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Celebrity chef Art Smith turns wedding into marketing opportunity

Artist Jesus Salguerio and his partner, Art and Soul's Executive Chef Art Smith. (Photo by Kipling Swehla)

When did weddings become a marketing opportunity? When sponsors pay to donate goodies for the gift bags.

Celebrity chef Art Smith is seeking sponsors for his Aug. 21 nuptials to his longtime partner, artist Jesus Salguerio. A flier sent last week to top PR companies offers commercial underwriting: $2,500 for the privilege of donating 350 items for guest gift bags; $20,000 and 350 products gets four tickets to the celebration. Part of the proceeds, according to the flier, will go to Common Threads, Smith's charity to teach healthy living to poor children.

The offer mentions "invited guests" (i.e., not confirmed): the Obamas, the Bidens, George W. Bush, Jessica Simpson and Oprah Winfrey (Smith used to be her private chef), who would presumably take home said gift bag.

"The charity wasn't mentioned much, so it wasn't clear why they were trying to get sponsorship for the wedding," said the owner of a Boston-based national PR firm, who received the solicitation last week. "Having worked in both PR and politics, I was surprised to see the Obamas' name used as a way to raise money."

The L.A. company responsible for the bags also assembled the fabulous swag for the Oscars. Inclusion doesn't come cheap: Donating even a modest item ($30) for each of Smith's guests will run each sponsor more than $10,000.

Too commercial? Smith doesn't think so. "I don't live a private life," he told us. "We're not accepting gifts. We're only asking that our guests think of the charity, if they wish to."

The couple announced their plans to wed in Washington soon after the city approved same-sex marriage this spring. Their wedding "is probably the most visible gay wedding of the year," Smith said, adding: "I want to show America that you can live better, and support children. The only way we can make this all work is create strategic partnerships."

He got the idea in March, when his 50th-birthday party raised $1 million, he said, including a $250,000 present from Oprah. The success of the event convinced him to do the same thing at his wedding.

The celebration begins with a run from Smith's Art and Soul restaurant on Capitol Hill to the Washington Monument (Nike is sponsoring running shoes for every guest), where spiritualist Marianne Williamson will bless the couple. There'll be the ceremony and BBQ lunch at the restaurant, followed by a rooftop pool party with a surprise celebrity DJ later that night. (Hint: He's a vegan.) Smith wouldn't comment on the guest list, except to say: "They're are a lot of great people in my life. "

Too much? "If it wasn't over the top, they'd be taking away my gay card, honey," Smith said with a laugh.

By The Reliable Source  |  July 20, 2010; 1:04 AM ET
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WOW - tacky and cheap. "Invited guest" - yeah the president will be there - give me a break.

If he really and truly cared about the charity he would say "no gifts please but you may contribute to...".

Posted by: rlj1 | July 20, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse

I say they just charge admission and get it over with.

Smith DOES offer some priceless quotes:
- Guests can think of the charity if they want to.
- If it wasn't over the top, they'd be taking away my gay card, honey.


Posted by: cfow1 | July 20, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

Why don't these tacky drag queens get married on Ventura Boulevard. They would feel more at home. Could that queen possibly survive more botox or ladle on any more eye make-up? What an embarassment to the DC LGBT community.
Any fool can call themselves "chef" these days.

Posted by: SoCali | July 20, 2010 10:23 AM | Report abuse

What's the gay equivalent of "shanda for the goyim"? 'Cause this guy is it.

I was marveling at his total egotism and boundless self-promotion until I got to the part where Oprah was his mentor. Aha -- it's all explained. Ego is as ego does.

Posted by: 7900rmc | July 20, 2010 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Re: "If he really and truly cared about the charity he would say "no gifts please but you may contribute to...". "

Good point - and the invitations say exactly that.

He and Jesus have raised millions for their charity and if they want to create 'strategic partnerships' so that corporations funnel more of their profits to help educate children on the importance of nutrition and physical health, I say good for them.

Posted by: groover016 | July 21, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

This seems so very wrong. I hope businesses refuse to participate. The IRS ought to sniff around. If Smith honestly believes this is okay, I wonder how he operates in the real business world with his two restaurants? Pay to play can't be good!

Also, no disrespect to chefs, but who'd pay to advertise at a wedding for these nobodies anyhoo? It's not like it's Sir Elton.

Posted by: Blinkie | July 21, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Well let's see what a marriage is now in D.C.

1. With no fault divorce there is no lifelong commitment.

2. With gay marriage there is no bride and groom.

3. With no requirement for complementarity of sexuality there is absolutely no expectation of babies between the participants biology.

4. With the current social climate there is no real expectation of monogamy, gay or str8..


What are we left with:

1. A fabulous party.

2. Access to state or local benefits.

Congratulations on your "marriage".

Partyyyyy, on!!!!

Posted by: captn_ahab | July 21, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

How much to put a camera in the honeymoon suite for a week?

Posted by: TnIndependent | July 23, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

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