Proud As Peacocks
Our first day set the tone for our lives together. Expect the unexpected.
After thinking Bryan stood me up for our date (at a sushi restaurant in North Florida) I got a phone call as I pulled out of the parking lot. It was Bryan telling me he “didn’t think he was going to make it to dinner. He was pretty sure his car was totaled.” Bryan had been in a (3 time) roll-over accident avoiding a deer that ran out onto the highway and his car was completely destroyed, yet he was okay-literally every hair still in place. I asked if he was okay and he started to cry and said he was sorry to miss the date. He didn’t have family or anyone to call to come and get him on the side of the road so I volunteered to go pick him up. We met in the flattering headlights of a sheriff’s patrol car complete with red and blue flashing lights on the side of a dark country highway. It was too late for dinner so we went and got Waffle House take out (the only thing open) and we sat up all night talking about life and how crazy this first date had turned out to be. We joked that this would make an amazing story for our children one day. I helped Bryan find a rental car the next day and take care of insurance business and drove him home and dropped him off. He texted a few hours later asking for a second chance at a first date that night and we have been together ever since.
Within weeks we knew this was the one. I am a former Broadway performer and now teacher and he was an up and coming television news journalist. We knew our public persona and living under the microscope because of our careers would be an issue and we wanted to make a unified effort to show we were a committed team and were both in it for the long run.
Bryan proposed to me 11 days after he met me. Yes! Even we thought we were crazy. It was more about the commitment. When we chose a new car for him he called and asked me to look at a particular car and tell him if I thought it was safe enough for child car seats. He has always been the one making a valiant effort for commitment to me and our family. I am the wild and fun artist and he the sensible, family man. And it has always worked. We wanted to wait until marriage became legal in the state of Florida because it was important for our family and friends to witness a personal AND legal commitment where we lived.
Three years later the window opened. We were not sure how long it would last, so we decided to jump. We had assumed it would happen in 2015 and had begun planning a big family wedding but when we were told the door would crack open at least for a moment on January 6th,we took a chance. We, once again, were flipping out. Our team of amazing people and friends- Kehrin Hassan from Jet Set Wed, Matt Steeves and Fallon Long from Matt Steeves Photography, and Debra Mehrberg of DM Paper Designs not only agreed to style and shoot our wedding “on the fly” but they overwhelmed us by being our support team during an emotional and possibly very tense time. With only days to prepare, they all sprang into action as we quickly flew in our minister, Donna Littlepage, from Birmingham, Alabama and braced ourselves for the first day of legal marriage in Collier County, Florida. We applied for the license with the help of the Collier County Clerk’s Office and enrolled in couples’ online marriage counseling and completed the course over a few nights and a few bottles of wine.
The day of the wedding could not have been more amazing. The sun was shining in Naples and Kehrin, Fallon, and Matt met us at our home before sunrise with hot Starbucks coffee and calming, good vibes of friendship which set the celebratory tone for the day. Not knowing whether to expect protesters or a sudden judicial stay on the ruling for same-sex marriage had tensions heightened as we arrived in our caravan to the courthouse. All of our friends and family wore the colors of the peacock – an idea we had planned for our November wedding going along with our love of blues, purples, and greens. It also symbolized our pride in the day and the concept of “proud as a peacock”. We dressed in black and white because we wanted to symbolize that our union was now as clear as black and white in the eyes of the law.
We were surrounded in a parking deck by friends and family and our “team” and met increased security and several media outlets on the steps of the courthouse for this monumental day. Submitting all the information at the courthouse is all a blur. From applause to laughter and then a brief, private ceremony in the clerk’s office chapel (they waived our fees!) we felt supported by those closest to us and now protected by the laws of the state we call home. There were tears, more applause, and the celebration from everyone in the courthouse as we became the first same sex couple to apply and legally be married in Collier County. We followed with a gorgeous brunch with our entire glam squad, friends, and family on Naples Third Avenue and then had a private stroll to reflect on what the day had meant to us and to our state and country. People stopped us to congratulate us or gave us thumbs up as they drove by. The waiter at brunch asked to take our photo. For one day we felt special doing just what everyone else does.
Looking back, I’m so thankful Bryan flipped for me on our first date. We’ve been tumbling through this journey ever since. It has opened doors to endless possibilities in life and friendship and has set the tone for how we want to spend the rest of days; expecting the unexpected.