This Is How I Had a Fabulous Gay Wedding at the Jersey Shore

Written by | Lifestyle, Travel

The Wedding of Desmond and Jeffrey

Newlyweds Desmond and Jeffrey - Photo by JJ Mack

Jeffrey has been writing about weddings for Metrosource for years. Now he describes how he finally had one of his own at a beautiful beach venue in Asbury Park, New Jersey!

Why the Jersey Shore?

My fiance Desmond and I wanted a destination wedding close to our home in NYC. We came across a few pictures of the Abbot Room at Porta (pizzaporta.com), a pizza place, Neapolitan restaurant and dance club in Asbury Park, NJ.

Springsteen fans know Porta as the spot where The Boss first met late bandmate Clarence Clemons.  We looked on the ‘gram: 2500 square feet of space with a 20-foot ceiling and stained concrete floor, a private entrance, outdoor space, full bar and private restrooms. The dance floor boasts a crystal canopy, an art installation that doubles as a DJ booth and state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. The Abbot Room can hold 50 -175 guests comfortably (120-guests max for sit-down dining). Lovebirds plotting a more intimate soiree can reserve the quaint Monk Room. It’s a 1,000 square foot space with a 20-foot stacked wood wall installation, full bar, and two large-screen TVs for embarrassing baby pictures and other happy memories.

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Wedding Dinner at Porta

Porta photo by Twisted Oaks Studio

Venue Hunting

When Desmond and I went down to scope out the area, we took a convenient NJ Transit train down to a room at the ultra gay Empress Hotel (asburyempress.com). I opened our hotel window to spy a wedding reception across the street at Watermark (watermarkap.com).

To our right was Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant (stellamarinarestaurant.com). That seemed to hold yet another wedding group! In the distance rose the remains of the former Asbury Park Casino and Carousel House, a vacant yet glorious Beaux-Arts backdrop featuring an elaborate art installation by HOTTEA. It features gorgeous pop culture murals on the exterior – perfect for wedding pictures. The boardwalk had a nice crowd of diverse, happy people. Rainbow flags hung in and outside of most shops, stores and watering holes.

We visited the historic Berkeley Hotel (berkeleyhotelnj.com) – just steps off the Boardwalk. Designed by Whitney Warren, the Berkeley offers Victorian charm with upgraded amenities. The Crystal and Versailles Ballrooms were equally impressive. On our way out, we passed a bride being helped into a horse-drawn carriage with her two bridesmaids. While we loved the Berkeley’s sweeping grandeur, we wanted to something more intimate.

The Asbury Hotel (theasburyhotel.com) combined the glitz of Asbury Park’s Victorian history with its rock ‘n’ roll present. With 4,800 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, The Asbury Hall & Terrace is a breezy spot for an elegant wedding in one of the most happening places in town. While the terrace offered an incredible view, the venue was booked for the dates we were considering. Still, we headed up to enjoy the breeze at hip rooftop lounge Salvation.

Like Cinderella’s Glass Slipper

We went to Porta next. Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, it was our perfect fit. They had in-house packages that immediately took decor, flowers and cake off our to-do list. We locked in a date and paid a deposit that day. We secured a block of rooms at the Berkeley, set up a rehearsal brunch nearby at The Robinson Ale House, got our marriage license at the local city hall, had a delicious lunch at Stella Marina Bar & Restaurant and walked the boardwalk picturing our wedding.

Lisa, my sister from another mister, flew in from Milwaukee to help me out with last minute wedding details and kick the pre-celebration off with me in Manhattan. We made a detour to Atlantic City for a bachelor party experience at The Borgata Hotel & Casino (theborgata.com).

We arrived in AC then made a beeline to Spa Toccare for massages, followed by hot tub mischief at Borgata Indoor Pool & Gardens. I hadn’t finished my vows yet, so I put some thought into them at Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s Sun Room over nibbles and a martini. When I told my server what I was up to, she congratulated me and promptly brought me a second drink.

Just Before the Ceremony at Porta

Porta photo by Twisted Oaks Studio

Here Come the Grooms

We convened in Asbury Park the next morning. Guests who arrived early on Friday assembled in the new lounge on the main floor of the Berkeley. Our families met for the first time and after a few rounds, we headed out to the Boardwalk to The Silverball Museum Arcade (silverballmuseum.com) which features 600 playable pinball and video games in rotation.

After brunch the next day, we found a sunny spot on the beach. And eventually, we gathered with our wedding partiers for a night out on the town. The laid-back and casual Georgie’s Bar was first on the list. Later that evening, we ended our night dancing at Club Paradise, the premiere gay club in town. The sound of the ocean lulled me to sleep.

The next morning, we dressed in matching blue suits from Indochino. Some of our guests joined us for pictures with nightlife photographer JJ Mack near the old Conference Center. When the time was right, our mothers walked us in from the patio at Porta. Vocalist Erica Taylor was singing Brian McKnight’s “Never Felt This Way.” My eyes teared up as I turned the corner and saw my future husband Desmond across the room, surrounded by some of the most special people in our lives.

We said “I do” in Asbury Park.

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Last modified: September 13, 2019