I’m sorry, but…

3 February 2013
Ben Pentreath

… I’m going to choke if I see another ‘gay marriage lifestyle’ photograph, euphemistically illustrating a newspaper ‘think piece’ about, um, gay marriage.

See what I’m talking about?

There’s a whole flipping industry out there taking soft focus photographs of a little man mannequin and another little man mannequin standing on top of a hideous wedding cake.

HELLO?!??! Give me a break!!!

They are almost as bad, of course, but not quite, as the equally ubiquitous and slightly less euphemistic photos of obviously not gay not getting married failed models in lifestyle shots. When they are not modelling knitted cardigans (I’ve got nothing against cardigans) and stretchy-waistband trousers.


For those of my dear foreign readers who’ve hit the blog in search of some pictures of my nice English garden or of the snowy countryside, especially those readers from deeply conservative small towns in the southern states of America, and who are wondering what the hail is going on over here in Blighty: yes, you may have missed the news that on Tuesday there’s going to be a vote in the House of Commons to legalise gay marriage.

Forget the triple dip recession, the housing crisis, the-fact-that-no-young-people-seem-to-be-able-to-get-a-job-crisis (despite the huge-university-fees-crisis); forget the fact that we’ve got a rather weird austerity vibe that does not seem to have affected any restaurant where I try to make a booking yet the economy outside of london seems to have collapsed at the same time government spending continues to escalate, that crisis; forget the fact that pensioners’ savings are being eaten by inflation and no interest; no, let’s deal with the important things.

I can’t help feeling this is a distraction. And I’m not sure I like being the cause of a distraction from the omnishambles, Mr Cameron.

It’s causing a lot of rather tiresomely fake controversy that I for one could live without.  Honestly.  Grow up and shut up,  everyone.

These rather charming old gents, for instance, who are ‘Senior Local Conservatives’ delivered a letter protesting the measure to Mr Cameron at Downing Street this afternoon. They look a nice bunch, people I’d happily sit next to at Sunday lunch (if they are not delivering letters), all except from the one second from the right, who I have to admit looks a little terrifying.  But the one holding the letter looks particularly sweet. The one on our far left really needed to polish his shoes before visiting the PM. Actually, he’s probably at home looking at this photo in the paper right now thinking ‘I need to get a dark blue overcoat’.

The one to his left (that’s our right); well, he’s wearing a very vivid tie. Either he’s trying to prove quite-how-Gay-friendly-he-is-while-feeling-a-little-um-uncomfortable-um-about-um-gay-marriage; or his wife needs a bit of training when she selects his tie every morning in terms of the message it’s going to give.

It rather reminds me of my favourite t-shirt when I was a little boy. Here’s a photo of me, dressed as a pirate (I guess aged about 7) on a sailing holiday in France, wearing my favourite t-shirt. Dad had bought it for me when he’d been on a naval  visit to San Francisco in the late 70s.

Ironic, really… I guess that NO-ONE told my Dad what a rainbow striped T-shirt meant in San Fran in the late 1970s. You see? Nurture not nature.

Talking of family albums, here’s a little snapshot of me and Dad (also sailing, there’s a surprise) I guess a few years before. I like this photograph very much indeed.

I guess that those of you who might have read my book already know that I prefer photos of myself aged 3 to those aged 41. Hence the fact that my introduction photograph is this one.

CUTE huh? My goodness, I’m digressing.

The point is, 1) I haven’t met a gay friend of mine yet who cares one way or the other about weddings. Secretly, I’ve got to admit I find weddings a little toxic; a little cloying, all a little overdone. The thing I love hearing about my Mum and Dad’s wedding was that it started at 2.30 and was over by about 6. Close friends. A quiet service. A glass of champagne, some cake, a cup of tea, 6 photos, and they were off (and have been pretty happily married, I would say, ever since. This year, we celebrate their 50th anniversary, which between you and me, I think is quite something).

The point is 2) that please please please will you stop using such grimly naff photographs in your newspaper articles, journalists of Britain. Yuk yuk yuk yuk. Do you know ANYONE who sticks a little boy mannequin and a little girl mannequin on top of their wedding cake. No, you don’t. So stop suggesting we would.

The next point is 3) Just at the moment, there sort of needs to be a place for everyone in the world. Goodness, I’d feel a little marginalised these days if I was one of those rabbit-caught-in-headlights Old Tory gents in the photo above, instead of being the owner of the coolest shop in London (I’m so modest as well).  Fairly soon – you know, they’re going to have to organise a pride march themselves. I’m not sure I really know what it feels like to be a minority, but I rather think they will.  And that makes me sad. Because, living as I do half the time in rural southern England, I know that these types are both kind and salt of the earth. (Apart from the guy second from the right, the scary one).

