Skip to main content

Richard Laslett, 57, left, and Colin Gunther, 63, are planning to get married at a group ceremony in a WorldPride event in Toronto.Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Colin Gunther and Richard Laslett have been inseparable ever since meeting at a friend's Christmas party 37 years ago and will be putting an end to what Mr. Gunther calls "the longest engagement ever" this week at Toronto's Grand Pride Wedding.

The couple are from Australia, and travelled here as part of a five-month vacation to tie the knot as part of the WordPride event.

Even though Australia is a mostly socially open country, its government does not allow gay couples to get married as federal law specifies that marriage is between a man and a woman. However, some states do recognize civil unions of same-sex couples, which enter them into a legally recognized relationship.

"I'm happy to [soon] be married," Mr. Laslett said. "I think we've waited long enough and given up on getting it in Australia because they just seem to be getting further away from it for the moment rather than closer to it."

Canada is one of only 16 countries that have legalized same-sex marriage.

"Australia's a bit sad in the way they've talked about marriage," Mr. Laslett said. "People are usually fairly shocked because they see Australia as being very laid-back and easygoing and then when they find out that gays can't get married, they're like 'oh really?' "

Officially called the Celebration of Love: A Grand Pride Wedding at Casa Loma, the June 26 mass wedding will see about 120 couples – from countries as far as Australia, Ghana, Russia and India – tie the knot at Toronto's urban castle.

Starting at 2 p.m., couples will begin arriving at Casa Loma ahead of the 3 p.m. ceremony that will see all of the couples get married at once. After the hour-long nuptials, couples will break off into separate tents where they will finalize their paperwork before the post-wedding cocktail reception.

Other than the cost of their marriage licence, the wedding and ensuing cocktail reception are free for participating couples.

"When we found out that [the city was] considering doing a wedding at Nathan Phillips Square, we approached them and said that this makes much more sense to have at a facility which would really express the grandeur of the event itself and put it in one of the most elaborate spaces in the city," said with Nick Di Donato, president and chief executive officer of Liberty Entertainment Group, which is hosting and, along with other partners, funding the event.

"Most people say how difficult it is to have one wedding. … We have 120 couples being married."

Taiwanese couple Cindy Su and Lana Yu had always planned on getting married in Toronto during WorldPride and quickly registered for the mass wedding after a host from Toronto Airbnb, a website that helps travellers book accommodations, passed along the information.

The couple, who had both lived in Canada while studying at York University and the University of British Columbia respectively, met through a mutual friend after moving back to Taiwan and have been together for four years.

"Usually people get their friends and family to celebrate at their wedding, but we feel like we have a whole city celebrating with us," Ms. Su said.

While Taiwan is widely considered to be one of the friendliest Asian countries for the LGBT community, it is not legal for same-sex couples to get married there. According to Ms. Su, it also illegal for a non-married individual in Taiwan to un-thaw her frozen egg, perform artificial insemination and adopt non-blood-related children, making it "impossible for LGBT members to form a family unless they go to Canada or countries [where] that's legal."

"At a personal level, it has also given hope to my LGBT friends back home. Our marriage and plans to form a family has actually made them see that it is possible to move on to a different phase in life," Ms. Su said.

For Mr. Laslett and Mr. Gunther, participating in the wedding is about more than getting married: It's about "showing people that there is hope at the end of the tunnel."

"[Getting married is] not going to change our lives or the world immediately, but it's going to be satisfying. The icing on top of the cake," Mr. Gunther said.