Before Jason Mitchell became the go-to wedding planner for Broadway couples, he worked—where else—in show business. Mitchell got his start writing plays like The Red Box and The Boys Upstairs. He supplemented his growing theatrical career by working at the Soho House, where he was in charge of private events. It was at the posh private club in the Meatpacking District where he found his true calling. “As a writer, I’ve always been someone who has studied relationships and family dynamics,” says Mitchell. “That’s very important as you arrive at a wedding and need to be familiar with the ins and outs of close friends and families.”
He was also able to meet many of his clients through the theatre, like the actor-turned-Tony-nominated director Michael Arden, who did an early reading of The Boys Upstairs, as well as his old Hell’s Kitchen roomie, Pippin standout Molly Tynes. “I love working with performer couples because they have already had many opening nights and moments in the spotlight, so they’re very good at not losing sight of why they’re getting married. They don’t lose focus and turn it into something else. They have very pure reasons for having a wedding.” Here the author of Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms provides Playbill.com with a few tips for soon-to-be brides and grooms and a peek inside some of Broadway’s biggest nights—off stage.
Tony-winning director Des McAnuff and Bryna McCann
September 16, 2012
The Soho House, NY
“This was one I did when I was still working for the Soho House. They wanted to have their wedding there, and I was put in charge of the planning and execution of it. They also did it on a Sunday night, so that a lot of theatre people could come after their shows. It was a great night of delicious Soho House food, and some great dancing and mingling. It didn’t have [any theatrical elements to it]—I think they came to the Soho House not wanting to worry about a lot of the pomp and circumstance of a traditional wedding. They had been together for quite some time, and it was more of a celebration of the fact that they were making their union official. This was also before I knew that I was going to go out on my own as a wedding planner, and I remember at the end of the night I was standing next to Des and Bryna, and Des looked at me and said, ‘You sir are expert at what you do.’ It was then that a lightbulb went off about where I saw my future going.”
Hamilton and Book of Mormon star Rory O’Malley and Gerold Schroeder
September 28, 2014
Edison Ballroom, New York
“Rory and Gerold had a large guest count and they wanted everyone from their different walks of life—family, old friends, new friends, theatre colleagues—to feel welcome and relaxed and ready to party. They knew they wanted to do it on a Sunday evening so friends that were involved in the theatre could come after their matinees. The wedding was at the Edison Ballroom, and we didn’t do a sit down dinner— there were passed apps and multiple food stations—so one of the things I really worked on with them was the interesting challenge of making it feel like their wedding, and not like an Opening Night party. We created three distinct atmospheres for the night: a ceremony, a cocktail hour and a reception, [signaled by] multiple lighting changes, and we spaced out all of the important moments, like the speeches, toasts and dances to give the night a sense of structure. The theatrical experiences that had changed Rory’s life were important for him to honor, so their ceremony was a beautiful, personally crafted celebration of a lot of the different people that he’s gotten to work with. Gavin Creel, who formed Broadway Impact with Rory, sang directly to the two of them, and Josh Gad, who Rory went to school with, did a reading of his thoughts and advice on marriage. It was as humorous as you can expect from something by Josh Gad. The ceremony concluded with members of the original cast of The Book of Mormon performing a custom mashup of [Beyonce’s] ‘Love on Top’ and [the Beach Boys’ song] ‘God Only Knows.’ Also at the time, Marriage Equality had not passed on a national level, so for their wedding favors we gave out a sweet treat with information about how to give to Broadway Impact. The good news is, is that here we are having this interview and we won!”
Producers Drew Desky and Dane Levens
October 11, 2015
Bucks County Playhouse and the Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm, New Hope, PA
“Drew and Dane live in Manhattan, but they have a second home in Bucks County. They are very involved in the Bucks County Playhouse, so they knew that that’s where they wanted their ceremony to take place. As we searched for a nearby venue to have the reception at, we stumbled across this incredible place called the Inn at Barley Sheaf Farm, which coincidentally was once home to George S. Kaufman. All of the rooms in the home are named after plays that he wrote, so it was such a connective place to celebrate these two grooms and their love of theatre. They had a selection of friends who they had asked to perform at their ceremony and their reception, including Karen Mason, Christina Bianco, Jason Tam and Darius de Haas. The fun part was figuring out how to make [these amazing performances] fit into a wedding and not have it feel like a cabaret or a concert, so we worked to interweave these songs with [traditional] wedding moments. For example, one of their guests sang for their first dance, another sang while they cut their cake.
