We spoke with Jason Mitchell Kahn, Soho House New York's event and banquet manager and the author of the new book, Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms, about the ins and outs of wedding planning.
theFashionSpot: How did you get into wedding planning?
Jason Mitchell Kahn: My background is in theater as a playwright and when I first moved to New York I supplemented my career like many do as a waiter. That quickly evolved into events and led to working at the Soho House planning and executing all of their events. It’s been the best education in the field as I’ve gotten to work on everything including movie premieres, fashion shows, art installations, awards show post parties and what I eventually learned were my favorite: weddings. In addition to the ones at Soho House, I started doing a bunch outside, including my own. Weddings combine what I love in playwrighting and events. I work with couples to help create their most beautiful story for the occasion.
tFS: As an event planner, when you're approached by a gay versus a straight couple — do the initial questions/concerns tend to be the same or different?
JMK: What I find is the biggest difference is the initial phases of planning. Women have often spent their lifetime dreaming of their wedding night and have a clear picture of what they want. Most gay grooms don’t know where to begin, but once we lay the groundwork, there are tasks that are completely neutral such as balancing a budget or selecting a menu, and then many which are gay specific, like invitation wording, what to wear and how to design a ceremony processional.
tFS: Can you elaborate on wedding invitations? Any tips?
JMK: The wording of them is definitely one of the areas gay couples must really pay attention to detail and decide on what feels right. Things to consider are parental involvement (or not) with throwing the affair; whether it’s taking place in a state where same-sex marriage is legal or not and to communicate properly to guests what to expect and what to wear. It’s a great place to have a little fun too, as the wedding invitation sets the tone for the guests.
tFS: Any cost-saving tips?
JMK: Book a venue that is naturally beautiful and most of the design work is already done for you. Also opt for a less popular time of year or night of the week.
tFS: What do straight vs. gay couples tend to splurge on most? Tend to save on most?
JMK: I’ve found the wedding cake is much less important to gay couples, so they usually spend less. Women are more likely to splurge on their dress and accessories, but when grooms are up for it, I like persuading them to buy a special suit or tux. They have the advantage of being able to reuse it.
tFS: What do you think is the biggest mistake people make when planning a wedding?
JMK: Being too stressed about small things and not enjoying the planning process. It’s meant to be fun! But in order to achieve this you have to be organized from the very beginning.
tFS: Any tips for good wedding gifts?
JMK: When couples create a registry, this makes it much easier for guests to know exactly what they want, but there are some other great ideas if you know the couple would enjoy them. You can treat them to a couples massage or nice dinner on their honeymoon. We had two guests give us a certificate for a wine and cheese pairing for six people in our apartment. We had a blast and got to share it with friends.
tFS: Any tips when it comes to managing a guest list? Is inviting a single without a plus-one a faux pas?
JMK: I think a lot of those etiquette rules have shifted in the modern wedding world. A couple must do what they feel comfortable with and can afford, but many only invite that single person with a plus-one if they know that guest won’t know anyone else or will feel awkward. Any true friend should be able to understand what a couple is going through when they make these decisions and weddings can be great places for new romance to be discovered amongst the single people there!
tFS: Thoughts on themed weddings? Any way for them not to be cheesy?
JMK: It depends on the couple. I did a recent gay wedding that had The Great Gatsby as the theme and I heard repeatedly as guests arrived, "This is so them!" Weddings should be as personal as possible in telling the story of a couple and if that means having a theme then so be it. But nothing should ever upstage the couple and the love they want to declare in front of friends and family.
tFS: Things can always go wrong — any advice for staying calm?
JMK: All couples must reach a point of letting go on the big day. As an event planner there were things at our wedding that didn’t go exactly as I had arranged. That’s not where your head should be on wedding day and the unexpected surprises can be some of the best moments. Always remind yourself of why you’re there to begin with…how lucky you are to have found the right partner in life. That won’t change even if the salad course comes out 10 minutes late. If you’re not working with an event planner, hand over the job of overseeing to someone capable you can trust.
tFS: What do you suggest people do the day before their wedding to relax?
JMK: Well, many times people are having rehearsals and rehearsal dinners and depending on the scope of the affair, they can be like second weddings. If that’s the case, you’ll want to hand the whole weekend of festivities over to capable hands. Be sure to eat well and drink plenty of water. If you can treat yourself to a little pampering. Be sure to get all tasks such as wedding party gifts, checks for vendors and picking up your dry-cleaned tux done far in advance to avoid scrambling on the day of.
tFS: Are there any trends you've been noticing as a wedding planner?
JMK: I think the rise of gay weddings is affecting the entire industry. I’ve literally had straight brides say to me, “I want a gay wedding because they’re more fun.” What’s happened is that gay couples have been forced to think outside the box to change the wedding traditions that don’t fit and invent new ones. But truthfully, all couples, gay or straight, should feel empowered to do this. Couples are being creative not only in design and what they serve, but also with traditions. I’ve had a bride in burgundy with no flowers because “that just wasn’t her.”