Frank and Michael legally wed on the Spanish Steps in the nation’s capital
By Sarah Gleim
You might think the only way to celebrate a 21-year relationship would be with an elaborate wedding, complete with the glitz and glam and pomp and circumstance two decades of commitment deserves. But that’s exactly what Atlanta residents Frank Bragg and Michael McAllister, 43 and 45, didn’t want when the couple decided to tie the knot.
The two men (Frank owns Radial Café and Michael is a professional counselor) met more than 20 years ago after attending UNC-Chapel Hill. They never actually knew each other while in school, but were introduced through mutual friends one night at a bar, and, well, the sparks flew instantly. “We didn’t even date,” Frank says. “It really was love at first sight. I was moving to Kansas City to open a restaurant and asked Michael to come with me and in three weeks, we were in Kansas.”
So after their whirlwind meeting and more than two decades together, they decided it was about time to get “serious” about their relationship. “This year we celebrated our 21st anniversary,” Frank says. “We decided at 21, we needed to be ‘legal’”.
They wanted to have a ceremony last year, but their schedules simply made it impossible. “Frank was buying the restaurant and I was starting my own practice, and it didn’t seem practical to add a wedding on top of everything we were trying to do,” Michael says.
But as they say, everything happens for a reason, and as if cued by the marriage gods, Frank and Michael’s close friends Dr. Michael Compton and Ken Hogan moved to Washington, D.C. in December. “We decided that a trip to see them and get married would be a perfect break,” Frank says.
Photos courtesy of Frank Bragg and Michael McAllister
D.C. wasn’t their only choice, however. “We did bat around the idea of P-Town briefly, but decided that we wanted to be with our friends,” Michael says, “and the excitement of getting married in Washington, D.C. was too much to resist.”
So they held the simplest of ceremonies on the Spanish Steps in D.C. with just their two best friends in attendance. They were dressed casual for the occasion—Frank in a Nautica blue blazer and Banana Republic shirt and khakis, and Johnson & Murphy suede wingtips, and Michael in a DKNY jacket and Banana Republic khakis. They let Washington, D.C. serve as the florist and outdoor backdrop for the service, which was more about exchanging vows than frilly flowers anyway.
That’s, of course, not to say the spot they chose wasn’t spectacular on its own. “Being outside for the ceremony was the best part,” Frank says. “We faced the Capitol and most of the city.”
“I loved the weather,” Michael says. “It rained just before the ceremony; cleared up for 20 minutes during the ceremony; and then, waited to storm until just after the ceremony! It is supposed to be good luck to have rain on your wedding day and clearly, the gods were looking out for us.”
Afterward, the four men shared a rooftop Champagne toast at Michael and Ken’s home. “It was a beautiful sunset on a chilly evening with Veuve Clicquot,” Frank says. “It was the perfect way to end the day.”
They spent the rest of their wedding weekend exploring the sites in D.C., and even toured the Capitol and House building with Representative John Lewis’ staff. The highlight of the trip—aside from the wedding, of course—was meeting with openly gay Representative Tammy Baldwin. “She and her staff made us feel so welcome and very special on the day before the ceremony,” Michael says. “She even sent us a signed photo we took with her wishing us many more happy years.”
And even though Michael and Frank’s marriage isn’t legally recognized in their home state of Georgia, they both felt the political significance of the entire weekend was palpable, especially the wedding. “Having the legal blessing of the capitol of our country seems very empowering,” Michael says.
What’s also empowering is how much more devoted the two feel now that they are married. “I didn’t think I could love Michael any more, but this ceremony brought us even closer together and made me even more committed to him than ever,” Frank says.
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