s First Gay Wedding: A Celebration for the Community

May 8, 2019 | News

When gay marriage was finally legalized, Emelle’s helped two regular customers and dear friends throw a long overdue wedding ceremony.

Featuring: Jamie & Dean Powers | Spiritual Director & Vocational Psychologist

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On an otherwise regular evening in 1972, Jamie was on his way home from a visit with his high school friend Dean. Dean, who was driving, was unusually quiet. “I’ve got something to tell you,” he finally said as they neared Jamie’s home, but he hesitated to say more. The car came to a stop, and Jamie turned to Dean, encouraging him to go on. “What is it?” To Jamie’s surprise, Dean confessed, “I’ve fallen in love with you.”

Jamie couldn’t hide his surprise. He’d been the best man at Dean’s wedding just six months ago, and though he’d harboured some interest in Dean, he never thought it was reciprocated. They agreed to make no decisions that night, but to keep talking. Nearly one year later, on New Year’s Eve 1973, Dean and his wife separated, and six days later Jamie and Dean were living together.

“We celebrate January 6th as our actual anniversary because that was the only commitment we could make to each other at the time,” says Jamie. The ‘70s were far less hospitable for the LGBTQ community. Marriage equality was still thirty years away, and had Jamie and Dean exposed their relationship publicly it could have jeopardized their careers, or worse. Still, Jamie feels the marking of time is important.

“You must celebrate every occasion you can—and do it largely,” he says.

Emelle’s Catering has been with them for most of these celebrations. The couple lived behind the café, and Dean’s relationship with the space began as a professional one. A vocational psychologist, he would take his clients there. “I found Emelle’s to be safe and accessible. Some of my clients were in wheelchairs or had mobility issues, head injuries. They were comfortable and well treated at Emelle’s.” Office catering was next. Pretty soon Jamie and Dean were lunchtime regulars, and every birthday or anniversary called for catering or cake from Emelle’s.

In 2005, when marriage equality became legal, it didn’t take the couple long to get a license and perform the legal ceremony. “Society had to come a very long way for Jamie and I,” Dean reflects. It was an occasion to mark, and one that demanded a larger celebration. As members of the congregation, they decided to hold a proper wedding at Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral.

It would be the first gay wedding ceremony to be held at Christ Church and an important symbol for LGBTQ couples of faith.

From the 3-year-old who helped himself to the icing on the wedding cake to the older Anglican ladies who let loose after a few oyster shooters, it was a day of joy and laughter. Friends, family, and the entire Christ Church congregation were invited, and 50 extra people showed up on the day. “Emelle’s was like loaves and fishes,” says Jamie. “They just kept producing more food and somehow managed to feed everyone.” The outpouring of support was overwhelming. Friends who wanted to contribute to the occasion were even invited into the kitchen to help Emelle’s prepare tea and coffee. “It was beautiful, it was perfect,” says Jamie.

After 45 years together, Jamie and Dean still have a honeymoon energy about them. They laugh, they joke, they praise each other’s strengths—an example of love and compassion worthy of emulation by all couples, regardless of orientation. They act as role models in the LGBTQ community and work with Rainbow Railroad and Rainbow Refugee to help queer people from other countries find freedom from oppression in Canada. “Vancouver is a multicultural, diverse city where we’re all learning how to live together and to do it well—to enjoy each other, to celebrate each other,” says Jamie. “That’s what happens at Emelle’s. There are no boundaries. Everybody is welcome.”