Actors Jason Gotay and Michael Hartung's love story was written amongst the stars—Christopher Walken and Allison Williams, to be exact. In September 2014, the pair met when they were both cast as Lost Boys in "Peter Pan Live" on NBC, and quickly fell in love. Cut to January 2021, when Michael proposed to Jason while they were on a romantic weekend getaway upstate. Of course, Jason said yes, and donned a new ring with a sentimental touch. "Michael had their rings custom-made out of a treasure chest prop from the set of Peter Pan Live that had become a keepsake for us, as well as the key to our first home together," the couple shares.
Jason and Michael frequently would travel upstate together, so they knew it would be the perfect location for them to tie the knot. “Our trips always provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of city life, and give us an opportunity to reconnect with one another,” the pair explain. However, their first wedding venue came with a hiccup. “We had initially booked a private property outside of Woodstock, New York, but—funny story—after a noise complaint due to a particularly rowdy group of guests, the township shut the venue down four months before our wedding," they continue. "Cue mental breakdown!”
"We came across The Kester Homestead through a mutual friend of one of the event coordinators, Sidney Law, who was so gracious and accommodating right from the start," share Jason and Michael. "The team at Kester, led by Mackenzie Vossler, swooped in immediately and made us feel completely taken care of. The Kester Homestead is pure magic; it has a fairy-tale quality about it, complete with a woodlands cathedral in the middle of the forest. The setting is lush and whimsical, but feels like home. To say this was a happy accident is an understatement."
The pair's vision for the wedding? "We wanted to keep things simple in an effort to focus on what was truly important: an epic party celebrating our love and our circles of support," they explain. "We valued creativity and personal touches over elaborate florals and a five-course meal. Because of this, we landed on the concept of an ‘elevated backyard wedding.’ This meant a non-traditional ceremony curated by us and our loved ones, wood-fired pizza for dinner, s’mores by the bonfire, and dancing the night away under the stars. And yes, there were trendy fall colors and a fabulous costume change in mind. This was a gay wedding, after all!"
To turn their wedding into a reality, Jason and Michael turned to planner Jason Mitchell Kahn, who they call their 'saving grace.' "It was love at first sight (well, Zoom). He understood our vision immediately and had all of the tools and resources to make our wedding more magical than we ever could have dreamed," says the couple.
They continue, "Between meetings over cocktails with JMK, check-ins with Sidney and Mackenzie at The Kester, and finding inspiration from our network of creative friends and family, our vision came together as a beautiful labor of love!" Ahead, explore their stunning and joyous celebration, planned by Jason Mitchell Kahn and photographed by Holtz Wedding Photography.
Our vision was ivory suits that would reference the traditional color worn by a bride.
The grooms decided to do their own twist on traditional wedding attire for the big day. "Our vision was ivory suits that would reference the traditional color worn by a bride, and allow us to stand out among the lush, green surroundings and our families’ deep, rich, fall color scheme," they explain. "We were styled by our dear friend and brilliant artist Stephanie Tricola, who helped us put together a monochromatic look starring suits by Hugo Boss. Modern touches like a white leather Dr. Martens sneaker helped the look feel fresh and contemporary while staying formal and sophisticated."
The couple also made sure to do some beauty prep before they headed upstate for the big day. "As long time lovers of Tracie Martyn Skincare, [we] were treated to Red Carpet Facials at the NYC spa before the big weekend," they share. "Jason’s hair was cut and styled by Madion Russo at David Ryan Salon, with Michael’s hair by Marty Thomas and beard by Barba Grooming Boutique."
Since Jason and Michael would be exchanging new wedding bands during the ceremony, they decided to keep their special engagement rings close to their hearts. "The Kester Homestead created our boutonnieres which included our wooden engagement rings, the perfect accent on an all-white arrangement to keep in our monochromatic color palette," share the couple.
The unplugged ceremony in the woods featured a gorgeous natural background. "The Woodlands Cathedral at the Kester is stunning on its own," say Jason and Michael. "Guests follow a trail through the forest to find a beautiful, canopied clearing lined with rustic church pews and a wooden arbor."
"Mackenzie and the staff draped the arbor in organic and colorful floral arrangements and hung delicate florals on every other pew," they continue. "We also had vintage rugs lining the aisle and under the arbor."
We chose very intentionally to walk down together, side by side, as a symbol of our choice to step into this new phase of our lives together.
