The South Beach Wine and Food Festival will be home to a new kind of ceremony this year.
Chicago-based celebrity chef Art Smith, a North Florida native who once worked as executive chef for Gov. Bob Graham, is organizing a group wedding for 101 same-sex couples on Feb. 21 at the James Royal Palm hotel in Miami Beach.
In a social media twist, the chef, who will be in town to participate in the annual food festival Feb. 19-22, said he’ll throw the free wedding for the first 101 couples who tweet to @ChefArtSmith with the hashtag #101GayWeddings.
“I just felt like there was a need to give them a really lovely wedding,” Smith said Tuesday, the day Florida’s ban on same-sex marriages was lifted.
“I believe not only celebrating this momentous occasion,” he said, “but we also need to keep in mind there are still people, people around our country, who still don’t have the rights.”
Smith, who married his partner of more than a decade in Washington, D.C., in 2010 (they met at a flower shop in Miami, according to the Washington Post), has hosted an event during the festival called the Big Gay Ice Cream Social the past two years to raise awareness about the push for marriage equality.
“It’s been very successful,” he said. “It’s always jammed to the rafters.”
A to-be-named celebrity officiant will perform Smith’s 101 Gay Weddings, which is also expected to draw several Miami and out-of-town chefs. Pastry chef Duff Goldman of Baltimore’s Charm City Cakes will create a (big) custom cake for the ceremony, as he did for Smith’s own wedding.
Couples selected to participate will be invited to bring two family members. Champagne will flow, and Smith said he’s getting a big-name DJ to keep the after-party going.
“It’s important we show the utmost respect and encouragement to these young couples who want to be married,” Smith said, adding:
“And why not marry them in style?”