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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Planner pens same-sex wedding organizer
by Ross Forman, Windy City Times
2015-04-08

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With a background in playwriting, Jason Mitchell was having plays produced in New York City when he started to develop his career as an event planner.

Weddings were his favorite of the many different events on which he worked.

"Then, to my great surprise, I got engaged," he said, laughing. "I knew that I wasn't going to work with event planners because that's what I do; I just wanted to get one of those handy books, with checklists and calendars, so I don't forget anything."

But every book he found was geared for straight couples.

So Mitchell decided to write his own wedding-planning book for same-sex couples—an idea pushed on him by his husband, Michael Zahler, 31.

In January 2014, Mitchell released Getting Groomed—a wedding organizer for gay grooms. It was a two-year process from idea to securing an agent, a publisher, writing, editing, and more.

"Writing a book was very different from the writing I had been used to, and in many ways, I found it easier than writing a play," said Mitchell, 34, who grew up in South Florida and now lives in New York City. "I wasn't re-inventing the roadmap to a successful wedding; I was just changing who it was marketing to."

Thus, he did extensive research within the gay community, "to really find out what questions they were asking, what specifically they wanted covered," and more, he said.

The book covers material that is not specific to same-sex or straight weddings, such as, planning a venue and balancing a budget, in addition to specific questions for same-sex weddings, such as, how do you dress two grooms, how do you figure out a ceremony processional, invitation wording, etc.

The book, he said, "has been very well received."

Even among brides in straight weddings, who often discover the book through an online search for wedding planners.

"They like the style and tone better than other things out there. That's been great to find," Mitchell said.

Getting Groomed is packaged in a sleek two-ring binder, and is smaller than traditional wedding planners—on purpose, as the book is geared for men.

The book hits on almost every area of a wedding, focusing on the often overlooked details. It does not hit on the political debate over same-sex weddings.

Each chapter is separated by a different folder, "so it allows you to store all of your important documents in one place," he said.

There are subtitles to every chapter, with different song lyrics that are iconic to the gay community—from Madonna to Broadway musical.

And the book is humor-filled.

The late Joan Rivers provided a quote for the cover.

Mitchell said Rivers repeatedly asked about the book after it was released, and even offered ways to help promote it before her untimely passing. "It was huge" having her quote on the book, he said. "I was such a fan of hers; she was one of the most gifted comedians to ever grace the planet, and so inspiring."

Mitchell, the wedding planner at Shiraz Events, plans weddings for same-sex and straight couples—and has done more than 50.

"What I emphasize, particularly in the book, is the beauty of the wedding is a couple makes really conscious decisions to make it their own, to make it personal, to invent new traditions," he said. "What I really stress is, what goes into a wedding. We really get into the basic of what goes into a wedding—and then to give it a twist. Take, for instance, the bride who wore a black cocktail dress because she felt more comfortable in that than a white gown. I think that's wonderful. It should be their version of their perfect day."

Mitchell's weddings have ranged from the normal, if there is such a thing in the marriage world, to one that was put together in, ugh, 48 hours, he recalled.

"Gay people don't get married as a rite of passage; they get married because it's something that is really important to them. Therefore, their weddings are filled with really significant moments and really sincere ones," he said.

Mitchell's play The Boys Upstairs opened in London in January.


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