A Cincinnati Ceremony
Tell us your love story!
We met at the Art Academy of Cincinnati as freshmen, initially at a barbeque in the back alley of the dorms. I was immediately attracted to Sam but it seemed as if our paths would never cross. In all the classes we shared, we were always on opposite sides of the studio but as the classes progressed we became friends through our unspoken competition with each other. We took the time to accept and understand the other, helping each other find a reason to laugh in the best and worst of times, solidifying our friendship, and uncovering deeper feelings. When we returned to school for our second semester, we switched roommates to live together. The time alone gave us the chance to provide each other enough security that we were both able to face ourselves, to discover who we were and who we wanted to be. The semester was filled with family dinners, late night snack runs, thoughtful surprises, and more care than either of us could have anticipated. We spent the following summer apart, Sam working to accept her feelings and me working to forget, both of us desperately missing each other. As soon as we got back to school, the feelings were immediately undeniable for us both. So we jumped, sharing every aspect of our lives together for four years, still in the closet, continuing to solidify how intense our feelings were for each other. We decided to come out to our families after graduation. The freedom to love and live openly tremendously deepened our love, we then had the opportunity for our life together to be seen and shared for the first time.
What about the proposal?
Two months after marriage equality passed, and after being together for five years, I proposed. It was important to both of us that I get her Dad’s permission, without hesitation and a huge hug, he said yes. I knew I wanted the proposal to be a complete surprise but I also wanted to ask her in the alley where we met. This involved an elaborate story about a fake art instillation the school wanted me to take part in as a way to revitalize the dorms. I asked Sam to meet me after and I’d take her out for dinner. The night before Sam started asking a few too many questions, becoming increasingly suspicious of our dinner date. I threw myself into the act and convinced her I hadn’t even found her ring. After being together for so many years, she suggested I just buy a vending machine ring and propose with that, so naturally her ring box was a toy capsule from a vending machine.
After Sam’s friends and family had all arrived and were safely tucked back into the alley, roses in hand, I texted her to come pick me up for dinner. She took her sweet time walking down and reluctantly followed me out into the alley to “gather my things”. I’ll never forget the look on her face when she turned the corner into the alley to find her friends and family, realizing what was happening despite having been convinced otherwise the night before. We shared a really special moment together and then pulling out the toy capsule, I dropped to a knee and asked her to marry me.
When did you know that you were meant to be with each other?
We both knew right away that we would be in each other’s life indefinitely but we knew we were meant to be together because we made each other laugh in the midst of difficult circumstance, we celebrated small successes together, and being the self-reliant people that we both are – we allowed each other to take care of the other. All in all, we fell in love with our very best friend and couldn’t imagine being with anyone else.
Going into the wedding planning, what did you definitely know?
Being the creative people that we are, we knew from the start that we wanted to create the whole experience together. We wanted a timeless wedding. We wanted to design our own invitations. We wanted to make our own flower arrangements. We knew we wanted a small, outdoor wedding that celebrated who we are and the nature of our love. We knew we wanted our wedding party to be as comfortable as possible, to pick a color and let them choose what they would wear. We knew we would have an unplugged ceremony. We also agreed early on that the number one thing we wanted from the day – other than our marriage – was exceptional photography.
What surprised you during planning?
Our planning process was amazing. We approached it as we would have approached an art project. Every aspect of our wedding was a complete collaboration and combination of our styles. We created a timeline for ourselves and stuck to it – but we enjoyed working on it together so much, we were done months in advance. We did run into some vendors who were unwilling to work with a gay wedding but in their place, we found the most amazing, kind, warm-hearted, accepting people who were more than willing to take our business. The most difficult things for us was dealing with unsupportive family as well as finding a venue that was accepting and available for our date. We ended up changing our date to the Sunday after the day we wanted just to get our location. It worked out perfectly! We married the day after our sixth anniversary, the first day of our seventh year together, and it was significantly less expensive than getting married on that Saturday. The easiest decision for us was hands down choosing our photographer. As soon as we found Cass, we knew she was the perfect person not only to capture our day but also to add so much love and care to it as well.
Is there anything you wish you knew while you were planning your wedding that you know now?
We have some members of our family who love us but who do not support our relationship or our marriage. We wish we could have known the toll that would take on us both so that we could have been more aware of the ways it might manifest.
Another thing we didn’t think about was planning a honeymoon – we wish we had picked a date according to the location we wanted to visit. Our wedding date put us in the middle of most stormy seasons in the honeymoon locations we considered. We opted to take a mini-moon and planned a honeymoon for our one-year anniversary.
Any advice for couples planning weddings now?
When planning a gay wedding it’s sometimes difficult to see yourself in the traditions that people expect of weddings but that’s kind of the best part. Use as much tradition in your day as you want but also don’t hesitate to create something completely new that fits you and your love. For all the traditions we kept, we got creative more than anything. We arranged our ceremony in a circle with no sides and were surrounded by unconditional love the whole day. We wrote a passage to our guests that our Officiant read during the ceremony describing what it’s like to live and love in secret for so many years. It explained why we married on a hilltop – our mountain climb together through all those years in the closet were culminating that day as we married on that mountain top together.
If you find that you have unsupportive family, one thing we found really helpful was just to allow yourself to have really emotional moments, to mourn the loss of having those people present for those moments rather than to ignore their absence. It might sound trite but it allowed us the opportunity to process and move on so we were able to focus on how incredibly happy we were to marry each other.
Everybody says it but the day really does fly by, we did everything we could to be present in every second. Someone told us to hold the other’s hand the entire day so no matter where you are, you’re experiencing it together.
Last thing don’t underestimate the meaning and gravity of your wedding. As we walked out of the courthouse, marriage license in hand, we turned to find tears in each other’s eyes. We could not be more thankful for the people who came before us, who fought for our right to legally wed. Every step of the way, we kept those people and our community’s history present in our hearts and minds, the result was an incredibly emotional, loving, celebratory release.
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Our favorite part of the day was definitely the ceremony. We asked our dear friend to officiate for us and she wrote the most beautiful, personal message specific to our story. The four people that stood up for us both were also the only people who knew about our relationship before we came out to our families. We asked them to share a message as well during the ceremony in lieu of toasts. Their words and the things they chose to share were so incredibly heart felt and the most precious of gifts. Sam and I stayed so present in each moment of the ceremony and just allowed their sentiments to further elevate the moment for us.
My other favorite moment was after the ceremony and after we’d greeted our guests. I pulled Sam away from everyone and took a moment just the two of us. It was a suggestion that was given to me moments before the ceremony started and I’m so glad I took it. It gave us a chance to catch a shared breath and fully realize that we were truly, legally, married. And it gave us both a chance to obsess over the details of the other’s dress!