Five years ago this June, journalist Jed Ryan discovered that the late Joan Rivers was doing a book signing at the Barnes & Noble in New York City’s Union Square for her latest title, Diary of a Mad Diva. Both Jed and his then boyfriend, Joseph Aiello, were big fans of the comedian and decided to check out the signing.

“The event was running late,” Jed explains in an exclusive interview with Closer Weekly, “and Joan took a while to actually start. We had a copy of the book already and she was going to sign it. Joe was going through a chapter and he said, ‘Look at this: Apparently she’s an ordained minister. She can marry people. We should ask her to marry us.’ I, of course, said, ‘Don’t be silly, she’s not going to marry us in a room full of 300 strangers.'”

Not long after, Joan took to the stage and, as she tended to do, pointed out different people in the audience. This apparently included the guy who invented the disco ball and some people from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), who disrupted the event, pulled out signs and demanded to know why Joan would wear furs.

“They were escorted out,” Jed recounts, “but before they were, Joan handled it in a way that I don’t think any other celebrity could have gotten away with. She threw it right back at them and was, like, ‘Don’t you know where these minks have been? I’ve been all over the world. They’ve been to award shows. They’ve been to Oscar ceremonies. Just grow up!’

Michael Sherer, Jason Russo, Jed Ryan

“There was one more question left,” he adds. “Joe raised his hand and was, like, ‘Excuse me, Joan. I read in your book that you’re an ordained minister. Would you marry my boyfriend and I?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, come on up. Let’s do it. Let’s have a marriage ceremony right here.’ Then she pointed to this young guy who probably was a teenager and said, ‘You, you can be our flower girl.'”

They had the wedding right there. TV cameras were present, because Entertainment Tonight was there profiling Joan, so it was caught on video and was on the news the next day. It was pretty much just a blip, but then the story went viral on sites all over the world, including England and India. The story just exploded.

Michael Sherer, Jason Russo, Jed Ryan

What had started as an ordinary Monday night for Jed and Joe became something quite extraordinary — but the story didn’t end there. Because the ceremony had been so impromptu, they realized they didn’t have a marriage certificate, so they contacted Joan’s people and asked if she could possibly sign it for them so as to make the marriage legal. Not only did she agree, but they were informed that Joan was willing to do the ceremony again and would plan everything.

On August 15, 2014, at the Hotel Plaza Athenee, a very high-end ceremony took place. “We had the room for about two hours,” says Jed. “She had a red velvet cake and she said we could invite 10 people; we had to pick five family and five friends. She also invited the media and, of course, we dressed a little bit better this time because we were ready for it. We actually wore suits and ties!”

Michael Sherer, Jason Russo, Jed Ryan

Sadly, Joan died less than a month later as a result of complications from what should have been a routine surgery. That said, her generosity has certainly lived on in Jed and Joe’s hearts — yet their story still wasn’t done.

Jed explains, “A friend of mine who was at our wedding sent us a link to a Christie’s auction. I was looking at a woman’s jacket and didn’t understand it. I’m, like, ‘Angel, why are you sending me this?’ And he said, ‘Don’t you recognize this? This is the jacket that Joan married you in.’ And it was up for auction, so I contacted Joe and said, ‘We really need to bid for this; nobody else should have this.'”

Michael Sherer, Jason Russo, Jed Ryan

They placed their bid and won the jacket, which is now a part of the tribute they have in their apartment devoted to the comedy legend. Through all of this, they had also inadvertently become a part of her story.

“There’s an issue of People magazine that has a memorial to her,” Jed points out, “and Joe and I are on the last couple of pages of that, because this was really the last big thing that she did before she died; [the last thing] that really made all the news station and really broke the media before she died. We’re really happy to be a part of that.”

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