Bill & Darryl :: Our Perfect Day :: Tucson, Arizona // Real LGBT Wedding

:: Our Perfect Day ::

Submitted by :: Groom, Darryl Howard

Our wedding weekend was amazing! We hosted 100 guests at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in late September 2014. The weekend was a beautiful gathering of family and friends. The wedding was held on Saturday, 9/20. The ceremony and reception were outdoors at the base of the mountains, as dusk, as the sun started to tuck just behind the mountains and the sky glowed a magical rainbow of reds, golds, yellows, oranges and ambers. There were pretty memorable toasts from our wedding parties and heartwarming first dances with our mothers. Bill and I worked on our wedding details for one year. Everything was executed perfectly and not one beat was missed, thanks to the help of the staff at The Ritz. We had a vintage Polaroid camera table and guestbook for our guest to leave photo messages for us. After a 5 course meal, the night moved into dancing under the Kiva and then into the Members Grill with an afterglow buffet of chicken wings, french fries, quesadilla and homemade cookies (made by Darryl’s mother). We danced the night away and loved every second of our special day.

Thanks to The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain for welcoming us and making our guest feel at home. Our day was perfect! There was not one missed step in the execution of the wedding and events surrounding the weekend.  We were showered with love and support from all corners of the country. Our guests traveled from near and far to celebrate with us.

You can also watch their beautiful wedding video by CSM Wedding Films here.


Dusk, Mountains, Dancing The Night Away

The Professionals

Venue :: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
Videography :: CSM Wedding Videos
Photography :: Hammond Preuss Photography
Event Production and Floral :: LaFleur Plantscapes


Dove Mountain, Tucson, Arizona



Phil & Andrew :: Eco Chic Dream in Carmel Valley, California // Real LGBT Wedding

:: Eco Chic Dream ::

Submitted by :: Thomas Bui Lifestyle

At the end of the  Camino de Santiago, an 800km trek through northern Spain, it is customary to leave a stone from your homeland with a message at the spot where Christopher Columbus set sail for the New World. Andrew was shocked when Phil threw his rock to him, a single question written on it: “Will you marry me?” They had been dating for eight years, and the time had come for them to begin a new journey together.

The couple immediately knew that they wanted to combine Andrew’s love of everything modern and bling with Phil’s natural tastes in an “Eco Chic” theme. From a list of a whopping 170 possible venues (of which they visited 68!), they found only one that perfectly suited their vision: Holman Ranch, overlooking California’s gorgeous Carmel Valley.

Beautiful, sunny weather greeted them on their big day. Guests were transported to the venue by a motorized cart draped in flowers, welcomed by a three-piece jazz ensemble playing against the mountainous backdrop.

The grooms, both in head-to-toe Hugo Boss, were escorted through a homemade chiffon archway and down the aisle by their respective mothers. They wrote their vows to one another separately but chose to end them in the same way, reflecting on California’s current ban on same-sex marriages: “Let no law stand between our union, let us make of our two lives, one life.”

Two rituals added an extra special touch to their ceremony. First, each attendee placed a white rose in a vase in front of the couple as a show of support for their union. Later, Andrew and Phil placed a special bottle of wine in a box, along with a letter from each to the other expressing their love. The box and its contents are to be opened either on their ten-year anniversary or to support them during a rough patch.

Andrew’s father constructed several special elements for the event, including a wall adorned with photos of the grooms’ families and a vineyard trellis laced with notecards full of guests’ advice to the newlyweds. Homegrown succulent boxes displayed the seat assignments. Succulents abounded in their decorations, ideal for the arid location. A mixture of tulips, peonies, gardenias and dahlias in varying shades of white, green and butter yellow completed the look.

