Photography by Paul Specht
Like many kids, Bradford Shellhammer, 36, and a co-founder and creative director of the website, Fab.com, grew up with his own version of the "running-away-to-the-circus" fantasy, but it wasn't until he met his fiance Georgi Balinov at an Equinox gym in New York that he realized that he could fulfill his fantasy on his wedding night.
“It’s not the first wedding I’ve planned," Shellhammer explained, not at all sheepishly. "When I met my current boyfriend, I was getting married, invitations were getting sent, everything was done, and then I met Georgi and fell in love. I met him and a month later, I called off my wedding."
As for the wedding, Shelhammer knew there had to be masks, and guests wearing only black and white—in homage to Truman Capote's famous ball—only, instead of hosting it at the Plaza, he went for the baroque fantasy of the Russian Tea Room, all red brocade and gilded eagles, and as close an approximation as could be found of 30-year-old Balinov's native Bulgaria.
“I’ve always wanted to be in the circus but I never had the talent, so here’s my chance to have my own circus—one night only," he explained. "I’m a colorful guy, and I wanted a wedding that matched my personality."
French porn actor François Sagat was a guest and Lady Bunny Dj'd. Most important was the live music, and not just any music—but the music that animated Shelhammer's youth and coming of age. So he tracked down Marcella Detroit, one half of '90s pop duo Shakespears Sister, and persuaded her to perform that band's chart-topping ballad, "Stay," at the wedding dinner. Detroit's voice, it turned out, has lost none of its power in the intervening years and she blew away the audience in attendance. So, too, did Billie Ray Martin, flown in from her home in Berlin to sing her 1994 hit, "Your Loving Arms."
Finally, Shelhammer convinced his hero, Erasure's Andy Bell (an enthusiastic fan of Fab.com, it turned out), to light up the dance floor with a trio of Erasure's greatest hits. That was at midnight, six hours after the proceedings began with Shelhammer and Balinov walking down the aisle to a recording of Julie Andrews singing "My Favorite Things." Sandra Bernard was at the other end to bless them in her own inimitable way.
"It began, as all good gay boy relationships do, in Equinox gym--on Greenwich Avenue, no less," the comedian started--just in case any of the 250 guests had not yet worked out that this was no traditional wedding.