Tell us your love story!
We met when I (Charles)was visiting New York for the weekend, back in 2007. I was living in San Francisco at the time. My friends and I had tickets to see Margaret Cho at the Zipper Theater, but dinner finished early, so my friend suggested going to a nearby bar, Barrage, to have a drink. It was pretty early for a bar, so there weren’t too many people. We needed an extra chair and there happened to be one at the table where Gary was sitting with a friend. I went up, asked if it was OK if we took it, he said yes. When I sat back down with my friends, I happened to look his way, saw him looking at me, and I thought, he’s cute! I remember his smile. After a minute of us looking at each other and not really doing anything about it, my friend Kevin, a little exasperated, said, “Would you just go over and say hi already? He’s been looking at you since we walked in.” (Gary contends that the eye contact was mutual) So I did, and when I got to his table, Gary looked at me with this playful/wry look and said, “So, here to steal another chair?” I said, no, I wanted to see if I could join them. He eagerly said yes, please do, and then we (including his friend Jason) talked for an hour or so. A very fast hour. My other friend came up to us, told me we needed to make our way to the theater, so we exchanged phone numbers. And that commenced a series of non-stop texting that led to our meeting--just the two of us--a few nights later and then more texting and calling once I returned to SF. I was back in NY to visit and stay with Gary within three weeks. We spent the next 6 months traveling back and forth between SF and NYC. We saw each other every 2-3 weeks (racking up a lot of frequent flyer miles) and Skyped each other almost every day.
Tell us about the proposal!
It was June 26, 2014. The day that the Supreme Court was giving its verdict on the Windsor case. Gary is a political nut, so he follows MSNBC, all the blogs, knows everything about the House, the Senate, governors, etc. I can never follow politics, I can never remember names or offices. But this particular week, and on that particular day, I was following the news very closely, and when the news came out that the Supreme Court favored Windsor--clearing the way for federal recognition of gay marriage--we were obviously thrilled. At home from work, we watched the news programs on MSNBC. We rarely do that; usually, over dinner, we watch something like “Top Chef” or “Project Runway”, something light we’ve DVR’d earlier in the week. Tonight was different. After eating, we made our way to the couch and were watching Rachel Maddow. And suddenly, it hit me: I wanted us to be engaged on this historic day. Never mind I hadn’t done anything to prepare (like a ring, or a speech), or that we hadn’t talked about marriage in years. We’d talked about it before as something we wanted to do but not until it was legal on a federal level. Now it was, and I felt convinced we had to do it now. So I asked Gary if he would marry me. I think he thought I was being theoretical, he answered “yes” in a such an unemotional way. So I said to him something to the effect of, “I mean, I am asking you to marry me. Will you marry me?” And he said yes again. He was really taken aback. Something to know about Gary: he’s impossible to surprise. I am easily surprised, which is why he’s been able to plan surprises for me for birthdays and things like that, because I’m gullible and suspect nothing. Gary is always thinking several steps ahead. When we watch mysteries or thrillers, he knows who did it within minutes, whereas I haven’t even thought about it. The only way I can surprise him is if I don’t know what’s about to happen either.
When did you know that you were meant to be with each other?
Charles: We did long-distance--SF/NY--for six months, and by that point, we knew we wanted to live together. We would have been happy living in either one, but it was a lot easier for me to move and find a job in NY than it would have been for him to come to SF. So it took another six months before I could make all my arrangements to move. I drove in my car across the country, with Gary meeting me in Omaha, to drive together the rest of the way. I can’t think of a specific day or moment when I knew we were meant to be together, but by the time I left my SF apartment, I knew this was going to be it. Gary and I weren’t old, but we weren’t young kids. We’d been around, so we knew what felt serious. And this did.
Gary: I can’t pinpoint an exact moment that “I knew” but I have a general idea. After a couple of years in my apartment, we decided to look for more space. We ultimately bought a house that turned out to be a gut renovation. It was a very stressful and time consuming project. At any point during the three year process, one of us would be freaking out about some aspect of the renovation, while the other would be a calming and grounding force. At some point during those three years I realized how wonderfully suited we are for each other, with enough in common to connect us, but with enough difference to balance the other. It is not something I think I would have recognized at a younger age. It also helped that all of my friends absolutely adore him.
Tell us about your big day…
Magic. It was the culmination of a weekend of festivity. It was a Sunday late afternoon wedding, so starting the middle of the week leading up to it, our families and out of town friends began to arrive. On Friday, Gary and I had dinner separately with our extended families; Saturday morning we hosted anyone who wanted to come for coffee and light brunch, and Saturday night we had the rehearsal dinner where our parents met for the first time. It was a big build-up. Sunday morning, Gary and I just relaxed and went to a local restaurant that we go to every weekend for brunch. It’s like “Cheers”; everyone knows our name there, we have the same waiter every time. We had a normal brunch, just the two of us, then came home, and started getting ready for Jacqueline to arrive at 2pm. I felt nerves, but good nerves, the sense of something exciting to come. Jacqueline was great; she spent an hour with us in our home, taking pictures of our house and of us getting ready, and looking back, I think it helped us get in the “wedding mode” and ready for the attention we were about to receive. And did we. We got to the site about an hour before the ceremony, did some family photos as the guests began to arrive. Melissa, our planner, had us go to a little room with family members who were going to be in the ceremony. Then, she had us get into our ready positions just outside the courtyard entrance to the Green Building. Once the music cue for the ceremony went on, things took off. Everyone always told us that the wedding goes by so fast you don’t have time to eat or think, and it’s true! Once Gary and I made our vows, things accelerated. It wasn’t a blur, because I felt like I was present at every moment. But it was non-stop and exhilerating. Everything was amazing from the flowers, to the music, to the Koolhaus ice cream truck that pulled up late in the evening. t was a perfect party and a great reflection of our personalities. We had arranged for a Photo Booth for a four hour period, and Melissa came by us toward the end and made sure Gary and I got a picture in there. We were the last people to take pictures, and it made me realize just how fast things had gone. I couldn’t believe it was already 10pm, which was the time we’d told the caterer and the DJ things would be done by. (Melissa asked our DJ, Duane, and Jacqueline if they wouldn’t mind staying an extra half hour, and they were so generous about it.)
