Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Author Robert E. Blackmon Pens Best-Selling Wedding Guide for Men

Robert E. Blackmon -- The Gay Groom 
(Photo Courtesy of Robert E. Blackmon)
​Weddings are beautiful celebrations that are a testament of the power of tradition, family, commitment and love. But anyone who has ever planned a wedding without the help of a wedding planner will tell you that the process is confusing and can be downright frustrating. As brides, we are overwhelmed with infinite resources that tell us what type of dress we should buy for our body types, how to order a cake and seat our guests and how in what time-frame we should send out our invitations and thank yous... but what about the grooms? And more specifically, what about gay grooms?
In my research to answer this question, I stumbled upon the most unique and groundbreaking book written about weddings in the last 10 years: The Gay Groom's Guide To Planning Your Perfect Wedding: (Without Losing Your Mind) by Robert E. Blackmon. With the shifting zeitgeist, more and more men, both gay and heterosexual, are getting involved in the wedding planning process; however, very few resources have been created that address the pertinent issues that men face while wedding planning. Blackmon felt that the most difficult part of planning his wedding was that, "Everything was about the bride, the dress and the veils... There was no stuff for guys." This book was created out of that need and is the most comprehensive of it's kind.
Robert, a Detroit native, is no stranger to success or hard work. He paid his way through college by designing dresses and went on to become a well-known name in Hollywood. He started his career with an internship at Paramount Studios. That opportunity eventually lead him to work in front of the camera as a correspondent for the show EXTRA, where he conducted hundreds of interviews with celebrities. Blackmon has an impeccable sense of fashion and is considered a style expert who has worked with household names such as Brooke Shields, Bea Arthur and Judy Tenuta. He even owned an upscale baby boutique called, "Aunt Bobbie's Baby." So how does one go from the world of media and styling Hollywood's elite to writing a best-selling book about weddings?
"The Gay Groom's Guide was never intended to be a book," says Blackmon. During the planning of his wedding with his husband, Martin Connell, he began documenting his experiences. In 2014, he released the first edition and it was an instant success in Canada and America. When asked if there is a difference between wedding planning for straight couples versus gay couples, Blackmon says that all weddings are basically the same ceremonially but are different in the power dynamic of how the event is planned. In straight weddings, it is common for the bride to have most of the control in planning and "the groom just shows up." With two men or two women marrying, there is a different dynamic which often involves a shared planning process. In this current bride-centric wedding culture, the needs of men of all orientations are often lost in the shuffle. The current resources don't really address the needs of men when it comes to what to wear, how to plan and what to expect when planning such an important event.
​Robert and his Husband Martin
The book is not only meant to be read. It also acts as a portable workbook that grooms can use to organize their plans on the go. It's formatted in a clear-cut, bullet-point fashion and features anecdotes from Blackmon's own wedding to show the readers what he and Martin did right and wrong during their planning. The Gay Groom brandhas also been extended to Youtube, where Robert has concise videos that address everything from floral and seating arrangements to what to wear, with men in mind. That's the beauty of The Gay Groom's Guide: it is written by a man for other men and addresses the needs specific to that demographic. Even though this book is created with gay grooms in mind, it can be used as a practical guide for anyone who wants to take the headache out of wedding planning, including lesbian and straight couples.
Most people see Robert's impeccable style and Hollywood credentials, but what they don't get to see is Robert the husband, the son, the friend, and the family man. "Family is everything to me," says Blackmon. He sees weddings as a Rites of Passage for couples that want to commemorate their unions through authentic celebrations that fuse tradition, ritual, style and creativity. Robert and Martin were married in Canada, where marriage equality has been the law for over a decade, on the front porch of their home. There was concern that Robert's ailing father would not be able to make the international trip to attend the wedding. Fortunately he was able to attend, although he passed away just six short months later. My father also passed away shortly after my wedding and we both look back at our wedding days as a connection to our late fathers. When you suffer a great loss after such life milestone, the day takes on a greater meaning in retrospect.
Blackmon's foresight has proven him to be a trailblazer in the world of style and wedding planning and it has has paid off in a big way. In what most would consider magically serendipitous timing, the 2nd edition of his book was released just weeks before the historic SCOTUS ruling stating that the Constitution guarantees the right to marry to all people, thereby legalizing all marriages in the US. After the announcement of the ruling, Blackmon's book sales increased by 500 percent. He sold a staggering 12,000 copies over the weekend, grossing over $350,000 dollars, and I wouldn't expect sales to slow down anytime soon.
Robert's book can be found on his website www.GayGroomRobert.com or throughAmazon.