And the final point 4) is that after some initial teething troubles, for which many apologies to those affected, Robin over in the shop now has our wedding list service completely sorted out and running like a smoothly oiled machine.  So, whichever way the vote goes on Tuesday, we look forward to offering prospective couples of any denomination a small moment of good taste (and presents you actually want) in a sea of blancmange mediocrity and political hysteria. Click here for more details.  Amen.

33 comments on this post

Hello Ben, I’m still deliriously working my way through your blog (just ordered a copy of your book from Amazon!!) and read this post. Believe me, gay marriage is a huge deal this side of the pond too. Last weekend was Pittsburgh’s annual Gay Pride festivities, beautiful weather and a good time had by all! This year’s logo was spot on your theme. Tag line: I Wanna Marry You, under image of 2 rings with the “diamond” designed to be reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s many bridges (wish I could insert a pic but won’t work.) I suspect the topic will be around for some time to come, although hopefully there will come a day when marriage for anyone who wants it will be so commonplace, it just evokes yawns.


Hello folks……… I’ve just spent the last half-hour captivated reading all of your for, against, I fancy your dad, what a nice boat, in the US/Canada/France, I love your book etc etc etc posts on the BP blog. It reminded me of a word…….what was it? Oh yes……….FREEDOM… that’s the word!

I love my kids, my wife, all of you and of course we all love Ben (vomit)……………

but don’t you just love being FREE!!!

How lucky is that 🙂

I might be a bit late to the party, but i am glad the bill has passed. I think of all my gay friends and how lovely it is that they will have the same rights as me should I choose to get married. It also sends out a message to the world that the UK is a civilised place. Cameron must have looked at the US election back in November and saw how the minorities have morphed into the majority, and how backwards and out of touch the Republicans appeared to those who vote. If he wanted to have any chance of winning the next election, he’d do well to position his party as one that is not stuck in the past on something as irreversible as the advance of gay rights.

Simon Harrisonsays:

It is clearly time the Tory old guard retired, it’s not so much about marriage but equality. Just found your blog, love it!


Well, that was news to me that the UK was having a gay marriage vote! At least if it passes it’ll cover the whole UK and not state-by-state piecemeal the way we’re doing it in the US. Eventually it’ll become old news and passe – and so will the cheesy stock photos of little-guy-dolls-on-wedding-cakes, hooray!! Then of course there’ll be the whole new industry of “How to Plan Your Gay Wedding” books and magazines and websites…

But you did also mention your book and that’s why I came back to your blog. I had ordered a couple of books on Amazon and pre-ordered Nicky Haslam’s latest. I went looking for more info on Nicky’s book and came across an interesting blog post on High Streets. “Ben Pentreath”, hmmm… oh! the author of one of the books I had just ordered, what a neat coincidence! Well, Ben’s book arrived today and I love it, it’ll help tide me over until Nicky’s book gets here.

By the way, Ben, your father was a very handsome man, and probably still is.

Dear Ben, I howled with laughter reading parts of this post. The first thing that came to mind was: “Fuck your little gay men wedding toppers!” Also, I love little boys in stripy shirts, and all three of mine have worn, or continue to wear them to this day. Sexual orientation for each tbd, though girls remain, for now at least, most decidedly yucky. I do think that the fight for equal civil gay rights today are as important and salient a fight as equal civil race rights were (and still are) in America during Dr. MLK’s day, and that in fact if he were still alive today he’d be in front of this issue. That doesn’t make any of the other troubling issues you mention less important, of course. We all have to pick our battles and use our energies in the best ways we can to make the world a little bit nicer to live in.
Now back to my search, which brought me here today, for fabric inspiration, so I can order some curtains for our house. xxx


Ben: I love the blog and, as a mother of a Ben myself, adore Bens generally. However, as a resident of one of the Southern U.S. states you mention, know all too well that the debate over gay marriage (which I heartily support) is really a proxy for whether LGBTs are worthy of recognition as whole and equal persons. So some caketoppers (or even all caketoppers may be tacky), but in this instance the style (good or not) is substance and we should all fight for and celebrate every single one of those awful plastic monuments.


I really am quite fond of you Ben but you see this from your position of a privileged,well connected & insulated gay man. How much genuine opposition & downright vitriol have you faced during your charmed life in the UK & New York? I suspect very little or you wouldn’t have broached this ii such a cavalier & dismissive fashion. Words matter; should interracial couples have settled for a CP or CU since their relationships were once considered inferior/undesirable? You are not a lesser person for being gay & you should not be denied the right to marry if you desire,nor should any other gay or lesbian.
I apologize if I come across as strident but this is an important issue for everyone who values both legal & societal equality.


