Love is everyone.
March 29th 2014.The day same sex marriage finally became legal in England and Wales. Hundreds of same sex couples tied the knot over the weekend, but one couple did so in a style which was spectacular, original, brave, moving and also happened to be broadcast on national television.
Nathan Taylor and Benjamin Till – a musical theatre actor and composer respectively- married on Saturday after 12 years together. Both grooms looked dashing, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house and the weather was kind. Nothing exceptional in that.
Except this wedding was entirely musical. With music written by Benjamin, and lyrics composed by both grooms, not only did Nathan and Ben allow the public to share their special day with them, they also laid their hearts bare in the most moving and touching of ways.
I’m a sucker for anything remotely wedding related, mainly because I think any couple willing and wanting to make such a commitment to each other is a really beautiful thing. I’m also a lover of musicals; so really, this is a dream come true for me. My daughter, aged 9, is intensely jealous that Nathan and Ben have had the idea first, however is now planning her own musical wedding extravaganza, probably to be staged in the school playground.
After an introduction from Stephen Fry, the opening number, “A Brand New Future”, was a rousing, fun introduction and showed the eclectic mix of guests eagerly making their way to the ceremony.
The ceremony took place at Alexandra Palace, where surrounded by 200 guests, including family, friends and celebrities, Nathan and Ben pledged to love and care for one another always, and became husbands. They entered to a marvellous rendition of The Beach Boys’ hit “God Only Knows”, performed by The Feeling, and then the ceremony began.
A quick honourable mention to the singing registrar, Franschene Allen, ladies and gentleman, who not only performed her duties impeccably, but sang magnificently. Where are they hiding all these people? How can one couple know so many people, both trained and untrained, who can sing so well? If I’d tried to stage my wedding as a musical…well….it doesn’t bear thinking about. Anyway, I loved her short song about how happy she was to have to change her usual words, for a bride and groom ,and how equality was such a wonderful thing, and Andy Bell, singing Respect to a backdrop of shocking statistics representing how far we have come in the fight for equality, proved to be a powerfully poignant moment.
The song which allowed us to get to know more about our grooms had me laughing out loud and was perfect light relief. And then came the vows. The declarations, which had to be spoken for legal reasons were solemn and heartfelt and were followed by the vows. And that’s when it hit home for me. All the music, the signing, and the celeb spotting aside, this was their wedding. This is Nathan and Benjamin, declaring their intention to grow old together, to stay together for the rest of their lives…and the best bit of all, without question the most important reason we are all gathered…these are the same marriage vows that EVERY couple can now share in England and Wales be they any pairing. Can there be anything more amazing?
The couple didn’t hear each other’s vows until the day itself, and even when rehearsing, Nathan banished Ben to the ice rink next door in case he was overheard. We’ve all been to weddings; we’ve all seen the beautifully besotted looks of love each party gives the other as they exchange vows. But I have to admit to letting out a small squeak of tearful joy when Nathan looked into his groom’s eyes and sang “Benjy.” The look of utter adoration on Ben’s face as a tear rolls silently down his cheek, and Nathan’s wonderful singing voice made it one of the standout moments of the entire ceremony for me.
Benjamin’s vows were a heartfelt look back at a hard childhood but gradually evolved into a wonderful declaration of love and friendship, and a reminder that “Love conquers all.” As one guest told me “If you don’t cry at their vows you ain’t got a soul.”
It’s quite hard to know when I went from surreptitiously wiping away a tear to full on bawling, but I’m pretty sure it’s the mother’s duet which did it. Nathan and Ben grew up in the 80’s, when AIDS was just coming to the public’s attention, and when Section 28 was in effect throughout schools across the country. This act prevented homosexuality from being discussed or taught to children. Straight was the only way. There’s no denying that it was a hard time for two teenage boys to come to terms with their sexuality, much less tell their parents. But they did, and gosh, aren’t those mums a lesson to us all in how to exercise understanding and acceptance.
Nathan says that after asking his mum to jot down a few thoughts, she sent back an email which then went on to make up the majority of the duet- which both women sing beautifully, I might add. They freely admit it wasn’t easy. There was still a lot of stigma attached to having a gay child. But they stood by their sons, and ended up recording a heart warming duet together, telling us all how proud they are of their children. As a mum myself, I tell my own children that repeatedly because as a child, I know that even now, when my mum tells me she’s proud of me, it means the entire world. I can’t imagine how Nathan and Ben must have felt listening to that song; I’m sure they will treasure it, and their mums, Noelle and Celia, always. I sincerely hope they remembered Mother’s day the next day.
The whole event was marvellous, truly uplifting and a wonderful celebration. The music was simply incredible. Those grooms can really pen a tune! Apart from the original compositions though, Hannah Waddingham and The London Gay Men’s Chorus singing Mamma Cass’ “Make Your Own Kind of Music” had me clapping along, a huge grin on my face.
“Make your own kind of music; sing your own special song. Make your own kind of music, even if no one else sings along.” Wow. What a statement. I had never heard this song before, but I think this should be an obligatory song for all parents to sing to their kids, and I know in our house it will become just that.
After the exchange of rings, and the jubilant registrar announcing them as husbands, Nathan and Benjamin led everyone in the final chorus song; “Love is Everyone” as they walked back down the aisle as a married couple to jubilant cheers and tears from all the assembled guests.
We could waste time debating the rights and wrongs of gay marriage…except there are no wrongs, and this is a classy, intelligent website and we all believe love is love. I am proud to live in a country which has taken such a positive step towards equality, yet also saddened to live in a world where in some countries it is still punishable by death to be gay. However, overall, as Nathan said in an interview earlier, this is not a film about their wedding. Their wedding is a small part in a much bigger, brighter, happier picture of equality. My children will grow up knowing you can marry the love of your life regardless of gender, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.
Love really is everyone.
Congratulations Nathan and Benjamin.
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