Marriage equality is the new reality in states across the country, including here in Pennsylvania — but how does reality coalesce with tradition?
That’s the answer that wedding planner Jason Mitchell sought to explore in his new book, “Getting Groomed.”
Mitchell, a New York City-based wedding planner at Shiraz Events, which also has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and London, said the concept for the book grew out of his experience planning his own wedding.
“I was looking through all these handy books that have calendars and checklists to make sure you don’t miss anything and I was getting frustrated that there wasn’t anything on the market for same-sex couples,” Mitchell said. “Everything was focused on brides, so that’s where this idea was born.”
“Getting Groomed” is focused on a double-groom wedding, but offers tips that could be applicable to lesbian and heterosexual weddings.
Chapters are organized according to different aspects of the wedding-planning process — entertainment, fashion, budget, photography, with handy checklists and worksheets — with advice geared toward overcoming the obstacles that come with being a nontraditional couple traversing an industry so steeped in tradition.
“When you start planning as a same-sex couple, up until now, there wasn’t much of a guidebook; you had to rely on instinct. The hardest thing for my fiancé at the time and me was trying to picture how all of this would come together,” Mitchell said. “Then families come in with questions and they don’t know how they fit into a gay wedding. And it’s all figuring it out as you go.”
In the book, and his work with Shiraz, Mitchell advises couples, both same- and opposite-sex, to make their wedding uniquely their own.
That’s a mantra to keep in mind when couples are trying to walk the balance between traditional and nontraditional, he said.
“The joy of creating a wedding is it’s a custom event that fits the couple,” he said. “There may be some traditions that come with a wedding, religious or cultural, that a couple feels a connection to and wants to observe but, if not, they have to think about what they would modify, what they would create instead. That’s what makes the wedding really special and personal, but you have to make incredibly conscious decisions throughout the process.”
Adding individualized touches like a specialty signature cocktail is another way to customize the event.
“Everyone loves cocktail hour and serving specialty cocktails is one thing that’s really popular right now,” Mitchell said. “St-Germain is a really great option to be used in serving at weddings; you can have a great cocktail with the sparkling wine, club soda and the French liqueur that’s refreshing, not too much alcohol and looks beautiful in the glass. It’s a real crowed-pleaser. Those great little details are really important.”
The topics covered in “Getting Groomed” aren’t solely for couples tying the knot in states where it’s legal.
Mitchell said he’s been planning events for same-sex couples long before the recent spate of marriage-equality victories.
“The whole idea of having a wedding is different than a legal marriage. If you’re at the time in your life where you want to celebrate your love with your chosen partner and declare that love in front of your friends and family, I don’t think you have to wait for your state to legalize it. It can be a wedding even if it’s not legally recognized by the state,” he said. “I’m hoping everyone can be married soon but if you live in one of those states where you can’t, you can still have a wedding now and get a marriage certificate later on. Some people feel differently but for me, I’ve been working on weddings before they were legal, when people felt they were at the time in their life where they needed to celebrate.”
Mitchell and his now-husband got engaged shortly before New York legalized same-sex marriage, and booked their venue just hours after the law was passed.
As state after state now joins the marriage-equality list, Mitchell noted that it’s important for couples to research wedding vendors to ensure they’re working with professionals who are truly LGBT-friendly.
“It’s best to get resources from people who’ve worked with them before. Word of mouth is the most powerful tool.”
Regardless of the size or scope, legality or non-legality of your event, Mitchell said his number-one wedding-planning tip is that couples should always keep in mind the reason behind their big day.
“The whole idea of putting on a wedding should be on your terms. There are often too many other opinions in the way and it’s very easy to get distracted and overwhelmed. So it should be a constant conversation between the two people who are getting married about creating a day that is about the two of you, and staying present through that process. You want to lay the groundwork, set the budget, make smart decisions but at the same time, you should enjoy the process. It’s wonderful to be engaged and to plan your wedding but you can’t ever lose sight of what the point was of getting engaged to begin with.”
For more information, visit www.getting-groomed.com.