Happy Valentine’s Day, East Falls! Our favorite local writer dishes on Sherman Mill’s wedding chapel, and what a difference being married makes for him and his husband.
(excerpted from a post originally published 6/29/14 on LarryBenjamin.com)
Yesterday — 25 years after we first met, on our 17th anniversary, on the 45th anniversary of Stonewall, and 38 days after Judge John Jones III’s historic decision, I kept that promise; I married Stanley, the best man I know, the one man my father approved of.
It was a small, intimate affair—just us and six of our closest friends. But it was everything I dreamed my wedding would be. Stacey Thomas of The Philadelphia Wedding Chapel not only got us married on the date we wanted, she made the service personal. We felt protected, cared for.
As we walked the short distance to the front where Stacey waited for us, a distance which, short as it was, had taken 45 years to get to, I thought of those long ago drag queens, mostly black and Hispanic, who tired, had started a riot that changed the course of history. As I walked forward tightly gripping Stanley’s hand. I knew I could never stand in their high heels but I could walk in their footsteps.
In one surprisingly hilarious moment, Stacey asked our friends if they would support us and stand with us. They answered in unison, “We will.” Their words settled on my skin. I realized that these six friends had our backs and always would. We, as individuals, as a people, and as a nation, have come so far. I know we have so far to go but I wanted to stop in that moment to rest, to live in that moment for just a moment longer.
Earlier in the day, my friend Shirley, who has never married, questioned the importance of marriage, saying it was just a piece of paper. She said, “After, you won’t be any different, or look any different.” I joked that I would look different, I would glow. She informed me one only glows when pregnant.
Now, officially married, Stanley’s kiss still lingering on my lips, I felt different. Maybe because we were now protected—no one could ever deny me access to his bedside; if anything happened to me, the taxes on my estate wouldn’t force him to sell our home. Maybe because, by getting married, we’d told each other: “I know you and I love you anyway.” And maybe this was just what equality felt like.
The Philadelphia Wedding Chapel is an LGBT-friendly business off Scotts Lane in Sherman Mills. Our deepest thanks to Stacey Thomas, who handled the entire affair, including officiating. I had the opportunity to interview her afterwards for my blog — here are a few of the most romantic answers she provided (click here for full Q&A).
You mentioned that you used to be a wedding planner but now you’ve gotten away from big affairs because they tend to be more about flowers & color schemes over feelings?
I have planned weddings for 100 to 400 people, with budgets from $8,000 to $80,000, from Philly to New York to Barbados to Jamaica. While I have definitely found my calling with weddings and event planning in general, I have to say once I stepped away from the big weddings, into the world of intimate weddings, I enjoy the smaller ones much more.
I don’t think it’s really fair to say they are more meaningful, however, I can say the focus is different. When planning the big weddings the focus is on the pomp and circumstance of the wedding….the perfect shade of purple flower, if you will. With the more intimate weddings, the focus shifts to the actual marriage ceremony and it’s less about the event surrounding the act of getting married, if that makes sense.
Sometimes it’s just the couple and a few friends like you and Stanley had and that creates a more memorable experience than having 200 people around you that you haven’t seen in years and who just came to eat and gossip about the “wedding.”
Do you have a favorite wedding story?
I do! I have a few but two stick out in my mind. The first couple I remember came in with her fiancé, her son and her mom—just the four of them. I performed the ceremony and just as I was to pronounce them husband and wife, the bride shrieked with excitement. Literally.
I said, “Did you not know this part was coming?” She said, “I am just so excited; this has been a long time coming.”
I actually hear that a lot from couples who get married with us. Anyway, after I pronounced them married, she was hugging her groom and crying and then we looked over and her son, who was nine years old was also crying. She grabbed him and pulled him close to her and her new husband and they hugged as a new family.
This touched me because it was so evident how happy he was for his mom. I have a son of similar age and think he would react the same way if I ever decide to marry.
The other story that touched my heart and almost made me lose composure was again, a small party… just the couple and their two children: her son who was six and his daughter who was seven. After I pronounced them husband and wife, her son said, “Wait, I want mommy to marry Mark!” I said, “She just did.” He said, “But they didn’t dance!”
We all laughed because in a child’s eye, dancing was going to make them married, not the ceremony I’d just performed. So I whispered to him, “I’m pretty sure I can get them to dance. What song should they dance to?” His mom overheard and said, “What do I sing to you all of the time?” Of course the answer was John Legend’s “All of Me,” the wedding song of 2014, which I had.
I put the song on and there in the middle of the floor, the newlyweds danced for her son. Then they continued to dance with their respective children and I got the greatest shot of the little man kissing his mommy’s hand while dancing with her. It was the most tender moment ever!
What was the funniest thing that ever happened during a wedding or the planning stage?
We once had a wedding that had two flower girls. One girl was four and the other one was six. The six year old went first putting down her rose petals and the four year old went behind her and picked them all up! It was a riot!
Any advice for prospective brides? Grooms?
Make the moment matter. Don’t get caught up in the all the hype of thinking you must have a huge wedding. It doesn’t make your wedding day more special or memorable…just more expensive. Almost everyone I know, from friends to prior clients, said if they had to do it all over again, they would not do a huge, expensive shindig again. It would be exactly like we do at the Philadelphia Wedding Chapel.
The Philadelphia Wedding Chapel
Unique, charming, and fully personalized wedding experiences & officiant services at this adorable local venue (or any location of your choice).
3502 Scotts Lane, Building #3 (Sherman Mills)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Larry Benjamin is an award-winning author and social media guru/personality. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter — or say hey when you see him out walking his dogs Toby and Riley (a rescue found at McMichael).