The huge wedding and reception will take place on August 29.
By Megan Smith
When Hot 95.7’s Sarah Pepper heard that the Supreme Court had agreed to hear cases on marriage equality, she made a promise—if the Court passed down a favorable ruling, she would officiate weddings for same-sex couples. “I’d always wanted to perform weddings,” says Pepper. “So I thought, what better time?”
After a quick Google search, the HOT Show co-host became ordained online. “Just pay $79.99, and you’re good to go!” Pepper laughs.
But she didn’t expect the historic ruling to take place a mere six months after making her promise. The day of the decision was a celebratory blur, Pepper says, but she quickly kicked into wedding-planning mode. “I’m just blessed to work for a company like CBS where, when I walked into my boss’ office five minutes after the decision came down and explained what I wanted to do, she literally dropped everything she was doing, got on her computer, and we started to make it happen.”
First, they needed to find Houston LGBT couples ready to wed. Pepper put out a call for couples to email her with their stories, and accepted the first applicants she received—two female couples and three male couples. “Some of our couples have been together for 30-some years, and they’ve never been able to get married,” Pepper says. “How awesome to get to be part of that day.”
The next day, while Pepper was co-hosting the Houston LGBT Pride Celebration, she reached out to the Queensbury Theatre to gauge their interest in hosting the wedding ceremony. The theater’s board of directors didn’t even hesitate—they were in. Together, they set the wedding date for Saturday, August 29.
From there, numerous other Houston vendors excitedly came on board: Meteor is hosting the reception; Urban Eats is catering the event; Diamond Cutters International is donating traditional wedding bands for all the couples; Impression Bridal is donating wedding dresses to the brides; Topshop is donating tuxedos; For Heaven’s Cake is donating a special wedding cake to the event; and Erik of Monrreal & Co. is the event’s wedding planner. “I thought it would be hard to find people to donate such big things, but that was the easiest part,” Pepper says. “I didn’t want this to be like everyone else’s wedding, and, if you meet the vendors involved, you’ll see each of their own personal touches in the wedding. They’ve been absolutely amazing.”
Since finalizing the event’s details, Pepper has been promoting the event regularly on air with no backlash from listeners. “Everyone has been so supportive,” she says. “That’s why I love Houston.” Instead, she’s received emails from LGBT listeners voicing their appreciation for what she’s doing. “If for that one little minute where they turn on the radio, they feel that there’s at least one person who supports them, that has their back, and that it’s going to be okay, then I did my part,” she says.
Everyone at CBS Radio has been overwhelmingly supportive as well, Pepper says. “There’s one person who is going to be on that stage marrying people, but there were a ton of people behind the scenes who made that happen,” she says, noting that her co-host and trained photographer PK will be taking the wedding pictures, and the CBS Radio front deskman (who happens to be a fantastic singer) will be performing at the event. And although co-host Ivan will be out of town the day of the wedding, he accompanied Pepper to sample the event’s menu, as well as to Impression Bridal. “That’s what I love about everyone in the office,” she says. “If we’re going to do something, we’re not going to do it halfway—we’re going to give 110 percent.”
Getting to know the couples has been a life-changing experience for Pepper, who has been involved in every step of the planning process—she even tried on dresses with the brides. “I love all of them!,” she says. “They’re all so unique. When you hear these couples’ stories, you cannot help but be inspired. It’s so hard when you’ve been single for so long, or you’ve been jaded by love and your heart has been broken so many times, to ever believe that there is such a thing as true love,” she says. “And then you meet five amazing couples, and you think to yourself, ‘yeah, there absolutely is true love.’”
“Love has no label—it’s just love,” Pepper adds. “And it shouldn’t be gay marriage and straight marriage—it should just be marriage. I’m just marrying people. That’s why we didn’t call [this event] a gay wedding, we called it a huge wedding.”
Weddings will begin at 1 p.m. on the day of the event, and each couple will have individual nuptials. The reception will follow beginning at 4 p.m. at Meteor. The public is invited to attend both the wedding and reception. “This is the real deal,” Pepper says. “This is not some radio promotion. I’ve been practicing in front of the mirror. And I’m not really a crier, but I think I might cry. It’s gotten to the point where I feel a real connection to these people and we’ve become friends.”
When asked if she’d picked up any tips for her own future wedding, Pepper responds, “I’ve learned to start making my guest list now! I will also definitely hire a wedding planner. Erik has been amazing and has taken care of every little thing I would have forgotten.”
Pepper’s days of officiating are hardly over, either—she’s already got three more lined up, including her cousin’s vowel renewal. She also hopes to make this huge wedding an annual event to celebrate the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling each year. “I’ve always said if this radio thing falls apart, I’m going to be a wedding planner,” she laughs.
What: “The Biggest Wedding In Houston” hosted by Hot 95.7’s Sarah Pepper
When: August 29. Wedding ceremonies begin at 1 p.m., followed by a reception at 4 p.m.
Where: Wedding: Queensbury Theatre (12802 Queensbury Ln). Reception: Meteor (2306 Genesee St).