Planning our gay wedding in Arizona gave my fiancé, Nick and I a big dose of nervousness. It is not a shocker or a big surprise that the beautiful, 48th state leans more on the conservative side of politics. Much of our hesitation was focused on how we were going to be treated by wedding venues, bakeries, florists, and other vendors that would help bring our special day to life. Yes, that is something two future gay grooms or two brides-to-be need to think about. During the beginning stages of our wedding planning, we definitely wondered where and if we would feel comfortable. I wish I had screen shot my Google search when figuring out where to get married in Arizona. There are a ton of gorgeous resorts but figuring out which ones were accepting was our biggest question. We should not have to think about these kinds of things, but that is exactly how we felt – especially with where the tone of the country is at the moment. I was also dealing with my own anxiousness because a lot of old emotions started to creep back. Having our wedding in the state where I was picked on for being different and bullied for being gay played a big part in my worries.
The Supreme Court marriage equality ruling certainly made a tremendous mark not too long ago, and we are incredibly grateful for the freedom fighters that helped make that happen. It's obviously a comforting (and legal) component to us. The ruling, though, is still fresh in my opinion, and it does not completely wash away discrimination or hate. You still hear news stories from across the country about gay couples or people in the LGBT community being discriminated against. So, right from the start, we were not 100% sold with an Arizona wedding. Flying away to San Francisco or Hawaii and just getting eloped was looking like the easier decision.
However, in the past few months, there have been some incredible people that have helped cool down our worries and motivated us to not only have a wedding in Arizona, but also celebrate the message that “love is love.” This meant that Nick and I needed to adjust our mindset, kick down any negative thought about not feeling comfortable, and appreciate the love we have for Arizona. It is indeed a special place, especially for me who was raised here, graduated from Arizona State University, worked at the ABC News affiliate, and has family roots in Phoenix. When I left Arizona many years ago to pursue a career in Los Angeles, I promised myself to do my best to be a good example for the younger LGBT generation back home. When I started to get an even larger writing platform, I made it my duty to inspire more people around the world. Much of the messages in my articles are told through my own personal struggles, but also discuss the impact on the people that are in my life, and the random acts of kindness from others that help me put life into perspective.
For example, I need to share with you how touching it was that both my father and Nick’s father, who happen to carry the same name (and a name that Nick and I share as middle names), truly convinced us to move forward with having an Arizona wedding celebration. Our mothers always had the wedding vote, but hearing both our dads wanting us to bring our families and friends together to watch us say, “I do!” was one of the best feelings in the world. If you are a gay man, you probably appreciate the father connection and the powerful joy behind their acceptance. But, one of the most beautiful moments came last month when we posted our formal engagement photo on my Instagram page. It brought the entire Arizona wedding decision full circle. After seeing our picture and reading my articles online, I was contacted by a Scottsdale, Arizona florist by the name of Julie who owns Juliet Le Fleur. Her family has been in the flower and event planning business since 1883 and has done over 3,000 weddings to date. As I read through my Instagram comments on the engagement photo, she replied with “I want to do your flowers!” That later turned into an even more magical conversation between us.
Julie was inspired by the openness I share in my articles and my mission to provoke more positivity into the world. She was also surprised to hear that Nick and I will be the first gay couple to get married at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch in Arizona. It is a true staple in the Scottsdale area that has been around since 1976, so she is excited to be part of a little local history and wanted to donate her flowers! The best part is that Julie wants our upcoming wedding to symbolize her support for marriage equality and let it be known that all couples are welcome in her store.
So, whether you are a gay couple that is looking to tie the knot, or simply a supporter of the LGBT community, I hope you continue to follow our wedding journey through Instinct Magazine and my social outlets. Let us always motivate each other through our own stories, openness, and willingness to live outside of our comfort zone. We need to make our own individual marks, support each other and continue to bring the message that “love is love” to life!