As It Happens

Janis Ian's Toronto wedding, where Game of Thrones' creator was a best man

Musician Janis Ian and her partner Patricia Snyder appeared in the New York Times weddings section this past weekend, recalling their 2003 marriage ceremony in Toronto where George R.R. Martin was best man.
In 2003, before same-sex marriage was legal in the United States, the couple wed at Toronto's City Hall. Author of the 'Game of Thrones' series George R. R. Martin, fourth from the left, was a best man. (Steve Payne)

How did George R.R. Martin end up at Janis Ian's wedding in Toronto? That's a question we had after reading this Sunday's New York Times. The newspaper featured a story on the well-known musician's relationship with Patricia Snyder. It turns out they were the first same-sex couple to be featured in the newspaper's 'Vows' section. You can read more here.

But, it was a photograph published farther down the article that also caught our attention. A short caption reads as follows:

"In 2003, before same-sex marriage was legal in the United States, the couple wed at Toronto's City Hall. Author of the 'Game of Thrones' series George R.R. Martin was best man."

Martin's cameo in the article was curious but very little is said. Here was the Game of Thrones creator long before his books became one of the most successful franchises in TV history. How did he wind up at Toronto's City Hall? We called Janis Ian to find out.

"We invited five friends, among them George R. R. Martin, and we said, 'Would you come watch us get married?'" Ian recalls.

The Hawaiian shirt clad wedding party with George R. R. Martin, second from right. (Steve Payne)

At the time, Martin was relatively unknown outside the world of fantasy/science-fiction writers. Ian explains, "I had been going to science-fiction conventions for about, I guess ten or eight years, and I had a lot of friends in that community." She became close friends with Martin after meeting his wife, Parris, at a book festival. 

In the photo, Martin and the rest of the modest wedding party all sport a tropical look. 

"It hadn't occurred to us that we needed to wear something special so we went to the bridal department and we got so freaked out that we saw some multi-coloured Hawaiian shirts and grabbed those and left, so all of our friends wound up wearing Hawaiian shirts as well which was great."

Janis Ian (right) and her partner Patricia Snyder. (Parris McBride)

Depsite being "very low key," Ian remembers the emotions she felt when she exchanged vows.

"Much to both of our surprise we burst into tears and couldn't stop crying."

Equally surprising was that The New York Times published their story. It was 2003, and they were a same-sex couple.

She recalls teasing the Game of Thrones author. 

"We joked that this was his first appearance in The New York Times but we were hoping that it wouldn't be his last...little did we know!"

George R. R. Martin, creator of the drama series Game of Thrones, at a speaking event in 2014. (Keystone, Sandro Campardo/Canadian Press/AP)

With a laugh, Ian says that despite his success, Martin hasn't changed and is still the same good-natured friend seen in the photo. When asked what she thinks of his Game of Thrones success, she insists it's "extremely well-deserved, it's a great series, we have HBO just so we can see it."

Ian looks back on the wedding fondly. In the summer of 2013 many same-sex couples came to the same Toronto chapel to tie the knot, and Ian describes the atmosphere she felt in the city.

"I just remember that everyone was amazingly nice and since it wasn't legal yet in the United States we were bowled over by how naturally everyone in Toronto took it, how normal we were and how normal we were made to feel."

Here is Ian performing her hit "At Seventeen" from a 1976 live performance. She tells As It Happens, "it's a privilege to have written it, it really is, at this point it's affected so many more people than I would have ever begun to dream would be affected."