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How This Gay Couple Honored Their Ancestors at Their Brooklyn Wedding
Josh Rodriguez and Wil Cope's wedding wasn't just about them. It was about community.
"Our wedding was a representation of all the people that have not been able to get married, who have not been able to exercise their rights, and not able to outwardly love who they love," Rodriguez, who married Cope on October 10 in Union Pizza Works in Bushwick, Brooklyn, tells Out.
Cope, who is a designer, entertainer, a podcast host, and a self-described "hilarious raunchy gay rapper" named Hi Yello, proposed to Rodriguez last Christmas. The couple spent that holiday together with Rodriguez's mom and family in New Jersey, exchanging gifts in matching onesies at midnight. Once everyone opened each other's presents, Cope said there was one last gift. "Everyone was kind of confused because I started this speech about how much it meant to be with their family, especially on Christmas, and how they've always accepted me," he remembers. "Then I got on one knee and asked him to marry me."
Although the Bushwick-residents were always set on getting married on the perfect date of 10-10-2020, the moment took on more importance and urgency as Amy Coney Barrett's expedited confirmation to the Supreme Court was imminent, and the future of marriage equality would be put into question.
"This impending doom was lurking around the corner, so it was really important for us to get married while we can," Rodriguez, a former retail manager, is about to launch a small business, a line of intention candles, fixed with herbs and roots meant to bring specific intentions to fruition, says. "Hopefully nothing happens and we're able to keep our rights."
Before marriage equality became legal, Cope didn't see it happening in his lifetime. "Now to be on the other side of it, and to marry the love of my life at this point where everything's on the line again, that's why we were even more adamant about doing it this year, and sharing these photos to be an example for people that haven't seen this, because I know I haven't," he says.
For Cope, who is Black, and Rodriguez, part Dominican, Afro-Latinx, it was paramount to honor their ancestors and the Black, brown, and Hispanic queer people from the past who couldn't get married. An "ancestors table," featuring vintage photos of older gay couples that couldn't be out, paid tribute to those who came before that had to keep their love in secret. The table also held space for their relatives that couldn't be there.
The two were "serious" about their aesthetic from the beginning. Initially, they were inspired by Wales Bonner's Fall/Winter 2015 'Ebonics' collection, which featured cowrie shells, crystal headpieces, and ivory and white pieces trimmed with jewels and crystals. Then, later that year, they fell in love with the cowrie shell headpiece worn by Beyonce in the music video for "Spirit." They reached out to the designer, Lafalaise Dion, known as the 'Queen of Cowries,' to create custom headpieces for them. And for masks adorned with cowrie shells, they commissioned New York City-based designer Luis Peralta of Peralta Aesthetic. Ahead of the big day, the couple sent out a mood board, with images from Bonner's collection, as well as the rich, earthy color palette they instituted for the proceedings. "It really worked out because everyone stuck to it and was on palette and it really made everyone part of the wedding party," Cope says.
As Cope noted during his vows, this wasn't just his first Black gay wedding, but his first gay wedding overall, which he hopes can inspire others and uplift Black queer love. "There is truth to the saying, 'It's hard to be what you can't see,'" he says. "I know that just living our truth and sharing that with the world is hopefully impacting people."
*All photos by Aaron Wilson and Rock Jennings.
All photography by Aaron Wilson and Rock Jennings.