Going into the wedding planning, what did you definitely know?
We always joke that Gary is a planner at heart. He likes a plan. Not even 24 hours of engagement bliss had elapsed after the proposal that he said to me he’d already researched places to have a ceremony and we had to act fast because those places were booking up! We knew we wanted to have the wedding in Brooklyn, and we knew we wanted the Mister Sunday (afternoon dance parties thrown by Mister Saturday Night) crew to be the DJs. Everything else, we were open to. We knew nothing about catering, about flowers, about decorations. Gary quickly found out about the Green Building, which appealed right away because it’s close to our house and close the Mr. Sunday parties which (until that summer) had been just a few blocks away, on an abandoned lot on the Gowanus. So, we had booked the music and the venue before we even had our wedding planner. Everything else was a bit of a mystery for us.
What surprised you during planning? What was easy, what was difficult?
When we got engaged, we’d just three months earlier moved into our house, which had been a gut renovation and took three years. It had been a nightmare of logistics but also decisions: what kind of light fixtures, how many, what color paint (there are hundreds of shades of white, I learned). Gary is far better than I am at filtering through and making a few selections. I need to have 3-4 options at most given to me, and then I can tell you which I like the best. We had the help of Melissa to guide us through it, but since we wanted this wedding to reflect on our lifestyles and personalities, she wasn’t in a position to make every decision for us as we wanted to be involved. So if you have the same problem I do, just be prepared: there are decisions to make. I took the advice of another friend who was also planning a wedding (but six months in advance of ours), someone prone to over-planning and getting neurotic about it. She warned me against feeling I had to meet lots of vendors in a specific category; she said it was OK if I only met one and went with it, if I felt good. So Jacqueline at Readyluck was a good example. We had looked at the websites of various photographers that Melissa suggested, and Melissa had reached out to arrange meetings with a few. We met Jacqueline first after another one had to cancel and reschedule. There was a particular album of Jacqueline on her webpage that I loved, so for me I just wanted to meet her and see if we got along. Gary pretty much deferred to me on picking the photographer.) We met, liked her a lot, and so I told Melissa we were going with her, so we could cancel all the other meetings. And she did great! I think the month prior to our wedding--late April/early May--we’d hit wedding planning fatigue. Even though all the vendors were pretty much in place, there were still some things to change (like one vendor not having the specific table/chair or something like that). We were frankly tired of it all.
Is there anything you wish you knew while you were planning your wedding that you know now?
Well, there are some people who probably don’t have this problem, but our wedding was not dissimilar from our house in this respect: it cost a lot more than we originally planned!
Any advice for couples planning weddings now? Anything you would have done differently?
Just some random thoughts:
- As I mention above, you don’t have to meet a ton of people in every category (catering, flowers, etc). Most of the vendors we went with, we only met one in person. All of them were fantastic.
- On that same note: there is no one perfect wedding option that is out there you should be straining for. There are lots of great options out there, and if you don’t stress out too much, it will end up becoming perfect.
- Don’t feel locked into convention or what everybody else has done. There are truly no rules. For example, we didn’t want a first dance, so we just turned it over to the DJ after we thanked everyone and let the party begin. Likewise, neither of us are wild about cake, so we had lots of little desserts passed on the dance floor and to the tables and then had an ice cream truck show up late in the evening and everyone piled out into the street.
- Photobooth for people to take playful photos: WORTH IT. Do it!!!! And pay for the option to have an album made on the spot for guests to sign. Those pictures are priceless, and it was great having an album right away that we could look at.
- Having Melissa get everything together for us and handle it all seamlessly on the day of: so worth it. I know some people don’t hire a planner and have friends/family do it. It’s a serious responsibility with a lot of stress for that person (and I would imagine possibly for the couple, if that person doesn’t handle stress well). Our wedding site was the kind of place where you have to arrange everything, so this was much more of a big deal than a wedding venue where all the catering and supplies are handled in-house.
- For people who are worried about having a Sunday afternoon/evening ceremony (we were worried about it) because the next day is a workday: relax. The people you care about most will definitely fly in and come for it.
What was your favorite part of the day?
Hard to pick favorites, but the toasts given to us--by three friends and one unexpected by Charles’ father--were lovely. That was the one point I wish someone had videorecorded the event. We also loved the few minutes that our planner carved out for us alone in a side room with a cocktail and some of the appetizers just to absorb the moment together before we reemerged as a married couple.