Photo by Michael Bush

How one venue almost ruined the perfect wedding day and how a variety of vendors came to the rescue

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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When the Collin County wedding venue Waterstone refused to host a gay couple’s wedding, Lynn Jackson of Fit and Fab Weddings stepped in and offered her wedding planner services at no charge.

So did photographer Michael Bush. And then a venue called Whispering Oaks, located north of Denton, offered its facility at no charge. And then a florist, a tuxedo rental company, a cake baker, a limo service, a videographer, a DJ and more all stepped in to provide their services at no cost.

Jeff Cannon and Aaron Lucero were overwhelmed by the reaction and the chance to have the wedding of their dreams.

Cannon and Lucero met a little more than four years ago using OKCupid. Lucero said he was attracted to Cannon’s profile because Cannon liked to travel. But he was surprised he even was able to see Cannon’s profile since Lucero’s age fell outside the parameters Cannon had set on his profile.

But despite their age difference, the two found they had a lot in common: Both were raised Mormon, and both were at about the same point in their personal lives, despite their age difference. Cannon had come came out later in life because he grew up in the church and dealt with conflicts between his religion and who he knew he was. And even though he was younger, Lucero said, he was ready “to find someone to spend the rest of my life with.”

Last June, after they had been dating for several years, Cannon popped the question. It was, Lucero said, “one of the best days in my life.”

Despite their Mormon backgrounds, both men said their families are accepting.

Lucero emigrated to the U.S. from Mexico when he was 2 years old. He came out when he was 23, and his family embraced Cannon from the first time they met him. Cannon worked for AT&T in Mexico for a while, so he speaks fluent Spanish. Lucero said that was one of the things that ingratiated Cannon to his family.

As he was growing up, Cannon said, he heard his own father make comments about gays, so he was nervous about coming out to his family. When he told his brothers and sisters, they told him they already knew, and they “fine with it,” he said. To prepare his father, he sent him a book about other Mormons who had come out.

They spoke after he read it.

Cannon’s father told him that while he didn’t understand it, “You’re my son, and I love you.”

“Now he’s great,” Cannon said of his father. “My whole family loves Aaron.”

Lucero said he and Cannon haven’t been excommunicated by the Mormon church, but that doesn’t mean they’ve tried to maintain their Mormon ties. “We don’t want to be where we’re not wanted,” he declared.
Cannon added, “We’ve walked away from our faith.”

After becoming engaged, Cannon and Lucero decided to begin planning their wedding right away. Lucero created a profile on The Knot, a wedding planning website, and the couple talked about what kind of wedding venue they wanted. “We wanted to celebrate with as many people as possible,” Cannon said. And because Lucero loves country music and his brother is a cowboy, he felt like “It would be nice to have a country wedding in a barn,” Lucero added.

The Knot recommended The Waterstone, and “We instantly fell in love with it,” Lucero said.

So they set aside a couple of weekends to look at venues and made an appointment with several places online.

Then, the night before they were supposed to visit their first choice, they received an email from the Waterstone: “We don’t cater to the LGBT community.”

Cannon said the rejection was cut and pasted into the email they received, so it was clear to them this wasn’t the first time they venue had turned away same-sex wedding business.

Lucero said he was devastated: “I’d never experienced discrimination personally,” he said. “I’m Mormon. I’m Mexican. I’ve never felt that kind of hate.”

“It made us question everything,” Cannon added. “Should we go elsewhere? We’re going to have to come out to every vendor.”

A venue in Van Alstyne, in Collin County, also told the couple they weren’t sure if they could host their wedding — sort of: They said they didn’t know if they were “equipped” to do a same-sex wedding.

That left Lucero and Cannon wondering what sort of equipment the venue thought would they need. But they didn’t pursue it.

But Lucero, who described himself as “more of a pit bull,” decided to post the story on Facebook. The story was posted and reposted. Even Will & Grace star Debra Messing weighed in after hearing the story through and friend of a friend, and reposted the story on her Facebook page. Out magazine picked up the story and spoke to The Knot.

While Cannon was angry that the venue had been recommended to him by The Knot when Waterstone clearly didn’t host same-sex weddings, Out magazine went one step further. The magazine insisted that since The Knot has a nondiscrimination policy, the venue should be removed from the website. The Knot agreed, saying that Waterstone would be removed.

But just this week, when Cannon and Lucero appeared on the podcast Engayged — found at EngaygedWeddings.com — the host, Michael Jamrock, pointed out that Waterstone is, in fact, still listed on

The Knot. It’s just harder to find than before. Still, a simple search for venues in the Dallas area using the tags “barn,” “rustic” and “romantic” brings up a list that still includes Waterstone — without any warning that same-sex couples are not welcome there.

“We just wanted transparency,” Cannon said of his reaction to the uproar. He didn’t want other same-sex couples to be hurt the way he and Lucero were. Now he’s thinking of contacting the New York attorney general because New York, where The Knot is based, has strict non-discrimination laws.

Most people reacted to the situation with outrage, but there were a few that offered comments like, “What did you expect? You live in Texas.” But the surprise of it all, Lucero said, was that offers to help them with their wedding started pouring in from all over the country.

Lucero was working on sifting through all the offers of help when he received a call from Michael Bush, a photographer who had done a wedding at Waterstone just a few weeks earlier. Bush offered to photograph Lucero and Cannon’s wedding at no charge.

Then Bush called Jackson, the wedding planner who had arranged the wedding Bush had photographed at Waterstone. Jackson, noting that Lucero and Cannon had been the talk of the show at the recent Dallas Bridal Show, quickly offered her services, free of charge.