"Our dear friends and all-star band, Bandits on the Run, provided music for the ceremony and reception," note the grooms. They walked down the aisle to “La Vie en Rose” sung by guest vocalist and their friend, Kerstin Anderson. "We asked our siblings and parents to precede us down the aisle and [we] chose very intentionally to walk down together, side by side, as a symbol of our choice to step into this new phase of our lives together," the couple shares.
One special moment that took place at the ceremony? "One of our best friends (who also did our wedding artwork), Sharone Halevy, spoke at our ceremony. She was told she could do or say anything she wanted, and she chose to give a speech about sunflowers, used as a metaphor for Michael and I," says Jason. "She got the idea when, a couple of years ago, Michael and I surprised each other by showing up at a dinner date with sunflowers for one another (completely unknowingly). She fell in love with this story and spoke about how, like sunflowers follow the direction of the sun, our friends and family follow Michael and I."
"She then asked her 'sunflower fairies' (friends that she had recruited the week prior) to hand out hand-made sunflowers to each guest! At the end of her speech, she asked us to look out at our community of love and support, and when we did, we saw a field of homemade sunflowers," he shares. "It was a very special moment, an image I’ll remember for the rest of my life."
"We both wrote our own vows, and they were beautiful—both an homage to how special and loved we’ve made each other feel since the very beginning, and a commitment to continue the work it takes to build a future together," share the couple.
"Michael talked about a moment from his childhood when his preschool teacher asked what he wanted to be when he grew up and he answered, 'Cinderella,'" the couple share. "Though he felt embarrassed and a sense of shame at the time that lasted through much of his life, he was proud to be standing before Jason, his very own Prince Charming, on their wedding day, his childhood dream coming true."
"Our recessional was “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” sung by Bandits on the Run, who led the way on a celebratory dance through the woods," reminisce the grooms. "They were accompanied by all of our wedding guests, who were handed musical instruments to join in the fun!"
After the ceremony, the grooms took photos with their "pseudo-wedding party." "We chose to dress our families in a fall color palette, with the women in cocktail dresses that felt sophisticated but celebratory, nothing too formal or uptight," they share.
The grooms took a few moments before the reception began to spend time alone and reflect on the day. "Our ceremony was so special on many levels," they share. "Led with the perfect mix of reverence and fun by our officiant Christian Dante White, it was chock full of love."
Tradition is meant to evolve and can be interpreted differently over time. On our wedding day, we were all privileged to be a part of that evolution.
"One particular moment that blew us and all of our guests away was when Michael’s mom, Colleen, delivered the HOMO-ly (get it!?). Riffing on the old adage 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,' she explored each part of the phrase in a new way, fit for a non-traditional ceremony and couple," note the grooms. "She taught us that tradition is meant to evolve and can be interpreted differently over time. On our wedding day, we were all privileged to be a part of that evolution."
For cocktail hour, the guests were lead to the property's "Wild Garden." The grooms share, "There were hanging string lights, lounges with furniture provided by She Rents Vintage and styled with personal decor from our home, fire pits, an outdoor cocktail bar, and an expansive grazing table that blew our minds!" Fun fact: they found all the supplies for the grazing table at Costco!
The couple adds, "Hot take, but florals were by far the easiest element of our design process, and that was all because of the folks at The Kester Homestead. We provided them with a mood board and, based on the stunning photos we found on their website and social media, let them run wild. The results were absolutely beautiful, a true reflection of their instincts and taste."
"We had three signature cocktails that were designed with the help of award-winning mixologist Pam Wiznitzer. [They] also told important or funny stories that represented us as a couple," explain Jason and Michael. "'The Donna Murphy' was named after a musical theatre goddess who we’ve both had the pleasure of working with and is a dear friend, 'The Malik' was named after a kind man who (true story!) jumped into the subway tracks to rescue Jason’s engagement ring one fateful night in May, and 'The Wendybird' is a reference to how we met (Jason played the Lost Boy Tootles, who shoots the 'Wendy bird' in the Peter Pan story)!"
We gathered our guests in a circle to say a few words of gratitude to members of the LGBTQ+ community who came before us and made this moment possible.
"At the end of cocktail hour, we gathered our guests in a circle to say a few words of gratitude to members of the LGBTQ+ community who came before us and made this moment possible," recall the grooms. "Then, as a special surprise, Jason brought Michael into the middle of the circle and sang a song for him. He chose one of his favorites that reminded him of Michael, “Sunscreen” by Ira Wolf. The song was accompanied by Adrian Enscoe of Bandits on the Run."