Hey ho, not keen on the church being involved either way but love that you now have a wedding list service, clever boy. ps much prefer the High st rant …


Just putting it forward that SOME Cotswoldians CAN actually spell 😉 Now would
somebody please pass me some crumble x

I do agree with most of what you say, with regard to both the politics and, more importantly (of course), the aesthetics. I have no interest in getting married – very few heterosexual ones are successful, and despite our flair for picking out paint colours and wearing better shoes (stereotype, oh stereotype…), I don’t see us being that much more successful in this new endeavour (it seems to me that, unless you are religious, in which case it all becomes rather symbolic, this is a case of legal rights – which I am sure there are ways around).

However, that is me, and I will wholeheartedly support any friend (any person in fact) who wished to marry the person they love.

The United Kingdom, and the whole of ‘the West’ harp on about (and to a certain extant have been) setting the benchmark for human rights, civil liberties and democracy – this is a very large dip in an otherwise well established line.

Philip Krabbesays:

Ben you’re such a sensitive lad… the industry means well… if theres money to be made be there. You don’t have to buy the little plastic men for your wedding cake, you can make more creative ones yourself. But I love that you bring issues like this into your Blog and you get SO much response. Its not all about a picture frame or a fabric I suppose.

Here in Denmark we now even have a church ritual for gays. I would NEVER put my legs in the Danish church for marriage purposes, I don’t want to be squeezed into a box called ‘normal’, and I don’t want to attend a party where I’m not invited even they pretend I am. But its a matter of accept and of course also about equal rights and I don’t want to be considered a second range citizen just for being gay. Someone before us did a hell of a job for gay rights – ever forget that – and look around also outside Great Britain – theres still a very long way to go in MANY places.


completely agree with Harry, but maybe you guys should move to the Cotswolds!

I have been together with my partner for 10 years and have been in a civil partnership for 4 years and i dislike the term civil partner, I cant wait for the day to be able to say my “Husband”.

It is rather annoying when folk presume that as i am wearing a plain golden wedding band that i am married to a women! however it is rather amusing to see there reaction when i politely correct them!!

Around here we must have the highest density of gay people living in the Countryside? One only needs to visit Daylesford Organic Farm Shop a firm favourite for Dave & Sam Cam! The place is teaming with gay couples with there 4x4s and Labradors!

All i am going to say now on this matter is thank goodness For Mr Cameron for giving us a push for equality.


Whilst everyone’s been getting their boxers in a bunch responding to this post, a most important fact has been looked over: Ben’s Dad is a blinking dish!


First of all I have to agree with Brandon. Keep away from politics :-). But I do think – if you don’t mind me saying so – that you’re a bit naïve as far as gay marriage goes. When I was in my early twenty’s I witnessed firsthand the story of a gay couple where the family of a dying partner stepped in and denied his partner access to his dead bed. It sounds awfully melodramatic, but these things did happen. Just like those gay couples who were clumsy in planning their inheritance or who didn’t have the necessary intellectual or legal skills to make other arrangements and where the surviving partner was robbed of what in fact belonged to him. What I want to say is that you don’t have a single right if it is not a legal one. When I die first (no concrete plans at this moment) nobody is going to deny my husband his legal right to sit next to my bed or have my inheritance. (I’m writing from Belgium where we can marry now for 10 years) Plus I do think it’s rather meaningful to vow in front of the world or anyhow those who want to listen that you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with the person next to you. If you don’t feel the need for that, don’t. Perhaps this issue is a diversion for Cameron. Perhaps it’s not important for people with a cosmopolitan lifestyle and ditto environment. Perhaps it’s an opportunity for people with bad taste to make more ugly cakes, wedding cards etc…Perhaps it’s an opportunity for party planners and people with shops that have wedding lists. But that’s not the real issue. It’s about a basic right in a society that claims to believe in equality for all. (Amen 🙂 )


‘Why chase for an acceptance of an ipseity through prescribed pigeonholes and 80′s icing?’ Maybe because this is exactly what was denied to many men from a generation who were asked to quietly exist in the shadows.. and all they wanted was to celebrate like all their different sex couple friends. Now they have the chance! Good on them, who are we to deny them and if it gets stuck in our throats a bit (the smugness and happiness and naffness and cliches!!) then I think, it took long enough to get to this point.


