Frankie Grande and Hale Leon (now Grande) tied the knot on May 4, 2022 in a small ceremony with family and a few friends in Florida. However, that wasn't their initial wedding vision. The couple planned for a grand affair at Disney World early in the summer. However, when Disney took no action against the "Don't Say Gay" bill, the couple decided to pull their wedding from the location. "As a high-profile LGBTQIA+ couple, us getting married at Disney would be a huge win for them," Frankie told Brides in June. "I don't want our wedding to be weaponized in any way, shape, or form."
So, the couple quickly pivoted and threw a small Star Wars-inspired affair with a fraction of their initial guest list. But, the couple knew they would want to have a second celebration with all their friends and family later. "Once we canceled our initial wedding at Disney due to 'Don’t Say Gay' and opted for a small intimate Boca wedding at my family home, we knew it would be necessary to have a 'Wedding Gayla' later," shares Frankie with Brides. "We wanted to be able to celebrate our love and union with everyone who should have been invited to the ceremony, but couldn’t be due to limited capacity."
So, Frankie decided to take the reins and pull off a surprise event that even his new husband Hale was unaware of. "My vision was to throw a party and put on a show that no one would ever forget, especially my husband, who was completely surprised by the entire evening," he explains. "I planned the whole thing without him knowing, and took care to infuse the evening with details designed to surprise him and bring our love for each other to the forefront so our guests to be a part of it. It was a complete success! Hale was BLOWN away by how many of the evening’s performances were ‘his favorite things,’ from song selection to artists. It truly was the best night of his life he told me. Mine too, to be honest, despite the stress of putting everything together!"
The venue for the night? The exclusive burlesque-inspired nightclub The Box in New York City. “Having once worked there as the Emcee, I have a long, loving relationship with The Box, their owners, and staff. So it was the perfect venue for me to celebrate this next chapter of my life. Plus, I still think it is the greatest venue in NYC to have a party! Especially if it’s a party with a show. I mean, it’s perfect!”
"The incredible event manager Stephen McGee worked with my two best friends—from The Box and in life—Paul O’Toole and Chadd MacMillian, and me to create the perfect vibe for our galactic-chic wedding gayla! And, I do believe we nailed it!"
While the evening was a total surprise for Hale, Frankie made sure incredible performances would make the celebration unforgettable. "The big surprise was Loren Allred! Hale and I walked down the aisle [in May] to an orchestral version of “Never Enough” from The Greatest Showman," says Frankie. "It is our favorite song, but we didn’t ask anyone to sing it because Hale said, ‘No one should sing “Never Enough” but Loren Alred!’ So, without him knowing, I got Lauren to come sing it and he was so surprised and thrilled! He almost fell out of his chair."
"But, the surprises didn’t stop there," continues Frankie. "The iconic Carolee Carmello, Broadway royalty, tore down the house with her incredible rendition of 'The Winner Takes it All' from Mamma Mia, the show where Carolee and I met while performing together for three years on Broadway
In the spirit of hosting a "gayla," Frankie made sure to bring in some amazing drag and burlesque performances to The Box for the evening, too. He shares, "NYC drag icon Pixie Aventura blew everyone away with Hale’s favorite song from Dreamgirls and a medley of our favorite artist Whitney Houston. LA drag icon Salina Estitties premiered a new Celine Dion piece specifically designed to make me laugh and it certainly did, along with everyone else in the room! Plus, we had many of ‘The Box’ acts perform for us as I wanted the evening to include elements from the club that hosted our incredible event!"
"Our dear friend Betty Who surprised Hale with a breathtaking acoustic rendition of ‘I Love You Always Forever,’ one of my favorite songs of hers," shares Frankie. The newlyweds made sure to catch snaps with their performers throughout the evening.
Frankie even took to the stage for two performances that night. "It was so fun! The first number I performed, 'Have a Drink on Me,' was the opening number I used to perform at The Box when I was the Emcee there," shares the groom. "It was so incredible dusting it off and pulling it down from the shelf! My friends who used to dance in the show when I was working there, Jana and Lauren, came back to perform with me again and it was so magical. Our friend Julien also joined us onstage to kick his face and strut his stuff, and those three really did an incredible job."
"The second number was a new one for me, 'White Wedding' by Billy Idol, for obvious reasons! That’s a really fun one to sing and I’m glad I pushed myself to learn something new for the evening," Frankie says. "It made it even more special."
Not only was the celebration a perfect night for the couple to celebrate their love, they also enjoyed reconnecting with their nearest and dearest. "Seeing friends and family that weren’t able to attend the first wedding and that we haven’t seen since the pandemic began was wonderful! I remember screaming ‘OMG!’ as guest after guest entered The Box," recalls Frankie.
The wedding gayla was also a time for the couple to make up for moments they missed from their first wedding celebration. “My father's toast was incredibly special as he wasn’t able to attend our May the 4th ceremony, having come down with COVID just a few days before the wedding,” says Frankie. “I’m glad he was there for part two and got to play his part!”
"I will say on a personal note, my favorite moment was when Hale asked to speak to me privately after the show," reflects Frankie. "He told me he couldn’t believe how much care and love I put into the night. He felt like it was all for him. He felt so loved. I was the happiest man at that moment. That’s when I knew the night was a complete success."
"As much as it was my night, as I performed and organized every detail without his knowledge or involvement, it was for him and to share our love with our guests… and it looks like: mission accomplished."
By the end of the night, the couple wore stunning custom Kenneth Barlis suits they originally intended to wear at their Disney wedding ceremony. Frankie even made a grand entrance in the suit with a 10-foot-long train. However, wearing them together as a couple that has experienced a summer of married love was even more meaningful.
"It means we’re in it for the long haul! If we have an argument, we know it doesn’t matter in the long run," notes Frankie. "We brush it off and get back to being in love. If we are exhausted from traveling and working we can just lie in bed next to each other and read in silence knowing we have one another. It’s spending quality time with our puppy Appa and realizing the three of us are a family unit and that as long as we have each other, nothing can hurt us. And, it means we have a lot more time to be together and married and to enjoy this feeling, which is really really the best gift of all!"