WEDDING WISDOM: NICHOLAS & KARSTEN

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As the saying goes, it’s always darkest before the dawn. This saying can be especially relevant in the world of dating. It is here that we find Nicholas and Karsten, or rather, that Nicholas and Karsten found each other. Nicholas, after 2 years of serial dating was fed up with going on lame dates; while Karsten, just recently out of a long-term relationship, was starting to see who else was out there. Both were tired and dismayed by the rampant short-term dating scene of Berlin, and relationships that simply lacked substance. In 2012, hearing about the newly released Tinder dating app, they each decided to download it and give it a try. Karsten commenting, “There were like three people on Tinder in Berlin, so really... not that many people.”

“We both swiped right… and after some coy chatting for a couple of days, we met for drinks. The rest, as they say, is history.”

“I was just so done with Grindr, everyone was talking about it at the time. I’m more of a relationship person so it was a little tricky to find someone on there. I really wanted to find someone not just into short-term relationships. We weren’t writing to each other for very long — we met quite early. It was really spontaneous, which is crazy because I’m not a spontaneous person.” Karsten said. “I kind of feel bad for Nick. I just got out of a long-term relationship, so I talked about my ex about 80% of the date.”

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“When we met, I do remember he talked a little about his ex, but I wasn’t particularly bothered by that because I knew what it was like. I just thought that he was very attractive, and had this sweetness and innocence to him… After a couple years not feeling a spark with anyone, I wouldn’t say that it was love at first sight, but very, very interested at first sight.”

In reality, the first date was just for drinks. Afterwards, Karsten let Nicholas know that he was going out for a large party in Berlin. The following day around eight in the evening, Nicholas texted Karsten to ask about the party. From which Karsten responded, “Oh, I’m still here!”

“I remember my friend turning to me and saying, ‘Run, far away!’”

Karsten adding, “Talking about my ex, and then this… I questioned why he would even date me. I wouldn’t have dated me back then!”

Regardless, they were smitten. They were able to connect on a much deeper level than what they experienced in recent dates. Their conversations fluctuated between serious topics and laughter with ease, and their lives quickly intertwined. “We were like glue to each other. It was very unlikely that our friends would not see us together.” 

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However, they didn’t grow closer without at least a little hesitation. Nicholas explains, “I was worried that I was substituting as a rebound, because we did talk about that a lot. But, In a way, without tooting my own horn, I’m quite an empathetic person and I helped him heal in a lot of ways. His recent breakup had been his first major relationship before meeting me. We were both kind of helping each other. I was frustrated with having been single for such a long time, and he was frustrated wondering how his other relationship didn’t work out, and we just came together and helped each other heal and we became this single entity.”

About a month into dating, Nicholas and Karsten made it official, but not without a bit of flare! Nicholas was so set on impressing Karsten, that while making pêches flambe over the stove, he put a little too much alchohol on the pan and it exploded back at him. “I asked if something smelled burnt to him, and that’s when we realized it had completely singed off all of my arm hair and the front hair at the top of my forehead!” 

Living across town from one another, the next obvious stride forward was to move in together. As they took their first ‘family photos’ for a Christmas card and adopted a cat, they began to see themselves as a family.

“I made it pretty clear early on that I had expectations to get married at some point. I wasn’t ever really shy about that. It was something I always wanted. My biggest passions in life are being with people, celebrating with people I want to be with, and celebrating my partner at some point. I wasn’t sure if Karsten had ever considered marriage before meeting me.”

“I never thought I would ever marry someone, or be in a relationship with someone,” Karsten admitted. 

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On a short trip back to Southern California to visit Nicholas’ family, Karsten convinced Nicholas to allocate enough time to spend one night at Laguna Beach, just the two of them. Karsten explained, “We went to this hotel in Laguna Beach, and then to 1000 Steps Beach. We sat down on the beach with some wine, and the sun was setting. It was just below the horizon when Nick said, ‘Can we eat? I’m hungry.’”

Nicholas interjected, “It was already dark. There was nothing left! There were just some kids behind us smoking weed. I thought, ‘Okay, tonight is not the night. We have 1000 steps to climb up and we need to go.”

