I’d be a liar if I said getting laid wasn’t one of the perks running through my head after my first book was published in 2004. And I’m pretty sure my fellow single gay authors had entertained the same notion after their works finally saw the light of the printing press.
Success breeds sex in most circles, just like good looks, money, a great personality, and that dynamite gym body you’ve worked so hard to obtain.
What I failed to take into account was that a gay wedding book—for queer people already in love—might be a giant cockblock. That this career accomplishment would also spark a decade-long professional backlash—culminating in my second gay nuptials book released in 2012—was just icing on an ironic wedding cake.
First, a little back story: I’d been hired to work for Brides magazine, a Condé Nast publication, in 1998 because I was a talented editor/writer—not because I had experience in the wedding industry. (I’d never had my own wedding, let alone planned one.) The same could be said for about half of my co-workers, most of whom hated writing and researching weddings. If they did get married while employed by the magazine, they usually opted to elope or have small ceremonies.
In large part, I was single because the past decade hadn’t been open to the idea of men tying the knot, and I was also insistent upon legal marriage if it were to happen (same-sex marriage, remember, was still against the law). Plus, I was bouncing back from the AIDS pandemic and losing all those eligible bachelors to premature death.
That first book offer came in 2003 after a relatively benign 750-word gay wedding article I wrote, which made splashes in the papers, TV shows, and radio stations all the way to Brazil, where a translator helped conduct my controversial interview. (Yes, Virginia, there actually was a time when same-sex weddings scared the wits out of conservative folk!) The publishing house call came soon after, and then the contract was signed and the book written within a year. Gay and Lesbian Weddings: Planning the Perfect Same-Sex Ceremony covered the planning elements of gay nuptials, not the legal means to get there. With civil ceremonies gaining traction and “symbolic weddings”—ones without any on-the-book ties—becoming more attractive to same-sex couples, there was a growing interest in my topical guide.
The weird stuff happened shortly afterward. I completed a book tour and radio circuit, and one day at the gym, I even saw my face on the local TV news channel. I had arrived, but, as I was soon to discover, nobody was there to greet me. Eligible bachelors, I learned, didn’t show up when you were the wedding expert—not the catch.
While men were learning—through my words—how to find the perfect florist, stay on a budget, or keep the sex fresh in the bedroom, I hadn’t had a date in ages, lived with a roommate, and could barely pay rent. A year later, I got a dog to fight off the loneliness. I’d even fantasize about meeting Mr. Right at a book signing, a man so smitten he’d realize that I, not his fiancée, was his one true love, and we’d ride out of the Barnes & Noble sunset into the Barney’s tuxedo department.
Even more difficult to handle was when it was discovered I was single. I never lied about my status, but most assumed I must be married. I was ridiculed in the early days of Facebook for having no idea what I was talking about and having the nerve to tell other people how to plan their big day. A bald hairstylist called me a hack, and I shot back with: “You have no hair and yet you let others trust you with theirs?”
For the first couple of years, the personal insults were so harsh that, at one point, a good friend of mine and I briefly considered arranging our own wedding just to give my words more merit, and him more publicity for his budding PR business. We ultimately decided that we didn’t want to tarnish an institution—and celebration—our community was working so hard to achieve. While I don’t think being single had any effect on sales for either book, it hurt to have my hard work and wedding knowledge mocked.
Though I was proud of the first book and what I’d accomplished, I made a conscious decision afterward to get out of the business and write about other topics. I turned down a Kindle wedding book offer faster than I could download the app. I pitched several non-related wedding ideas to my agent, who nixed every single one. (We ended up parting ways.) I managed to get a book of personal essays published, for a pittance of an advance, but most agents avoided me like a drunk girl in the receiving line.
Since my resume for the past 10 years read “gay wedding book” and “Brides magazine,” mainstream publication editors showed me the door when I asked for work. The irony was that, while I was seen as a fraud for being single and writing about weddings, no one would hire me to write anything else.
Broke and desperate for work, I ended up taking a job reviewing porn sites under a pseudonym, which, for the record, is a lot less scintillating than it might seem. It turns out there really is a sex site for every fetish on earth, and I got to cover the exciting worlds of “lady fisters” and “sexy saggy seniors.” When that job ended, I had no choice but to take gigs working for online wedding sites with bad pay and not much professional reward.
In 2008, I met and almost shacked up with the “perfect” man—gorgeous, successful, socially connected—and we were both thrilled that my wedding knowledge could finally be put to personal use. And at last, I thought, I’d get some good book publicity. There was only one problem: I wasn’t in love with the guy and couldn’t say “I do” to a man who had everything but the one thing that should be at the center of all weddings: true love. I broke up with him instead of tying the knot.
By the end of the 2010s, the economy had tanked and my paychecks were getting smaller. More and more wedding sites wanted me to write for free, because “the exposure” would make it all worthwhile, and magazines were folding daily. Every journalist I knew was in trouble, and my background meant I was more expendable than others.
Then, in 2012, the second wedding book called. The new guide was to be for men only (a first!), and I jumped at the chance. I set my own terms, picked a lot of my own people, and insisted on ample time to complete the project without losing my mind. Oddly enough, the book was published the same year that same-sex marriage became legal in New York, and, for a little while anyway, people forgot that I was less-than-married.
I felt good about my second book, but disliked much of what I saw during its promotion. Guys were getting married because it was trendy, without financial planning or a lengthy engagement, let alone love. The men who’d waited all their lives to make the marriage legal were wonderful, and I was in heaven when I’d hear from them, but there was an entire sector of guys, mostly in their 20s, who treated marriage as an excuse to take plenty of pictures and show off to friends.
Thankfully, I soon got a job for a gay, non-wedding-related publication, which I loved, and left the world of weddings behind, again. I went back to writing columns. I interviewed Meryl Streep. I started hitting clubs and getting re-invested in queer pop culture. It really was a divorce, not just from two books, but from my time working for a bridal magazine. Within a couple of years, no one bothered to ask me for Caribbean honeymoon recommendations. And while I could still tell you it’s a faux pas to have a cash bar at your wedding, I’m not sure if I remember, off-hand, how best to plan the order of dances for a same-sex affair.
With the exception of this article, I haven’t written a single wedding-related piece in years. I have no regrets over how I initially became a published author, though I wish I’d pushed for representation that also encouraged me to pursue other projects. No one refers to me as a wedding writer anymore, and I relay, with humor, the irony of being a single man who wrote two books on how to plan a gay wedding. Dates, especially, find it amusing.
Would I enter the professional world of gay weddings again? Perhaps, if the project had a spin that I believed could be helpful for couples in love. On a personal level, I’m still looking for Mr. Right to sweep me off my feet and give me a reason to plan the perfect same-sex ceremony. And why shouldn’t I? After all, when it comes to weddings, I wrote the book.