I moved to New York after graduating with a B.F.A. in theatre from New World School of the Arts to begin my career as a playwright. I was fortunate that both of my plays had New York premieres, including The Boys Upstairs, which was the runaway hit of the 2009 Fringe Festival and has since played Los Angeles, Chicago, and London. But while developing stories, I worked as a waiter. With a love for entertaining, my job in the hospitality industry soon evolved into running events at the Soho House. From Broadway opening nights to Oscars parties, I also became known as in the in-house wedding expert. In planning this important day in the life of a couple, I felt the most connective tissue with my work in theatre, as to me, every wedding is an opportunity to tell a unique love story. In 2014, I officially combined both of my passions and published Getting Groomed: The Ultimate Wedding Planner for Gay Grooms—the first book of its kind. That’s when I left Soho House to work exclusively on weddings, and open my own operation Jason Mitchell Kahn and Co. My connection to theatre means I’ve planned the weddings of some of Broadway’s greatest couples, including Phillip Soo and Steve Pasquale, Michael Arden and Andy Mientus, Brynn O’Malley and Bobby Moynihan, Alysha Umphress and Cody Williams, Rory O’Malley and Gerold Schroeder, and Des McAnuff and Bryna McCann.
In planning over 50 weddings, my training in theatre constantly pays off. Be it in music choices, rehearsals for a surprise, or solving a wardrobe crisis in a pinch, I always feel prepared. Here are four of the most memorable times theatre and weddings collided—and the dramatics it took to pull it off.
Goodbye, Gorgeous: A Funny Girl Recessional
When Tim Drucker (director of Of-Broadway’s Sex Tips For Straight Women From a Gay Man, and writer of Gigantic) was set to wed Larry Kornreich, the plan was for The Great Comet’s Grace McClean to sing the live recessional song “Don’t Rain on my Parade.” An hour before the ceremony, I got a call from the lead singer of the wedding band. She had chipped her tooth and was in a dentist chair trying to get it fixed before her start time for the reception. But, she was supposed to be bringing the keyboard to back up Grace! The only other musician present for the ceremony was an acoustic guitarist, which wouldn’t suit this famous tune. I needed to act fast. Luckily, Eric Bergen (Jersey Boys, Madam Secretary) was a guest, and he reached out to a contact of his from American Idol who turned around a recording of a new tracked arrangement minutes before the ceremony. Right before guests were seated, Grace snuck in a quick rehearsal to the new track, and after the grooms said, “I Do,” she delivered one of the most memorable wedding recessionals I’ve ever seen.
Putting it Together: A Sunday Moment
When Alek Hoyos was set to wed Broadway producer Ryan Bogner (Dr. Zhivago), he wanted to surprise him by re-creating Ryan’s favorite moment in theatre: “Our Perfect Park” from Sunday in the Park with George. We decided to line up Ryan’s family and closest friends into the iconic Seurat painting while singing this complicated song for an unforgettable moment,—but we needed rehearsal. I collaborated with photographer Laura Marie Duncan and printed two “run-of-show” schedules for the day. One was for Ryan’s eyes only and listed a dedicated 15-minute private portrait session, so he could be taken off site while Jason Michael Snow (The Book of Mormon) led the music rehearsal. I had parasols hidden in a closet Ryan wouldn’t find, and when it was time, Alek executed the scene to perfection.
Leaving Everyone “Satisfied”
Marriage Equality activist and author Marc Solomon wed Daniel Barrett a few weeks after I planned the nuptials of Phillipa Soo and Steve Pasquale, which their friend (and co-star) Jonathan Groff officiated. Coincidentally, Marc and Dan selected Jonathan’s version of “I Got Lost in His Arms” for their first dance and Phillipa’s “Helpless” for their cake-cutting. Upon learning these choices by the grooms, I had an idea: I texted Phillipa and Jonathan, and luckily, they were attending an opening that night together. They filmed a little congratulatory video, which I used to surprise Marc and Dan after cake!
Sentimental Men and a Wicked Surprise
Broadway sweethearts Alysha Umphress (On the Town, American Idiot) and Cody Williams (On the Town, Cinderella) wed in November 2017, and as many of their guests attested, the wedding captured their signature style. Like any true diva, Alysha had a very clear vision of her wedding, which included being able to surprise her most adoring guests. So I was the only person who knew the song choice for their first dance, or that the bouquet toss was really a ruse for Busted the drag queen’s entrance. But two of her best friends, Matthew Risch (Other Desert Cities, Pal Joey) and Rightor Doyle (Enron, TV’s Barry) wanted to surprise Alysha. When it was time to toast the couple during the reception, Rightor addressed the crowd to explain how Alysha is always asked to sing at other people’s weddings. This time he wanted someone to sing for her. He announced: “Ladies and Gentlemen: Adele Dazeem.” In full Elphaba drag, Matt entered and began singing “For Good.” During his solo, Rightor dashed off for a quick change into Glinda. The duet got a standing ovation.
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