It was the morning of our bachelor night and we were desperately learning that — when it comes to making floral decisions — there are no perks to being a wallflower. Or a sunflower. I assumed all gay florists must be like Scott Bakula’s character in Looking: all wordly-wise and experienced with a patient benevolence to those more florally challenged than themselves. I envisioned Elliot and I taking tentative steps into a lily and orchid-clad support group like Victorian kids experiencing candy and Willy Wonka for the first time. But we didn’t get Willy Wonka. We got Sweeney Todd.
"Are you sure you two should be getting married?" asked Fierce Florist as Elliot and I disputed the worth of sunflowers versus herbs. I say "debate." We were just desperately attempting to look more informed than we woefully were not. We had begun thinking our first florist and her notions were a bit 1980s grandmother. We wanted flowers for our wedding that screamed auspice, not hospice.
"What did you have in mind?" Fierce Florist pondered with faux interest — knowing full well "tumbleweed" was in all our minds as we mentally scrambled for floral inspiration not based on what he had on his desk at the time. “Something like this maybe…?” we sheepishly wondered as we pointed to what was on his desk at the time. Ultimately we left fearful and scared but, curiously, totally trustful of the man in question. He suggested turning around our initial idea of English meadow flowers into something classy, in keeping with our film studio venue and remembering we are two men after all.
Same Sex Wedding Lesson #1: Good gay wedding suppliers do not have to share your loved-up marital bubble just because they too are gay.
Truth, justice and nearly the American way. That was the mantra for our bachelor night. Because my marriage proposal had America as a support character and the rather dogged and tacky connotations of the British stag scene loom large, Elliot and I opted for some Stateside branding of our boys night out. We also didn’t want the British tendency to pack in a three month, liver-dissolving adventure holiday into one weekend. One day. One cinema. One Chinese meal. One late bar. Two grooms-to-be. Nineteen pals. Easy.
On paper it was a simple brief for our two best men, Greg and Alex. But having been a Best Man twice myself I know it is no mean feat choreographing twenty-one men of differing locations, interests and friendship groups. And there’s no hook-up app for organising a Bachelor Night. Just old fashioned emails, nudges and promises of beer. Oh and Ghostbusters. In our slight attempts to pander to the non-homo contingent possibly faced with all manner of queer partying by the night’s end, we had the notion of a crowd-bonding retro film in our own movie theater, with our own drinks, our own pizza delivery guy and our own heckles (a Ghostbusters ectoplasm scene in the context of a gay bachelor night…? You fill in the joke gaps). Admittedly this Bachelorette thought the pizza delivery guy was an early stripper as at least seven of us fell in love with the bearded Nordic hipster manning the bar and the straight guys did likewise with the young lady selling confectionary. Yes, the engaged gay guy that was desperately trying to remove the straight clichés of a stag night was still half hoping for a Matt Bomer-alike stripper. And when it didn’t ever happen I think the gin levels may well have seen me settle for a Chris Christie-alike.
We half wondered if the choice of film should be something homo-edifying like Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert or that Bachelor Night classic, Philadelphia. But surely stories of oppression and fatalities are always better suited to accounts of said Bachelor Night itself. And if we are talking of casualties then a whole double album’s worth of tracks were right royally slaughtered in the name of a two hour impromptu set at a karaoke restaurant. Elliot and I certainly euthanized Don’t Go Breaking My Heart over a duck pancake. It’s amazing how one’s comfort zones and former ability to hate karaoke widen and warp when gin, beer and Sambuca shots are involved. For a bunch of straight guys possibly cautious as to just how gay the night could go, they didn’t half belt out some bromantic power duets from the likes of Top Gun, Rick Astley, Rocky IV, and Bruce Springsteen. And it wasn’t just the gays belting out Adele’s Skyfall to a packed Chinese restaurant, trust me. It was almost enough to distract me from the covered chairs in the restaurant I have banned from the wedding.
Having lost track of the number of humorless and stroppy lady "dancers" we have encountered in non-salubrious men’s clubs on straight Bachelor Nights (I tend to only tip if at least the heels, ‘choreography’ and attitude match) we figured this was our night to turn the tables. Unfortunately it seems straight guys are less willing to cross that particular stream than us. Though the look on my step-brother’s face as we entered a gay Soho bar replete with two dumpy and bored go-go boys was fairly priceless — even if the watered down drinks and bovine door staff questioning folk’s sexuality weren’t.
But what was preferable? A lewd, Magic Mike meets The Hangover that appealed to no-one or a bromantic bonding session that took on its own life, direction, camaraderie and chat – a night that felt like a celebration of a lot of friendships and shared history. We felt like proud parents watching everyone gel, sing, pole-dance and cross the streams. “I never had friends like I did when I was eleven” says Richard Dreyfuss in Stand By Me. He’s wrong. The ones you have 20or so years later are equally important.
Same Sex Wedding Lesson #2: Straight mates do not share your loved-up marital bubble any less just because they are straight.
Next up in TALES FROM THE THRESHOLD: A young tailor is the first to not treat us like a wedding novelty and the tour of matrimonial duty that is organising a guest list, seating plans and no children rulings.