39, tell Out their story past the photographs. Eight years ago, in Manhattan's Hudson River Park, the two met when introduced by a mutual friend during a quick introduction. Benjamin, originally from Nashville, NC, and Ray, from Bohemia, NY, remained friends for a few months before they went on their first date. "Then we were inseparable," said Benjamin, who is a director of sales for an international fabric agency (and is the taller of the two).
Ray, a director of special programming at CNBC, and Benjamin married on August 25th in the French countryside, three hours south of Paris in the tiny town of Néons-sur-Creuse. The wedding was an adventure of sorts: 28 guests accompanied the lovebirds for the four-day celebration at Chateau du Soudun, an 11th-century castle—with a total of over 40 at the wedding.
Each night was filled with traditional French cuisine served in different parts of the castle’s grounds each day. The groom’s dinner menu included a French country salad, salmon tartar, succulent duck breast, and a cheese course fit for a king—"Or at least a bunch of queens," as Benjamin put it.
Some invited guests were absent from the festivities. "While our parents still struggle to understand our eight-year relationship and did not attend our big day, the French countryside welcomed our wedding with open arms," Benjamin said. "A lovely French grandmother who lived in a neighboring chateau made quite an impression." She told them she'd do anything to help plan the party because she still remembered the day American soldiers liberated her town from German occupation. When they asked if she was ok with a gay wedding she shrugged it off with, "Darlings, Love is Love," and accepted a role in the wedding ceremony as 'mother of the grooms.'
The ceremony was short and sweet, the two wore J.Crew Ludlow tuxes.
"We didn’t want to look like total twins so Ray wore a peak lapel and I wore the shawl collar." Shoes by Dolce & Gabanna and tux shirts by Sir Paul Smith.
With a dear friend officating the wedding, by the moment it was time for the vows, tears were everywhere. "Instead of the old 'sickness and in health' script we wrote our own promises."
"I will make you laugh and smile, I will calm your worries, I will bring you warmth, I will build your confidence, I will lift your spirit, I will be your best friend, and ... I will love you with all of my heart"
The best moment of the wedding day for the pair was when their friends and family cheered for their first kiss as husbands. "Unforgettable and more moving than we ever imagined. In that moment, our dearest friends turned into true family."
After the nuptials, wedding dinner, and dancing until dawn, the grooms and five of their dearest friends flew to Italy where they chartered a boat from the port of Napoli and sailed for five days. After hitting Capri, Positano, Amalfi, and Rome, the couple headed back to reality in New York and made their marriage official at City Hall, since France only offers gay partnerships.
As to being featured in J.Crew, it was because a designer friend passed around photos in the offices and then they were asked if they would share some photos and details on the wedding. As the couple explained, they didn't have any idea they were first gay couple to be featured until after they were posted online.