Jackson also told them she won’t go back to Waterstone.

Next the couple heard from Whispering Oaks, a similar venue located in Sanger, north of Denton.

“Jessica at Whispering Oaks contacted us via Twitter,” Lucero said. “We were getting offers left and right,” but after visiting Whispering Oaks, Lucero said they knew they had found the place. The property “beautiful” and “secluded” and far nicer than Waterstone. “It will be the best wedding ever,” Lucero said,

Once Jackson was onboard, she took over fielding the offers.

“This is going to be the dream wedding they didn’t have the budget for,” Jackson said. “All they’re going to have to pay for is the cake and flowers.”

And by “pay for,” she means they’ll pay for the ingredients for the cake and the wholesale cost of flowers — not for the time to prepare the cake or the floral arrangements; not for the delivery; not for the artistry. They’ll just pay for the materials.

Shane Morgan of Posh Cakes is baking the cake. He’s the one who made the cake for Real Housewives of Dallas star LeeAnne Locken’s wedding at Cathedral of Hope last weekend. He’s also been featured on Martha Stewart and has baked for Toni Braxton and others.

Morgan said Jackson contacted him, and “Once she told me the story, I was on board.”

Morgan said that when he was married, he and his husband “were welcomed with open arms everywhere we went.” He couldn’t imagine a couple having their special day ruined by a vendor, and he wanted to help make things right.

“I can relate to those two guys,” Morgan said, recalling a situation in which he was rejected as a vendor because of his sexual orientation. “A couple came to me in my shop,” he said. “They paid a consultation fee. Then they went to their wedding coordinator and told her they couldn’t put up with my lifestyle.”

As plans for the wedding went on, Jackson contacted Danielle Hasting of One Fine Day, who describes herself as a wedding advocate. Hasting, who has a team of six, could help with some of the logistics.

Hasting said she loves Whispering Oaks, calling it the perfect wedding venue because of “the staircase. I’m a staircase whore. The bridge; you feel like you’re in the woods. But it’s clean and polished. The staff. You feel like you’re home — perfect since a wedding is two families coming together.”

Hasting has dealt with a number of crises during weddings that just made the events more memorable. A complete power outage at one could have been a total disaster. Instead, she got candles and the ceremony took place in candlelight.

Another — a Laotian-Orthodox Jewish wedding — could have been a disaster without careful planning, since a Laotian wedding involves a roasted pig. She said curtained off areas, separated different parts of the wedding party and turned what could have been mayhem into a joyous celebration.

“Is someone going to freak out, or will someone know how to handle it?” Hasting said, explaining her role in the event.

But with Cannon and Lucero’s wedding, Hasting said, she wants the event to be “more than this story.” She wants both families to remember why they came together.

“I just want it to be their wedding,” she said. “It’s about them.”

And Hasting said the other vendors she’s spoken to have the same motive: They’ll all be there to support these two people coming together.

“We believe in them as a couple that deserves to be together,” Hasting said.

Sarahbeth “Yeli” Marshal of YeliBelly Chocolates agrees. “We are huge supporters of the LGBT community,” she said. “We were shocked there were still vendors treating couples in love that way. We wanted to make sure that’s not the way the wedding industry is.”

Oh, and she said she’s looking for full- and part-time chocolatiers. Some food service experience would be awesome.

Jackson said a total of about 20 vendors are participating in the wedding. And while the vendors are in place, there’s still lots of planning to take place before the wedding — scheduling a tasting with Morgan for cake flavors, picking out a menu, sending save the date cards and invitations, deciding on flowers, colors for linens, getting fitted for tuxes.

Cannon and Lucero both said they feel a little guilty about receiving all these services for their wedding. “We want it to be special for everyone working with us,” Lucero said.

…………………

Vendors donating services:

Whispering Oaks: WhisperingOaksWedding.com
• Posh Cakes by Shane (Shane Morgan) PoshCakesByShane.com
• Tilt Cocktail Events (Bartender Vanessa Sheffield) TiltEvent.com
• Five Star Event Services (Caterer Jason Lewis) FSEventservices.com
• Toast Entertainment (DJ/Emcee Deyton Koch) ToastEnt.com/dfw
• Yelibelly Chocolates (Sarahbeth “Yeli” Marshall) Yelibelly.com
• Joche W. Events  (Floral designer Joche Westmoreland) JocheW.com
• The Dallas Makeup Team (Hair and makeup by Misty James) TheDallasMakeupTeam.com
• Prime Limo (Michael Burrowes) PrimeLimo.com
• AM Linens (Jennifer Valadez) AMLinenrental.com
• Serenata Strings (Karen Lim-Smith) SerenataStringsDFW.com
• The Snap Pack Photo Booth (Grant Hertzog) TheSnapPackDFW.com/index.html
• Michael Bush Photographer MBushPhotography.com
• Fit & Fab Weddings Planner (Lynn Jackson) FitAndFabweddings.com
• One Fine Day LLC (Planner/Décor Danielle Hasting) OneFineDaytx.com
• The UPS Store (Printer Rick Adams) TheUPSStorelocal.com/5254
• Premium Event Staffing (Dave Phillips) PremiumEventStaffing.com/texas
• Stephanie Powell Creative (Stationery) MorePowelltoya.com
• Generation Tux (Jeff Gilman) GenerationTux.com
• Rar Photography
(Videography by Rar Farmer) RarFarmer.com