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  • Canton couple wins Fort Lauderdale beach wedding in celebration of legal gay marriage in Florida

    On Dec. 18, Jeff Davis proposed to his long-time partner, Jerry Rizor, with the hope that they would be able to legally marry in Ohio by the end of 2015.

    Turns out, they won't have to wait that long.

    The two, together for 14 years, are among 100 couples chosen by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau to participate in a "Love Is Love"sunrise beach wedding this week, which celebrates the recent legalization of gay marriage in Florida.

    The ceremony is capitalizing on a growing trend in the travel industry: Destination weddings, an increasingly popular choice for straight couples, is an appealing option for gay couples, as well, who can travel to a location where gay marriage is legal to tie the knot.

    The Canton couple leaves for the Sunshine State on Wednesday.

    "It's a dream come true," said Rizor, 64. "At my age, after all I've been through, I was wishing and hoping for this - but I thought it was just a dream. I didn't think it would happen in my lifetime."

    The two were chosen - from entries from hundreds of couples, both gay and straight - after Rizor sent in the story of how he and Davis met.

    It was after Rizor's long-time partner, Steve, died in 1998. Davis read the obituary in the Canton Repository, and knew that somehow, some day, he and Rizor would meet and fall in love. That day came two years later, when Rizor responded to Davis' personal ad.

    "I am with the person I was meant to be with," said Rizor. "I do feel that Steve is the one who brought us together."

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    And this week, they're headed to one of their favorite travel destinations, where they'll be feted as newlyweds following their wedding Thursday.

    According to U.S. Census information, Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of same-sex couple households in the country, at nearly 3 percent.

    It's also consistently ranked among the top destination for gay travelers. Broward County attracted more than 1.3 million LGBT travelers in 2013, who spent about $1.5 billion, according to the visitors bureau.

    It's been a top vacation spot for Rizor and Davis for years.

    "The whole atmosphere down there is very welcoming," said Rizor. "It's heaven on earth."

    The two won't be recognized as married in Ohio when they return, but they think that's just a matter of time.

    Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider four cases - including one from Ohio - that are expected to resolve the national debate on gay marriage.

    Gays and lesbians can marry in 36 states, including, most recently, Florida. But in Ohio, the state's ban on gay marriage, approved by voters in 2004, remains in effect - at least for now.

    Their friends and family in Ohio, unable to make the trip to Florida, have asked if the couple will throw a party when they return.

    Said Davis: "In June, if it's all legal in Ohio, we'll have a big party here."

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  • Wedding music: Everything you need to know

    Wedding guests are usually anxious to head to the reception, where they can let loose and party. Music is an essential component of a lively and fun wedding reception, and there are some musical miscues couples should look to avoid to ensure the music is not memorable for all the wrong reasons.

    Second-guessing a professional: In an effort to curb costs, some couples provide their own playlists via an mp3 player or a streaming service for the music. This is often a mistake. Hiring a professional means you will not have to worry about managing music on top of your many other wedding day responsibilities. A band or deejay usually also serves as the emcee for the event, announcing key moments of the reception as well as getting guests up on the dance floor.

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    Playing only one type of music: Playing too many songs from one genre of music will alienate some of the guests who simply are not interested in that type of music. Professional deejays or performers know how to offer a great mix that will appeal to the masses, and they are often well worth the cost. Try to span different decades and genres to keep as many of your guests on the dance floor as possible.

    Failure to make a song list: Some songs you may feel are essential to the wedding and others may be on a do-not-play list and are associated with negative memories. Band leaders and deejays are not mind readers. Give your band leader or deejay ample time to review your requests so that he or she has time to find a song that may not be in his or her collection.

    Dancing to long songs: Pay attention to a song's length, and choose spotlight dance songs wisely. Remember that guests will be watching you dance with parents or each other, and a five-minute song can seem neverending while others are waiting around. Avoid very long songs, as the mix of music should be upbeat.

    The wedding isn't the time to play "American Pie" by Don McClean, Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" or Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Free Bird."

    Inappropriate lyrics and volume: Keep the music at an acceptable volume, and avoid songs with suggestive language or curse words that are inappropriate in a family setting. Music is a key element of any good party, including a wedding reception, and it's essential that couples take steps to avoid any musical miscues.

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