A Concierge for Same-Sex Weddings in Florida

Between the palm trees and ocean breeze, it’s no surprise that Florida has long been a popular destination for weddings. But last year, the Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of same-sex marriages had more couples exchanging vows.

Mark Semple, a veteran hospitality professional, is the wedding concierge at B Ocean Resort Fort Lauderdale, where he organizes weddings and receptions, including those for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender couples.

What makes a L.G.B.T.-friendly wedding is that “the property recognizes and supports the community,” Mr. Semple said. So far, all of his clients have been gay or lesbian, but he said he works with couples of all identities.

Since he became the concierge in December 2014, Mr. Semple has coordinated weddings for five L.G.B.T. couples. (One package — Take the Plunge — includes a 10-minute underwater ceremony, a 30-minute ceremony on dry land, a champagne toast and a reception, for $105 a person.)

His wedding-planning passion extends to his own life. He’s getting married in Ireland this year, as an ode to the heritage of his partner, Richard Durant.

Following are edited excerpts from a conversation with Mr. Semple.

How did you become a wedding concierge?
I’ve had a great opportunity to work with some of the most talented decorators, photographers and entertainers throughout my 30-plus-year career in the hospitality industry and 23 years in South Florida. Since then, I’ve built relationships through networking and involvement with groups like the Gay Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Chamber and the Pride Center at Equality Park. So that’s how I got the resources to create celebrations.

Was there a wedding that was particularly memorable?
I hosted a wedding in May for two women. One is an artist, and everything she did for her wedding was hand painted. There were personal touches on everything, from favors to place cards to gifts for her guests. Her partner, though, was the handier one. They had a beach theme, so she built props like a hand-painted surfboard and an Adirondack chair with their names engraved. She built a guesthouse for family coming from Paris.

And one that was emotional for you?
A couple I’ve known in the community for many years came to me about having a simple yet elegant reception. The two had different ideas or surprises they wanted to wow the other with. The simple reception turned into this spectacular party because each had surprises that the other knew nothing about. I felt so emotional because I could see how committed couples that have been together for 30-plus years are to each other — especially now that they have the opportunity to be recognized.


Have you experienced any that went south?
In all the parties I’ve planned, honestly, no. As for the two women married in May, one of their mothers said to me, “I’ve been planning for my daughter’s wedding all her life.” Naturally, she met the girls she dated over the years. But she knew this was the one. It was very moving to listen to her parents talk. They embraced her partner, her wife, from the moment they met her. When her father got up and made a toast, he spoke about the time his daughter brought her future wife over for the first time, and that there was this glow in her eye.

Did you ever expect same-sex marriages to become law in your lifetime?
Not in mine or in my children’s. It’s amazing how our country, our world has evolved. My father and my cousins were always very accepting of John, my former partner of eight years, who passed away at the age of 39 of melanoma cancer. My whole family knew and welcomed him, and his parents were like my second parents. When his mother passed away, it was like a part of me had passed away, too. It’s wonderful when your families can embrace who you are and who you’re with.