How has it taken so long for gay wedding to become legal in the UK? Weddings are great; they’re a positive affirmation of our ability to love one another and a legitimate space for adults to do the Macarena. But for many, the passing of the law allowing gay couples to marry, from Saturday 29th, isn’t about the wedding itself but about the principle that gay people should be allowed to do everything that straight people can do. Which ought to be a basic human right.
Sadly, it’s not. Being gay is still illegal in over 70 countries and while we are making progress here in the UK, a recent BBC survey found that a fifth of British people would turn down an invitation to a same-sex wedding. On Friday night, I went to one of the first gay weddings in the UK to find out what kind of fun these bigots are missing out on.
The grooms were Sean Adl-Tabatabai and Sinclair Treadway. They got talking on a gay dating site last year, and met for drinks at a hotel while Sean was on a business trip in LA, where Sinclair was living. Clearly, someone did something right because months later, when marriage came up in conversation, the feeling was mutual. Neither Sean nor Sinclair proposed per se, but they both felt certain that they wanted to get married, asap.
They wanted to do it on the first day possible, Saturday 29th, but Camden Council suggested they marry at the stroke of midnight on Friday the 28th of March, in a bid to be the first same-sex couple in the UK to tie the knot and make LGBT history. As befitting a serious historical event, the dress code was: “Hot, sexy and camera ready.” Sean invited me to his house in Camden before the wedding to watch him get ready and nervously sip champagne. Sinclair was there too, dusting off a blue velvet suit jacket.
“The biggest surprise is the opposition to gay marriage in the gay community itself,” said Sean, “A lot of gay people feel like they've been excluded from heterosexual society so they think, ‘We’ll keep our culture separate.’ But I think the fact it’s changed is positive and progressive and we should support that.”
We arrived at Camden City Hall and were greeted by Camden’s first openly gay mayor, Jonathan Simpson, who looks more like a heavyweight boxer than a gay mayor, a giant Mancunian bear of a man. He wrote his speech quickly, “I was speaking from the heart, but I am nervous. I think I’ll struggle not to cry, what with the music and importance of the occasion.” I worried that I might involuntarily hug him.
“You can't see this wedding in isolation,” he said, “Around the world kids are living in fear every day because their families won't accept that they’re gay. They will see this and it will give them some hope – it’s a political act.” Do gay weddings have to adhere to wedding traditions? “It’s completely up to the individual. If someone wants to get married in an underground gay sex club, that's up to them,” he joked. Would he get married? “If I found the right person.” I wished it were me.
Steven, the registrar (also gay) told me that tonight’s wedding would be a race against the clock because a bunch of other gay couples around the UK had decided to get hitched at midnight and Sean and Sinclair would be competing to be the first. He then began explaining some deeply unromantic process whereby a document had to be printed out at midnight and signed before the couple could officially marry. I necked my champagne.
We entered the hall to take our seats. The room, all polished wood and green leather chairs, looked a bit like the House of Commons, only Sean and Sinclair’s premade playlist was blasting "Fantasy" by Mariah. Sean’s friend Natalie took her place as best man, and the grooms' mothers had come along to lead them in and give them away.
Despite the Mariah and shiny blue velvet jackets, the ceremony itself was much like any other wedding, including that awkward moment of silence when the registrar asks if anyone objects. Luckily, they hadn’t been invited. At about six minutes after midnight, Steven uttered the words, “I now declare you husband and husband.” I cried. Jonathan, The Mayor of Camden, cried. But no one who actually knew the grooms cried.
The band came in with violins, but those words, “husband and husband”, new together, hung in the air.
Outside the hall, the women of the Camden Council PR team were scanning Twitter on their iPhones, disputing whether Sean and Sinclair had in fact been the first gay couple to marry. The grooms didn’t seem to care, snogging in front of the camera crews like a pair of horny teenagers. A lone guest leaned over to me, “There’s been some right munters getting married today, I hope these guys’ looks get them enough press coverage for it to at least seem like they were the first.” Classy.
At about 1AM we piled into one of those tacky old London busses and headed to the reception. When I walked in, “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head” was playing and the room was shrouded with red silk. The evening had officially just peaked in camp. I sat in the corner with a moustachioed gay man in an all-white suit discussing the faghag stereotype and had a bemusing conversation about David Icke with a guy basically dressed as Jamiroquai.
I drunkenly cornered Mayor Jonathan and asked him annoying questions like, “Are you allowed to go to gay bars if you are mayor?” He cryptically described himself as a "naughty Mayor" before slipping off to give an impromptu second speech, “Tonight we made fucking history in Camden. Islington might have beat us, but we had the sexiest couple!” Then a manchild in guyliner taught me how to swing dance.
At about four in the morning, after hours of being asked whether I should be drinking on the job, I surveyed the room. Sean’s coworkers were dad-dancing in circles, 40-something men were sneaking off for a joint, and the best man was drunkenly telling Sean and Sinclair to, “Never be the one who’s scared to show their love more.”
In the end, it was pretty much the same as any wedding, gay or straight.