Hilton Hotel Steps in to Save 'Mr. Gay Canada' Wedding

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Monday December 16, 2019

After Josh Rimer — a television personality, travel blogger, and "Mr. Gay Canada" — saw his wedding hopes dashed by a Sheraton hotel in Puerto Vallarta, another chain stepped in to save the big day: Hilton.

As reported earlier here at EDGE, Rimer took to the Internet Dec. 10 to share what he says was a "homophobic" experience inflicted on him and his fiancé by a Sheraton hotel in Puerto Vallarta.

"This one really takes the cake," Rimer declared on camera. By that, he presumably meant the wedding cake: The hotel, Rimer told his audience, refused to host his wedding because it involved two grooms.

Rimer recounted how he and his fiancé had been looking for "the perfect all-inclusive resort" for the wedding, which he said would include 40 - 45 guests. The place they settled on, he said, offered "a good location and seemed to check off all of our boxes." But then their chosen venue — the Sheraton Buganvilias Convention Center — checked an unexpected additional box: Apparent homophobia.

Rimer reported that after many unsuccessful attempts to contact the hotel, as well as messages and emails that went unreturned, he finally had the chance to speak to someone in person at the Sheraton Buganvilias Convention Center.

As Rimer spoke with the person at the hotel, the subject of his wedding involving two grooms came up.

"Oh, well, we don't specialize in same-sex weddings," Rimer says he was told at that point. "There's other venues that do, and this isn't really something that we deal with..."

Rimer goes on to say that the person on the other end of the call then went off on "a very long, weird, rambling answer" to his question — which was, innocuously enough, whether Rimer and his groom could obtain two grooms' boutonnieres rather than a boutonniere and a bridal bouquet.

Rimer recounts that eventually the person on the other end of the call told him that she would need to "check with" others about dates and other details, and promised to return his call.

But history simply repeated itself, with no return call forthcoming.

Rimer eventually garnered a response after emailing the hotel. In his YouTube account, he shows a message — with certain passages redacted and bearing the Sheraton logo — that states, "our staff is not specialized to carry out an equal wedding and we would not like to take your wedding as a trial and error and our service could be poor compared to what characterized Sheraton, because we know and we are aware that is your special day for you and your fiancé, and do not want that by our non-specialized service some conflict can be generated on your big day."

The message goes on to suggest other hotels in the same corporate family that "do have this specialization."

"This doesn't make sense on so many levels," Rimer tells his viewers, going on to note that Puerto Vallarta is a "gay-friendly" destination and Sheraton is "a major brand — and you're telling me that you cannot accommodate same-sex weddings."

"Two," Rimer continues, "what do you mean specialize in it? Why does anybody have to specialize in a same-sex wedding? Ninety-five percent of our guests are going to be straight! ...so, there's not going to be much to specialize, other than it's going to be a groom and a groom, rather than a bride and a groom.

"I don't know if she thinks we're going to show up in Speedos with go-go dancers, and we expect the officiant to be wearing leather chaps," Rimer goes on to say. "This is just a normal wedding! It just happens to be with two guys."

For that matter, Rimer goes on to ask, "Why don't you specialize in it? It's 2019! You're a hotel!"

Rimer ended his video account with the exasperated observation that the indecent was "probably the most homophobic experience I've ever encountered personally in my entire life," before going on to lament:

"Fingers crossed that we can get married in April 2020, and it'll be a beautiful, joyous day. I just don't think that's too much to ask for — even if we're gay."

Rival hotel chain Hilton seems to have understood that very point. Hilton reached out to the travel blogger via Instagram with a message of hospitality and acceptance:

Hi @JoshRimer, we're looking for you! We've heard you want to get married at Puerto Vallarta and we want to offer you the #HiltonExperience!

We want to celebrate with you this special day, so we'll gladly host your wedding ceremony and feast for FREE for you and your 45 guests at Hilton Puerto Vallarta!

The blogger responded in kind with a message at the same Instagram post:

Amazing, what a kind offer!

But that was just the start. The frosting on the wedding cake came in the form of an offer from VACAYA cruise line, which extended an invitation to Rimer and his betrothed to enjoy their honeymoon on one of their cruise options — free of charge.

VACAYA shared the news that Rimer accepted the offer on its blog page:

VACAYA is honored that Josh Rimer, Mr. Gay Canada 2019, has decided to celebrate his honeymoon on our Lisbon Pride Cruise in June 2020....

We're thrilled to join Hilton Puerto Vallarta in celebrating the love between Josh and Heath because we believe that together we can shine a brighter light on the work we still have left to do to reach equality. VACAYA was built on the belief that 'love is love' and that we're all deserving of celebrating milestones in a friendly, judgment-free environment.

Watch Josh Rimer's original video report below, about the treatment he says he received from Sheraton.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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