Gay couples aren’t waiting for laws to change before they celebrate their love. Will Capri and Mat Chandler tell DNA how they did it their way.
DNA: Why was marriage important to you as opposed to just being a de facto couple?
Mat: For me, it was never about legal recognition. If it were, we might have waited. And it wasn’t about amassing a bunch of white goods or toasters; it was an opportunity to bring together the people we love for a celebration and recognition of our life.
Will: To put it simply, de facto is not married. My parents were married, my brothers are married, my best friend is married, my grandparents, uncles, aunties are all married. I wanted to be, too.
As same-sex marriage is not legal in Australia; what sort of ceremony did you have?
Mat: It closely mirrored a “traditional” ceremony. There was the exchanging of vows, rings, readings, and, of course, the first kiss. In our way, we made it our own. We were married under a giant sycamore tree in Rushcutters Bay Park by a cherished friend who had no legal authority to do so! She flaunted that illegality bedecked in red-feathered wings while channeling Janis Joplin-meets-The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. It was equal parts raucous and raw. It rained solid the day before and the day after, but we somehow fluked a perfect autumn day.
Will proposed on Copacabana Beach; was Mat surprised?
Mat: This was not a pretty proposal. This was a heart-wrenching, soul-draining experience that played out on the balcony of a hotel on Copacabana Beach where Will had taken me for my 40th birthday. Will likes to plan and when those plans go awry, so does he. There we were, at the would-be table of betrothal, when a drunken ex-Marine sidled up to our table and decided to share his life story. It was a hot night, we were in Brazil, so I let him prattle on. I was oblivious to Will discombobulating beside me. When we finally dislodged the marine, Will said a few words – with an alarming amount of sweat on his brow – and threw a ring at me. I think I said yes, and somewhere in the confusion the waiter hugged me before Will did. We didn’t even consummated the engagement with a romantic kiss until later when we were on Copacabana Beach itself.
Was marriage something you both knew you wanted and had already discussed?
Mat: We had never really discussed it but somewhere in my soul I probably always wanted to get married. I remember at my sister’s wedding thinking, selfishly, to myself, “Well, this will never happen for me.” A lot can change in 20 years. I have, and so has society.
Will: I never thought it would happen. We both grew up when marriage wasn’t an option anywhere in the world, so it wasn’t front of mind as something we could obtain. When I met Mat I knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Mat, did you also have the “he’s the one” moment?
Mat: It’s hard to believe but it happened when this super sweaty, agitated guy threw a ring at me at a restaurant on Copacabana Beach!
Who was at the ceremony?
Will: We had family and friends from both sides. On the night, we applauded the diversity – we had direct bloodlines from Russia, Germany, Serbia, China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malta, Spain, the Netherlands, France, Italy, Croatia, New Zealand, Hungary, Samoa, England, Ireland, Scotland, Cyprus, Sri Lanka, Israel, Chile and Tasmania.
Were there any family or friends you didn’t invite, or who chose not to come?
Mat: We invited those who mattered the most to us and brought something special to our lives. Of 100 invites, we only had two people who couldn’t make it.
“We didn’t want it to be just about us. We wanted it to be a celebration of all the people we loved and cared about, too.”
Will: I come from a rather large European family, however, I’ve been estranged from much of it for most of my life. I invited those who mattered the most and had continued a relationship with me.
Was there a religious aspect to the ceremony?
Will: Not at all. We chose to be married outside of the law and religion.
Did you have a Best Man or Bridesmaid, or have a parent give you away?
Mat: Both of our fathers have passed away, so we had no-one, in the traditional sense, to give us away. In retrospect, it was a huge comfort to “walk down the aisle” together. We woke up together. Got dressed together. Walked down the aisle together. And came home plastered and married together. Perfect.
Will: We had three groomsmen and three groomsmaids. We winged everything else.
How did you decide what to wear?
Will: Mat has zero patience for shopping.
Mat: Will, generally, knows what he wants. We went to a few different stores, tried on a few different things, and it just came together. There was no grand plan.
Will: We had “rustic” in mind and ended up with something we were both comfortable in. Choosing outfits for our groomsmen was a cinch, but we didn’t have a clue how to dress the groomsmaids. In the end, they looked awesome, but we fluked that after some fairly tense and terse moments.
Had you been to many gay weddings before your own, and did they give you any ideas about what you wanted for yours?
