National Post

My Perfect Gay English Bay Wedding
by Kate Zimmerman for National Post: Travel

VANCOUVER — Bob Chapin rents out his elegantly furnished Tudor-style house near English Bay for weddings. Not only does the happy couple get a gorgeous place in which to tie the knot and start their honeymoon, Chapin also handles all the day’s arrangements, from boutonnieres to bubbly.

Sound like a dream come true? It could be … as long as the duo looking to say “I do” is gay.

Chapin established English Bay Weddings solely for the use of same-sex couples. Its clientele is a natural fit to Vancouver’s gay-friendly West End, but the concept came about by chance. After Chapin had spent several years renovating and refurbishing the house so he could move in, a former employee from Alberta (where same-sex marriages are still not legal) asked if he could marry his boyfriend there.

“I was about to say no and then I thought, ‘Why not? Don’t be such a prude,’” Chapin recalls. “They weren’t very organized and I ended up doing most of it. And oh, it was so much fun. I got flowers and they looked after the paperwork and stuff and I just did all the other things …. And it was such a nice party, and (there were) all these handsome young guys in suits.

“It was a very romantic, very relaxed party with a touch of gentlemanliness, which I think is important.”

That first wedding got Chapin thinking about who else might be interested in such a service. At the same time, he discovered that because of a lack of suitable venues, the Marriage Commissioner he hired had been marrying same-sex couples in her apartment, then booking the building’s common room for their receptions.

Voila, a niche.

The dearth of appropriate spots for a gay wedding is not because a groom-and-groom are turned away by other hostelries, says Chapin — quite the contrary. But he believes same-sex couples tend to come to Vancouver on their own, with their best friends as witnesses, and they don’t want a cavernous hotel ballroom as the site of their marriage ceremony.

English Bay Weddings provides an attractive smaller venue for the celebration and an ideal location, one block east of 1,000-acre Stanley Park and one block west of the shops and restaurants of Denman Street.

At the same time, by taking care of the details, Chapin eliminates the stress-inducing rigmarole associated with straight weddings, from endless debates about decorations to fights over whose third cousin gets to sing Ave Maria. 

“Guys just want to come and get married in an elegant, intimate sort of place without all that fussing about garters,” he suggests.

English Bay Weddings’ packages, which require that the pair book it for three nights, allow the affianced and two to four of their friends the run of a beautiful home with gleaming hardwood floors and Persian carpets, lovely French and American antiques, sparkling chandeliers, three bedrooms (the master with a four-poster canopy feather bed) and a modern kitchen. The granite en suite for the master bathroom features a jetted tub conveniently outfitted with two shower-heads.

Among the services the packages include are pick-up from Vancouver International Airport or the local train station, transportation to city hall so the couple can get their wedding licence, a B.C. Marriage Commissioner who performs the ceremony and officiates at the signing of legal documents, a professional photographer, live music, a reception for four (more can be added) featuring quality linens, cutlery and glassware, and tasteful flowers, including boutonnieres. Also on the bill: champagne, a wedding cake, a wedding dinner at one of Vancouver’s top restaurants and a romantic restaurant brunch the following day.

Okay, so the basic package costs $10,000. Chapin, who ran a B & B across the street for 12 years and lives in a separate apartment in the house, believes it will be worth the expense to conjugal-minded twosomes. “I just want them to drive in, get married and have a great time. We look after everything.”

So far one couple has been married at English Bay Weddings, and Chapin plans to be picky about who he lets in. Above all, he doesn’t want it to become a generic “wedding chapel.”

“I want it to be really great,” he says. “And when they’re 70 I want them to be saying ‘Remember that really neat little place in Vancouver where we got married?’”

English Bay Weddings, 1030 Chilco Street, Vancouver, BC. Telephone:  604-683-8063.
E-mail: info@englishbayweddings.com or visit www.englishbayweddings.com.

Packages start at $10,000 for accommodation in two bedrooms for four, wedding ceremony, reception, champagne, wedding cake, a restaurant dinner and brunch the following day, along with European coffee served in the bedroom, complimentary self-hosted port and brandy service, and numerous other amenities. Additionally, a picnic can be arranged during your stay for $25 per person. 1,000-acre Stanley Park is a block away.

For information on how to get married in BC if you are a same-sex couple, visit www.vs.gov.bc.ca/marriage.

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