It no doubt hits all marriage-ready couples, but there is a curious pressure with finding the right wedding venue. Being engaged and wanting to move things forward it has hit us how — rightly or wrongly — the venue should reflect us as a couple, our drives and interests. No-one wants the sweaty function room above the local bar, but suddenly this new undiscovered country that is gay marriage is dictating a location and day worthy of all this unprecedented progression. You can quickly lose sight of the engaged couple you are a part of when its very existence is bound by distant politics, headline rulings, and massive social change. The sense of [perceived] scrutiny is especially marked. And with that comes a certain pressure to put on a decent show.
Cousins and friends claim supportive excitement about having “never been to a gay wedding before,” but they forget that neither have we. You instantly start wondering/panicking just how we, as a couple, are perceived: What would be apt for us? We had a first choice of "apt," but it seemed too obvious, too expected. Realizing our other local options were all converted barns and water fountain-flecked country pads with their oh-so-rustic “His & Her” signage and ethically sourced confetti, we then thought we could spice things up and get wed near to where we first met. We even had a look around a few options despite being men who still get rapidly bored of such wed-min recces. In doing this, however, we nearly made the serious wedding error of positioning our nuptials in London’s Soho on a Saturday in June — somewhat overlooking that Pride was the same day. The idea of our mums, dads, aunts, and their pastel finery navigating the gym-ballooned torsos, plastic beer glasses, club flyers, men on leashes and tottering queens of Pride was certainly a delicious one. But facial terror mixed with rainbow-colored silly string was never going to be a look for the photos.
Unless you want to spend half the national debt of Greece to re-upholster a vintage lighthouse or to rent out an English castle that David Beckham once allegedly had breakfast in, we’ve realised there are also very few locations that properly house two guys getting wed. A lot of venues are proud to do gay (some will even tell you as much on their websites in a lovely afterthought of a 2003 font), but they haven’t yet all clicked that not all guys getting hitched want the princess bride’s hand-me-downs.
Elliot and I don’t want doves, hearts, doves on hearts, or hearts on doves. We don’t want balloon archways pinned to Fire Exit signs or a hotel conference suite misspelling our names in the lobby. And we are certainly not swayed by "packages" and "incentives," featuring photos of skinny blond brides hand-fanning away those tears of hetero-joy. You can have all the gay wedding fairs in the world, but the truth will be (for a while anyway) that most suppliers and venues make their money from straight weddings, so their packages and branding will be tailored accordingly. Right now, we’re going to have to be like liberated 1950s women who are suddenly permitted to drink in men-only bars — only to find one bottle of cheap sherry under the bar is the only concession to the new.
One venue co-ordinator proudly nudged my inbox with “for just 2,000 pounds more we can dress the room and chairs in whatever colour fabric you guys both want." I’m sorry, but for another two grand, I would want Matt Bomer himself dishing up the buffet. And to stay on at midnight to help put the chairs away. And take me home. To my door. And what is it with covering chairs at weddings?! Who wants their seats to look like pregnant Homecoming Queens?
Of course the kneejerk, commercial assumption is that a gay wedding equals “fabulous,” “kitsch,” and more swinging chandeliers than an Oscars telecast. But a more damaging assumption is that all gay couples — by their very supposedly childless, metropolitan outlook — can afford anything as taste and restraint is not a concern. Fine: hustle me because it’s a wedding and everyone gets hustled when you mention the ‘w’ word. We’re all for equal fleecing. But don’t assume we all have money and taste to burn. We want to fly the gay wedding flag, not pay for it to be stuck on the moon.
And then a date became available at that first choice of venue, the one we dismissed for being too obvious. However, sometimes the obvious ticks every box for good reason. So because of fate and some kind serendipity, Elliot and I are getting wed at our dream venue — the famed film factory just outside London that is Pinewood Studios.
As a 007 scholar and author of Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan, Pinewood of course chimes with my filmic pursuits, our cinematic loves as a couple as well as being a place where Elliot’s dad has worked as a studio carpenter and where my grandfather spent a lot of time when working for the Bond producing family, Eon Productions. More importantly for us and our endeavours to avoid a My Little Pony wedding — it is a brilliant boy’s playground, a cinematic sandpit housing James Bond, Star Wars, Superman, Batman, Aliens, the Carry On comedies, and much more. The dream palace I longed to one day visit as a kid is now where I am marrying a man my 11-year-old self would not have thought possible. And this is being lent further poetry by the fact we will be the first gay couple to have a full marriage on the Pinewood lot. A place which wears its history at every turn will now share our personal history. The ghosts of Pinewood’s golden age closeted stars will be no doubt spinning in their graves.
Of course we have been now asked plenty of times whether we are having a Bond-themed wedding? There Will Be Bond, I’m sure, but we’d rather have covered chairs with big rainbow gay bows than a film themed wedding. Though it would be cool if Carrie Fisher or a Stormtrooper could stray in from shooting Star Wars on the next soundstage to give us away. Or maybe Daniel Craig might burst in like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, banging away on the windows with “marry me instead” verve. It would all certainly distract our mothers from kicking up a mortified fuss when they realize they will be sitting at the Octopussy table.
Next up in TALES FROM THE THRESHOLD: a fierce florist and the truth, justice, and American way of a double queer bachelor party organized by two straight Best Men.