James and Brian Jackson went on their first date in June 2011, but just as casual dating was turning into conversations about making their relationship official that October, Brian was planning to go skydiving.
“Brian said, ‘I’m going to go skydiving, and if I live we can talk about it,” says James.
Their romance jumped by leaps and bounds after Brian’s daring adventure, and the pair began referring to one another as “boyfriend.”
The following month the two went on a seven-day Caribbean cruise and the experience convinced them that they made a great couple.
“We never tired of each other’s presence,” says James, who decided to pop the question a few months later — on June 22, 2013, the second anniversary of their first date. He decided to propose to Brian at the scenic Cloisters by presenting him with a romantic card wrapped in a small box. But when they arrived at a subway station near The Cloisters, they found they had missed the last bus to the medieval art museum and gardens, and the weather wasn’t cooperating.
“It was raining cats and dogs that day,” James recalls.
James didn’t want his proposal to be soggy, so instead he suggested getting a drink near Grand Central before their anniversary dinner date at The Place in the West Village. But when they arrived at Grand Central, James got jittery.
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to propose in a bar!’”
He instead decided to take the plunge and propose right then and there, in front of track 30. James presented Brian with the wrapped box. Inside, the card invited Brian to go ring shopping — and spend the rest of his life with him. Brian happily accepted.
The two men decided to make their big day a local, intimate, 34-person affair in their neighborhood of Bed-Sty, Brooklyn. They chose to have their ceremony and reception at Alice’s Arbor, a restaurant around the corner from their apartment that serves seasonal, local, and organic food. The idea came to them one day while they were having drinks at the eco-friendly establishment and struck up a conversation with the owner. And though their decision to have their wedding at the lovely, rustic venue furnished with vintage barn wood seems spontaneous and laid back, it was anything but.
“We started looking at venues in July, and we didn’t book until November or December,” says James of New York-area venues’ tendencies to book up far in advance.
The duo worked with Ananie Momplaisir of C’est Mon Plaisir Events, who ended up being a lifesaver.
“Planning, coordinating, and getting everyone together is very stressful, so having a wedding planner was really helpful for us,” says James.
The day began with the grooms escorting their guests via subway from Brooklyn’s NU Hotel to the restaurant. The idea was to give the guests — many of whom came from out of town — a real New York City experience. Wedding photographer Steven Rosen documented the trip that also allowed the grooms’ families to bond pre-ceremony.
“Our families had never met, and we didn’t know how it was going to go,” Brian confesses. “But it was really fun.”
Brian and James wore black tuxedos, silver ties, and patterned black vests. They walked down the aisle to Luther Vandross’s “Here and Now,” which was replaced by the disco classic “It’s Raining Men” once the pair reached their officiant, who stood in before all the grooms’ guests.
An ordained friend performed the ceremony and Brian and James recited vows they had written. The men exchanged wedding rings made of polished tungsten carbide with koa wood inlays.
“It’s wonderful to fulfill expectations, but it’s more important that your wedding means something to you,” says James of the couple’s personalized ceremony.
“There’s no protocol for gay weddings,” Brian agrees. “So do what you want.”
Guests and grooms enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and cocktails before sitting down to dinner where everyone was given a wooden, customized menu that displayed the men’s names and three-course meal options. Tables were decorated with a simple, elegant arrangement of lush white hydrangeas and sprigs of herbs. A champagne toast was followed by slices of two-tier chocolate wedding cake with peanut butter buttercream and chocolate ganache from Madison Lee of Brooklyn-based Cousin John’s Café & Bakery. The cake was decorated with a shimmery silver drape as well as sugar and fondant roses, succulents, and greenery, which wowed the guests (and the grooms) with their resemblance to real plants. The cake also tasted as good as it looked.
“Everyone agreed it was the best wedding cake they’d ever had,” James says.
The celebration continued with dancing and everyone kicked up their heels.
“My grandmother had turned 79 four days before the wedding and she was out there on the dance floor,” James says proudly. “Everybody had a great time. The whole thing was just like a dream.”
All photos by Steven Rosen Photography.
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