Big Gay Wedding with Tom Allen

A story 10 years in the making  

Growing up in a small town called Seaford I did not know or have any concept of being gay, there just weren’t any people like me. When all the other kids felt safe and nurtured I started to realise I was different. So like many gay queer people I built wall inside myself and I hid. 

Only showing people parts of me that I thought would be accepted. 

Section 28 and conservative views of the 80s & 90s did so much damage, being gay was a slur world at school and felt like a death sentence.

Luckily for me there have been many generations and LGBTQIA+ before me that have stood proud to slowly change hearts and minds. As an 1984 baby my generation seems to have straddled a time of great change for the community. We felt different and wrong, got bullied through school, made to feel less than our peers. Then we got to see the first gay kisses on tv, gay celebrities standing proud, sitcoms, pride protests becoming parades and widely loved, queer culture has started to develop and thrive in the open. And Gay marriage was legalised which is a huge step towards equality. 

When I was accepted to be a potter on the Great Pottery Throw Down season 4 I took all my baggage with me, real and metaphorical including 2 weeks supply of dried noodles incase I was the token gay and the group was more conservative and traditional. It was an extra thing I was terrified about. We were the covid year and the first face I saw was Lee wearing a big pride rainbow facemask, then met proud lesbian Sally, so I knew I was among friends and the sense of relief was HUGE. It turns out we all helped each other to be the best we could be and somehow I found myself in the final making an Art deco set to mark 100 years of change. A punch bowl to celebrate all the good things in my life and which me and Dan would one day use at our wedding. 

And we did! Being able to be openly gay and proud on TV was something I never thought would happen as a child! I barely even came out myself. I had almost resigned myself to going to university and then spending the rest of my days distant from family as a forever unmarried bachelor. When I was 22 I was run over by a car, I broke both my legs, nose, teeth and had mild brain damage, and amongst my visitors were my queer friends, so my family all found out while I was in a coma

Since then I have been really happy and comfortable with who I am, we have even put on pride floats to be part of the protest. The LOVE BUS was a float with no sponsors or adverts it was just a group of LGBTQIA+ people sharing the cost and being Proud. My Dad and Sister even marched with us both times the LOVE BUS rolled which is a great feeling for a gay man to experience. 

The Love Bus rode again for our Stag Do as it was our best man James who organised the Pride floats with me and Dan. And it was the experiences of pride, Throwdown and becoming comfortable in our own skin that made Dan apply for BBC One’s “Big Gay Wedding .”

We have a great life in Brighton where the bubble of equality is slightly more idillic than many places in the UK. We hold hands in public and I feel like there is a greater percentage of allies in any given part of the city than there is haters. 

There is still a huge amount of change and acceptance needed to strive for equality in the community and any moment of visibility that is constructive and kind is vital to that. We are confident to be able to do that on TV surrounded by friends and family so wanted to do it bigger and better than we had ever dreamed. 

Dan and I have been together for 10 years and engaged for 8 so we have always talked about the wedding. There’s just always something that means our savings have to go elsewhere.  Last July was one of those moments where we had finally started saving again, our diary was empty and we started talking hypotheticals. Then one day Dan announced he had seen on Tom Allen’s Instagram a new show about weddings so he had applied. Fast forward a few weeks and we had a call choosing us to be the couple for show. Which needed a rough time scale of 10 weeks to organise everything. 

The wedding was to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the first gay marriage in England & Wales (so loads of preassure!) and it had to be to our budget. 

Tom as our guardian angel would throw in a few surprises but nothing could be taken for granted so me and Dan had to get our skates on! 

The venue was a real conundrum because everywhere was already booked. Because of the TV aspect we wanted it to look better than anything we could actually afford so needed to find that hidden gem. Dan’s sister (later our groomsmaid Lauren) suggested we view Trading Boundaries a beautiful antiques shop come restaurant, music venue, wine tasting venue, gym and crafts center in the countryside near Uckfield. Right next to National Trust spot Sheffield park where me and dan go engaged. It was a wild card I had never seen but felt good because it’s near where we got engaged and not far from Brighton and sounded quite arts and crafts which is very much me and Dan. We spent many years doing the Brighton artists open houses so love supporting local, hand crafted small businesses. 