Ah Mr Pentreath! If I weren’t to marry mon homme this year, I would get on my bicyclette, adjust my beret and peddle like Lance Armstrong all the way back to London to see if you were available – and if not you, Will would be next on the list!
The marriage bill is going through the French parliament and we have had to listen to some horreurs. I live in the very Catholic, very strait-laced Versailles and saw a good few of its residents passing my window on Saturday afternoon to demonstrate against the incestuous peodophile zoophile homo terrorists that they claim I and my partner are. The mayor of Versailles has said that he will not allow us to marry in the Mairie (good luck with that one de Mazières). The list of their awfulness is sans fin. Even here in France some in the Opposition are using the argument that this is nothing but a distraction from the real problems of France, that the government should be worrying about more pressing matters. I partly agree. Why should the, or indeed, any government only solve one problem at a time. Equality for me is a no-brainer so why make such a fuss about ensuring/preventing it?
I quite agree with you about the cheesiness of the photos and think that some of the above readers have misunderstood your intention in pointing them out. The men in that picture are frightful! If I worried about what the Home Counties did between the sheets on a Saturday night…
We’ve been together for eighteen years and nothing in those clichés can even begin to express what full equality would bring to us. Full equality is all we require. I’m not even sure I want the ceremony. If a ceremony there must, it will be only the nearest and dearest, much the way these last eighteen years have been. A friend’s wedding cost half a million dollars and all I could think of was how many friends’ problems I could solve with half a million dollars.
I like your “rants”. Your recent posting about the state of the High Street was also spot on and the six tattoo parlours I’ve counted in Versailles reflect it.

Completely agree. The soft-focus images are nauseatingly base, as are the voices clambering to have their names in broadsheet/anysheet ink on the marriage subject in general, to desparately clasp at a ‘progressiveness’. I must admit, these voices are from both sides. Why chase for an acceptance of an ipseity through prescribed pigeonholes and 80’s icing? [The figures on top of the cakes do look a tad familiar..I think the fabric in the first one is a vestige of the Blair redecoration at No.10. Could be wrong.] Personally, I think there should be a debate on the words ‘marriage’,’civil partnership’, ‘same-sex’ and ‘gay’; perhaps there is a untapped niche market for lexigraphical pirates/architect etymologists – could avert a triple dip – think Middlesborough.

Joanna Plantsays:

Ben I love it when you rant … almost more than photos of your garden x


Maybe when you fall in love with somebody you will want to get married and that that is something that should be an option to you even if you are gay. To deny somebody this on the basis of their sexuality is no small matter. It basically confirms that because of your sexuality you do not have the same rights as the rest of the people. I never thought that I would ever be fussed or want to get married especially to another man. But you know what I did, I fell in love with a man and we wanted to share that love in the same celebratory way as everyone else and get married well civil partnered….if this is naff and cheesy and unimportant to you, fair enough but I hope you too will one day realise why this is important and not a diversion. Ps I didn’t have those men on my cake!


Dear Ben,

Your posts are successful as a lifestyle blog, please don’t go all political on us!. it is not attractive! Of course you have an opinion on this and i agree the tasteless little men mannequins and the cheesy lifestyle photos of placing a nasty ruby and diamond ring, is enough to make me scream Naff Naff Naff!!!, but the reality is if this bill gets passed then it can only be great for equality for Gay people here in the U.K.

Ben has one been spending to much time with the Red Corduroy Brigade down in deepest Dorset?

Here in the Cotswolds/ Cameron/ Country we take a different view…

Barendina S.says:

There is so much ugliness around this debate – on both sides. Typically, though, you’ve brought something very different to party.

Not only in this post but in others too, you have a distinctively relaxed, pragmatic, tolerant, quietly self-confident, and also not-too-serious way of addressing even the most serious issues issues. It is, if you like, a very English style – ‘English’ not in the sense that it happens all the time in England (it does not, alas) but in that it seems to encapsulate something about the English at their best. And this is a beautiful thing, not only because it dovetails so neatly with your style more generally, but also simply because behaving better than the other side is, as you were doubtless told in your youthful pirate days, a beautiful thing in itself. You rise effortlessly (apparently) above the ugly rants. There has to be a message in that.

Thank you for yet another lovely start to a Monday morning.


love you, ben….

Frances Kassamsays:

Will the real BP stand up. THS made me laugh and I felt I was sitting at lunch with you and you got it all of your chest in a funny , informative but listen to me way. It’s strange though….of all your posts from the tessellated Italian deli floor through to the bucolic idyll that is the parsonage and the gorgeous Georgian terraces this one made me laugh ..I couldn’t ignore it.