Karsten, having watched many proposals online that involve a little bit of joking and fun, wanted to draw out the suspense for as long as possible. “I think he deserves it after showing me every ring in Tiffany’s. It’s kind of like payback.”

“Karsten told me that we needed to wait… then he popped the question.” Sunset at the beach with the faint scent of marijuana in the distance Nicholas added, “in true California style.”

Nicholas explained, “It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t expecting it. We had spoken about marriage a lot and had been to a lot of weddings together before, but I wasn’t expecting him to pop the question at that moment. It wasn’t surprising and at the same time it wasn’t. It took my breath away. It’s just a moment that’s really difficult to put into words.” Karsten added, “We just started crying. Like okay, this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. It’s overwhelming. And fortunately, he said yes.”

Following their trip to California, Nicholas and Karsten began planning their dream wedding together. The big questions — What kind of wedding it would be, and where? Nicholas wanted a big wedding, where as Karsten had a few different ideas. “I asked about just eloping somewhere, like in New Zealand or Iceland, where the North American and European tectonic plates meet. We went back and forth a lot. One place that we both love is Mykonos. We go there at the end of summer every year. It’s such a special place for us that we decided we wanted to share it with everyone.”

They agreed that hiring a wedding planner was one of the best decisions that they made for their wedding. There are just too many logistics and challenges when considering a destination wedding that makes it difficult to go it alone. “It took about 2 years to plan all of the details, and she executed our creative vision basically to the pin. One of the biggest challenges when it comes to planning a same sex wedding, is finding what works for us as a couple. We were wondering how to do the procession, or even if we wanted one. Where will we seat guests and families?” Nicholas commented.

Karsten added, “We had cultural differences as well. What we have in Germany is totally different from US weddings. It was kind of neat having a completely open field of being able to do what we wanted.” 

As for attire, Karsten knew he wanted to wear a tuxedo. “I knew that if there was any time I could wear a tuxedo in my life, this was it. I wondered about getting a designer tux or not, but couldn’t find anything I was 100% on. Then in Berlin, we found a place to get bespoke suits, and I am so, so happy we decided on that. Everyone said that they looked like tens of thousands of dollars; like they were out of a magazine.”

Nicholas, known to hold a bit more of an eclectic style, knew that a traditional black tux was not for him. “I ended up sitting with our tailor and going through hundreds of fabric samples to figure out what I wanted, then we found this off-white, ivory silk blend. It was so special when we found that fabric, and I immediately knew that it was what I wanted.” To finish the look, Nicholas was to dawn a pair of Gucci Horsebit leather loafers, complete with a touch of gold. “Treat yourself, it’s your wedding! Go Gucci!”

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Nicholas and Karsten made it a point to make the best of their time in Mykonos with their loved ones. They arrived the Wednesday before the wedding and had an entire week of celebrations.  The venue: a private villa overlooking the Aegean Sea. The grooms set their accommodations at a hotel close to town, apart from the villa for privacy. After rehearsal, all of the guests were invited to sail around the island with the grooms over drinks and Hors d’oeuvres. “It helped a lot that people already knew each other at the time of the wedding. People weren’t asking, ‘where are you from’ and things like that.” Karsten said.

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As the sun set over Mykonos, almost everything was in place and ready for the big day. The excitement palpable. However, the next morning brought unexpected trouble on the horizon. Nicholas explained, “Our villa was on a cliff and there was another villa beneath us. They were also hosting a wedding and were doing a sound check… It was so loud that our entire villa was shaking. The second we arrived, my mom greeted us at the door and said, ‘Nick, take a deep breath.’ I completely lost it! I started yelling at people.” Nicholas’s mom and the wedding planner took charge by contacting the owner of the villa. Meanwhile, Nick had also forgotten his vows all the way at the hotel, so left in a rush to grab those. “The roads are crazy in Mykonos, and it was like I was riding a course in MarioKart. I’m surprised that I didn’t get into an accident! The wedding planner helped calm me down. She talked to the wedding planner of the villa below and they made sure there wouldn’t be any scheduling conflicts with the sound systems.” Karsten adding, “And we had free fireworks! It was perfect timing and everyone thought it was for our wedding, but it was actually for the other one below.”