As soon as I saw it I knew it was the right place. Beautifully quirky and not the generic venue but still equipped with everything we would need. Across the lawn stood a beautiful handmade fabric Indian marquee  that somehow gave a wonderful nod to Brighton Pavilion but in a wedding way. It was light and bright and on the day we visited the heavens opened with heavy rain that we barely noticed from within. We knew we would be looking at an October wedding so rain was quite probable. 

Then we met the in house wedding coordinator Jenny. Who was just lovely and exactly what we needed, she explained wine, food and gave us a list of affordable catering. She listened to our needs and budget and gave us actually helpful advice. Jenny is exactly who we needed to meet in that day of stress and panic - if you have ever got married and realised that budget and logistics are not the friends of your wedding daydreams then you will know the moment I mean.  Trading boundaries ticked every box and then a few more we hadn’t even thought of! 

Knowing where we were getting married was a massive relief and venue, food and wine will take up pretty much all of your budget!  So then you know what you have to work with for outfits, cake, flowers, entertainment, and decorating. 

If you’re like me, decorating could easily become a life’s work! I could have used everything in several Hobbycraft stores quite happily. But we did not have the budget so that was the last thing we addressed and 95% we crafted and made ourselves. 

It was our wedding so we wanted everyone to have fun, and it was on TV so we wanted it to look good too, it was also celebrating a milestone so it had to look like something our community could be proud of. 

That included the celebrant which was something we never knew we would have to think about. We wanted someone that would keep us relaxed, be fun and up for our camp plans. Our original idea was to get our guests to sing “I will follow him” as we walked down the aisle so our celebrant would be the choir master too. Chloe Green who we chose was well up for this and she even came to throw some pottery and get to know us before compiling the ceremony.  She is a proud part of the queer community, loved our pastel colour scheme and was an asset to the day. We decided having people singing at us would make us cry too much to walk down the aisle. We still had “I will follow him” but the version from sister act as we walked the aisle, then the beat drop piano part as Chloe pronounced us husbands and we walked into the cloud of confetti. 

Our photographer suggested our Confetti and he became more a guest than a photographer as I would now consider him a friend. Ian @sideyclarkphoto is a great photographer and understood what we wanted and why. He knew that for me the photo book is important because I’ve known memory loss when I had brain damage and if it every happened again I would want a book of memories to remind me of a life filled with love. He really delivered and went above and beyond. 

Outfits were next and we really struggled. I   am the average height and fit so I find it really easy to find clothes and suits I like. Dan is slightly shorter and a skinny fit so finding matching or complementary outfits for two men was really hard! We didn’t want to look like twins or wear the same thing. We had also decided that the theme would be camp so we wanted non traditional outfits. I ideally wanted a pink suit and found a wonderful cropped pink suit. But nothing for Dan that looked right next to it. 

We were two grooms but we wanted outfits celebrated as much as a Brides dress would be! Neither wanted to be an afterthought and we both wanted to be comfortable. 

I wanted flares because I frequently get mocked for wearing boot cut and flared trousers. I just don’t like fabric touching my scars on my legs so skinny jeans are not for me. But Dan looks great in a skinny trouser. 

Tom introduced us to stylist Nick Hems who quickly realised we wanted something that the high street didn’t really cater for. The options available are not vast or varied. So Nick introduced us to a Brighton Tailor Molly Rouge who ticked our small business box and understood we wanted outfits to represent our community, queerness and pride - on top of being our wedding suits. 

She worked magic with off the peg outfits. My trousers were M&S women’s flares, our major jackets were ASOS bargains that Molly tailored and cropped to fit. Our shirts and our accessories were charity shop finds. And we were so fed up of trying on black and brown shoes that we bought some leather paint and painted our shoes pink and purple ourselves.

It felt a bit like an episode of  RuPaul’s Drag Race. Every time we couldn’t find what we wanted on the high street we made it ourselves and magnified it through our queer lens. 

I was frequently asked in shops “ what dress is the bride wearing”  to which I would reply “ two grooms, no dress” which felt a bit like a dress was missing. So we went maximum camp and big with our “bridesmaids” and I liked the look of the lace as accents.

So a quick visit to the haberdashery gave me several appliqués of lace to adorn our suits and our best men’s outfits with. They look pretty but also say don’t put me in a box.

