All photos by Easton Schirra for The Knot
For the first time, The Knot magazine, one of the nation's leading wedding publications, is featuring a gay couple on its cover. The Summer 2021 issue of the magazine features the newly-engaged Jonathan Bennett, the hottie from Mean Girls, and his fiance Jaymes Vaughan (a television host and The Amazing Race 21 runner-up).
The couple, who together founded the travel company OUTbound have each previously broken other barriers — Bennett starring in Hallmark's The Christmas House, one of the first holiday films to feature a queer couple; and Vaughn as an out gay host of Chippendales in Las Vegas.
In their interview with The Knot, Bennett and Vaughn share their adorable meet-cute and talk about their rings and wedding plans. The wedding magazine has shared photos from the cover feature with Out Traveler, and in the exclusive interview below, the couple expands on their decision to go with chain-store Kay Jewelers for their engagement rings (which Vaughan designed), and explain why all couples (LGBTQ+ or straight) should resist adopting wedding traditions wholesale.
What does it mean to the two of you personally and the community at large to be on the cover of The Knot?
Jonathan: We try to look at moments like that as “what would this mean to younger us?” And it would have meant so much. For us to see two men in love on the cover of a wedding magazine when we were younger and struggling, would have offered so much hope.
Jaymes: I think that’s our job as this generation of LGBTQ+ people, to make it easier on the next, and help them feel seen, normal, and hopeful for their own future. And to open doors for others in our community to follow through. And we are super proud of The Knot and what they did with the issue. When you see two men on the cover and then open it up and see the diversity, and the representation for so many groups of people, it’s really dang special to be a part of.
In your interview with The Knot you talk about making (safe) spaces for LGBTQ+ in a variety of industries, including travel and weddings. Can you talk a little about why that’s important? What can brands and industries do to make themselves more welcoming for LGBTQ+ people?
Jaymes: Show us we matter. Let us feel seen! We are having our wedding at Unico Resort because we felt seen on their social media, on their website, and in their marketing because we saw other LGBTQ+ couples on them. It’s really that simple at its core.
Jonathan: Show us that we are not only safe there, but also celebrated. That’s our big push for our wedding, highlighting the brands and businesses where our community is not only safe but also celebrated. So we will be doing that a lot. That’s the reason we also started our travel company OUTbound, because we wanted every member of our LGBTQ+ community to have a space where they could see the world and feel “safe and celebrated.”
Jaymes: It’s so important to us because I think we’ve all had those moments, where being gay, you didn’t know, “Is this for me?” or “How will my true self be welcomed here?” So we want to do our part to help take away that fear where we can.
I loved your wedding ring story and the way you used the opportunity to make a nationally available brand more open and welcoming to other queer couples. And in doing so brought awareness to the way LGBTQ+ consumers (and couples) often have different needs and desires than our straight counterpoints. You took a personal moment and used it to make changes for the rest of us. Why was doing that important to you?
Jaymes: Straight people get to walk into a jeweler, say they are going to propose, and know the reaction every single time is going to be one of joy, excitement, and “I have something for you.” Gay couples aren’t afforded that same guarantee. And I encountered it myself. This is supposed to be one of the happiest times in your life. Plain and simple. It should only be a time of joy.
And I couldn’t even find something that was designed for two men that fit a tradition. So I chose to design something that would create a tradition for us that can hopefully also be shared by others. And then I chose to do it with Kay Jewelers because Kay exists in practically every mall across America. Because it’s important to me that gay people in other less progressive areas of the country know they do have a space they can go for this huge life moment where they are not only safe, but they and this moment in their life but also celebrated.
Jonathan: And I just had to show up and say “Yes!” (laughs). But seriously now to see other couples using the rings Jaymes designed for our own engagements and weddings, it’s very, very special. And I’m very proud of him.
Sometimes it’s easier for LGBTQ+ couples to break traditions, and pick and choose the parts of engagements, weddings, and marriage traditions that they want and don’t. But this feels like something that all couples could benefit from. Do you agree?
Jonathan: 1000 percent. We are keeping what we like from tradition, breaking from what we don’t like, and starting our own traditions. The ring design and flipping of the rings at our ceremony being one, and it’s the most freeing thing.
Jaymes: We are already finding other things we are making our own too. Our bridal parties won’t be gendered or given a title to imply someone is more important than the other. Instead, everyone in our parties will simply be our “Bests.”
Jonathan: This moment in life is ours. It’s for us. So it should be what we want. And that’s how I hope every couple can approach it. At the end of the day,
it’s all about the “I do.” Everything else is just creating what will become the memories of the wedding, the thing we get to do once. So make it yours at every chance you get.