The words on everyone’s lips in Ottawa this weekend are not “Belinda Stronach” or “Gomery Inquiry.” No, this weekend, it seems everyone has but one thing on their mind: The Amazing Wedding. That’s what they’re billing it as, anyway, and from all indications, it’s going to be quite a show.
A couple of weeks ago, the morning crew at Ottawa radio station Hot 89.9 were talking to the gay couple from the last series of the Amazing Race, Lynn Warren and Alex Ali, as part of their weekly interview series with the contestants of current reality shows.
An off-the-cuff remark about how the pair should get married and that the morning show would fly them to the nation’s capital mushroomed into an actual plan. What was going to be the first live-to-air gay wedding in the history of radio has become an event of international attention, with reporters from across North America, and as far away as Germany, flying in for the event.
After assuring Lynn and Alex that this was a genuine offer and not a joke, the station promised a serious ceremony to be accompanied by a huge bash; two extremes that were not taken lightly by organizers. With only three weeks to prepare for a celebrity wedding that has gained international attention, the station quickly realized that they might be in over their heads given its ‘lean and mean’ operation. However, station staff credit their experience in event planning and their teamwork in pulling together, and most especially the support of local businesses, many of which are offering gifts and in-kind donations with little or no expectations in return.
Jubilee Fine Jewellers, for example, are donating the platinum wedding bands for the ceremony, and didn’t expect anything in return; no hard sell, and no request that they get mentioned.
But why did the station get involved in the first place?
Rob Mise, Hot 89.9’s operations manager, points to the station’s market research. With a core listenership of women aged 25 to 44, the “moms and daughters” demographic, the station routinely asks about more than just musical tastes, and ventures into politics and lifestyle. That research indicated that they had a listenership overwhelmingly in favour of same-sex marriage – something that didn’t surprise, Mise.
“We wanted to put a stake in the ground,” says Mise. “We wanted to make a statement that it’s the right thing to do – and that’s why we’re doing it.”
With less than a week until the highly publicized ceremony, the station has not received a single complaint by phone or e-mail.
“Our message in this is ‘love will find a way,'” explains Mauler, the station’s morning-show personality. “And almost all of our listeners believe in that statement – believe in gay marriage – and are supporting the guys in coming to another country to get this done.”
His co-host, Rush, adds that the majority of the e-mails from listeners say “Thank you for doing this, for putting gay marriage on the forefront so that people can talk about it, and get it out there, and it gets more and more normalized.”
Although it has received overwhelming support, the station says they are prepared for any possible negatives that could happen on the wedding day, be it people shouting from the streets or protesting. But the station says the event is more than just a statement, it’s also about having fun.
Lynn and Alex have promised a big “no-rules” spectacle, with belly dancers, flame throwers and a Cher impersonator, to name but a few. Mise says the station will throw a party the likes of which Ottawa has never seen before.
“We have a few more tricks up our sleeves that Alex and Lynn aren’t even aware of yet, and we’re going to blow them away,” says Mise. Those festivities kick off on Monday night, May 30, with the Bachelor Party at Fusion in Gatineau. It promises to be huge.
In terms of the guest list and celebrities to schmooze with, half a dozen teams from The Amazing Race have confirmed attendance so far. And A-List celebrities like Rosie O’Donnell and Ellen DeGeneres have been invited as well. According to Mise, even some local politicians have been signing on as time goes by, and there are rumours that the Prime Minister may make an appearance.
The ceremony itself will be held at the Ottawa Congress Centre on the morning of Wed, Jun 1 and will be broadcast live, with the reception to be held that night at Suite 34 in the Byward Market.
Lynn and Alex will also be attending the Ottawa Pride/Pink Triangle Services “Swirl & Twirl” fundraiser on Jun 2.