While the couple had a great team helping them along the way, they had fun DIY-ing a lot of the signage throughout the wedding. "Our table settings and place cards were a big project, as well as seating assignment signs that were designed and created by Michael. Each table had its own sign, tacked to velvet ribbon that hung outside the barn doors," they share.
For the reception, the grooms lead guests into a stunning barn they describe as "rustic elegance personified." "Long, hand-crafted wooden tables were arranged in rows for family-style dinner with a sweetheart table for us at the front. There were sprigs and small floral arrangements in amber glass bottles and geometric rose-gold pizza stands that lined each table. Vintage candlesticks with tall tapered candles gave the room a warm glow," the couple share.
The couple truly made each guest feel welcome at their tables. "Our family and chosen family are an essential part of who we are. Because we had (what felt like for us!) an intimate wedding of under 100 people, we wanted every guest to know how much we value them," Jason and Michael explain. "As place cards for each table setting, we found a photo of one or both of us with every single guest and printed it out on Polaroid film (what could be more nostalgic?). Upon entering the barn for dinner, our guests had to find their Polaroid in order to find their seat, instantly met with a memory that they shared with each of us."
As the couple entered the reception, they each donned ivory sweaters beneath their suits for a more comfortable feel to take on the evening festivities. The band Bandits on the Run played a version of "What You Don’t Do” by Lianne La Havas for their first dance.
"One of the things that our guests found so special about our day was the effort that we made to add personal touches that were unique to who we are as a couple. Those special details really resonated with our guests, and it was so beautiful for us to see them respond to each one," share the grooms.
"Our menu consisted of four signature wood-fired pizzas that we custom-made with the help of Mike Affinito at Via Napoli Express. Each one named after one of our favorite musical theatre composers: The Porter, The Herman, The Ashman, and The Larson," Jason and Michael explain. "The pizzas were a variety of fall flavors, including a soppressata and hot honey, truffle, ricotta, prosciutto, and fig, and a pesto-veggie. Having them served hot out of the wood-fired pizza truck was a special and unique touch!"
Instead of cake, the grooms decided to serve up an epic bar of sweet treats. "Dessert was an assortment of adorable, gourmet mini-cones with a variety of fillings based on some of our favorite flavors: peanut butter, rainbow cookie, lavender-honey," notes the couple. "These perfectly Instagram-able treats were provided by Daniel Colonel of Bocconi Foods."
"Our drinks were rounded out with a Fever Tree Highball Bar—Empress Gin and Tonics, Woodford Reserve Whiskey Sour, Moscow Mules, and Palomas," they share.
"One of the more challenging elements of the planning process was finding the right balance between having reverence for our special day and finding lightness and humor, particularly in our ceremony," share the couple. "We wanted it to be special and emotional, of course, but we generally don’t like to take ourselves TOO seriously! Finding that balance was important to us, and we think we found just the right tone on our wedding day: laughing through happy tears!"
One great way to sweeten up the evening? A s'mores bar, of course!
"During the dance party portion of the evening, we planned a costume change and reveal to surprise our guests. Styled by Stephanie Tricola, we made an entrance in matching “Groom” t-shirts that said 'Just' and 'Married' on the back of each one, with Jason appearing in pants from Zadig & Voltaire and Dr. Martens combat boots and Michael tearing up the dance floor in a tulle skirt from David’s Bridal," share the couple. "Michael’s grandmother provided jewelry to accessorize our looks."
"Our entrance was choreographed to 'End of Time' by Beyoncé, naturally, and it was a definite highlight of the evening," they gush.
While their wedding was anything but traditional, it truly was a celebration of the couple's love, their friends, and their family. The grooms' advice for those planning their own festivites? "Find those touches that are unique to you! It will elevate your wedding and make it all the more special," they share.
Venue The Kester Homestead
Planner Jason Mitchell Kahn
Officiant Christian Dante White
Rehearsal Dinner Attire Boglioli Milano
Engagement Ring Stone Forge Studios
Wedding Bands WedgeWood Rings
Catering Via Napoli Express
Graphic Design Calling All Graphics Inc.
Artwork Sharone Halevy
Favors Gail Ambrosius Chocolatier
Accommodations The Kester Homestead
Photography Holtz Wedding Photography