Dan is known by our friends for loving an appliqué or sew on patch. It’s a great way of personalising clothes and he loves a pair of eyes in his shoulders. Traditionally to protect against the evil eye or zoo keeps wear them so big cats don’t attack from behind. So we also found some bejewelled eyes to affix to his suit and the back of my shoes. 

Because all our pieces were not made to match they all had different buttons so we needed to unify them. I often wear a pearl necklace as I like the juxtaposition of masculine and a traditionally feminine piece of jewelery. Also “dropping pearls” is an old expression for coming out, or more specifically for signaling to someone that you are gay in a subtle way. We love it when something means something else both personally and culturally so it was the logical choice to break a pearl necklace and use the pearls as buttons and accents. 

The more we researched and immersed ourselves in wedding the more we wanted to reference gay culture and celebrate queerness and camp. We wanted the day to feel timeless and outside of any political or historical reference point. Whimsical and surreal where all our friends could feel relaxed and comfortable.

In choosing flowers we wanted it to be as weddingy and floral as possible in October. I have made pottery for RHS Chelsea Flower Show twice and have a big love of flowers. We knew we wanted it to be outdoors like a 90's J-LO film and stubbornly believed it was not going to rain. I bought some old stained glass doors and decided to build an archway as a focal point, it created a small wedding area at the end of the aisle that Mahal Kita Flowers surrounded with flowers that enveloped our guests to create a feeling of whimsy and magic. 

In our ideal world we would have had green carnations, pansies and violets as a nod to the “night time botanists” when gay men would wear flowers and meet in parks at night. Flowers then became symbolic of being gay,  Somehow demasculinising them!? Its wearing pansies that is the root of gays getting called pansies, which I would love to reclaim, I love flowers! Its also the begining of a long running code and symbolic queer language that has evolved through jewelery and fashion ( Hanky culture, pearls, earings, hairstyles.) 

October doesnt give you a huge range of flowers to choose from and we wanted pastels and fresh blooms so roses and baby’s breath were a good fall back wedding staple. And meant all our guests could go home with a bouquet! 

We also wanted to both have bouquets, and our groomspeople to have bouquets too. because they are fun and focally interesting accessories. Accessories say everything about us! both times I have been at RHS Chelsea it was to make pottery for mushrooms to grow in. The Caley Brothers are local mushroom growers and good friends too, I see mushrooms as the underdogs and queer kids of Chelsea so I jumped at the chance to have mushrooms in our floral display including colourful pink & yellow oyster mushrooms in the bouquets - and mushroom button holes growing out of tiny pottery vases that I made into pins.

The wedding was becoming very us just cake and entertainment to go. Very luckily Tom sent us to spend the day with John Waite who is lovely! He totally understood what we wanted and why we had decided to go big with ten tiers to celebrate ten years. It was kind of our edible wedding dress and would be on display behind us at the wedding breakfast. It would be a symbol of queerness and the spectrum of people who make up LGBTQIA+.
It would also be served by us to our guests to share the sweet start of our married life together. (and because we had run out of money for desert - so very us in both regards.) 

John linked us in to Becky at Bee May Baker who is a one woman cake making marvel based in Brighton. She makes phenomenal camp cakes and took on the ten tiers!  five of which are polystyrene because waste was a concern as much as structural integrity of a 5 foot tall cake.
Flavour was really key for Dan as it was a piece of edible art that symbolised us. Becky blew us away with the lemon sponge, pistachio creme and raspberry white chocolate icing! All of our helpers were phenomenal but Becky felt destined to be our baker. She sells cake at our local market around the corner from us every other Saturday so we had crossed paths many times without meeting. Now she is a good friend and often comes round to make clay cakes in what we call “The Claykery.”

Entertainment was always going to be Brighton icon Boogaloo Stu. Me and Dan met at one of his Brighton club nights and we have become groupies and then friends with him over the years. He was up for being our wedding DJ and would do some quiz show style games too. But he had another gig in the daytime and we wanted songs instead of speeches!! We knew the day was going to be a lot so we wanted the wedding breakfast to be our time to relax. No speeches and just fun. We had positioned our most rowdy friends and family in the center of the room so wanted noise and high energy. We neeeded an entertainer to match so  Dolly Rocket who regularly performs with Boogaloo Stu and who hosts Proud cabaret here in Brighton was perfect. She can really sing! And while we ate she wowed all our guests with a show! 

