In May last year, Jason Johnson married the love of his life. It was an unusual wedding. First, the service - a commitment ceremony - was presided over by Stephanie Hampel, Jason’s manager at the ANZ Bank, where he works as an Area Manager for Small Business Banking.
And second, the wedding was a complete surprise to all seventy guests – including the couple’s families, who had flown to Sydney from around Australia and New Zealand.
Jason and his life partner Sebastian had planned the event carefully. The ceremony took place at Sebastian’s 30th birthday party. “We could get a large group of people together without raising suspicions,” Jason explained.
Both men agreed Stephanie would be an ideal person to run the ceremony. “She didn't hesitate when we asked her and did a really great job,” says Jason.
“We both wanted someone that we felt connected to,” Sebastian says.
“She’s a really caring person, she’s a leader who really makes an effort to understand who you are and as part of that, she’s sympathetic about Sebastian’s work, time away and those pressures,” Jason adds.
Jason says that his colleagues at ANZ have always been inclusive and accepting of the couple’s relationship.
“I’m always made really welcome as Jason’s partner at ANZ events, it’s just normal really,” Sebastian says.
Sebastian’s close friend Alicia was appointed ring-bearer, and the guests were given an invitation to the wedding minutes before the ceremony began.
Andy Williams’ Moon River played as the couple moved to the stage where their commitments to each other included a promise to “to live in a relationship of love and trust together, sharing our wholeness and our brokenness, all success and any failure."
So far, life is good.
Sebastian says that over the ten years they have been together, the balance of their relationship has shifted. He started out a ‘life of the party’ guy, but says he’s more grounded now, while Jason has become more outgoing.
Their relationship started with an awkward first date, when Jason drove up to meet Sebastian who was waiting outside a café. Jason - who hadn’t yet spotted his date - parked his car and ran a lap around the car before parking again.
“I was a bit intimidated and nervous,” Jason confesses.
Things could only get better – and they did. Despite the challenges presented by Sebastian’s work as a flight attendant involving frequent absences, the pair remain very close.
“Sebastian had actually proposed to me a couple of years before, in Singapore and said, ‘Let's make this more official’,” Jason says. "What a romantic moment!"
Jason and Sebastian look forward to their partnership being recognised and support Australian Marriage Equality.
Contributing Writer: Fran Molloy
Contributing Photographer: Brendan Fitzpatrick, and photos courtesy of Jason Johnson