A Grand Success

By Tamara Juarez, August 2017 Issue.

As a child, Kyle Shields used to enjoy drawing floor plans and furnishing fantasy homes with items from Montgomery Ward catalogs. He would calculate a budget, then go about designing the perfect house that would fit that day’s theme.

In the years since, Shields has followed his passion for interior design and event planning and, after 12 years “in events” he finally realized his childhood dream with the launch of his own business, BOF•FO Event Bureau + Creative Lab.

“Boffo is an old theater word that means ‘a grand success,” he explained. “And it was perfect for the type of company I wanted to represent my passion and the type of brand I wanted to create. It’s classic yet unfamiliar, funky and fresh. It’s sophisticated but approachable …  even though my marketing team wasn’t totally convinced at first, I just knew.”

BOF•FO’s headquarters is located within Phoenix’s Melrose Collective, a local art gallery and community space where Shields works as the director of marketing and events. As the owner and creative director for BOF•FO, he plans and executes everything from corporate events to late-night soirees, but a majority of business comes from wedding planning.

Kyle Shields (far right) directs members of Funkhaus Brass Band during Comeaux and Reidhead’s second line down Central Avenue. Photo courtesy of Leland Gebhardt Photography.

“I do all sort of events, but weddings are my bread and butter,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in putting things together to create a bigger picture. I love the process and the creative freedom that comes with taking nothing and creating something that is bigger than yourself and bringing so much joy to other people.”

As a wedding planner, Shields prides himself in being charged with the responsibility of coordinating one of the happiest moments of his client’s lives – not to mention his knack for simplifying a very lengthy and potentially chaotic list of details that go in a couple’s big day.

The process of planning a wedding, Shields said, doesn’t become any more or less difficult if it’s a same-sex or heterosexual wedding. The work is the same and equally tricky, aside from some minor details that make each wedding unique.

Over the years, Shields said he’s observed various changes in the wedding industry, particularly same-sex weddings. Fortunately, they’ve all been for the better.

Wade Comeaux (left) and Rustin Reidhead exchange vows at the Phoenix Art Musuem. Photo courtesy of Leland Gebhardt Photography.

An Ever-Changing Industry

Since launching his business, Shields has coordinated more than 100 events – the majority of which have been weddings – and he has yet to experience discrimination as a gay wedding planner or for providing services to same-sex couples.

However, the wedding industry has not always been so accepting, and Shields can recall numerous moments throughout his career where his clients or potential clients were denied services based on their sexual orientation.

“I would be at the bridal show and hear stories from same-sex couples that would visit my booth and they would tell me about how they had just visited another exhibiter, and when that exhibitor found of out that [they were] a same-sex couple, retracted their services and said that that wasn’t something they did,” Shields explained.

However, he continues to see a greater number of people becoming more accepting of LGBTQ community members and same-sex weddings as visibility of LGBTQ issues are brought to the forefront of today’s politics and media.

Photo courtesy of Leland Gebhardt Photography.

“I think the current state of the world is really opening people’s eyes to how much ignorance and hate there is out there,” he said. “It really is changing their ability to be more compassionate and inclusive and really reaching across the aisle to understand different cultures and point of views.”

According to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center, 62 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, while 32 percent opposed it.

This survey revealed a significant shift in opinion among formerly skeptical demographics, such as republicans and baby boomers, a majority of whom opposed same-sex unions during previous years. The new margin of approximately 2 to 1 is a complete reversal from public sentiment during 2004, when Pew found that 30 percent of American supported same-sex marriage and 63 percent opposed it.

Success is in the Details

As acceptance of same-sex couples increases, so have the number of weddings among LGBTQ community members.

“It’s becoming more of a social issue that’s not as taboo, so more same-sex couple who are getting married are moving toward a more traditional event,” he said “Before it was more low-key, now you’re starting to see bigger budgets and extravagant weddings. People are taking their dream weddings that they never thought they could have 10 years ago and are making them come true.”

With Shields’ help, local grooms Wade Comeaux and Rustin Reidhead, were able to realize their own dream wedding earlier this year. And they have nothing but praise for BOF•FO.

“Everything was amazing,” Reidhead said. “[Kyle] took the small little vision we had and he really brought it to life. He did so many things to go above and beyond.”

Ranking as the largest wedding Shields has coordinated to date, Reidhead and Comeaux’s big day involved various components moving at once in preparation for the four-day event – which he had five months to put together.

As a proven planner who values small details, Shields delivered a once-in-a-lifetime experience for his clients.

“One of the grooms was from New Orleans, and New Orleans does this really traditional thing called the ‘second line,’ and it’s a parade from the wedding to the reception,” Shields explained. “It’s usually lead by a jazz band, where the couple are given umbrellas and they lead the parade while the guests wave white handkerchiefs and beads. So, I and a family member of one of the grooms planned this entire elaborate second line parade down Central Avenue to the Found:Re Hotel for the after party.”

Rustin Reidhead (left) and Wade Comeaux walk down the aisle at the Phoenix Art Musuem. Photo courtesy of Leland Gebhardt Photography.

Be Your Guest

The one piece of advice Reidhead and Comeaux would offer couples planning to get married, or who are currently engaged, is to hire a wedding planner. No matter how confident a person may be in their planning skills, there is a lot of work that goes into preparing a wedding that may not even cross that individual’s mind.

When it comes to planning a wedding, there is much to complete before the big day: working out a budget, choosing a venue, making a guest list, booking an officiant, hiring a DJ or band, selecting a photographer, meeting caterers, buying a dress or suit, finding a florist, selecting a cake, etc. The list could go on forever, but all the related work can be nearly eliminated with the help of a good event/wedding planner.

“Not every couple needs a wedding planner or designer, but it’s my philosophy that you should be a guest at your own wedding,” Shields said. “Every couple should have someone that is not a guest, so that everyone who is invited to the wedding can enjoy it. It’s a day of love. No one needs to be stressed out. Hire someone to be stressed out for you.”

The One Difference

Although BOF•FO plans same-sex weddings, Shields has reservations about labeling himself as a  “gay wedding planner,” due to the stigma that may grow from differentiating the two.

“I see myself as an event designer, and that just goes across all boards,” he said. “I think that as a society we need to move away from the stigma of ‘gay weddings’ versus ‘regular weddings,’ because to me, all weddings are the same – despite the couple. I just see weddings as weddings between two people who love each other.”

Still, as a part of the LGBTQ community, Shields has a better understanding of certain sensitivities that come with planning a same-sex wedding. But a great event planner, he maintains, learns to be conscious of these details with experience, whether or not they themselves are gay.

“I would say that the only difference is who is standing at the end of the aisle, but that’s different for every wedding, because every couple is different,” he said. “In terms of difference of the actual event itself, no. Everyone is there to celebrate love and the couple and have a good time.”

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