A successful wedding should be one heck of party. No one has succeeded in creating this type of ultimate “down-to-earth” wedding experience like Jason and Robin. The adorable Chicago couple orchestrated an evening entirely devoted to things they love for the people they love. The Everyday Gay adores the couple’s creative approach to a smaller budgeted event chalked full of priceless stories and memories.
When were you married and where?
Robin – May 17, 2008 at my college theater. We got to build a set, make a light design and the seats (of course) came with the space. The reception was at Michelle’s Ballroom at Belmont and California.
How was the proposal?
Robin – I proposed to Jason, and it’s a long story, so I’ll TRY to make it short. Our 4th anniversary was May 17, 2007, and we were a little light on cash, so I told him I would plan the whole anniversary celebration and he didn’t have to get me anything. I threw him off by starting the evening out with a couple Philly’s Best pizza slices in our dining room over candle light. Little did he know, I had been planning something much bigger for months. Back story: We were friends before we dated, but we fell in love on May 17, 2003 at a nightclub after he came to see me in one of my college plays. Every year for our anniversary we try to make a stop at the same club for a drink or two (easier now because we live above that night club). That year I made arrangements with one of the bartenders to keep the dance floor area clear. As we sat at the front bar, unknown to Jason, all of our friends were lining up outside the front door of the night club on the street. I was maintaining text message contact with my friend Kelly. At the chosen time, I nonchalantly dragged him back to the dance floor area (where we originally fell in love) and sat him down in a chair I pre-set. He still had no clue. I got down on one knee, gave a little speech, cued the bartender to start the lights and music I pre-recorded, and I sang him our song – The Luckiest by Ben Folds. He STILL had no clue. When the song was over I told him I loved him and pulled out the ring (white gold with eight small embedded diamonds) and popped the question. He said, “of course.” I told him that we would be married one year from that day, on our 5th anniversary; and that I was taking him to Venice, Italy for our Honeymoon. If that wasn’t enough, in order to keep the surprises coming, we emerged from the back dance floor, newly engaged, to the screams and cheers of all our closest friends who had snuck into the front bar during my song. A few nights later I threw another surprise engagement party and invited family as well. Needless to say, it’s a tough proposal story for anyone to beat. But, I’m a theater guy and I don’t do anything small.
Jason – Robin proposed to me–which was honestly the biggest surprise as I literally had NO clue that it was coming. Prior to the engagement, we had discussed getting a domestic partnership, but generally we had resigned to waiting until gay marriage was legal in Illinois. Our anniversary date is May 17th, and our tradition was to celebrate it on an adjacent weekend, but to at least stop by the nightclub we met at for a drink or two, as that was where we officially started dating. I was working a job where I worked very late hours and didn’t get home until 9:00 PM. Robin had told me that he would take care of dinner for the evening and that I should come home right after work because there was a surprise.
I went to work that day not knowing that EVERYONE in my life was keeping the secret of what was to come. I mentioned at work that there was an anniversary surprise, to which all of my co-workers played ignorant and made me think that I was possibly getting a puppy that I had wanted. While I did NOT get that puppy, the engagement was a million times better of a surprise.
I ended up getting home from work later than expected, and remembered Robin seeming anxious to get downstairs, while I obliviously took my time eating and droned on about my day at work. In hind-sight, there were so many clues; however, I honestly still had no idea. The bartender seemed to be very overly nice and then one of my co-workers showed up unannounced saying that they were meeting other people there. Eventually, Robin tried to pull me onto the dance floor which was gated off. I was a little alarmed, and told him we shouldn’t be back there. But once we got back there, he sat me down on a chair in the middle of the dance floor as our song, The Luckiest by Ben Folds, played. While he was singing, I thought it was a tremendously sweet anniversary gift, but I still had no clue he had a ring in his pocket. So when he finished and pulled out the ring, I was floored. He told me that we were going to get married on our 5th anniversary and go to Venice for our honeymoon. Of course, I said, “yes,” immediately.
At this point, I STILL hadn’t put the pieces together, but when we had returned up front to the bar, there were tons of our friends and co-workers to celebrate. My phone was blowing up with text messages from family members and friends asking, “Did you say ‘yes’?” The engagement turned into a multi-day celebration as my boss gave me a long weekend off to celebrate, which was followed by ANOTHER surprise engagement celebration party with family and friends on that Saturday
Favorite memory of the big day:
Robin – Well, the funniest memory of the day was two grooms getting too drunk. You can see the minute-by-minute downward spiral on our wedding video. From a very goofy cake cutting, to Jason slurring into the DJ’s microphone; we all dried out the open bar and had to send my cousin out to buy more bottles of vodka. The sweetest moment of the day was before the ceremony when we decided to “run through our lines”. When you’re out there during the actual ceremony, there’s a lot on your mind, but in that moment of repeating our vows backstage, it really sank in ‘who’ and ‘what’ this day was really about.
Jason – There were so many awesome memories that it’s hard to pick just one. I loved when Robin surprised me with a rendition of I Want to Grow Old With You with personalized lyrics. I loved looking around and being surrounded by so many people who loved and supported us. We also had the best cake-cutting incident for any wedding as we had forgotten to do it until very late in the wedding, which meant we had a few drinks before doing it. It made for a very entertaining video.
Biggest fumble or fear of the day:
Robin – Too many fumbles to mention. Our “groomsmaids” missed their hair appointment; everyone was late for the ceremony because of Cubs [baseball] traffic; my dad was an hour late and we held the ceremony for him. There were many more flubs, and as stressful as they were at the time, they have become the funny stories we remember today.
