Late spring heat inspires summer. In early June, my wife and our publisher, Maria, and I flew to New York, one of our favorite cities to visit. The trip was more business than leisure, but when you love your job as much as I do, work is fun, too.
One of the reasons we love the city so much is because it’s where we got engaged. In 2008, after four years together, Maria surprised me with a flight to NYC for my 30th birthday. But she had a little something else up her sleeve: a stunning engagement ring and a melt-your-heart proposal to go with it. On February 29, in blistering chilly air at the Chess and Checkers Building in Central Park, Maria asked me to be her wife. The tears of joy were frozen in my eyes as I exclaimed, “Yes!” and leaned in to kiss her a thousand times over. It was the most romantic moment of my life so far. Of course, the exchange of our wedding vows took a separate but almost equal place in my heart 18 months later when we wed in front of our family and friends on June 13, 2009.
And so it was with great affection for our own memories created in the fantastic city of New York that we were thrilled to be asked to be the national media sponsor of the Illegal Wedding Fair on June 6 in NYC, just one week before our anniversary. So we caught a flight up to join in on the fun.
We spent several days in the Big Apple, splitting our nights between two hotels, as we were interested in seeing two different sides of the city. Both Kimpton Hotel properties, 70 Park Avenue Hotel and the newly minted Hotel Eventi were staffed with helpful, extremely gay-friendly and knowledgeable people. Our first night was spent at 70 Park situated in the Murray Hill neighborhood. Billed as a quiet haven for luxury, this hotel was teeming with business folks and tourists who seemed to want to not be underfoot in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, but wanted to be close to all the attractions. We felt right at home here with tasteful amenities and nearby restaurants. But sometimes you do want to kick stylish into high gear, and that’s what we got when we transferred over to Hotel Eventi, below, which just opened mid-May.
Fiercely modern with a loving touch of antique appeal, this new property set in burgeoning Chelsea is perfect for weddings. We took a tour with the most gracious Director of Catering and Events Barbara Thibault-Simon to get a look at all the spaces available. There was much ooohing and ahhing over every detail, from the floor-to-16-foot-ceiling windows looking out onto the city to the handsome artwork in the presidential suites. I think my favorite area is the Screening Room. It’s an intimate space filled with oversized white leather movie chairs facing an extremely large movie screen and a wet bar, to boot. This would be a great place for a Friday night welcome party for your wedding guests, and you could screen your favorite movies—whether from the ’40s or the ’80s and have guests dress to the theme. Barbara and her staff have tons of experience working with same-sex couples, so anyone getting married, honeymooning, proposing or visiting here is in good hands.
Another hotel we got to spend some time at was Hotel Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District. It was here that we met talented wedding photographer Angie McCaffrey of Entwined Studio for a photo shoot. Atop the swank and towering edifice, we sipped refreshing cocktails, while Angie snapped away. Then we went walking around the streets, soaking up the industrial, blue-collar magic of the working neighborhood. It was a little like our own engagement photo session with Our Labor of Love, except Maria and I are also business partners now so we didn’t want every one of our photos to be lovey-dovey. Of course, we couldn’t resist a few, and is one of my favorites.
Angie gave us some great pointers that I thought I should share with you for your own engagement photo session:
1. Position your face right at the sun with your eyes closed. When your photographer is ready to click, open your eyes. It’s such a pure window to the soul.
2. If it feels weird, you’re probably doing it right.
3. Do everything exaggerated. Whether it’s laughing, holding hands or kissing, make the story stronger by acting it out a bit.
During our stay, we simply had to stop by wedding gown behemoth Kleinfeld and dish a little with the fantastic Randy Fenoli, who greeted us and then dashed off to continue filming TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.” We were given the grand tour by Michelle, who led us into room after room of gorgeous gowns. They were like candy! It was hard not to reach for them all. I wanted to get married every month. It was insane how many dresses were available. Some of the areas looked very familiar from the show, but there were some magical discoveries during our exploration, such as a room, staff and tools devoted entirely to beading (shown below), another for alterations, and yet another just for hand-embroidering and making veils. Ah, the splendor of it all!
One of the truly cool aspects at Kleinfeld is the web cam for brides who are traveling far from home and can’t bring their maid of honor, sister, mother, whomever with them. Their loved one can log onto a specific website to view their bride in real time, trying to make one of the most important decisions of her wedding. Kleinfeld has helped quite a few lesbian brides—some who both want to wear gowns, and others who have one who feels more comfortable in a men’s suit. And for this, Kleinfeld has just launched its men’s store. More on that in Broom Closet.
Maria and I saved the best for last. We had a special anniversary dinner at Kittichai at 60 Thompson, a hotel in SoHo. We’d heard the upscale Thai restaurant would be hard to get into, but Maria made a reservation on her iPhone on Open Table just an hour before and just like that, we were in. When we arrived, I was startled by the goldfish swimming about in a glass-enclosed birdcage at the hostess stand. That was my first clue that this dinner would exceed our expectations. The restaurant was illuminated by soft lights awash in oranges and reds. Origami birds on thin string danced above a reflection pool in the middle. We were enchanted, to be sure. And while we don’t normally announce birthdays and the like to the servers at restaurants, it came tumbling out of my mouth that we were celebrating our one-year wedding anniversary. Even in a metropolitan mecca like New York, you just never know how strangers will react to finding out you’re gay, proud and as some like to say, “putting it in their face.” Our server, a young woman, was delighted. I actually thought she might jump up and down, she was so giddy at the news. Her enthusiasm probably helped us when placing our order: The $$$$ chef’s tasting menu for two. But we had no regrets as we dined on palate-pleasing dishes that never seemed to stop coming, such as fish cakes with cucumber and red onion chutney, sashimi of hamachi, green papaya and mango, chocolate baby back ribs, Thai seafood bouillabaisse with tiger prawns (below), scallops and mussels and banana spring rolls with burnt honey ice cream.
Stuffed and beaming with happiness on a weekend well spent, we headed back to our plush room at Hotel Eventi for a few hours sleep before catching the red eye back to Atlanta the next morning.
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The Wedding Biz Podcast
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