Damien and Jed
Damien and Jed opted for a week full of celebrations in the lead up to their special day, ensuring they got to spend precious time with all their guest who had travelled from across the globe to see them say ‘I Do’ as the sun was setting on a balmy Valentines Day evening.
How and when did you meet?
J – We met online only 3 days after Damien arrived in Australia. I didn’t normally meet people that quickly but he was convincing. From the moment we met we had so much fun. We talked in Spanish the whole night. I remember dancing, and laughing, and sharing stories. We had so much in common despite being from opposite sides of the planet. We seemed to just understand one another from very early on. He had such a great sense of humour, and fascinating stories from such a diverse life. From there, I had fun showing him around Melbourne, all my favourite little places. He’s a foody and loves design, and I found him so stylish, but he didn’t take himself too seriously. After so many years of dating and previous relationships, I had various ‘red flags’ I would notice about people. And to my sweet surprise, Damien just never gave me any. Instead he was just full of love and understanding.
D – I had just moved to Melbourne from France and knew no one in the city. Little did I know that this encounter would change my life. The night I met Jed I was instantly seduced. He is the perfect combination of things that I am really attracted to; from his eyes, to his dance moves, his smile and his voice. But he really charmed me when we started chatting and I realised that he is smart, funny and interesting. After that really fun dance night we ended up seeing each other again and spent most of the weekend together. That weekend felt very special. Jed showed me different spots around Melbourne and it was amazing to see the city through his eyes. It felt so nice to have this special chemistry with someone that I had just met and I shared so many common interests with.
Tell us a little about the earlier days of your relationship...
D – Everything between us went pretty quickly. I remember people’s faces when we were calling each other boyfriends very early on in the relationship. Some people clearly thought this was going nowhere and we would both wake up from this dream. But we couldn’t care less and jumped into it with both feet. After 7 months Jed came with me to visit my family in the Caribbean. It was the first time that I was bringing a guy with me and introducing him to my entire family as my boyfriend. Homosexuality being taboo in the Caribbean I felt very touched to see how welcoming and accepting my family has been with Jed. It also comes down to the fact that Jed had made some incredible effort to blend in, such as speaking a bit of French. I was glad to be able to show Jed where I was from and share with him some important parts of my culture. I think this trip had strengthened our relationship in many ways.
J – Yes we really did everything pretty quickly – but because it just felt right. There was some serendipity too. I remember within a week Damien had a job, an apartment and friends in Melbourne. Then his housemates were having a baby just as my housemate was moving out so moving in together just made sense. My friends loved him, and within a couple of months he met my whole family when he helped put on my 31st birthday. They instantly warmed to him too. I was nervous meeting his family because I didn’t speak the language, but I tried – and they were very welcoming despite the language barrier.
What does Marriage mean to you?
J – For me marriage was always scary because my parents’ divorce, when I was about 9 years old, was very acrimonious and it really affected their lives, so I often went into relationships assuming they would fail. I always made a big effort to be friends with ex-boyfriends, for instance, and over time I realised I didn’t have to be beholden to that story of fear. For me, marriage is about a deepening of love, and a commitment. It’s about the celebration of bringing your families together for a shared ceremony that binds them into your relationship together. It’s about choosing your family, and your future. It was also an experience I didn’t think I’d have, so it was about cherishing every moment of connection and joy that it enabled.
D – Coming out felt like I was choosing a different path in life even though it wasn’t a choice. A scary, lonely path which meant that I would struggle to find love and have a family because at that time we didn’t hear joyful stories about same-sex couples living happily ever after. When marriage equality was about to become legal in France I had numerous heated debates with my friends and relatives. Even some of my gay friends didn’t understand why it mattered so much to me since I was single at that time. But the truth is, it was bigger than me because it also meant changing the rhetoric around same-sex love and equality for future generations. It is such an important step forward for equality for all the members of our community and I am so deeply grateful to all who fought and are still fighting for equality. On a personal level, I think it creates a unique bond and a sense of belonging which I never thought I would be blessed enough to experience.
Who proposed and how?
D – Well it’s a funny story. One night, after 6 months in, I got carried away by my feelings (and some really good Pinot Noir) and started talking about marriage and asked Jed how he would feel about marrying me. He had a mini freak out and escaped to the bathroom. Meanwhile the waiter started hitting on me and sat in his place. The whole situation was a big fail, out of a romantic comedy movie really. My advice: planning a proposal a little bit is not such a bad idea!
J – Yeah in that moment, I clarified the question three times and he was still asking it! And I guess that really was the first ‘red flag’ six months in, and it was a major one! So I freaked out. At that point I still really didn’t think marriage was for me, and Damien asking about it so flippantly made me worried. Also, where was my ring and choreographed wedding proposal?!
About three years in, as we prepared for a holiday where we would be seeing Damien’s friends and family in France, I started thinking about proposing. The ‘yes’ vote had happened, and given Damien was creating a life in Melbourne I wanted to create a connection back in his home with his friends and family. So I started searching for a ring before we left, and then on the trip, his friends helped make it a special surprise in his youth’s party town of St Tropez. They filled a balcony in our villa with roses and champagne and corny music. Luckily he said yes because it was right at the beginning of our trip!
When did you get married?
J – We were initially planning to get married later in the year but brought the day forward so my sister Annabelle who had been fighting cancer could be part of our marriage. Annabelle passed away recently and we’re so glad that she made it to three of our wedding events. She had helped me come out when I was a teenager, and prompted my thinking about marrying a man more than ten years ago, so it was very special that she’ll always be part of those memories now.