Jason – There were so many moving pieces for the day that we were just concerned about everything being pulled off smoothly. Of course, many things did go wrong. That weekend was the worst traffic I’ve honestly ever seen in Chicago, which meant people were late for the ceremony – including Robin’s dad who was almost an hour late! But in the end, all of the trip-ups ended up just being funny stories, and really not important in the big picture.
How did you plan for the day?
Robin – We had a full year to plan and luckily, the girl I sat next to at work had just gotten married, so I went to her for all the small questions (i.e., wedding party gifts, reception traditions, etc.) There were many lists made and lots of time spent looking for bargains on the less important essentials. I spent a lot of time on weddingaccessories.net and doing research on-line. Being two dudes, this is not something we had been planning our whole lives, so we had to start from scratch.
Jason – I have to admit that Robin’s planning abilities were much more utilized than mine for this wedding. Not for lack of interest or support, but rather Robin has such an amazing artistic vision that it made sense for him to have a heavy hand in the planning. We were both very good about having specific tasks to attend to – and I planned the entire honeymoon - but for the majority of the wedding planning, I just gave support to what needed to be done.
We also couldn’t take credit for planning the day without the TREMENDOUS amount of outpouring support from our friends and family. All of our close friends contributed a ton of time and resources to making sure the wedding and wedding shower went smoothly. One of our friend’s parents graciously offered to cater for free, a friend offered to video for free, etc. Being young twenty-somethings, one in education and one an actor, there was no way we could have pulled off the planning for this day without our friend’s and family’s help.
What made your event super unique?
Robin – Our goal was a traditional wedding structure, but with added flavors from our personalities. Music choice was a big part of our planning. We had a close friend sing At Last during our Unity Candle; Jason is a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, so we had one another friend choreograph a short solo dance to the song To Sheila; I sang a surprise song to Jason at the top of the reception – wrote my own lyrics to I Wanna Grow Old With You from The Wedding Singer. My brother played the guitar. We each had our own Best Man AND Maid of Honor and all the girls carried a single orchid stem. Also, anyone who knows me, knows that I have the worst eating habits in the world. I grew up on Little Caesars and KFC, so that’s how the reception was catered. Several of our female friends were thoroughly livid about this decision. We didn’t care if it made us look cheap. It was OUR wedding and that’s what we wanted. Afterward, we got so many compliments from guests, saying that we “had the perfect drunk food for a wedding.”
Jason – Again, we had so many people contribute to the event – not just with helping out, but also through performances. When one of the grooms is an actor, there was bound to be many other talented people at the wedding. We had multiple songs and a dance performance. My parents always reflect back on the wedding with, “You could just feel the amount of talent in the room.”
How would you describe the event?
Robin – It was a community event. Neither of us live near family, where an overbearing parent could have potentially bore the brunt of the nitty- gritty party planning details. Therefore, we employed assistance from all of our amazing friends. We had friends doing photography, video, DJ, and one of our friend’s parents even took over all of the non-KFC/Little Caesars catering for FREE! When people have part to play, it makes the post-wedding pay off so much more enjoyable. There were about 160 guests from all over the country and at least half of them helped out in one way or another.
Jason – I know most people would claim that their wedding was the most fun, but I have to say we have a strong claim on that. Years later our friends tell us that was the most they ever partied at a wedding, EVER. When the DJ first announced us, I entered the room and saw no one sitting at tables – which almost freaked us out that no one came to the reception, until we saw the line wrapped around the venue for the open bar. One of our friends had to jump behind the bar to help the bartender out, and we had to send someone to buy alcohol to replenish the bar half-way through!
Was there a Honeymoon?
Robin – Yes! Two days after the wedding, we hopped on a plane heading to Venice, Italy. We actually had a day layover in Dublin, Ireland and hit up one of their gay bars. Then we went on to spend a week at a small countryside Bed & Breakfast, just outside of Venice. We usually go on vacation with an itinerary of things we need to see. For our Honeymoon, we just walked into Venice, took a different pathway each day, and ate a LOT of food. It was perfect.
Any advice to soon-to-be-married couples?
Robin – Always check in with your fiancé to make sure you’re both having fun with the whole process. Everyone calls it “the most important day of your life” and it is to a certain extent, but the real commitment is made the day you accept the proposal. The ceremony and reception is a party; a celebration of the agreement you already made. It is also a chance tell the world, “I love this person so much, I’m asking you all take a day out of your busy lives to celebrate the commitment we’ve made.” If you’re not having fun doing this – go to the courthouse. Only you know what’s right for you.
Also, don’t wait for society or Illinois or the President to give you the go-ahead. When it’s the right time to make a public declaration of your love, do it. Do it, and call it what it is – marriage – husbands – wives. The day before our wedding we picked up our Domestic Partnership certificate; 2 years ago we picked up our Marriage License in Iowa; in June we will get Civil Union in Illinois; but ever since our wedding ceremony in 2008 it has been called a marriage. No other word is powerful enough to describe this.
Jason – Be sure to not get wrapped up in the planning and the spectacle of the day to forget about why you are there – each other. Of course you have to mingle with everyone who attends, but be sure to check in with each other a lot and enjoy the day with each other. Be sure to not let ANYTHING ruin the mood, no matter how big the fumble. And more importantly… EAT SOMETHING… I spent so much time mingling at tables and dancing that I didn’t eat the entire day, which can very dangerous when you are drinking, to say the least.