The “Eco Chic” theme was apparent throughout. Burlap table coverings were offset by an assortment of modern glassware while a Swarovski crystal-studded succulent awaited each guest at his or her place setting. Both Andrew and Phil felt strongly that the food must be locally sourced and as fresh as possible. They worked with Paradise Catering, who not only sourced their meat and fish locally, but also grew their own vegetables for the evening’s meal. The couple showed personality in customizing their menu. Bites included “The First Date” stuffed with goat cheese and wrapped in bacon, “Thyme Fries When You’re Having Fun”, and chocolate milk shooters “for the commuters” at the end of the night. They also put thought into creative presentations. Dr. Pepper-braised short rib was served on individual ceramic spoons, and a tomato, watermelon and mozzarella salad came in a martini glass.

The white, three-tier crystal and succulent-adorned cake was kept in a hidden courtyard, to which the couple led their guests after dinner. “It was so special to see everyone gather in a small courtyard to see us cut the cake,” said Andrew. A sequined chevron tablecloth and plenty of candlelight added to the special moment.

Finally, it was time to hit the dance floor in the ranch’s light-strung barn. The newlyweds performed a Money Dance, but rather than use the funds towards their honeymoon they donated the proceeds to the Human Rights Campaign, ending their nuptials on a sweetly generous note.


Carmel Valley, Eco Chic, Rituals

The Professionals

Event Planner :: Thomas Bui Lifestyle
Floral :: Fionna Floral
Photography :: Gene Higa and Braja Mandala
Videographer :: Justin Fone
Apparel and Accessories :: Hugo Boss
Catering :: Paradise Catering
Wedding Cake :: Amia Bakery
Venue :: Holman Ranch
Band :: Sandra Aran Trio
DJ :: Sound in Motion


Carmel, California



Kevin & Kevin :: Lakeside Love in Long Island // Real LGBT Wedding

:: Lakeside Love In Long Island ::

Submitted by :: Photography by Verdi

The thing that impressed us most about Kevin and Kevin’s wedding was all the love that surrounded them. Not only the love between the two of them, but how much their families and friends were so close and loving.

The ceremony was set outdoors under the trees next to a beautiful lake. It was a warm summer day on Long Island’s north shore with a beautiful warm breeze that matched the warmth of the couple.


Lakeside Ceremony, Family and Friends, Warmth and Love

The Professionals

Venue: Flowerfield
Submitted and Photographed by: Mindi Verdi of Photography by Verdi


Long Island, New York


Oscar & Gary :: Ocean and City Views in Coronado // Real LGBT Wedding

:: Ocean and City Views in Coronado ::

Submitted by :: Grooms, Mr. Oscar De las salas and Mr. Gary Jackson

MRSter: How did you meet?
O + G: We were brought together from diverse backgrounds, perspectives and continents, and found love and partnership that neither of us expected. Our different styles, energy and talents have found a balance in life and love that has grown more intense and more inspiring each day. We were friends long before the time that fate took a surprising course, and the relationship that we know today, started quietly with a Friday afternoon lunch, which was in reality a thinly veiled interview/date to survey the possible future together for us. Apparently passing the tests, the connection grew stronger and we became a couple in 2007, to the surprise of many friends. In 2008, little Hugo (our pug) found this family merely a week prior to us moving in together and making a home in a house which we later discovered we had both placed separate offers as single men.

MRSter:  Why did you choose to do a destination wedding?
O + G:  In the non-romantic sense, as a same-sex couple, we had to travel to a state in which then our marriage would be legally recognized. But with that reality, we also valued the importance of a location which reflects both of our backgrounds and origins as children. Gary was born in a small port town in Washington state, north of Seattle, while Oscar was born in the port city of Barranquilla, Colombia in South America. So holding the most important ceremony of our lives near the ocean and bay, and next to a marina, offered us a connection to our roots, as well as a beautiful backdrop. And given the close vicinity and connection that Arizonan’s have to San Diego, the quaint nature of Coronado became the perfect choice for our wedding and for the ease of our guests to travel.

MRSter:  How did your family and friends respond to the decision?
O + G:  We both believe strongly that our friends are our family, and we are very lucky to have a network of intimate friends who value and believe in our relationship – so anywhere we would hold the wedding, we knew that our close friends would literally drop everything and simply ask – where and when and we will be there. We chose to have a small, intimate ceremony, so we knew that the travel and commitment that comes with that would not be an issue. In fact, all of our guests found our choice to be the perfect fit and they all took an extended weekend to enjoy the beauty and vibe of San Diego.