Monday, March 30, 2015

5 Unconventional Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding

The wedding blogosphere is rich and ripe with ideas that are not only awe-inspiring, but oftentimes expensive and complicated to replicate; however, there are ways to save money on your wedding without giving up all things that you really want. The key to using sites like Pintrest and TheKnot.com is to inspire you with thoughts to incorporate into your celebration, not to give you a blueprint to replicate identically. To do so may be very costly and that's how you end up with a wedding that costs the amount of a down-payment on a house. Use wedding sites to figure out what direction you want to go with for your celebration, but don't feel obligated to use traditional means to get there. You have to be creative and put away your preconceived notions of how a wedding "has to be done". Here are some tips that might be helpful to save money just by contemplating alternative ways to tackle some of your biggest costs.

 1. Find a venue that offers more than just an empty room. Make a pros/cons sheet for every venue you visit. This will help you accurately evaluate the true value of the rental, versus just considering the base cost. Find one that offers other amenities than just the room itself such as a sound system, lighting, a built-in bar area, or a discount on catering or rentals through their preferred vendors, included in the price of the venue rental. You may find a cheap rental hall but then realize you have to do a lot of decorating, which is expensive. A venue that is more ornate may cost more, but may also not need any decorations, except for simple centerpieces.

 2. Consider alternative materials for your rings. There are many unconventional materials used to make wedding rings these days. Some of the most popular alternatives to gold and platinum include: Silver, Titanium, Palladium, Cobalt, Tungsten, and Stainless Steel. Rings made in these materials can be quite impressive and start at around $100 a ring--sometimes less. They all have their pros and cons, so review the attributes of each type of metal and choose one that is good for your budget and lifestyle. Don't forget to look into other materials like ceramics, carved stone, or wood.

Precious gems or stones such as Ruby, Sapphire, Topaz, Pyrite, Opal, Onyx, and Pearl all make wonderful and unique jewelry that might be cheaper than buying expensive diamonds. If your heart is set on having diamonds, look for laboratory diamonds to save money. Lab diamonds have the exact same chemical and physical make up as mined diamonds, but cost 30% less. They are also conflict-free and origin-guaranteed for people concerned about the ethical costs of buying diamonds.

3. Skip some of the preliminary parties.
Your wedding day is expensive enough. Not just for you, but anyone who is involved or attends it. If it's not a big deal to you, skip some or all of the preliminary parties. I did not have an engagement party, bachelorette party, or bridal shower. This not only saved me money and time, but it saved my bridesmaids money too. If you aren't that interested in having these parties, don't feel obligated to have them for the sake of tradition. You can also save money by turning the rehearsal dinner into a family-style meal cooked by your wedding party or family and friends that want to help.

For our rehearsal dinner, we invited everyone involved with the wedding and our out-of-own guests, and my bridesmaids cooked spaghetti and garlic bread for everyone. We spent about $40 to feed over 20 people. My bridesmaids' children even decided to go around and ask everyone what they wanted and served our guests. It was really cute and it gave the older kids something to do, so they felt involved. With the average cost of a rehearsal dinner being about $1,300, this is a good place to make budget cuts.