For our wedding breakfast we had Thai food from ThaiAngle as it’s our favourite date night meal. It didnt breat the dwindeling bank balance and also set a lovely casual vibe while still being served to the table by the lovely team of trading boundaries.  

Now let’s talk about Murder on the Dancefloor.. aka My dancing !!! 

We had been so lucky to have the dancing queen Oti Mabuse teach us an amazing dance routine which we practiced and thought we knew. Alas on the wedding day my legs would not engage with my brain and I fluffed it! I stood on the wrong side of Dan and then forgot everything! So I whispered into his ear "let’s just have fun" which was always Oti's key message - that dance is FUN, so with all the confidence that Oti had enthused us with we did a dance even if it wasn’t THE dance.

We could probably be forgiven for being distracted as we were star struck when Sophie Ellis Bextor walked onto the stage to perform our first dance song. Its one of those memories that I will relive forever, we were surrounded by loved ones, my new husband & our pug Egg - the lawn of trading boundaries became a mini festival of love. It was so joyous and the moment led by Sophie in possibly the best dress ever! It was like she was the rainbow pride flag!🏳️‍🌈

Tom had pulled out all the stops and made our day so much more than we could on our own. He added a sparkle and glitter that was more than we could have ever hoped for and really did give us the wedding of our dreams .

People involved 

The venue was called Trading Boundaries and is next to sheffield park and the Bluebell railway. Well worth a visit! They do amazing food and a great roast. If your looking for a wedding venue they have everthing you need and a fantastic in house team to make your day go without a hitch.
Our photographer was a lovey guy called Ian Sidey Clark Photography @sideyclarkphoto 
The cake was spectacular and delicious and was made by Becky at @BeeMayBaker Bee May Baker
Our wonderful celbrant was Chloe Green, exactly who you want to have stood next to you taking charge of the ceremony! 
The outfits were bought from M&S, Asos and charity shops. The shoes painted with leather paint and all tailoring done by Jade at Mollyrouge
The Bouquet and button hole mushrooms were grown by the fantastic RHS GOLD medal winning Caley Brothers - you can grow and eat the mushrooms from their kits and I will be doing a few pots for them for this years Chelsea flower show too.
Boogaloo stu and Dolly Rocket are Brighton Icons that we reccomend you goa and see or book for your event!
The arbour and flower aisle and florals for the bouquet were provided by Mahal Kita Flowers
The Catering was fantastic thai food from a local business called Thaiangle
We also had some epic food platters that were made by our friends at Stylish eats
To bring everything together we had Lorna our event co-ordinator and ther team from My Oh My events

link to the love bus article from attitude magazine 
Guardian interview
about overcoming adversity 


Available to stream now on BBC iPlayer. Find out more here 

Adam and Dan Big Gay weddingTom Allen big gay wedding bbc one Gay wedding personalised suit JacketsSophie Ellis Bextor gay wedding first dance Adam Dan Chloe big gay wedding bbc one Gay wedding Kiss Adam Dan Brighton LGBT gay wedding BBC venue Queer camp DIY craft wedding table settings Sophie Ellis Bextor wedding singer pastel wedding Big gay wedding first dance outfits sequin glitter jumpsuit DIY leather paint brogues wedding shoes colourful Tom Allen’s Big gay wedding and Egg the pug ring bearer Miniature Adam ceramic pot wedding pocket square mushroom Big gay wedding Adam Johnson Dan Mackey Modern camp Wedding bouquets with pink and yellow mushrooms Sophie Ellis Bextor Adam Dan Egg the pug Gay Weddinng Gay wedding art deco ceramics Throwdown Tom Allen Adam Pottery throw down Dan Adam Dan wedding cake big gay wedding queer camp Camp disco gay wedding venue trading boundaries Sussex Gay Wedding flower arch with DIY vintage doors Sophie Ellis Bextor first gay wedding dance Adam Dan Big gay wedding first kiss Adamceramic DanmakeystuffGay first dance yes sir I can boogie outfits