MRSter:  How many people attended the wedding?
O + G:  We chose to keep it small and limit the number of guests to about 28 people, not including us. This made for a wonderful mix of friends, intimate cocktail parties and a strong connection between every attendee.

MRSter:  How/why did you choose the location/destination?
O + G:  As we noted above, we have an affinity for the coast and a port city. Sitting along a marina brings both of us a sense of calm and well-being, and being from Arizona, San Diego is a perfect contrast to the desert locations and heat of the Sonoran landscape. As part of our decision, two close friends (Mark and Angela Karp, who also own an events company called Angelic Grove) opened their home on the Glorietta Bay Marina to us for a location scouting trip, which afforded us time to spend in Coronado and experience the beauty of the island.  The city of Coronado recreation department was extremely helpful and supportive in helping us find the right ceremony location, and when we walked into Centennial Park in Coronado, which overlooks the San Diego Bay and city skyline, we knew we had found our location.

MRSter:  Was planning a destination wedding easy?
O + G:  No, No, No. Given our circle of friends and business in Phoenix, we know many event planners, florists, and entertainment companies in Arizona, but San Diego was an unknown to us. Luckily we have many referrals to contact, but we still had to take a leap of faith with several providers. And the San Diego market is a very laid back coastal community, so there is no sense of urgency in the industry. It made it challenging to get timely responses and confirmations in coordination in the market.

MRSter:  Can you describe the ceremony?
O + G:  We wanted to have a close, personal ceremony what reflected our sense of style, and the importance of marriage equality for us and our friends. With Oscar’s background in fashion, he also had a clear vision of the overall feeling he wanted in the color scheme. Our wedding was based in the feeling of the beach, bay, marina and natural pieces of nature, so the overall look of the ceremony was one of classic and fresh design.  The guests sat overlooking the bay on crystal ghost chairs, with sun parasols and sandalwood hand fans to cool in the sun. Since we are a couple from diverse background and countries, we also wanted to incorporate those origins in the event, and also maintain an open format and wrote the entire ceremony ourselves.  The ceremony was backed by acoustic classical Spanish guitar music, by artist David De Alva. Our officiate was our close friend and artist, Mayme Kratz, who we have known for 20 years, and knows each of us very well, bringing a personal emotion to the proceedings. Without family at the ceremony, and avoiding traditions set for opposite sex couples, we also wanted to include our closest friends to present the two grooms for marriage. Our friends Jeff Brodin and Irma Diehl give their approval of the union as representatives of all of the friends of Oscar and Gary.  To note the cultural mixing, we asked another couple of Anglo and Latin backgrounds, Bill and Irma Diehl to read a verse in both Spanish and English, representing the diversity of culture in this marriage. At the conclusion of the ceremony, we also loved the tradition in the Jewish culture of breaking the glass, but we wanted to take it to a different level. We wrote on cards several myths and negatives that we wanted to crush and ‘break’ – so our friends, Erika and Russ Dickey read aloud each item, such as bigotry, hatred, false traditions, ignorance, and put them into a bag with the glass – which we then broke by foot.  The overall impact of the ceremony was one of embrace, love and hope.

MRSter:  Would you mind describing the reception?
O + G:  We made our way in a classic 1955 Bel Air convertible to the Bluewater Boathouse on Glorietta Bay Marina, in which we had the entire balcony overlooking the marina. It was a perfect setting for cocktails, with a four course seated dinner in candlelight. We chose the texture and simplicity of white linens, and white hydrangeas in clear cylinders to maintain the classic look, with a contemporary tone. The reception was underscored with big band music from the 1940s completing the mood of retro, and complementing the history of Coronado and the boathouse we were in, which was built in 1887. One of our close friends provided a special dessert table with Brazilian and Lebanese chocolates and sweets, adding both a sweet and stunning  addition to the reception,