D – Bringing the date forward wasn’t easy as venues tend to book out pretty quickly. We got married on Valentine’s day, 14 February 2019. It’s quite funny that we ended up celebrating it on this date because we’ve never been big on Valentine’s day. Valentine’s day was one of the only dates still available at Harbour Room and we were really set on this venue. Many of our friends were actually thankful that we had it on that day – it gave them an excuse not to have to plan anything! Win win.
What was the main influence behind your wedding day?
D – Originally we were planning a destination wedding. We just loved the idea of getting married somewhere tropical on the beach. Because Jed’s sister was too unwell to travel we decided to have our wedding here in Melbourne and bring a little tropical twist to it. This also was a way to pay homage to my Caribbean roots.
J – We also wanted our wedding to be a big celebration and opted for a cocktail party rather than a sit-down dinner. Because Damien’s friends and family were making a huge effort to visit Australia, he had a brilliant idea of setting up a series of events across a week. We wanted it to be about our guests just as much as about us. And of course, it gave lots of excuses for good food, good music, and good cocktails! And hosting people in our city. We went to the Mornington Peninsula for a lunch and the hot springs, we went to Healesville Sanctuary and then a dinner in the Yarra Valley, and we had a dinner before the wedding with speeches where everyone got to meet.
What was the most important thing to you surrounding your wedding?
D – Keeping it as stress-free as possible and spending as much time with our guests as possible. Our photographer Sabine suggested to take our wedding photos the day before instead of our wedding day or when we were on our way to our rehearsal dinner. This was such a fantastic idea because it meant that on the day we didn’t have to leave the venue to take the photos and instead we enjoyed every minute with our guests.
J – Yeah it was really about celebration and connection, so we just designed everything around that. We also wanted it to be fun – things like getting a mash-up of songs for our wedding dance, spanning from The Little Mermaid through to Donna Summer, Pulp Fiction and then voguing with a deathdrop because we knew it would make people laugh.
Where did you find the bulk of your inspiration?
D – I fell head over heels for an iconic large pink daybed exhibited for the first time at Milan Design Week. Since then I had been dreaming of recreating something similar for one of my projects. Erika and Olivia, the talented duo at Hirzinger Creative, instantly loved this and we worked closely together to turn this into reality.
J – I loved the idea of having a theme and doing something different. When Damien proposed a Tropical meets Palm Springs theme I thought it was just perfect and would work really well with the venue.
How did you choose your suppliers?
D – I mainly checked their previous work and making sure that they could deliver. But honestly, there are so many talented suppliers in Melbourne that it was hard to choose. In the end what really made a difference was how much we felt comfortable with some of our suppliers. They really listened to us and went out of their way to exceed our expectations.
J – To be honest, the best decision was marrying an event manager because Damien did most of it! He knows a lot of people in the industry and came up with so many creative solutions.
Any standout suppliers?
D – I’ve been working with Sabine Legrand for years now and I knew that I wanted no one but her to shoot our wedding. Not only did she really listen to us but her expertise made the whole experience stress free and so much more enjoyable.
J – All of our suppliers were absolutely exceptional but we also really want to thank Exzibit Design for their custom-built giant pink palm leaves. It really took the styling to another level.
Did you find it difficult to translate more common traditions into a ‘same-sex’ wedding?
D – We were lucky enough to be guided by our amazing celebrant, Rita Cohann. She really helped us create a unique ceremony aligned with who we are as a couple.
J – Being a gay couple we knew that we didn’t have to abide by all the traditional rules and that was pretty liberating not having that extra pressure. So we just did things that felt right. We walked down the aisle together, we had readings in French and English, and we wrote our own vows.
What was the most difficult thing about planning your wedding?
D – Having only 3 months to organise it all was a massive challenge. Because we had friends and family coming from overseas as Jed mentioned we planned an entire week of festivities and activities. It was like planning multiple weddings, as if one wasn’t enough… It was insane at the time but left so many precious memories that we will treasure for many years!
J – Definitely sticking to our budget was another challenge. It is so easy to lose sight of what really matters and there were lots of ‘this versus that’ choices. I can remember a conversation about whether we would have chairs for everyone, or cocktails, and the choice was clear – cocktails!
Where did you spend your honeymoon?
D – We are going to spend our honeymoon at The Moso in Vanuatu in a few weeks and we just can’t wait!
J – We only wanted to travel somewhere where it’s not illegal or punishable for being gay, which limited our options. Some places it’s fine for gay tourists but not for gay locals and we didn’t want that either. It ruled out a few popular spots like the Maldives.
Any advice for other couples planning their day and finding it difficult to navigate the journey?
D – As an event manager I work at a lot of weddings and my biggest fear was to fall into the trap of getting bogged down into tiny details and losing sight of what really mattered the most. Because weddings are so emotionally charged I see many people turning into Bridezilla/Groomzilla because it is not as perfect as they pictured. Like every event no matter how much you plan there will be last minute hiccups and you just need to accept it and live in the moment. Oh, and hire someone to manage the event on the day. Don’t leave yourself on the hook to do anything on the day except have fun!
J – Also, don’t feel like you have to do things to please other people. At the end of the day it is your special day and you can do whatever you like!
Photographer Sabine Legrand
Videographer Jan Villalon
Venue Harbour Room RMYS
Suits Politix/Tailor Made (Wedding dinner) Saba & Zara (Wedding day)
Planner DnB Event
Stylist Hirzinger Creative
Event Manager Danielle Hiscoke
Cake Annie Unger (friend)
Celebrant Rita Cohann
Catering Food & Desire
AV & Lighting Bounce Audio
Custom-built furniture & Props Exzibit Design
Furniture Dann Event Hire
Rings GN Jewellers
Acoustic Singer Adrian Li Donni
Rehearsal Dinner Venue House of Lulu White