Thanks to the votes of thousands of supporters, D.C.’s Carl Cox and Darin Henderson have won a prestigious national wedding contest. The couple will receive a wedding package from local vendors worth a jaw-dropping $100,000 that covers the rings, ceremony, reception and everything in between.
“They are an amazing couple,” said photographer Michael Kress, who launched Freedom2Wed to celebrate D.C.’s legalization of same-sex marriage. The online competition, which attracted more than 22,500 votes, turned out to be a close race among the six finalists.
Last week, event organizers ambushed Cox and Henderson at their home, Publishers Clearinghouse-style, to announce that they’d won. With Champagne and cupcakes in hand, Kress delivered the news to the somewhat shell-shocked pair—and captured it all on video.
“When they knocked on the door, I was expecting them to say, ‘congrats you came in second’ or something,” Cox said. “It still hasn’t sunk in yet.”
“It’s wonderful beyond words,” Henderson said. With the camera still rolling, they called their mothers — who had been working feverishly to gather votes on their behalf — to tell them the news.
“Awww, my boys won,” an emotional Cherrie Henderson said, while on speakerphone.
Cox and Henderson told the Blade that in addition to that of their mothers, the support they’ve received from friends, coworkers, and even complete strangers has been “completely heartwarming.”
“We were floored that so many people offered to help,” Cox said.
To pull in last-minute votes, a large group of friends rallied at the 11th hour by spreading the word at local festivals and around the community. They set up tents, handed out cards, and asked whoever would listen to vote for the couple. Cox and Henderson even gathered support from fellow passengers and crewmembers during a cruise they went on in late September.
What’s been most surprising about the entire journey, the couple acknowledged, is the number of allies they gained who hadn’t always been supportive of gay marriage. “A lot of that had to do with stepping up to the plate and being so public about [being gay],” Henderson said, which came with the territory of the contest.
Now that the competition is officially over, Cox and Henderson are looking forward to kicking back and starting the fun part — the planning. Having been to their share of straight weddings, they hinted that they’re aiming for something a little more “quirky.”
Cox envisions an “eclectic” event that matches the “ying and yang” of their sometimes serious, sometimes silly personalities. “We would like it to be both comical and heartfelt,” he said.
The pair plans to hold the ceremony at the Metropolitan Community Church of D.C. and the reception at the Long View Gallery, one of the contest’s participating vendors.
Although the date hasn’t been set yet, Henderson hopes it can be scheduled for March 4 — the day of the couple’s five-year anniversary.
“That way, I’ll have one day to remember in my life, not two,” he said.
(Photo by Michael Key)