After working with SAVE for five years, South Florida’s leading organization dedicated to protecting LGBT people against discrimination, Bobby Paris and Brandon Berretta decided to stand up for their right to marriage. They tied the knot on February 29, 2016 (Leap Day!) in Key West. The happy couple shares their story below.
Bobby and Brandon: We met in 2006 while out one evening at B Bar on the Lower East Side in New York City. Let’s just say our first meeting didn’t start off with “love at first speak” — it was a classic case of insert-foot-into-mouth. We won’t reveal who said what, but it ended with “It was nice meeting you” and a dramatic exit. It wasn’t until a year later that one gentleman (Bobby) gave the other gentleman (Brandon) a second chance to speak to him again and take him on a proper date. The rest, as they say, is history!
Bobby: Traditionally, the guy is the one who proposes, so we were stuck! But I hatched a plan while we were headed to Key West (aka our favorite place on Earth) on our annual birthday celebration with a group of friends. It was simple: get Brandon to our favorite happy hour spot, Half Shell Raw Bar, for drinks and oysters. Once inside, I would convince Brandon to order a round of our favorite shot, the famous Oyster Shooter. From there, I’d secretly drop the ring inside the shot glass and serve it to Brandon.
It all went perfectly to plan! Let’s just say, speaking while tearing up is very difficult. But once I gained control, I was able to speak those beautiful words: “Will you take a leap with me… will you marry me?” Through his tears and sobs, Brandon said YES! Thanks to our friends, it is now on video for life.
B&B: We wanted to plan a wedding in which every detail and concept was thought up directly by us from our memories together. We wanted a laid-back Key West vibe, for it to feel as if you were coming to spend the weekend at our house. A fun, stress-free gathering of friends and family — good luck right?! But we managed to pull it off, though not without a little help. We needed some local Key West assistance to bring our ideas to fruition, so we hired a wedding planner whose main purpose was to be our local organizer. Nina Powers from Alexander's Guesthouse did a fabulous job and we are happy to have gained a new friend from it, too!
As for the venue, it kinda found us. It fell into our lap during one of our many walks down Duval St. We were looking for the feel of our Miami backyard, but in Key West. We then spotted the Oldest House. It was perfect. From the brick path walkway, to the lush flora and fauna, once we saw it we knew this was the spot!
For guest attire, we wanted the beauty of Key West — and us — to be the focus, so we decided that white was the perfect backdrop. Nothing more beautiful than all our guests in white and the grooms in blue, all surrounded by the green lush backdrop of the Keys.
Bobby: Remember how I asked Brandon to “take a leap” with me during my proposal? Well, we decided it was only fitting for us to get married on Leap Day! Some people might wonder why we’d pick an anniversary we can only celebrate every four years, but we wanted to give ourselves a gift to look forward to — and a way to join our friends and guests together every few years to celebrate life, love, and friendship.
B&B: We started the day with a visit from the Hangover Hospital (some needed it more than others, but we won’t name any names). Then, a delightful yoga session on the rooftop of our house overlooking Duval St. This was one of our favorite moments — all of our wedding party together in a beautiful and zen setting. It was an amazing and emotional connection to our friends and family, and it really brought the day together and set the calming tone for what was to come.
Photographer Matt Rice followed us around as we prepared our outfits, getting some of the most beautiful candid shots of us. We then separated until the actual ceremony, keeping the tradition of not seeing the groom before the big moment. Bobby and his party went to the venue, and Brandon and his party stayed at the house. It is a toss up which wedding party had the better time, but we both had champagne toasts to calm our nerves.
Brandon: My wedding party had the pleasure of walking down Duval St. with Matt in tow, who captured it all on camera. At one point, we came to a stoplight and Matt used the opportunity to snap one of our favorite photos from the day: the wedding party all dressed in white and me in my blue Original Penguin suit, all of us looking like we stepped out of an InStyle photo shoot. It was perfection.
Tourists and locals all showered us with best wishes, some even joking that it's never too late! That kept the energy alive as we walked down Duval, each footstep getting me closer to that moment that a kid from Pennsylvania never thought possible: marrying the man of his dreams.
Once inside the gardens of the Oldest House, I placed a beautiful lei over each of my groomsmen's heads and sent them down the brick walkway to their seats. As practiced only once before, my mom and dad with me on one side of the house and Bobby’s mom with him on the other side. We started walking when we heard the music — our song, “Chasing Cars,” by Snow Patrol — which was beautifully sung by our best friend and vocal gem, Carmen Bortner. Hearing those words, we each had a difficult time holding it together. But with our parents by our sides, we met in the center circle of chairs surrounded by all of our friends and family members. It was truly a beautiful moment.
B&B: Our best friend Ebony Smith officiated the ceremony and it was amazingly flawless. She even added a beautiful touch to pass the rings around to our friends and family and have everyone bless them in their own special way. We had drones filming, beer and wine flowing, and to top it off, once we said “I do,” some Veuve Clicquot popped and we partook in true B style.
With balloons in hand, we gathered our wedding party and began the four-block walk down Duval St. Tourists, locals, and even another wedding party screamed with excitement when they saw The Bs walking hand and hand down the street. Now, it wouldn’t be a Key West wedding or a B-style celebration unless we stopped off at our favorite bar for the famous pickle-back shot. Yes, Bobby and Brandon in our blue Penguin suits doing a toast to our wedding group, which had now circled the bar.
Once the applause subsided, we continued our mini parade down Duval St. to our reception at Bagatelle restaurant, greeted by the amazing Bagatelle staff by a signature welcome cocktail. Guests then headed upstairs to the private rooftop restaurant and bar.
Upon arrival, guests were given the opportunity to send us well wishes for the future, which we’d read every four years, on our wedding anniversary, until 2032. And since Key West is pirate territory, we thought it was only fitting to put those messages in a bottle — one for every anniversary for the next four years. It’s SO exciting to think about where we will be together in 2032.
Bobby: Now, if you know me, you wouldn’t be surprised by the guest entertainer that took center stage around 8 p.m. — the one the only Adele impersonator, Jessica Deveraux! She was fabulous and our guests, some of whom thought we really had Adele at our wedding, played right into it, tossing dollar bills as she made her way around the outdoor roof deck.
B&B: Food was served, dancing was had, and we even kept the traditional cake smashing into each others faces. And the whole time guests were posting pics to Instagram with our hashtag, #berrettaparis. All in all, it was an affair to remember, and to this day we still have friends and family tell us how much fun their first gay wedding was!
If you’re planning a gay wedding, here’s our advice to you: Keep an open heart to family members who may not support your love. It may take them a little while, but in the end, they will wish they hadn't missed your big day. Be present and don’t worry about anything else. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Our only regret? That we didn't do it sooner!