I was never that girl — the girl who dreamed and imagined every little detail her wedding day. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hosting fabulous parties and attending weddings, but I did not believe I would ever experience my own. Perhaps, it was never feeling as if I would find that person or even if I did, that I was not able to have the dream as a lesbian. It didn’t help that after being out for 10 years, my family was not very accepting and I never imagined they would be in attendance and supportive if I were to get married.
I met my wife, Jamie, six years ago in New York City at a “Broadway Prom”-themed birthday party under the most ironic circumstances. As the room sparkled with sequins and crowns, it was clear Jamie was not planning on attending prom that night in her boots and black jeans. I guess the old saying is true; opposites do attract. She works in finance and was one of the more recent transplants into New York City. Our instant connection was real despite my love for all that sparkles and shines and her love for the grunge of the East Village. I always felt like I could be myself with her and knew early on into our relationship, there was no one else I wanted by my side on this journey we call life. In April of 2014, Jamie pulled off the most amazing surprise proposal at City Winery.
Well, of course, I said YES — but you saw that one coming! So, now what? Neither of us had been that girl that had their wedding day all planned out since we were little kids playing dress up in our mothers’ heels. In addition, we were not in a big hurry since we were also planning a move back to Michigan to be near Jamie’s family and build our dream home. We took an annual trip to the sunny beaches of Mexico, which was a meaningful place to us and I liked the idea of a beach wedding. But after further thought, Jamie worried many of her extremely supportive family members would not be able to make the trip, and after visiting several resorts during one of our annual visits, it just didn’t seem quite right. While we opted away from the destination wedding, we did have one heck of a joint bachelorette party in Mexico with some of our closest friends.
While I was hesitant to have the wedding in Michigan initially, it was important to Jamie. And in the end, it was perfect because it allowed many of my friends and even my family, who have started to come around seeing how happy I am, were able to experience our new home and life in Michigan!
Now on to the planning. One piece of advice we can offer is to try to avoid too many life changes and decisions at the same time. We relocated from NYC to Michigan, built a house, started new jobs, planned a wedding, and unfortunately, I lost my beloved father all in the course of six months. Our relationship was certainly tested, but it forged us together as we divided and conquered an incessant number of decisions. It also helped to have the support of our amazing friends and family.
One of those friends recommended a potential venue based on the intimate setting we were searching for: Café’ Cortina. She was right. It was perfect. Café Cortina is known for their food and their indoor/outdoor intimate setting. Having it at a full service restaurant also allowed us to reduce the overall decisions and vendors we needed to engage which was a significant benefit for us at the time! In addition, Café Cortina had extensive experience hosting weddings, it really made some of the process simpler since they handled renting the chairs, linens, and dance floor. Since I am used to directing and choreographing shows, we decided I would take on the rest of the planning. Although Jamie might say she was provided little say, I may have a little difficulty relinquishing control! My organization and type A personality certainly helped throughout this entire experience, however the sheer volume of decisions and coordination still took its toll at times. I would recommend anything that helps you stay organized and track ideas- Pinterest boards, Etsy, binders, iPhone notes — you never know when you will have a great idea!
We had our venue and we knew our style was “rustic chic,” which went well with setting. We agreed on a neutral color palate of sandstone, champagne, and grey and I subsequently spent many hours on Pinterest and Etsy to help us define what we were looking for. I really tried to pay attention to unique details that captured us as a couple. We added personalized touches from wooden décor to photos of us around the café to create a warm environment. We hired the outside vendors based on referrals or after a great deal of online research. Our photographer, Kerby Lou, was a great referral resource as she had so much experience working with other vendors and understood what we were looking for.
The next step was selecting the look for the bridal party. We wanted something mismatched yet cohesive with shades of color. We attempted to achieve this look ourselves by hand selecting dresses, but found a much more simple and convenient option by selecting the Jenny Yoo Annabelle that can be worn in a variety of styles. We selected three different colors in sandstone, mink, and shadow grey. It achieved the unified look yet gave enough variety for our large wedding party of 15 to look and feel amazing!
Now on to MY DRESS. Finding the perfect dress when you are accustomed to a life of glamorous costumes in theatre was difficult. I likely tried on more than 50 dresses at various NYC bridal salons. It didn’t help that I also had to have a costume change, or two, on my big day! I found the perfect jumper from BHLDN for the cocktail hour, and a gorgeous strapless a line Watters Too ball gown for the ceremony. The most difficult of my costume changes was my reception dress, however three weeks from the big day I found a beautiful rhinestone sweetheart back dress online at Nordstrom. I took a chance it would fit as well as it looked on my computer screen and it worked out perfectly. My experience with quick changes and an amazing maid of honor helped make three looks in one night a success!
You may recall earlier in the story I mentioned that opposites really do attract. Dresses are not in Jamie’s list of favorite attire, let alone multiple costume changes. However, it was important for her to find a perfect and simple dress for her big day. She accomplished that with a simple, ethereal dress and looked absolutely beautiful!
As I mentioned, our primary focus was trying to keep the wedding personalized and meaningful for ourselves and our guests. For me, it was all in the details. We spent a lot of time organizing and preparing the weekend experience for our guests from the host hotel location to the coordination of events and transportation. We took pride in the food and music — we had a friend play live guitar during cocktail hour and created both dinner and dancing playlists. We kept the speeches and vows short and sweet, but spent time making sure they were meaningful and personal. To provide some entertainment, we had to perform a surprise first dance telling our love story! We did not want to miss a moment of time with our loved ones, so we hosted a rehearsal brunch, welcome party, and a farewell brunch the day after. We even attended our own cocktail hour in costume, of course — Jamie in a black jumper and me in my white jumper. We had heard from so many how your wedding day is over in the blink of an eye and they were right. Making it a weekend celebration was one of our best decisions.
It was easy to get caught up in all the planning and lose sight of what was really important — love. In the end, I felt confident I did everything I could to prepare this production and that is what helped me stop, breathe, and soak in all the love. Due to the fact I hadn’t dreamed of the perfect wedding, I never understood why people referred to their wedding day as the best day of their life. Even leading up to it, Jamie and I had a few moments questioning what on Earth we were doing adding all this stress into our busy lives for something that lasts one day. Once again, we were wrong. It truly was the best day of our lives.
Celebrating our love and commitment with all of those we love so dearly and sharing with the world the simple fact that love is love was sincerely the most amazing experience. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat and I would not change a thing. Having all of your favorite people together celebrating love is the biggest emotional high you will ever experience, savor each moment and enjoy! I think the words I said to my maid of honor right before I walked down the aisle say it all: “It’s all worth it.”