4. Look for a venue that allows you to bring your own food and cater through a large chain restaurant or upscale grocery store deli.
Instead of going through a caterer that is geared specifically for weddings (which can cost $40-75 per guest), get catering through a large-chain restaurant or grocery store deli that you enjoy (if your venue allows you to bring in your own food), and serve it buffet style. Cheesecake Factory's catering is very reasonable at approximately $16 per person, which includes their famous bread and serving utensils. Noodles and Company can cater for $12 per person, and includes salad and desserts--which you can use for your sweets table. Whole Foods catering was surprisingly reasonable, at about $3-10 per person for entrees and starting at a $1 per person, per appetizer.

5. Buy blank cakes and decorate them with toppers from Etsy.com.
Instead of buying a stacked, decorated cake, ask your baker to sell you single blank cakes for each tier you would have bought, then decorate them with edible wedding cake toppers from Etsy.com. Handmade gumpaste flowers can be purchased from as low as $8 a piece to $35 for a whole set, and can be bought months in advance. Put the single cakes on a separate tiered cake stands for a very dramatic effect. I saved about $400 buying blank cakes and having some friends from work put the toppers on for me. My favorite Etsy shops for cake toppers are SugarRobot and ModestlySweet.

 The truth is, your guests will just be happy to be there with you. Whether you have a certain type of cake or not, a spectacular wedding venue, or just a cake and punch reception in a local park after a courthouse wedding, most of your guests won't care. And you shouldn't either. It's great to take pride and put a lot of effort into planning your wedding, but it shouldn't come at the cost of you going into extra debt or stressing out about a budget that could be easily cut by changing the way you approach wedding planning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Peacock Bride: A Letter To My Late Father 8 Months After My Wedding

Dear Dad,

I was looking through pictures of my wedding that was just eight short months ago and I am overcome with a sense of gratitude and love when I see your face in them. When I first told you that Anthony was "The One", you were apprehensive about it (as any good father would be). A few years later, you grew to love him as your own son.
I never had a vision of what my wedding would be like. All I could think about was you walking me down the aisle and us having our father-daughter dance. No, I didn't wear a white dress. I wore a blue peacock-colored one. No, I didn't take out my piercings or cover my tattoos. No, I didn't have a religious ceremony. No matter how progressive my beliefs are, I still wanted you to present me for marriage. In fact, you and my three nephews walked me down the aisle. I wanted my husband to know that before I met him, there were four men in my life whom I will always love. I made you a leather hair wrap, adorned with peacock feathers, to tie your massive dreadlocks into a neat pony tail that dangled to your waist. Dancing with you was, indeed, the best moment of my life. I have never felt more beautiful and you confirmed that by telling me, "You look absolutely gorgeous," before you gave me a kiss on the cheek and prepared to give your baby away.
When Mom asked us to share our honeymoon with our family, I thought she was insane but we took her up on the offer. We spent three days going to Disneyland, Universal Studios, and Medieval Times with our whole tribe, which we affectionately call "The Latimer 10", and two of my best girlfriends. We rode all the rides and stuffed ourselves silly with junk food. Looking back, I wouldn't have had it any other way. Everyone was getting along and life seemed so perfect. And it only got better. Six months later, you had the honor of giving your other daughter, Sonja, away at her quaint wedding in Vegas. She had been with her now-husband for over 15 years. Four children and all those years later, you gave her away with such pride. I remember you telling my sister before you walked her down the aisle how beautiful she looked and then you said, "There is no greater joy than giving both of my girls away."
The best moment of my life was when we danced under the beautiful twinkle lights on that California night. The worst moment of my life was two days after we came back from my sister's wedding when you told me, in the smallest voice I have ever heard you speak in, that the pain in your side you were experiencing at my sister's wedding was not the stomach flu, but pancreatic cancer. How could that be? Weren't we just dancing the night away? Didn't we all get on the rides together and eat delicious foods that were as rich as the love our family has for each other? Weren't we all just in Vegas having breakfast before we parted ways -- you and Mom back to Minnesota and my husband and I back to Los Angeles? What happened between June 21st, 2014, my wedding day, and the day my life stopped on December 15th, 2014 when cancer became a household word in our family?
I almost collapsed when you told me and you asked to speak to my husband. You told him to take care of me and to love me. We decided to move back home to Minnesota help the family while you were going to go through chemo. You told us not to come home, but we did anyway. You told me, "Don't disturb your life for me." I reminded you, "Dad, you are my life."
A few days later, I got a call from Mom and my Godfather, your best friend. Your kidneys were failing and the time of your departure was drawing near. We got on a flight that same day. For four days, friends and family flooded your bedside. I never saw you happier than when you were dying. You left us the greatest words of wisdom. Everyone that came was profoundly touched by the transcendent experience of your passing. You told my husband, which you were once apprehensive about bringing into our family, that he was the son you never had and always wanted and that our family was complete now that he was in it. You died on January 4th, 2015 only 21 days after your diagnosis. You were only 63 years old. My world crumbled around me. The dance surely had to end, but why so soon?
2015-03-06-1425615484-238680-lastfamilyphoto.jpgOur Last Family Photo
You are gone in the physical sense but in my heart, we are still dancing the night away under twinkle lights. We are still riding on the back of your motorcycle on the open road. In my heart, you are telling me I am beautiful and I am starting to believe it. I have not stopped crying since you've passed away. I will never forget the gift of your friendship and how you fathered me. I want you to know that our dance will never end and when I return to my essence and we will be united again.

