RICHARD & MICHAEL
November 14, 2015 • Providence, Rhode IslandBy Lenore Cullen Barnes
When two people love each other like crazy and grow up thinking they’ll never be allowed to marry, nothing short of a parade does justice to their wedding celebration. So, a full-on parade, including a pedicab procession and trombone players, is exactly how Richard Pezzillo and Michael DeGrandpre celebrated their marriage union. It was their joyful way of embracing their beloved Providence community on the most meaningful day of their lives.
While the idea started as a joke by a friend, Rich explains that the thought behind the parade was to “showcase the city, its charm and its culture.” He and Michael had moved from Washington, D.C., back to Rich’s hometown less than one year prior and were thrilled at how energized and welcoming their new city was. When they proposed the idea of shutting down Westminster Street and parading from Grace Church to their reception at Providence G, they encountered nothing but support.
“Over 15 businesses were involved—they had sandwich boards outside congratulating us, offered free champagne, wine tastings, gave out ceramic hearts and free macaroons,” Michael says. “It became a community-wide event. Seeing everyone together and on board was amazing.”
Rich and Michael met in December of 2010 at the holiday party of a mutual friend. “It was a classic case of serendipity,” says Michael. “Neither of us especially wanted to go that night. But we met, talked and became immediate best friends.”
After two years, they began dating. And just before Thanksgiving 2014, Michael proposed to Rich. The couple kept the details of the wedding to themselves during their seven-month engagement. “Nobody knew the extent of what was going to happen,” says Rich. “You want that magic to happen and it did. It was so much fun to watch our family and friends’ faces as the day unfolded.”
Michael and Rich joke about the curiosity among their families. “No one in our families had been to a same-sex wedding before and they were so curious about how it would go,” Rich says. “We felt like there are no rules; we could be as creative as we wanted to be.”
On the flip side, the couple share a traditional streak and smile at the irony. “We were representing the gay community and wanted to show people our marriage is normal and our wedding’s the same as everyone else’s” says Michael. “We’ve been to a lot of weddings recently in all kinds of places and we laugh because, leave it to the two gays over here to have the traditional ceremony in a traditional church and venue.” They loved the historic nature of the former Providence Gas Company, with its 1920s architecture. The wedding planner showed them the ballroom just before the guests arrived. “It was lit up exactly like we’d hoped,” says Rich.
Just before the couple left their apartment for the ceremony, they shared a quiet moment together. “We just stopped and looked at each other,” Michael says. “We were bowled over by what it meant for us, our families, the LGBT community and our neighbors. It was the most powerfully emotional moment of our lives.”
Photography by Oh, Karina Photography
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