New York Times 2011

Walking Miles of Aisles

By Tatiana Boncompagni
Published: July 22, 2011

They’ve already exchanged vows and rings once before, say George W. Slowik Jr. and Patrick Turner. But that time, at a 2002 civil union ceremony in Vermont with four friends as witnesses, the festivities were limited to a luncheon followed by a round of facials.

This time Mr. Slowik and Mr. Turner, the owners of the magazine Publishers Weekly, are thinking bigger. After a marriage ceremony in New York City this fall, there will be a reception for at least 50 people. They also plan a rehearsal dinner on the eve of the wedding and a post-wedding brunch for out-of-town guests.

“We will go the whole nine yards,” said Mr. Slowik, who is considering Fire Island, where they have a house, or Studio 54 in Manhattan as the site.

Likewise, Pat Dwyer and Stephen Mosher are marrying again — for the eighth time. Last December, they embarked on a wedding “tour,” marrying in each of the five states that had by then legalized same-sex marriage, and the District of Columbia, which had done so, too — plus California, where they had a commitment ceremony in a yoga studio.

Each time, they exchanged newly written vows and new rings and, in one instance, earrings. Next month, Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Mosher are to wed in New York.

“I now understand why Elizabeth Taylor got married so many times,” Mr. Mosher said. “It’s fun.”

Dust off those vows, find that cake topper: With New York State’s law taking effect on Sunday, a number of couples who have previously wed in other states or have had civil unions are considering marrying a second time. And there are those who have taken vows that are not legally binding, sometimes referred to as commitment ceremonies, who are now looking to close that legal loop.

According to the 2010 United States Census figures, there were 65,303 same-sex couples in New York State. The Williams Institute, a group affiliated with the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, that focuses on law and policy related to gay people, estimates that as of 2010 21 percent of them (about 13,700 couples) had already been legally married in other jurisdictions.

AND while those planning to marry again may be motivated by pragmatic concerns, like gaining certain rights and benefits long denied same-sex couples, a second ceremony also means having a second opportunity to celebrate, on scales large and small.

“If a couple already spent big bucks for the first marriage, the second celebration tends to be more subdued,” said Kirsten Palladino, the editor in chief of, an online magazine about same-sex unions. “And if the first time was smaller — maybe they had a backyard wedding — the second time they might think about renting out a venue and inviting more people.”

In 2009, she and her partner, Maria Palladino, EquallyWed’s publisher, had a commitment ceremony in Decatur, Ga., where both wore white, followed by a catered dinner reception for 75 guests. They are planning smaller for next month, when they are to marry in Central Park.

“I already had the big wedding,” David Bowen, an event planner in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., said of the 1993 commitment ceremony that he and Bennett Rink, senior director of external affairs at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, had before 85 people in a SoHo loft.

This fall, the couple, who have two children, plan a small ceremony at a Westchester County courthouse followed by lunch for 15 to 20 guests at a nearby restaurant. “I think of it as a happy seal on a great partnership and life together,” said Mr. Bowen, whose SoHo event featured a harp playing “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.”

Indeed, after so much time living together, plenty of couples may feel as if they’re organizing an anniversary party rather than a second wedding.

“We’re doing it as a celebration that we’ve been together all this time,” said Matthew Tudor-Jackson, a massage therapist, who had a Moroccan-themed commitment ceremony with Douglas Atkin, a founder of, a social networking site, in London 21 years ago. They plan to get their marriage license on Monday and then wed in Catskill, N.Y., the first week of August. Another celebration at the couple’s farm in Earlton, N.Y., including tennis, croquet and a tented dinner reception, is set for Oct. 11.

“It’s a further expression of trust,” said Jonathan Lester, a bookstore clerk in Edgewater, N.J., who entered into a civil union in New Jersey with Jack Lawhon, a baker, five years ago. They intend to marry in New York City next winter.

In lieu of a big reception, Mr. Lester said, he plans to take a cake topper — a pair of suitcases — on the road with them as they celebrate their legal marriage with family and friends in other states. “We’ll make it a string of lovely dinners,” he said.

For some, one ceremony is enough. Last May, Michael Pace, an insurance broker, and Joseph Carino Jr., the chief executive of a marketing and reservation service based in New York, traveled to Norwalk, Conn., to marry at the Roton Point Association, a waterside club. The next day, the pair re-enacted their vows in front of 130 friends and family members at a reception in Battery Gardens in Manhattan.

“We both collectively feel the State of Connecticut respected our relationship and honored our commitment,” Mr. Pace said. “I don’t feel the need to do it again in New York.”

After marrying legally in Massachusetts a year and a half ago, Zachariah Overton and Nicolas Taricco aren’t in a rush to do it again in New York. But they’ll do so anyway, most likely to celebrate their next milestone anniversary, but in part to appease friends and family who weren’t at the first ceremony. “Especially our mothers felt slighted that they didn’t actually get to see us say our vows,” said Mr. Overton, senior director of the entertainment group at Gilt City.

Those who do decide to marry a second time face the question of which date to celebrate as an anniversary. The Rev. Julie Taylor, a Unitarian Universalist minister who had a commitment ceremony two years ago with her partner, the Rev. Laurel Koepf, a minister of the United Church of Christ, said she isn’t worried.

“We already celebrate our first date, moving in together, our domestic partnership and our religious wedding,” she said. “Lucky for us we’re big into celebrations and rituals.”

It’s unlikely any couples will have more dates to celebrate than Mr. Dwyer and Mr. Mosher, whose latest ceremony is set for Aug. 7 on the beach at Coney Island at sunset or perhaps in front of Deno’s Wonder Wheel. Said Mr. Dwyer, who is making a documentary with Mr. Mosher of their many ceremonies, “We’ll toast in corn dogs.”

A version of this article appeared in print on July 24, 2011, on page ST1 of the New York edition with the headline: Walking Miles of Aisles.