After the loud booms from the sound-testing had past, so did the concerns and worries for the wedding day. Karsten and Nicholas hid away with their wedding party, getting ready for the ceremony and toasting with champagne. Their guests took their seats, and the two grooms positioned themselves hidden within a large alcove just beyond the top of the balcony’s grand staircase. “The music started playing, we were standing there with our moms, and Karsten turned to look at me and I said, ‘don’t look at me’ because I was already crying!”

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As Nicholas and his mother walked down the stairs, someone from the audience yelled, “Oh my god, Nick is crying!” And that was all it took. “I just freaking lost it.” Nicholas said. “I’ve never cried like that in my entire life, literally blubbering. Not because we were sad, but because we were so overwhelmed with emotion. We wrote our own vows and selected a reading from Plato’s Symposium that a friend of ours read. This reading talks about the origin of love, and that there are men who love men and women who love women. Men who love men are called ‘Children of the Sun.’ As this was read we were overlooking the island of Delos, which is considered the birthplace of the sun according to Greek mythology. It just worked out perfectly.”

Karsten adding, “The second we were reading the vows I was just like, ‘Oh god.’ I just started to cry more and more. It blended to crying together with happiness. After we read the vows, for the reception we began walking out and people started hugging us. I can’t put it into words. Most of the wedding day, you’re just in this happy mode and just crying all the time. It’s so emotional you can’t focus on the details I feel.”

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In total, the 50 guests comprising of nearly 25 nationalities gathered in the reception space to celebrate the newly married grooms. Among the guests were both Nicholas and Karsten’s families, spending a significant amount of time together, and in a way meeting for the first time.

“My favorite moment was when we went out and took pictures just the two of us with our photographer. It gave us a moment to reflect on what just happened at the ceremony.” Nicholas and Karsten both agreed that the short, but quiet moments alone in the midst of the busy day, were heavy with emotion and pure joy.

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“As gay men, you always kind of have a complicated relationship, maybe with family, or maybe with your understanding of what marriage is, or your family’s expectations of what marriage is. For me, when I came out of the closet, my family didn’t respond how I would have hoped. They’ve come a long way since then, but at this moment, at the wedding it was just 100% pure acceptance for us and my partner. My dad said in his speech, ‘It’s so obvious that Karsten makes you happier than anyone else on the planet.’

When we got engaged, my dad brought up this anecdote; My little sister was 8 or 9 and attended a private Christian school. The night after we told her we were engaged, she was in bed with my dad and stepmom. She said, ‘I’m so excited that Nick and Karsten are getting married. The most beautiful thing about it is that Nick gets to marry his best friend… and isn’t that a wonderful thing?’”

Karsten explained that having the most important people in his life all there celebrating around him was both a special and surprising feeling. “At the end of the day, I’m so happy that we had a small wedding because those were really the most important people to us. And those speeches, hearing about what people felt in that moment, it was so special.”

After the fireworks, many drinks, and an unforgettable evening, Nicholas and Karsten hung back in Mykonos to enjoy a mini-honeymoon. Now, living as husbands in San Francisco, they are ecstatically looking forward to what the future holds. 

Nicholas leaves us with this, “Reflecting back, there is really nothing I would have changed in terms of anything really. The execution of the wedding just perfectly embodied us as a couple.” 

Follow Nicholas and Karsten’s adventures at @ns.thompson and @karstenkoehn.

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Photography: Nadia Meli (@thenadiameli)
Planner: Vana Efklaidou (@whiteribbonevents)
Grooms’ suits: Bespoke by Monokel Berlin (@monokelberlin)
Karsten’s shoes: Scarosso (@scarosso)
Karsten’s tie & cufflinks: Lanvin (@lanvinofficial)
Nicholas’s shoes: Gucci (@gucci)
Nicholas’s cufflinks: Montblanc (@montblanc)
Nicholas’s tie: Dunhill (@alfreddunhill)