Mat: This was the first one for me. From the outset, we knew we didn’t want it to be just about us. We wanted it to be a celebration of all the people we loved and cared about, too. I think it really showed on the day/night. It was a room full of love.
Will: The only one I’d been to was at Manacle (a leather bar). It was an awesome wedding but unfortunately, no, it didn’t give me any ideas! It was one fun party with everyone smiling and happy for the boys so if I took anything from that it would have been the joy everyone shared for them.
Did you have a budget, and did you stick to it?
Mat and Will: Bahahahahahaha!
Mat: Kind of. We had champagne taste on a beer budget. My mother said, after the event, “What a magical night. You’ll never look back and think one cent wasn’t worth it.” She’s right.
Many established couples don’t need traditional wedding gifts like toasters, etc. Did you make any suggestions to friends about gifts that would be appropriate for you?
Will: We love to travel, so we set up a travel registry. It was absolutely perfect. It paid for a good chunk of our honeymoon, which we subsequently won back in a freak gambling bonanza in Vietnam, but that’s another story.
Did write your own vows?
Mat: Yes, but the hotel forgot to order mics for our outdoor ceremony… at least we heard each other’s. That’s all that mattered. We both cried ridiculously.
Were there many tears on the day?
Mat: From morning to night.
Will: I was constantly reminded that I needed to work on my crying face. I couldn’t help it; I was so emotional the whole day.
Did you have rings specially made?
Wil: No. Cheap, cheerful and cherished.
Did you hire a wedding planner?
Matt: Our good friend Shari helped us with creative inspirations but we both like to get our hands dirty – that’s another way of saying we are control freaks – so we did a lot of the planning on our own.
How was the actual day? Did it go without a hitch? Was it a blur?
Will: It was absolutely the best day of our lives. When it was all over we kept pinching ourselves. Our guests made it so special for us. The laughter still rings in our ears.
Mat: The hotel was a bit Faulty Towers… but that worked in our favour in a couple of ways: we’ll never forget it, and they gave back a chunk of our bill to say sorry for the large volume of mistakes. Still, most people didn’t notice. They left utterly drunk and loved it.
Is there a moment from the day that you most remember?
Mat: I grabbed Will by the arm as we were about to make our way down the “aisle”, which was really a footpath leading across the park to the sycamore tree. I have never felt more in love in my life. I looked at Will and we both had tears in our eyes, my heart still goes into my throat when I think of it. And our celebrant, Jen, breaking out into song during the ceremony in her best Janis Joplin: “Oh Lord, won’t you help me, marry my friends.” Magnificent.
Will: I’d asked Mat’s sister to sing Alive by Celine Dion but she gracefully decided. She sings beautify but she’s terribly shy. Then, to our surprise she sang, The Glory Of Love. I most remember the joy and happiness everyone felt.
Was there ever a “bridezilla” moment?
Mat: There were plenty of groomzilla moments. We were, perhaps, a little too exuberant in the beginning when talking to the girls about what they might wear.
Do you think being married has changed your relationship?
Mat: I love Will, pure and simple, and I loved him then as I do now. The marriage doesn’t dictate the love but it’s nice to reflect on what we promised each other and how we were able to bring a group of people into a room to celebrate that. We’re still celebrating it.
Will: I fell in love with Mat the day I met him and being married to him hasn’t changed that. Instead, it has allowed us to evolve and grow with one another but it hasn’t changed the dynamics of our relationship.
When marriage equality is achieved in Australia, will you have another ceremony of some sort?
Mat: Our celebrant, Jen, will most likely insist on it. We reckon we’ll wait for our 10th anniversary. But who knows – we could nip down and get a silly piece of paper just for the hell of it.
Will: I would like to have our marriage legal when the Australian government finally makes it happen but as for another huge wedding, nothing can ever top that day nor would I want to try. Hopefully, in nine years when we renew our vows it will be something same-sex couples have had the right to do for the last nine years.
Have you taken legal steps to ensure you have the same rights as a legally married heterosexual couple?
Mat: Our house is jointly owned and we are in the process of establishing our wills and power of attorney.
What was the most surprising thing about the experience for you?
Matt: The joy! Who knew bringing a bunch of people together, the ones you hold most dear, and who in many cases haven’t met, would be so bloody awesome.
Will: It was a labor of love creating what was one of the best days of our lives. It brought so many people closer together. We shared our love and devotion to each other in front of all of them. It wasn’t just a day for us but for everyone who attended. Our guests came to our wedding because of us, so we wanted to give them a day they will never forget.