Happy New Year from 14 Stories!

It's been a truly incredible year for marriage equality (and for our business!)  Here are some things we are grateful for and excited about from 2012, in no particular order:

  • For the first time, a sitting US President, Barack Obama, publicly supported same-sex marriage

  • Marriage equality was approved by voters in Maryland, Washington and Maine, bringing the total number of states with marriage equality to 9.  

  • Voters in Minnesota defeated an anti-gay marriage bill the very same night!

  • Several well known celebrities came out!  Thanks to Anderson Cooper, Matt Bomer, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Frank Ocean and Lana Wachowski, among others, for bravely coming out and letting LGBT youth know that they are not alone.  

  • Congrats to actress Cynthia Nixon, MSBNC Anchor Thomas Roberts and Good Morning America weatherman Sam Champion for marrying their partners in 2012.

  • Our business worked with 34 same-sex couples from all over the world on their wedding plans!  The couple who traveled the farthest was from Australia!

  • The Gay Wedding Institute had over 250 wedding professionals from all over the world (including our first from Italy, Aruba and Ireland!) complete the Gay Wedding Institute certification course.  Check out the grads here!

  • We successfully moved a wedding from one venue to another as a result of Hurricane Sandy...check out that story here.

  • I signed a deal for write my second book - coming this spring!

  • We launched a clothing line for lesbian, queer and trans weddings.  If you haven't already done so, check out Fourteen!

And that's just the beginning...as always, we have big goals and resolutions for 2013...it will no doubt be another exciting year for 14 Stories and for marriage equality.  Stick with us to see where we go next!

Lots of love,

Bernadette, Jen, Andrew, Janet, Victoria

Jason and Dimitri's New York City Gay Wedding

The week of Hurricane Sandy was one of my most professionally challenging weeks.  We had worked very hard for six months on an extraordinary New York City gay wedding for two amazing men, Jason and Dimitri.  We were in the home stretch, the last week of the wedding, when we all heard that Hurricane Sandy was going to be serious business.

I'm generally a pretty optimistic person so I was confident that the hurricane wouldn't impact our wedding, set to be on the 14th and 21st floor of the Chelsea Arts Tower, in a beautiful space called Glass Houses.  But like many people, I was surprised by the magnitude of Sandy's impact.  Glass Houses was fine, except for some flooding in the basement, but what we learned on Tuesday was that the power was out.  With a wedding on Saturday we didn't know when the power was going to return.  

Jason and Dimitri had many guests from out of town and also plans for a two week honeymoon in Brazil two days after the wedding.  Rescheduling the wedding would have been very difficult so we agreed to explore some alternate venues.  I presented some office space and a few cool raw spaces as backup options.  Unfortunately one of the raw spaces was over the bridge in Long Island City and the other was cost-prohibitive.  The bridge was daunting given the traffic that week and with subways in rough shape, we were looking at one option:  a pretty ugly office space.  

The cost of that was also quite high (about $20,000) so Jason decided to ask whether his law firm's conference floor was available...it was and I orchestrated the move from Glass Houses to a Midtown Manhattan office building.

We were very fortunate that all of the fabulous wedding vendors we'd hire were still available and committed to Jason and Dimitri.  The photographer's parents lost their house and were out of town, so she was personally dealing with that, but still made it to the wedding.  The DJ had no power and no gas in his car but he made it.  The bartenders' bar was literally under water but they made it.  The floral designer's warehouse was without power and inaccessible.  And on and on...I was so impressed by the efforts of this amazing team.

And the wedding itself?  It was great!  We beautified an office space with tons of uplights and pipe and drape.  We added a beautiful white dance floor, great lounge furniture - and you'd never know we were in an office building. 

I was so impressed not only by the vendors but that most of the guests were also able to make it.  We had a few drop-outs because of travel issues or hurricane damage but overall, most guests came.

The Huffington Post also tells this story with an interview with the grooms.

What do you think?

Special thanks to the amazing team:

And if you'd like to help with Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, please click here to visit Occupy Sandy.

Gay Weddings in New York Weddings Magazine

We were honored to be featured in New York Magazine's wedding issue once again, this time sharing some gay wedding etiquette and data from the Gay Wedding Institute.  A few of our couples were also interviewed!  Check out the story below!

Job Opening at GayDestinationWeddings

We are consulting on the launch of what will be an incredible new website, www.GayDestinationWeddings.com, created by the world's destination wedding leader, www.DestinationWeddings.com.  DestinationWeddings.com has worked with many same-sex couples over the years but their new dedicated site will have fully Gay Wedding Institute-trained agents assisting LGBT couples on their weddings at very inclusive resorts around the world.

The company is hiring a full time position to facilitate this launch and you can read the job description here.

New State Budget Forces Price Increase for Massachusetts Elopements

As you may know, in Massachusetts, there is a 3 day waiting period to pick up a marriage license.  For example, if you apply on a Tuesday, it won't be available til that Friday.  Part of our services in Massachusetts are taking couples to court to petition a judge for a waiver of the 3 day waiting period.

Our team member Janet was with clients this morning and at the courthouse learned that the fee for a waiver of the 3 day marriage license waiting period has increased by $110 due to the new state budget signed by Governor Patrick on Sunday, July 8.  We unfortunately have to pass part of this price increase along to our clients.

As of today, the Destiny Boston package will be priced at $2,300 and the Vows package at $800.

We are very sorry to do this to our many loyal customers.

