Brian Rosenberg and Ferd van Gameren are the founders of GayswithKids.com, an online community that aims to normalize the experience of gay parenting by sharing stories, news, advice, and in-depth reporting on topics of interest to gay dads, many of which are typically not covered in mainstream media.
In addition to being partners in the office, Brian and Ferd are partners in life. Love came first for the handsome couple, but marriage came after carriage, making for a spectacular ceremony that was a true family affair.
We spoke with Brian Ferdinand about his magical day.
When did you first know that Ferd was the man you would marry? Brian Rosenberg: I knew almost from the beginning, but back in those days (1993), marriage wasn’t an option so it wasn’t even a concept to consider.
Is that why you waited 20 years to finally put a ring on it? Our close friends, another gay couple, got married the end of March 2012. Seeing them exchange vows reminded me how badly I wanted to marry the man I’ve loved for so many years. Also, they invited our son to be their ring-bearer. Watching Levi walk down the aisle, I knew then that not only did I want to get married to Ferd, but I also wanted to have our children participate in the ceremony.
How did you propose? Ferd had arranged to take me to a surprise dinner for my birthday. I realized that dinner would be the perfect time to propose. I had signs made that asked Ferd to marry me. At the end of the meal, along with my birthday cake, the kitchen and wait staff came out holding the signs.
What was the first thing you did after he said yes? We agreed on the date. In three months, we would be celebrating our 20th anniversary. After all these years, I wanted to continue to celebrate our anniversary on June 20, so we agreed to get married exactly three months later. After all, what better way to celebrate our 20th anniversary than by getting legally married?
Did you hire a wedding planner? I have many years’ experience running corporate events so we tried doing it all on our own. We quickly realized we needed help, especially since we had given ourselves only three months to plan the wedding. We hired Michael Dolan, who owns Avenue Event Management in Toronto.
Where did the ceremony take place? Our ceremony took place in the music room of the Hart House, a beautiful building on the University of Toronto campus. The university just happened to be holding a gay pride fair that same day in the courtyard behind the building. We were able to look out the window where we signed our “ketubah” (a Jewish wedding contract) and see all the activity.
Were you married by a rabbi? We were married by a cantor who had performed same-sex weddings before. Ferd grew up Catholic. As a boy, he wanted to become pope. He hoped to be the second Dutch pope in history (after Adrian VI who became pope in 1522). He now has no real religious affiliation. I am culturally Jewish: I celebrate the holidays and love the food.
Who made up the wedding party? We decided against the more traditional wedding party. Instead we involved only our family in the ceremony. Our parents (Brian’s parents and Ferd’s mother) walked us down the aisle and stood under the “Chuppah” (traditional Jewish wedding tent) with us. Levi (their son) was ring-bearer. Sadie and Ella (their twin daughters) were our flower girls.
Did guests come from all over? We had guests from the Netherlands, Boston, New York City, Connecticut, Florida, California, and Toronto. Ferd’s family arrived a few days early and stayed with us. We had cookouts on our deck, made day-trips to Toronto and Niagara Falls. Our New York friends took us out for a bachelor party the night before our wedding.
How did you decide what you would wear for the big day? We splurged and had custom suits made. They didn’t match, but, in tailor’s lingo, we were “coordinated.” We changed into different shirts and bowties for the reception and dinner.
And the rings? After twenty years, they had to be good! We appreciate simplicity, so we chose smooth platinum rings. I don’t remember where we bought them.
Where did you hold the reception? We wanted the reception venue to be meaningful, so that meant we would not be hosting it someplace we had never been or would likely never go to again. We also wanted to have an excellent meal, and top-notch wine, which is not typically a hallmark of weddings. We found the perfect solution: Our favorite restaurant, the Harbord Room, was renovating a new restaurant they planned to open right around the date of our wedding. They promised they’d be ready for us, and they promised an unforgettable reception. They delivered as promised!
Was there a theme? The theme was really delicious food and lots of it, along with wine and other specialty beverages that did not stop flowing.
Who chose the menu? We left that up to the chef. We loved everything he suggested. The only addition we made was to sliders and pizza as a late course at the end of the reception.
How long was the celebration? The wedding was on Saturday night, and on Sunday we held a brunch (generously paid for by our folks) for all the guests visiting from out of town.
Any Bridezilla moments? None! Ferd and I are both drama-averse. We always agree on the important things.
No last minute jitters? No doubts at all! The day before the wedding the forecast was a little chilly, and that made me a little nervous, but the weather turned out more than just fine; it was beautiful.
What was the most memorable experience of the day? Acknowledging our love for each other so publicly. Unforgettable.
What’s your advice to gay men and women planning nuptials? Your wedding should be for you and about you, from the guest list to the type of ceremony and the location of the reception. From where you want to splurge to where you need to cut back. Keep true to your dreams and it’ll be your perfect day.
And for the many unmarried gay dads and moms living with life partners? I know first-hand that your lives are already hectic and you probably feel that having a wedding is a large and unplanned expense. But the day will be incredibly special for you and your children, and it’ll create absolutely wonderful lifetime memories for you all to cherish.
By Cameron Barnes
To learn more about Brian and Ferd, visit them at www.gayswithkids.com.