Eternal Love from your Biker Babe,

Sunday, March 8, 2015

An Open Letter to "Dancing Man" from The Peacock Bride

Dear Dancing Man, 
I've been reading about you online. I feel like we are kindred spirits because I too, love to dance. In fact, I've call myself a "victim of the rhythm". When I hear music, I HAVE to dance!! I am not alone, because I see that you like to dance too. I think it's horrible that bullies tried to get you to stop dancing.

I just want to tell you I am glad that you are having a dance party in your honor. At this moment, I can't think of anyone who deserves it more than you. The fact that some lame guys tried to shame you and make you feel like less of a human being literally made me cry. I can't say, "I can't believe someone would do that"...because that is not surprising. People are cruel and they want to suck the joy out of other people's lives because they are small people. 

When I saw the picture of your head down, I wanted to scream, "CHIN UP, BUTTERCUP!!"

You must promise me one thing, Dancing Man. Promise me that you will NEVER EVER EVER hang your head low due to bullies. Promise me that you will never stop dancing! You are a human being that is worthy of dignity, respect, love, and acceptance. You need to know, no matter how many times you've been bullied by people because of how you look--you are accepted. You are accepted by me and so many others out there. 

Yeah, you're a big guy. So what! You're a big guy who has a big heart and if I knew you in real life I think we'd have fun talking about music; perhaps we would dance if the right song came on. Maybe you could show me your moves. But we probably won't ever meet. But I hope that in some way, this message gets to you. I can't make it to your dance party. But I wish I could. I just wanted you to know that you are not less of a human. You are just a victim of the rhythm, just like me. 

While you are surrounded by a wonderful group of beautiful people that love and accept you, having celebrity DJ's spin for you, and people gathering in your honor...please know that this is because you are loved and you deserve this party. You are loved by all of us that have been bullied. You are loved by reformed bullies that have repented and now work to end bullying. You are loved by your family, friends, and by people you don't even know. 

Dancing Man, promise me that
you'll always dance

 like EVERYONE is watching. 

And we will be watching...we will be watching and cheering you on. And from this day forward, I don't ever want to hear about you having your head hung low for any reason. Especially due to small-minded people whose lives are so terrible they can't see the beauty in a big, beautiful man dancing. 

I love you. Good luck! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Twin Cities Wedding Venues!

I just started following Wedding Fair MN on Twitter, and they also have an AMAZING Pintrest Page!! Are you looking for wedding venues in the Twin Cities? If so, I would check out their Pintrest!!