Thoughts on Proposition 1 in North Carolina

Yesterday, the Proposition 1 ballot initiative passed in North Carolina.  I can honestly say that I was in tears.  Our company has worked with dozens of couples from North Carolina over the years, including one of our 5/15/12 weddings and one of our 5/19/12 weddings.  Two couples this month, from (yet another) state which treats them as second-class citizens.  

The passage of this proposition forbids those kind, loving couples from equal marriage, civil unions, domestic partnerships and every other "family" construct.  The way the amendment was written was truly horrifying.

I honestly try to focus this blog on the "how to..." elements of wedding planning, but the truth is that 14 Stories is an activist-type company.  We care about the laws. We only plan legal weddings.  We provide every couple we meet with a list of resources that can help them protect their families.  The reality is, for LGBT couples, marriage is not enough.

14 Stories is paid to plan beautiful weddings, and I love that.  But we have gone through the process of planning our own wedding, having some family support and some not, having to hire a lawyer for all this extra paperwork, the same stuff that every LGBT couple must face.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg of what makes LGBT weddings different. 

I love working with couples who give a damn, LGBT couples for whom this stuff is important, who don't take equal marriage rights for granted and who want to make some slight political statement with their marriage ceremony (and if you don't know how, we have ideas...)

Even if you live in a big city (like we do) with many LGBT friends (like we have), please don't take whatever rights you have for granted.  We have to keep fighting because, in most of the world, our LGBT brothers and sisters have no rights.  Even in states like California and Florida with "gay mecca" cities, LGBT couples have very limited rights.  

Your marriage and wedding is important, of course, but please, above all, protect your family.  Please contact us if you need resources in your area for financial planners, estate planning attorneys, insurance agents and other professionals who can help protect your family.

And please, along with us, keep up the good fight.  It's not just about the wedding.

Workshops for Engaged LGBT Couples in the NYC Area

It's engagement season - and if you are planning your gay wedding in the New York City area and looking for some expert advice, you are in luck!  I'm participating in a couple of panel discussions soon as well as leading a solo workshop. All of these are designed to empower you to plan yourself a great gay wedding!

Here are the details:

Thursday, February 9, 6:30pm (solo presentation)

Sunday, February 12, 11am (panel discussion)

  • WilliamsBrides event (excuse the non-inclusive name - it will be an inclusive event)
  • Williamsburg, Brooklyn 

Saturday, March 17, time TBD (panel discussion)

Please stop by and say hi at any of these events!  I would love to chat with you there and answer any planning questions you may have!

14 Stories Certified as an LGBTE

We are thrilled to announce that 14 Stories has been certified by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce as an LGBT-owned enterprise.  We are only one of two event planning companies in the entire United States to receive the certification.  

It's kind of a rigorous process to be certified - I even had to fax a copy of my marriage license!  I guess that's one way they prove that it's LGBT-owned.  There was also an interview, a review of tax records and so forth...needless to say, we're pretty excited to have made the cut!

Gay Wedding Institute Certified Professionals

Some of you may know that I frequently travel around the world and lead workshops on gay weddings for those in the wedding industry who are seeking to better understand the LGBT wedding market.  My goal is to provide all same-sex couples, no matter where they live, with access to wedding professionals who really want to treat them with respect.  

When I lead a full day workshop, or when professionals participate in my 3 part webinar series, they are eligible to be certified by the 14 Stories Gay Wedding Institute - and you may see this badge on their website or in their marketing materials:

This means that the professional has fully participated in the course, as well as completed all of the assigned homework.  It's not an easy process - so these professionals are truly your best advocates when planning your wedding.  Here is a list of all of the current graduates - some are wedding planners, others work at hotels and other properties, and others work elsewhere in the industry.  If we can't help you, hopefully one of these fine professionals will be able to.

Our Experience with Second Parent Adoption (and Why It's Important)

Those who follow me on Twitter know that my wife Jen and I just completed the second parent adoption process for our son, Patrick.  He was born on Oct. 31, 2010.

Let me explain a little bit about what this means.

Jen and I were legally married in Massachusetts.  Our marriage is only valid in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Iowa and D.C. (the other states where same-sex marriage is legal), and a couple of other random states.  According to the U.S. federal government and all those other states, we are not legally married.  According to most countries in the world, we are not legally married.

Patrick was born in Boston and Jen carried and delivered the baby.  She was the "bio-parent" though I was right there when he was born and my name is on his birth certificate.  However, because our marriage is not recognized most places in the world, neither are my rights to be his parent.  That's why we had to go through this process called "second parent adoption" - in which I basically adopt my own son.  This process took 10 months waiting for a court date and $2000 in legal fees before we saw a judge for 2 minutes.  Now it's over and we're happy!

If a same-sex couple doesn't do second parent adoption this can get really ugly in the following scenarios (among others):

  • If there's a divorce or break-up, the non-bio parent may have no rights no visitation or custody
  • If the bio-parent died, the non-bio parent may have no rights to his or her child (who would probably be placed with the bio-parent's parents)
  • If the bio-parent and the baby are in an accident, the non-bio parent may have no access to them in the hospital.
I think you get the idea.  Anyway, if you are planning to have kids, it's really important that you protect your family and go through this process (and the other estate planning processes).  Marriage isn't enough! We were thrilled with our lawyer, Claire DeMarco and if you are outside New England, you can find family law attorneys through www.lambdalegal.org.

Any questions?  Happy to answer!