Daniel James Shigosays:

Sorry I can’t agree with you on this point, at least the point that I believe you are making, which is that gay marriage is somehow beyond the beyond, who really cares, and so forth. Yes- in terms of style, I would not choose to have a wedding cake with two men on top. But is this about style or substance? In American at least, this debate is advancing with the likes of Illinois legalizing gay marriage this Spring. It that a big deal for us Americans? Yes. I am quite aware at Britain may see things differently of course. In the end however, its not just the matter of legal rights that is the point, but also, the moral right to be married too. That’s the crux of the matter as I see it. Here in America, Civil Marriage is a separate but equal proposition. You’d think it would work in theory, but in terms real life it doesn’t. States that have tried it have quite a few legal cases where institutions don’t recognize that piece of paper. Why? Because it’s not marriage. For good or ill, the word is ingrained in people’s minds as having a certain status that isn’t accorded to Civil Marriage. I don’t understand your view that gay marriage is a distraction. When are the rights of anyone a distraction? I married my husband in Toronto. What did that get me? Health coverage for him at my work in New York. It was a big deal. So you can imagine why I might see things a bit differently. Your country, however, has national healthcare- which I dearly wish we had. I love your work, shop, blog and website. I just don’t agree with you on this point because I believe rights matter, even to those who choose not to avail themselves of them.


Dear Elizabeth, dear Daniel, I can see that I’m skating on thin ice! Never talk about religion, sex or politics, I was taught – WHOOPS! Broke that rule fairly conclusively on this post.

So, I guess things are a little different over here (yes, we have free healthcare, yes we already have civil partnerships which provide full legal equality, yes your partner can inherit your estate tax-free when you die, yes we have complete equality except for being able to use the word “marriage”). So, over here, right now, what we’re fighting over is a word. My own view, very personal of course, is that it’s a bit of a false fight. Really, honestly, I didn’t know many people who cared one way or the other. But it’s suddenly become something that I am meant to care about, have an opinion about. It’s been dressed up as a fight about ‘rights’ but it’s not really (over here – I’m not talking about Illinois). Honestly, I feel it’s about our stuffy slightly pink and shiny pink Prime Minister pretending that his party is very “MODERN” on the back of this particular issue, when on the real things – the hard, complicated, tricky things, they appear to be neither modern – nor to have much historical perspective either.

I genuinely appreciate what you are both writing and why. Which thoroughly confirms my general view of the world of live and let live. By the way, the vote will probably get through; the fuss will die down, and the weird false media storm that constitutes meaningful government in this country will move on to the next “ISSUE”.

Elizabeth Barrsays:

Dear Ben, your government may be using the issue of gay marriage as a distraction, but hell, if it gets gay marriage legalized you can always return to those other issues and continue to pressure the government on them. One of my childhood friends and his husband were the first gay couple legally married in Canada. They fought for the right to be married through the court system for years. It was horribly exhausting and expensive, and when I asked why legal recognition was so important to him he told me that he believed in the rule of law, and that he wanted the law to recognize that his relationship and love was as serious as everyone else’s. As a mother, I am grateful to him for making it possible for children to grow up in the knowledge that no loving relationship is inferior to any other. As for the cheesy images, the little grooms are already old news. Alas, we all have to deal with the grinding vulgaity and pressure of the wedding industry. Sorry to get all preachy. P.p.s I do love to start the week with little escapes to your lovely English village…but it’s nice to have that sweetness cut with the occasional firm opinion from you.


I sailed the solent as a teenager, nice boat.


Thanks Tim. As you can see I have no embarrassment… Yes, bread knife. hehe.


William, I agree – although fairly soon it’s the angry old buffers who’ll need equality with us ruling the entire world. And…if you’re young, gay and living in Middlesbrough – move to London and apply for a job as our new shop assistant!!


haha!! Excellent post! Love the nurture not nature comment (my mother bought me a pair of giant curtain tassels for my 11th birthday so I can relate). And yes, totally agree about the fake contoversy.
P.S BEST (breadknife weilding?!) PIRATE PHOTO EVER!


Dear Ben, I agree with much of what you say – especially about the hideous imagery used to denote same sex partnerships! But I can’t share your affection for ‘salt of the earth’ old Tories who are essentially homophobes masquerading as the sort of the sort of people you’d be ‘happy to sit next to at Sunday lunch’. These are likely the very same people who consistently vote against bills which attempt to improve the lot of gay people (and were probably big supporters of Clause 28). This whole gay marriage debate all might be a bit of a distraction but equality is actually a really important issue. I’m sure you’ll agree. And, from our charmed lives in the south of England, it might not matter much, mixing as we may do with ever so sophisticated, civilised and decent people. But if you are young, gay and living in Middlesborough (or some such place) then the message sent by this government about gay equality could start to make a difference …

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