MRSter:  Did you do any pre/post activities? If so, please describe them.
O + G:  Since we did not have a rehearsal dinner, we chose to hold what we called our bachelor cocktail party on the evening prior to the wedding. At the Hilton San Diego Bayfront, we had our entire guest list join us for cocktails and tapas on the private half-circle balcony jutting from the side of the hotel, overlooking the bay, with additions of blue and bright green flowers to the white wedding theme to punch up the color a bit. With our guests in beautiful summer cocktail attire, it was an amazing pre-event for our friends to meet up and connect prior to the wedding day itself.

MRSter:  What did you use when planning your wedding – internet searches, wedding magazines, personal referrals, wedding planner?
O + G:  We contacted several local Sean Diego wedding coordinators and sadly, never received any follow-through from ANY of them. Not sure why – same-sex couple or maybe too small? So our good friends from Angelic Grove events provided us with some local resources in San Diego, and we did the coordination ourselves, from requesting quotes, checking rates and finding what we wanted on the Internet. We booked the location for the wedding ourselves from the city of Coronado, and handled the coordination of both our bachelor cocktails, reception set-up, cake, classic car – all ourselves.

MRSter:  What was your favorite moment on the wedding day?
O + G:  There are so many moments which took our breath away, which includes our personal vows read to each other. This was the first time we had heard each other’s vows and our hearts were filled to overflowing. But for the event itself, one of our favorite moments was driving in the classic convertible along Orange Avenue and coming over the crest of the street to the reception at the historic boathouse, to see all of our guests standing and waving to greet the new grooms at the reception. It was exhilarating and emotional all at once.

MRSter:  Do you have any special advice you would like to share with our readers to help prepare them for their day?
O + G:
a)      Give yourself time to plan and use your friends as much as you can for a sounding board.
b)      Understand that nothing will be perfect. The perfection of the day lies in your connection and love from your friends, your family and the personal moments.
c)      If you are getting wed in a public venue, hire security.
d)      Invest in a fantastic photographer. The event itself goes by so fast, that you will not remember the individual moments themselves – but good photos will revive those memories in your heart to relive again and again.
e)      When you choose your flowers, colors, outfits etc – remember that these photos and images are forever. Trends and fashion may come and go, but your photos will be there forever. Last thing you want is to have some current fashion trend that will disappear and leave you with a look that you and your family will cringe each time you see that photos.
f)      Have someone you trust, whether that is a coordinator or a friend, double check on the ceremony and reception set-up prior to walking in. As we noted, nothing goes as planned, but don’t leave your requirements for your wedding in the hands of the people who manage the space. What is the adage? Trust by verify.


Breaking Hate, Dapper Dog, Destination

The Professionals

Photographer:  Kristina Lee Photography
Rehearsal Cocktails: Tracy vanDam Fotografie
Wedding and Reception: Kristina Lee Photography
Wedding Planner: Self-planned
Ceremony: Centennial Park, Coronado, CA
Reception: Bluewater Boathouse, Coronado, CA
Florist: Flowers By Erin
Grooms’ Clothing Designer: SuitSupply
Bridesmaids/Groomsmens’ Clothing Designer: self
Wedding Consultant: Angelic Grove
Bluewater Boathouse was the location for the Reception and provided the multi-course meals, cocktails and hors d’oeuvres
Cake provided by Extraordinary Desserts, San Diego, CA
Dessert Table provided by: Sweets Table by Micheline Etkin
Ghost Chair Rentals by: Raphael’s Party Rentals
Parasols and Fans by: Paper Lantern Store
Classic Car Transportation provided by: Haynes Antique Car Chauffeuring


Centennial Park, Coronado, CA



Featured Modern Union // David and Emmanuel :: The Perfect Match

When MRSter asked photographer Sarah Hagerty of MRSter Approved – Hagerty Photography to give a title to this couple’s wedding day she simply replied with “The Perfect Match” and we couldn’t agree more. We asked David and Emmanuel a few questions about their wedding day and the planning process and here is a little bit of what they had to say.

