Meet the three wedding dream-makers on Netflix's Say I Do: 'It's about a fantasy'
Sweatpants have never been more in vogue than in the age of coronavirus lockdowns, but fashion designer Thai Nguyen, one of three gurus on Netflix's new series Say I Do, is fully dressed for his afternoon Zoom call. We're talking double-breasted blazer and coiffed hair, with a pristine boutique filled with wedding dresses serving as his backdrop.
"You dress like that to go to Whole Foods," Jeremiah Brent, an interior designer, remarks from the opposite coast in his West Village apartment, first as a joke about his costar. Then he realizes, "Actually, you do dress just like that because I've taken you to Whole Foods."
By the time chef Gabriele Bertaccini logs on, bathed in a noon glow — the sun just happens to beam through his home windows as he sips from a coffee mug — the three friends are dissecting their lockdown playlists: "I listen to her every day on my morning walk," Nguyen says of Dua Lipa. "Physical!"
Quarantine has never looked so effortlessly chic. Perhaps it should be expected from the three gents who've made it their jobs to build the most lavish dream weddings from scratch in less than a week's time.
Way back when — it's hard for even these guys to say how long exactly — the makers of Netflix's Queer Eye had a thought: instead of making-over lives, why don't we bring in experts to makeover weddings for couples who, for one reason or another, haven't been able to throw a ceremony? Just like how they assembled the Fab Five, the producers went in search of creatives who could pull that off. And they found 'em: Brent, with his own Jeremiah Brent Design firm based on both coasts; Nguyen, who dressed celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Katy Perry; and Bertaccini, the founder of award-winning underground dining event series Culinary Mischief.
"We met in a very uninspiring hotel room," the Florence-born cook remembers, accompanied by a romantic Italian accent that's anything but uninspiring.
"I still remember the first time we all met at that round table at the chemistry test," the vibrant Nguyen chimes in on the casting process. "Jer, I don't know if you remember when they asked how we would describe each other in one word. And I said, 'Jer, you are calm, you calm me down.'" With an added laugh, Nguyen mentions, "And to Gabe, I said, 'He is all about sex.'" For his sartorial colleague, Brent used the word "joy," which sums up both the relationship these three now have with each other after filming Say I Do in secret a year ago and what they hope to bring to viewers.
"It's so different than Queer Eye," Nguyen explains. "With Queer Eye, it's everyday life. But this show, Say I Do, it's about a fantasy. It's about a dream. Some of these brides and grooms, they dream about this day their entire lives. But with obstacles in their lives, they cannot pursue their dreams. So, here we come in."
These obstacles range from financial woes, which was the case for Marcus and Tiffany in the premiere episode; to surviving cancer, which was the case for Jason and Jonathan in episode 6. It's the job of this main trio to first, help the groom surprise his significant other with a grand proposal, and second, pull off an extravagant, personalized ceremony in about a week's time. Brent finds and stylizes the venue, Nguyen designs the wedding dress or suit, and Bertaccini coordinates the menu. The cameras focus more on the happy couples, but, yes, the pressure behind the scenes is on for these creatives. "If you only knew!" Bertaccini exclaims.
Even more than the gymnastics routine they must perform to pull off such grand feats, all three agree it's the personal stories they were least prepared for. That doesn't always apply to just the couples. Through a heart-to-heart with groomsman Marcus, Bertaccini shares his story of being diagnosed with HIV. "There were many vulnerable moments throughout the show," he says. "What I learned is that sometimes in order to grant the privilege of hearing other people's stories, we have to first step into the comfort zone of sharing ours. It was about taking the first step, that leap, trusting the process, and allowing other people to feel safe in this little bubble that we were able to create."
By episode 6, as the three men watch Jason and Jonathan walk down the aisle together, Nguyen turns to the others and wonders when he could possibly have the same experience. The decades-long fight for marriage equality lingers in the air with each new couple the trio meet, and the two same-sex weddings featured on Say I Do feel more resonant for this reason.
"The year before I actually got married to my husband, I wasn't allowed to be married," Brent shares. "The irony now [is] of these couples from all different walks of life, from all different colors, sizes, sexualities, trusting these three loud gay guys to come in and not only trust them with one of the most important days in someone's life, but to trust them with their story, which is the part that I don't think even we anticipated: the vulnerability, the honesty. I think we all believe the connective tissue between everybody is love and that's really at the heart of what this show is about."
Nguyen says he was "a mess" while filming episode 6. "It's definitely a journey for me to discover myself. Especially a jolly Jason and Jonathan, they have the support from the family and community," says Nguyen. "Where I come from is that my culture, my background, my family, it's harder for me to express who I am," he adds, noting his Vietnamese-American heritage. "Jeremiah said something really, really right: coming out is one part of the step, but having the confidence to live out is another. For me, I'm still struggling with the living out part."
"Season 2, Thai. Season 2," Brent remarks.
"Are we gonna do a surprise wedding for Thai?" asks a hopeful Bertaccini.
We'll have to see. There's a lot of love between these three, and when you have that much love, anything is possible. That's what they show to the couples they help and to the world.