Tell us your love story/how did you meet?
It was pure serendipity and possibly divinity, as Ruthie lived in LA and Para in Warsaw, Poland. We met at a conference in the US, on what was a business trip for both of us. Para, in search of digital marketing inspiration, was given the opportunity to choose either local holiday travel or an international business trip after winning “Man of the Year” within her company. Ruthie, a mentor in the artist mentor sessions at the conference, was scouting for new talent and creative and tech trends. After a long relationship ended, Ruthie had disavowed herself of the idea of having a partner (and was doing pretty well towards that goal for about a year at this point). It wasn’t an obvious fit on paper.
Cliche as it sounds, we met at an LGBT professional networking event in a generic conference hotel meeting room. Ruthie was sitting outside the event on a business call when Para walked directly towards her en route to the toilet. Ruthie gave her best seductive smile and in response Para did the sincere version of the classic comedy gag, looking behind her confused, before carrying on. Luckily when Ruthie got off her call she found Para in mixer. (“But it’s so confusing how Americans are always smiling at each other!” Para protests, ever the Eastern European.) We started to talk. And we couldn’t stop for the following 8 hours. At the last in a long string of creative tech events (ending where we started, at a queer event), we finally kissed. Ruthie was sharing a room with her boss and wanted to get back to the hotel before it was too late. We walked back making out like teenagers. Ruthie tiptoed up to the room, gingerly opening the door only to find her boss up. “I’m surprised to see you home so soon!” she teased. “Why do you say that?” Ruthie asked. “Well,” she said, “I was walking behind you the last four blocks…”
We spent the next week sharing intimate details between conference activities. Then divine intervention made sure we didn’t part ways: Para’s bus to the next destination was cancelled due to flooding, then multiple flights over the next days. Para met Ruthie’s family within a week of knowing each other because the conference was near Ruthie’s hometown and Para kept getting stranded!
When Para finally caught a flight, after this ongoing Before Sunrise reprisal, it was clear this was something really different. After that we were connected on every digital platform, texting, making shared playlists, video calling all the time. Para’s friends even convinced Ruthie to use Snapchat so they could share Poland with her!
What about the proposal?
It started jokingly, though there were strong feelings underneath: first by sharing dog weddings photos, and then we laughed that if we got married little dogs would be in our ceremony. Both of us generally aren’t hopeless romantics, but progressive pragmatists. With marriage legal less than a year in the States at that time, and not even close in Poland, it hadn’t been something we’d considered for ourselves. We weren’t people who imagined our wedding days (outside of little dog jokes). And sure, there were strategies for legal protections before that, but proxies and paperwork don’t capture the romantic imagination in quite the same way.
Everything seemed rather unbridled from our expectations, but we would have absolutely regretted not acknowledging how very unique our relationship is. Our friends said they had never seen us so happy, or so sure about anyone. This time we were the cheesy couple we didn’t believe really existed, saying “I just knew.” Our values and sense of what makes a happy life line up perfectly. Our communication is really great. We started talking about the logistics of being able to share a life in one place.
Ruthie had been thinking about it, mulling it over with friends and trusted confidantes, and technically proposed over a video call by saying “I’d really marry you.” Para got a big grin on her face and said, “ok.” “I’m serious,” Ruthie said. “So am I.” It felt like this wasted set of rights available to us, just waiting there for us at the right time, so we could start our lives together. Even though we would have to continue to see each other every 6-8 weeks while Para gets her immigration status in the US, we pulled everything together so we could get married on Para’s next US visit. Para did get down on one knee, to check that box, too.
When did you know that you were meant to be with each other?
We both agree that it was about the fourth day of the conference. But the second canceled flight definitely felt like a sign. And that we could handle it gracefully as a team.
Going into the wedding planning, what did you definitely know?
We knew we couldn’t afford a big wedding, or to bring all of our friends and family, scattered across continents, to one place anytime soon. And we had both been to elaborate weddings where the betrothed couldn’t even enjoy themselves, and we didn’t like the pressure of that kind of event. We decided to do something very intimate, with smaller celebrations in all of our different “hometowns” at later dates.
We knew we wanted elements from both of our “cultures.” We even imagined a “heathen’s eucharist:” regional Polish buffalo grass vodka traditionally mixed with apple juice, taken with pecans Ruthie’s late grandfather grew. We knew we wanted something “in nature,” which isn’t a stretch in LA. And something around Golden Hour. That happens to also be Rush Hour in LA, and if you remember, we are pragmatists, and home is the “East Side,” so the beach was out. Funny enough, Ruthie had seen a beautiful spot in virtual reality. It was supposed to be Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail, but the artist had revealed it was shot in a quiet section of Griffith Park. Ruthie did some Googling for the gps coordinates and realized it was 10 minutes from home. That was our spot: found remotely via creative technology. It seemed appropriate.
We knew we wanted a light footprint and beautiful photos. And we wanted everyone present to participate. So we had the ceremony in a circle.
What surprised you during planning? What was easy, what was difficult?
Marisa at Lovespell Collective/Holiday Celebrate helped us plan (and execute) on short notice and we’re so grateful she did. Even eloping, turns out there were things to decide, and Marisa knew how to accomplish our vision way more effectively than we would have! Marisa not only has a great aesthetic eye, she totally got our nontraditional/“who knew we’d ever get married” vibe. And with her experience, she made suggestions of things we might not have thought of and been bummed about later, like gorgeous paper items for folks who couldn’t be there, and even a keepsake certificate (she even skillfully tricked us into using Pinterest, which was really helpful even though we were initially resistant). All that stuff takes time and care, and Marisa made it happen. She also connected us with our wonderful photographer, Amy, who not only had a dreamy, organic portfolio, but seamlessly felt like a part of the wedding party (which was important with less than 10 people). Everyone at the ceremony played a role, even Marisa’s dog, who was the “little dog” in our ceremony!
Is there anything you wish you knew while you were planning your wedding that you know now?
You’ll need more time with the photographer than you think. Find someone who can be part of the group and you’ll get great photos when you’re relaxed. This is something worth spending money on, even for people like us on a tight budget (particularly from traveling internationally all the time!). Being married feels like Something. Give yourself room to feel more sentimental than you’d expect, even if you’re progressive pragmatists like us!
Any advice for couples planning weddings now? Anything you would have done differently or anything you’d like to add?
Keep it simple. Make it so that’s it’s not stressful. Decide what’s important and spend your budget on that and not what isn’t important. Don’t do stuff because you’re supposed to. Skip the unfamiliar expensive restaurant that doesn’t match the ceremony’s vibe and invite the extra 4 people instead. We wish we had tried a little harder to make sure a handful of close friends who live far away could make it.
Be clear with your photographer what you want, and what you don’t want. Amy was really understanding when we said “nothing to cutesy!” We also made it clear that one of us wasn’t comfortable in front of the camera, and she was able to keep that in mind and be clever about getting those intimate moments.
Have patience, be flexible and make sure you can enjoy every part of it.
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Para: The ceremony. It was an unbelievably joyful experience, to marry the person I love so dearly, with such ferocity; and to promise each other our love and devotion in the company of the closest friends. And going to bed together after a really long but satisfying day.
Ruthie: It’s only technically our wedding day, as it’s within the first 24 hours...we both spontaneously woke up at 5am the next morning, like kids on Christmas morning. We both held up our rings to make sure it was still real. We were married. We still share that little gesture all the time. And it is so deliciously real.