[Transforming the Bucks County stage for a ceremony] was [also] incredibly challenging, because when we booked the venue they could not tell us what was going to be in the theatre at the time of the wedding. We found out a few weeks before that it was going to be the set of a Rat Pack review, which is not necessarily ideal for a wedding ceremony, but at the same time we were not looking to completely transform the idea that people were in the theatre and watching a ceremony on top of a set. Their ceremony was flanked by two ladders decorated with candles and flowers and there were hurricane candle holders evenly spaced at the foot of the stage to represent the footlights of an old theatre. After being given a “Playbill,” the guests sat in the seats and the curtain rose as the processional music began. It was incredibly theatrical.”
Pippin actress Molly Tynes and Richard Wagner
October 17, 2015
The Cosmos Club, Washington D.C.
“Molly has been a very good friend of mine for over a decade. We were roommates at one point in Hell’s Kitchen. Molly and Rich got married at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., which was a special place for Molly’s family, near where she grew up. It’s an academic club that has this beautiful gilded gold ballroom. They really went with the nature of the space and she got married in this gorgeous ballgown, and he wore a tux, but they still wanted to keep it relaxed and fun and have a good party. Molly made a costume change mid-reception, so she and all of her closest dancer friends could really go to town on the dance floor.”
Honeymoon in Vegas star Brynn O’Malley and SNL standout Bobby Moynihan
August 13, 2016
The Brooklyn Winery, Brooklyn, NY
“They reached out to me after they attended [25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee actress] Dana Steingold’s wedding, that I had planned. The most important thing to them was finding a place they didn’t have to transform. They wanted a space that when they walked into it, it would feel very “them.” We toured a bunch of venue options in New York and they fell in love with the Brooklyn Winery. Besides the two of them, the stars of the night were the venue, the delicious food (including desserts by Zac Young and a wedding cake by Ron Ben Israel) and the really relaxed, but chic ambiance.”
“I’ve known Michael for many years. He was in a reading of a play that I wrote, and I’ve always been a fan of both his and Andy’s. Their wedding was at the Babington House, which is in the English countryside. It is a very special place for the two of them, because it’s where they got engaged. It was an intimate wedding with very close family and friends. Babington is really beautiful and very much fits with their natural aesthetic. All the guests stayed on the property, and we wanted to maximize their time and experience on the grounds, so we planned the wedding into three distinct sections, complete with breaks and surprises along the way.”
Mitchell’s Top Tips for a Pitch-Perfect Wedding:
1. Every decision is an important one.
“It’s important to make really conscious decisions for your wedding. I’ll often ask a couple, ‘What would you like for this?’ and they’ll say, ‘I don’t care,’ but I want them to care, because it is their first dance. That song should be something that’s personal to them. It should not just be left up to the band to make up their mind.”
2. Choose vendors who respect the nature of your wedding.
“In general, even as we’ve made all of this progress as far as equality goes, the wedding industry still caters to the idea of a bride and a groom. If you’re two brides or two grooms, you should make sure that you are being treated with respect by your vendors and that they’re understanding the nature of your wedding. You don’t have to put up with a contract that’s still addressed to a bride and groom.”
3. Remember that most wedding traditions are optional.
“For many years weddings have been about what a girl has dreamed about her whole life. When two [men] decide they want to get married, they often don’t know where to start, because it hasn’t been something that they’ve really thought about. They know that the person they’re engaged to is who they want to spend their life with, but the idea of actually having a wedding is like no man’s land. What I try to express to these grooms is that all you actually have to do is sign the marriage license to make it official. While there are lots of traditions that people do, it’s really up to you on how you want to celebrate your day, and you should do that on your own terms.”