After getting engaged on July 10th, Mike Gill and Coty Heaton spent the next couple of months planning their wedding. The Nashville couple had been looking at venues to celebrate their big day, and in August, they thought they had found the perfect one — the Barn in the Bend, a rustic cozy-looking place in Nashville.
“We were searching for a venue that had indoor/outdoor space for our wedding, it had to be in the Nashville area and within our budget,” Mike told . “After going through tons of venues, this one hit all the marks and was on our list of places to tour.”
But there’s more than meets the eye. When Mike got in touch with Jackie Daniel, the owner of Barn in the Bend, things between them in email exchanges got very weird, very fast.
A gay couple from Tennessee were rejected by a wedding venue just because of their sexual orientation
Image credits: coty.heaton
Mike said that at some point, Jackie figured out he was going to be marrying another man. She sent Mike an email, but for whatever reason, it stated the opposite of what was going inside her head. “We offer same-sex marriage ceremonies only,” it clearly read.
But Jackie apparently figured out her mistake and fired off a follow-up about an hour later with a different signature, this time saying “We do not offer same-sex marriage ceremonies.”
Mike told Jackie he’d let everyone in the area know that the Barn in the Bend was bigoted, to which Jackie replied that her decision was based on her religious beliefs.
After they shared screenshots of the conversation they had with the owner of the venue, the public was furious
Image credits: TMZ
Image credits: TMZ
“People’s reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” Mike said. “Once things really blew up we stopped reading the comments because there are trolls on the internet you can’t avoid. But so many people we know and don’t know reached out through social media and it’s been incredible.”
Eventually, the couple found another venue. “It’s called The Grove at Williamson Family Farm. Our focus now is to start planning a really great wedding and party for our friends and family to be a part of. This was an unfortunate start to the process but it’s helped us to find so many more options we didn’t know about!”
Image credits: coty.heaton
To learn more about how to choose the right venue, we contacted Michelle Lew, the owner of Lavender Crown Events, a wedding planning company servicing San Jose, Silicon Valley, and the surrounding areas. “When people decide to get married, they usually have a vision of the type of backdrop they want for their ceremony and reception,” she told Bored Panda. “It may be in the forest, overlooking city lights, a luscious garden, a historic estate, or a golf club. Some couples choose venues that are special to their relationship, such as a brewery or winery they frequent or a restaurant they had a significant date in. Using these themes and ideas helps narrow down the options of which venues to tour. The next step is often how inclusive the venue is towards providing services for the couple’s needs whether it may be including rentals and catering/bar service or if it is just the most budget-friendly.”
“Most of all, I’ve seen couples choose venues where they have the best customer service and really get to connect with the venue coordinator! The venue is the center of the wedding day, so it is important to click well with the staff on-site to ensure the couple feels supported throughout the entire planning process.”
And jumped to their defense
Image credits: georgejackson
Lew said that venues may, in fact, refuse to host a wedding. But they usually have legitimate reasons. “Commonly, it’s due to capacity or other restrictions. Many properties, for example, do not allow open flames,” she explained. “With many traditional Indian weddings, fire is necessary during the ceremony, so venue options are limited. Venues can also have strict catering and bar requirements due to food handling and liquor licenses so some places may turn away couples that are adamant about outside catering. It is not often that a venue may refuse to host a wedding unless something central to the event violates the venue’s rules. However, even when an idea might violate the regulations, the venues (and myself as a planner) always have other suggestions to substitute!”
“Just recently, I had a bride put down a deposit for fireworks without my or the venue’s knowledge. With the venue being in a rustic setting with lots of nearby fields (and also with the wedding happening during fire season in California), the couple was nearly turned away due to the open flames! In the end, the fireworks were transformed into a laser show with cold sparklers,” Lew recalled.
Personally, the wedding planner finds it ludicrous that a venue would turn away Mike and Coty based on sexual discrimination. “I have never experienced a venue or vendor that would turn away a client due to orientation, race, religion, etc. The only times these may occur are in churches that have very strict religions. However, the couple will most likely not be a part of that church in the beginning!” Lew said.
This “business decision” may have seriously backfired on the venue
Image credits: KyleMoshier
Mike Gill also wanted to make it clear to everyone that the purpose of his original post wasn’t to get press or likes. “It was just to let the people in our friend circle and the Nashville area know about this venue and their unfortunate business practices,” he added. “It’s frustrating that just because we are a same-sex couple we don’t have the same options as any other couple.”
But people think it’s well-deserved
Image credits: WesB73