Flowers are a common sight at a wedding, but during the marriage of one special couple planned for New Year’s Day, expect to see a lot more roses.
The couple, Danny Leclair and Aubrey Loots, of Palms, will be wed on Jan. 1 on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) float in the Tournament of Roses’ 125th annual Rose Parade in Pasadena. For the first time, a same-sex wedding will be held aboard a float. The occasion is in celebration of marriage equality and the repeal of Prop. 8 earlier this year.
Ged Kenslea, senior director of communications for AHF, said many people have embraced the news about a same-sex wedding in the Rose Parade, including the Tournament of Roses, which gave its blessing to the float’s concept in October.
But the wedding almost didn’t happen, Kenslea said, as the Tournament of Roses has a rule that only one couple can get married per parade, and Farmers Insurance had already planned to have a wedding aboard its float.
“They told us late that we could do it because Farmer’s had decided to go with a different theme,” Kenslea said. “They were very supportive and hugely helpful. It was late in the process, so we had to scramble to make the arrangements.”
Within a few weeks of being notified the marriage could move forward, AHF selected Leclair and Loots, who have been together for 12 years.
The couple owns three hair salons and a hairdressing academy in Hollywood and Santa Monica. Leclair said he is excited about the wedding and added that the setting provides an opportunity to show the world what marriage equality means to all couples. He said the couple had a private symbolic ceremony a decade ago, and the public nature of the Rose Parade will provide an opportunity to legally marry in a ceremony that can be celebrated by all LGBT individuals.
“I was overwhelmed. We have an opportunity to create an image inside the greater swath of the journey toward marriage equality,” Leclair said. “We are overjoyed to be able to stand on the shoulders of everyone who came before us on this march to marriage equality.”
The AHF float for 2014 will be titled “Love is the Best Protection”, and will mark the organization’s third year of having an entry in the parade. Kenslea said Leclair and Loots will be joined by a minister on a platform on top of a wedding cake. Sharon Raphael and Mina Meyer, who were married in 2008, will serve as witnesses.
The float will also bear an image of artist Robert Indiana’s “Love” stamp.
“It’s an iconic image by an iconic artist, and the message is love, so it is fitting for the float,” Kenslea said.
Leclair said the couple will officially be married at the beginning of the parade as the float turns on to Colorado Boulevard from Orange Grove Boulevard, in front of the television cameras and the VIP grandstands.
“We will be doing the ceremony, and will end with the ‘I dos’ right when we meet the [judging] stage. It will be an iconic moment,” Leclair said. “It will then be smiles and waves for the rest of the parade.”
David Gordon, a spokesman for the Tournament of Roses, said the AHF float will be a welcome addition. He declined to comment specifically, but issued a statement attributed to the Tournament of Roses.
“The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is pleased to have AIDS Healthcare Foundation participate with a float entry in the 125th Rose Parade,” according to the statement. “It is the organization’s third entry in three years tied to their mission of delivering medical services and advocacy in fighting AIDS worldwide. Like all of our sponsors and float designers, AHF continues to help make the Rose Parade a premier event through original and creative expressions that connect to parade themes — as this float does.”
Kenslea said it is important for AHF to have a presence in the parade, as it spreads the message to millions of people. Approximately 800,000 people are expected to line Colorado Boulevard to watch the parade live, and approximately 84 million people are anticipated to watch the parade worldwide.
“It’s really going to be quite a spectacle,” Kenslea said. “The worldwide visibility is going to boost AIDS awareness and prevention. It’s not only the reach, in terms of the number of people, but also that it reaches a cross section of America.”
Leclair added that he is grateful to the Tournament of Roses for offering him and Loots the opportunity to marry in such a high-profile manner. He added that the experience personally allows the couple to fulfill the theme of the Rose Parade this year: “Living the Dream.”
“I don’t think enough credit has been given to the Tournament of Roses,” Leclair said. “The Tournament of Roses is a tradition, and it is very easy for an organization that is steeped in tradition to avoid controversy. I think the Tournament of Roses is courageous and relevant, and I am grateful they saw this as an opportunity to partner with our community and marriage equality, and are willing to stick their necks out.”
The Rose Parade begins at 8 a.m. on Jan. 1 near the corner of Orange Grove and Colorado boulevards. For information, visit www.tournamentofroses.com.
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