Jerry and John tie the knot in a seaside Florida beach wedding
(Scroll down for full gallery.)
Timing plays a role in every relationship, and when John Barbaza and Jerry Mazo first met, it was definitely not the right time. The mood in the karaoke bar in Chicago must have been an interesting one when Jerry, who was called in to liven up his best friend’s date with John, was entirely too effective.
“As soon as Jerry walked through the door, I was instantly mesmerized,” says John. “When Jerry approached us, I was disappointed because I had to put my feelings aside. I hoped that one day I would run into Jerry again.” Considering the awkward time for such an impromptu attraction, they were forced to linger on the obvious connection between them. And linger they did—for two years. That chance meeting finally came at a Fourth of July barbecue. They’ve been inseparable ever since.
Jerry had little suspicion that John was up to something when they made plans for February 11. “Since it was so close to Valentine’s Day, I suspected nothing, especially since John is always a romantic,” explains Jerry. “The whole day was a perfect adventure.”
John had informed Jerry’s boss of his plans and secured the day off for Jerry. Well played. The day’s events were mapped out in cryptic codes inside fortune cookies. A mani/pedi, trip to the Art Institute of Chicago Museum and a dance lesson later, Jerry arrived at the final cookie, which contained a clue leading to Roy’s, a favorite restaurant of theirs in Chicago.
Following a romantic dinner, John staged a pseudo-tantrum claiming he left something at Jerry’s and insisted on going in alone to search for it—or make sure the question he was waiting to ask would be perfectly delivered. John called Jerry, adding a little drama and intrigue, saying he had fallen and dislocated his knee.
Rushing through the door, Jerry found a trail of heart confetti that brought him to a scroll reading John’s profession of love and ending with instructions to open the blinds of the window.
“It had been snowing all night, and when I opened the blinds, I looked down into the courtyard, which was covered with a blanket of untouched snow,” says Jerry. “In the middle of the courtyard, there were so many white bags with candles inside them that formed together to glow ‘WILL U MARRY.’ Instead of ‘Me,’ John was kneeling in its place with his arms held up. I screamed out, ‘YES!’ and ran down.”
The betrothed couple chose February 11 as their wedding date, one year to the day from when the proposal took place. The date is particularly special because the numbers 2 and 11 are their favorite and popped up randomly throughout their relationship on movie tickets, advertisements and on the back of sports jerseys worn by kids walking in front of them.
Jerry and John decided to have a destination wedding and make their vows with their feet warm in the sand of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. and be hands-on in the process. “Every detail involved both of us. We handmade welcome packets for our guests with a treasure-style map of the surrounding area and an agenda for the week of celebrations,” says Jerry. “We custom designed beach towels of various colors of the rainbow as wedding favors for our guests to enjoy that week and always.” The beach towels were arranged to resemble the rainbow flag, where guests chose the color of their liking upon arrival.
The natural beauty of the destination made a peaceful ambiance and breathtaking scenery easy to check off the list. Flowers weren’t necessary what with the gorgeous palm trees lining the periphery and the tranquil rhythm of the ocean providing an earthen soundtrack. Their color palette of blue and green were not only their favorite colors but also harmonized into the picturesque beach setting.
Karen Lisa of Florida-based Karen Lisa Artistic Photography photographed their intimate moments throughout the day. “We were her first gay wedding, which she was quite eager and excited to do,” says John. “She and her team captured candid magical moments of our memorable day.”
Jerry rolled up the sleeves of his Havana Nines linen button-up, and John left his down and both styled black linen pants by Cubavera, looking handsome and comfortable, suiting the setting and their personalities.
The Casablanca Café provided the fare for the reception, held amid the fresh ocean air. Guests ate, drank and merrily celebrated the love they had for Jerry and John and love the couple shared for each other. The couple described the general atmosphere of the day as one of love, happiness and joy.
The cake was composed of two conjoined white spirals, inspired by the white spirals on the boardwalk marking the entrance to their wedding ceremony. “A traditional wedding would have a bride’s cake and a separate groom’s cake,” Jerry explains. “We chose to have two grooms’ cakes on a platter to make our “one” wedding cake. This way we could have two differently flavored cakes.”
One was Key lime with raspberry filling, the other dulce de leche, both sitting on graham-cracker sand, caressed by a fondant ocean and joined by two chocolate starfish, almost too pretty to eat, but too delicious not to. The idea, conceived by Jerry and John, was made a reality by Susie’s Scrumptious Sweets of Sunrise, Fla.
Naturally, the ceremony and reception were so much more than a gorgeous and intimate evening on the beach. The night was the start of a new life together for two men in love. “I felt a rush of warmth in my heart and a feeling of being the luckiest man in the world for finding the perfect man for me,” says John. “Everyone knows I don’t cry, but I couldn’t stop. I felt so overwhelmed with happiness and love. As I looked at my friends and family, they were crying with me. I knew at that point that people could see the love we share.”