M :: What was the most memorable part of your day?
David :: Seeing all our friends and family looking at us as we said our vows and when we entered the reception venue.

Emmanuel :: The few quiet moments right after the ceremony we had together holding hands.

M :: What was the biggest challenge when planning your big day?
David :: Communicating our vision and compromising what we want and what we can realistically get. {Living in the moment!} Being a wedding planner myself and trying not to worry about each moment.

M :: Any advice you would give our couples?
Emmanuel :: Don’t sweat the little things during the wedding and reception, the guest won’t notice them and even though it is not exactly how you wanted it, it is still amazing. We should also add that choosing the right photographer makes a difference, we had amazing photographers who made us feel very comfortable and was really there while being invisible to our guests. {Nice compliment Sarah and Nick}

David :: Make sure to give your wedding ring to your future partner’s grooms man and vice versa, we didn’t plan that right and had to switch the rings, we also noticed it happening at another wedding.

M :: What were you most surprised during the planning process?
David :: First, I was not expecting that we really needed to plan so much in advance but realized that without starting early it is not possible to get everything we want the way we want it. Venues’ availability fill up fast. We were lucky to have a great team to work with.

The lack of initial customer service we received from industry experts. {We hear this a lot from couples…I hear another blog post coming on!}

David :: How fast the news spread and all of the support from not only family and friends but colleagues and industry peers.

M :: Share with us your reception with as much or as little details as you would like.
D + E :: Our reception was a perfect combination of both of us. A little of bit sass, some elegance but really just a good time for family and friends. We both love food, and although daring to have 5 courses, our food was not only the star of the evening but still talked about today. The most talked about course being the lamb which sauce had been cooking for over 4 days.

David :: Being an event and wedding designer myself I feel an over the top reception was expected (but that was more for the rehearsal dinner), simplistic but beautiful neutral colors allowed our guests to be the stand out. Held at the gorgeous new Kneely Center at the Phoenix Zoo with entire walls that open up to an amazing patio over looking the grounds at the zoo. We had the famous zoo lights crew light up a few key trees so guests could enjoy the atmosphere all night long.

A combination of big band music and fun pop dance tunes kept the party going along with the ever flowing champagne that was specially brought in to keep Emmanuel’s side of the family (that we refer to as the French Contingency) happy.

Another star of the evening was our cake. With one of the valley’s top cake artists coming out of retirement just for our cake she captured the entire evening. With simple fondant patterned, some sugar succulents and quite possibly the cutest toppers of a custom made cowboy hat and French beret.

Wanting to be different our guest book were our first initials made out of wood, then attached to a custom printed piece of artwork that hangs now in our Arizona room.

Emmanuel :: The best evening even had the best ending, with several close friends headed back to the Hotel Valley Ho for late night drinks and huge amounts of laughter.

Any last thoughts you would like to share?
D + E :: As gay marriage is something new to not on the wedding industry but to the gay community itself. Slow down, don’t over analyze everything and enjoy yourselves, we’ve waited a long time for this, don’t miss out!!


West meets France. Out of retirement pasty chef. Comedian as the officiant. No joke!

The Professionals

Hotel // MRSter Approved :: Hotel Valley Ho
Ceremony // The Phoenix Zoo
Reception // The Phoenix Zoo
Florals // J. Barry Designs
Entertainment // Tugston Entertainment
Officiant // Mark Cordes
Decor // MRSter Approved :: Kool Party Rentals
Decor // MRSter Approved :: Y-Knot Party Rentals
Decor // MRSter Approved :: Classic Party Rentals
Catering // The Venue Scottsdale
Tux’s // Mr. Formal
Invitations & Paper // Celebrations in Paper
Cake // Elegant Cake Creations
Dessert Display // La Dolce Pesca
Photo Booth // MRSter Approved :: The HIP Booth
Photography // MRSter Approved :: Hagerty Photography


Tempe, Arizona