Certainly, there was fanfare — there’s bound to be at a nightclub where Fran Drescher pronounces two contest winners “husband and husband.”
The same sex wedding ceremony, officiated by Drescher, tied the knot for Russell Kemp and Tom Whalen, Fran fans and winners of TV Land’s “‘Love is Love’ Gay Marriage Contest.” The event came on the eve of the second season premiere of Happily Divorced, and doubled as both a celebration of the new season and a public display of Drescher’s support for marriage equality for the LGBT community.
Those on the 200-person guest list mingled over champagne by the light of TV Land votive candles at XL Nightclub while waiting for the nuptials to begin. Anticipation mounted as Drescher entered on the stage centered in the venue to preside over the ceremony.
But as their two children, Mason and Madison, walked toward her as ring-bearer and flower girl, and the grooms joined them center stage, it was hard not to appreciate the simpler beauty of the affair — the celebration of a couple’s existing commitment for one another, and the promise for a future together — free from concern about gender, sexual orientation, race or any other basis for discrimination.
“This is what a family looks like,” Drescher said as she stood between the grooms, with their two children beside them. Each read a self-authored love poem.
The story of Kemp’s and Whalen’s 20-year relationship, recounted in their contest submission, won them the “Love Is Love” wedding. They are fans with a strong connection to the actress: Kemp, like Drescher, is a cancer survivor, but during his days of treatment and recovery, he waited every afternoon for The Nanny to come on and give him a good laugh.
In plenty of ways, it was a pretty standard rite: there were two people affirming their love for one another with tear-jerking vows, an adorable ring-bearer and flower girl, flowing champagne, music and a fancy cake (designed by renowned cake designer Sylvia Weinstock).
And Kemp and Whalen, both Jewish in faith, performed the breaking of the glass in the ceremony and danced the Hora, of course.
But the night remained a unique experience, with Drescher leveraging her celebrity to support their union. Kemp opened his vows with a look around the venue and an exclamation: “Is this real?!”
Viacom’s LGBT affinity group, Emerge, helped promote the event via its Facebook group and and extended an invitation to its members.
“The event itself was very moving, and I felt privileged to attend and witness Tom’s and Russell’s wedding with their two kids,” said Shannon Travis, a leader of Emerge and manager for Content Distribution & Marketing. “As an employee of Viacom, I felt proud that TV Land and Fran Drescher were supporting same sex marriage so openly and publicly.”
Before the ceremony yesterday, Fran editorialized her stance on marriage equality in the Huffington Post.
For The Wall Street Journal’s recap of the occasion, you can check out “Exchanging Vows, Rings in TV Land.”