Gay Aussie couples getting married overseas

Written By komlim puldel on Minggu, 02 November 2014 | 23.08

Joshua (left) and Kurt had two weddings - one in New York and one in Sydney. Source: Sunday Style

DESPITE growing support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Australia (a recent poll found 72 per cent of Australians are pro-marriage equality), same-sex couples still have to travel overseas to have their union legally recognised (17 countries have passed marriage equality laws).

Joshua Crouthamel, 34, and Kurt Fulepp, 29, met and fell in love in Sydney. When they married, their official ceremony was in the US, with a celebration in Sydney.

Joshua: "Kurt is one of the most positive, energetic, fun and upbeat people I have ever met. Initially, I was attracted to that energy, as well as his drive. We worked at the same media company in Sydney and a mutual friend, who worked on Kurt's team, introduced us. From then on we started noticing each other at company events and parties and things like that.

On our first date — which I didn't exactly intend to be a date — I invited him to Jazz in the Domain. I'd neglected to mention I was going with a bunch of people, so I showed up with four of my friends and he showed up ready for an intimate date. Still, we had a lovely night and walked back via a pub afterwards and had a beer with everyone.

People started to trickle away until it was just the two of us and we chatted for hours. Not long after, in March 2011, we decided we didn't want to see other people. But I had just signed up to live aboard a world cruise ship, so we didn't have long before I packed up and left for six months. Kurt said, 'I want to make this work, so I'll come and meet you every month along the way.' I had no idea what the job would be like, but I knew that every few weeks, when I would pull into a port, Kurt would be flying in and we'd have our time together. I realised I wanted to be with Kurt forever when I came into Cape Town harbour and saw him standing there, having flown halfway around the world and waited for hours for my boat to arrive. My experience on the ship was very stressful and displacing, so finally seeing this bit of home somewhere far, far away and knowing that piece of home can be wherever you are together, I was sold.

We moved to Manhattan a few months after I returned from the cruise. Kurt, who grew up on Sydney's North Shore, had always wanted to live in New York, and I was born in Philadelphia and grew up on the east coast of the US.

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. I was in London on a work trip, so when it happened Kurt was stuck in our apartment on the 10th floor, on his own. There was no power, so it was dark and there was no fridge, no water and you had to take the stairs. You had to fill a bucket with water to flush the toilet. I couldn't really contact him via phone, so I was just sending emails now and then. Because Kurt was so many floors up, he'd plan his day around leaving the apartment once a day to go out and walk uptown, where there was power to go to the gym, have a shower and use wi-fi.

I finally managed to get a flight home on Halloween. When I walked through the door, I saw that Kurt had set up a picnic on the very same rug I had brought to our first date. He had lit heaps of candles and bought my favourite wine. I was so overwhelmed, I asked him to marry me. I said something along the lines of: 'I haven't felt as far away from you, physically, as in this last week, even when I was much further away from you geographically, and I never want to be that far away again. I think we should be together forever.'

He said, 'Absolutely, yes! Give me one second.' Then he ran and brought out a little blue Tiffany's box, which had a ring in it that he was going to give me on my birthday the following week.

We spent some time hemming and hawing about a wedding date. We decided on the American Memorial Day long weekend in May. My idea, because of the date line, was to time it for sunrise in Sydney and sunset in New York. Then it would be on the same date and the same anniversary, but Kurt was like, 'Anything could go wrong, it could be a disaster.' I reconsidered and we decided to do both weddings on the same long weekend, instead.

Because Sydney is so important to me and, other than New York, the only place I feel at home, it needed to be part of the celebration. It was important to me to do something there and just really unfortunate that it couldn't be a legally binding ceremony [in Australia]. Having only 30 guests in Sydney versus 120 guests in New York was entirely about that. It's a loss for the city, too — in New York $US259 million flowed into the city the first year that gay marriage was legalised [same-sex marriage became legal in New York on July 24, 2011], through tourism and government fees.

We had our Sydney ceremony at The Winery on Thursday May 22, this year, and then the New York ceremony at the Hotel Americano, New York, on the Sunday. One difference I noticed when we were planning both events was that in Sydney we were planning a gay wedding and in New York, it was just a wedding.

I think attending the ceremony was helpful for any old aunties and uncles who were a bit reluctant about the concept.

Afterwards we received the loveliest notes saying things like: 'You've really opened my mind and heart, and I obviously always wished you the best, but it was so special to see the two of you together.'

For me, hearing our fathers' speeches was the highlight of the wedding weekend. It was really humbling and special. It was so sweet to listen to these otherwise superblokey guys, who were surrounded all of a sudden by a bunch of gays having a party! They both shared how much they love their families and how much they love their sons, so that was really special."

Josh and Kurt seal the deal in New York. Source: Sunday Style

Kurt: "Josh has a real presence in a room, in a great way. He's bubbly, friendly, always engaging and excited to talk to people. You meet Josh for a minute and you think you've known him for years. He has an openness that was an immediate draw to me. Our engagement was one of those pinch-me moments. It felt so right but it also felt like such a surprise. I think the fact that something could surprise me but could feel so perfect at the same time was really what made me know it was the right thing. And whether it was that night, or six months later, that was the path we were on.

Spending a lot of time together dating; Josh going away on a cruise ship; travelling the world; meeting up in locations; going through hello, goodbye, hello, goodbye … we had amazing fun, we were happy, we were sad, we lived a lot in a short time. Then there was moving to a new country and moving in together. I think our relationship progressed in a way that it just felt like marrying was the natural next step.

Even though it was actually more important to Josh to have a Sydney ceremony, it's still very disheartening to think we couldn't legally marry in Australia. We are so far behind when it comes to gay rights. It's very sad to think our country is going to be on the wrong side of history in that way. The most touching moment of the wedding weekend for me was my brother Adam's speech in Sydney. He couldn't make it to the second ceremony, and Dad said beautiful words in New York, but hearing my little brother speak — and, you know, he's a footy player, works in rugby; he's a real boy boy. The way he stood up and spoke was really meaningful.

I'm not like Josh, who wears his heart on his sleeve, so I didn't cry during the ceremony in Sydney. I did in New York, however, because Josh altered some of his vows and that surprised me. I'm a business, strategy, product guy and Josh is an incredible wordsmith. We had workshopped our vows a bit together and I don't know how he was able to take his to another level, but he did, and that was the moment I cried.

I've always been incredibly lucky that my family and friends have always been very supportive. I came out when I was 16. I had a very open family and the love they showed me the moment I built up that courage to come out didn't change. In fact, it probably doubled. From my younger brother to my parents, I've always had a very positive upbringing, and to see my whole family come together and celebrate was really special. My younger brother looks at Josh like he's his older brother. My parents and Josh's parents are close friends, so the wedding was really that moment of two families coming together. It's the start of one big family."

Follow Alice on Twitter @alicewasley. Download the Sunday Style app here.


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