"Lube your rings" — that's one of the best pieces of advice we got. Just a little, right before they go on the pillow so you won't get stuck in an awkward squish right as you’re saying “I do.”
And it worked! Perfectly. Though things weren't always perfect...
Dakin and I had broken up in San Francisco. He's a Virgo (and an accountant!) and I'm a Piscean artist. Some say these are the worst matches; others say we’re signing up for a lifetime of learning and loving. Neither looked like it was in the cards for us during those rainy days on the West Coast. Dakin, my then boyfriend, wanted a path; I’ve never had to create one, wandering through life as a free spirit. I came back to New York heartbroken and crushed. It wasn't until a few raw weeks later, when we started messaging again — him in South Africa and me in Bushwick, Brooklyn — that we realized we both wanted to continue a life together, long into our years.
Wait a second… Cape Town? New York? Yes. We met two weeks before Dakin moved back to his home country after living in the States for a decade. His life was already packed into 67 neat boxes with 20 days left until he flew back to South Africa forever. It was too short a time to build anything meaningful, but long enough to know that there was something electric between us. So we courted long distance for over a year, with both of us travelling back and forth as we got to know each other’s landscapes. Then came San Francisco, our breakup, and a Facebook message exchange where I blurted out, “I want you to put a ring on it” (insert cheesy smirk here). We each called the other’s parents to ask their blessing and one week later, I was on a plane to South Africa and we officially got engaged under a gorgeous old tree in the hills of Mmpumalanga, with all of his family.
This started a whole new direction for me and for us. I had never imagined my wedding day. Neither had Dakin. How could we when it was such a taboo growing up? But now gay marriage is legal in both of our countries.
He wanted fast; before Thanksgiving. I wanted slower; fall of the next year. We finally settled on taking our time and planning something extra special. Since we dealt with two hemispheres, Dakin and I decided on two weddings: 8/8 in New York and 10/10 in Cape Town. Two weddings equals two honeymoons, equals twice the planning and twice the stress. But it also allowed us each to take the lead on one of them and to inject things that were important to us individually. That’s the thing about weddings — for the first time it wasn’t just my party. It was ours. And as romantic as that sounds, there were many things we disagreed on. I think wedding planning is the first real test for a couple. And we learned to navigate it when we finally just decided to try and have as much fun with the planning and not take it so seriously.
The Virgo had this down — Dakin created an Excel spreadsheet for the year of planning ahead. To-dos to be completed within six months, two months, one month, one week… you get the idea. We decided to make New York the official wedding, but only have a small cocktail-hour reception afterwards. And then Cape Town followed, with a more traditional four-course plated dinner reception.
We set our number of guests to 130 for each wedding and ball-parked a rough total budget of what we could afford. We used the hashtag #dakian and created a webpage, dakian.net, for our save-the-dates and all information guests might need.
And then we got into major planning mode: We needed something to unify both events; to bridge both continents. We came up with a swatch of fabric that we used to make our bow ties, and handkerchiefs for all of the guys and flower pins for the ladies in our family and the extended wedding party. This turned out to be a magical idea. Everyone who got one felt special — and everyone else wanted them. They were special keepsakes that are still used today. All guests got porcelain paper airplanes by Sootcookie that said DAKIAN in gold foil on the one side and “Whoever has this is loved” on the other.
On our big New York day, we got ready together at our host hotel, Yotel, which had graciously given us their Presidential Suite with a wrap-around terrace. In true New York style, we caught a yellow cab from there to Central Park, where we’d told our guests to gather at the Jose Marti Statue. We stayed inside the wooden Cop Cot gazebo as our guests walked up the sunny path — they were the processional!
Stacey Roca sang “Night and Day” — amazingly a song from the Gay Divorcee, little did we know. And Justin Vivian Bond was our officiate. We each asked two of our closest people to pick from a selection of proverbs, poems, greetings, and spiritual guidances that we liked and they read theirs and also spoke off-the-cuff to us about love and life. This was incredibly touching and also kept it casual yet sincere. Justin also had warm words, after which we read the vows we’d each written. Blake Drummond captured all of these special moments in our video. We even broadcast the wedding ceremony live on Periscope and had nearly 200 people logging in from around the world to watch us!
For our New York reception, I called in favors from every possible angle. Our photographer, David Scott Holloway, wanted to expand his portfolio to include gay weddings and he agreed to be ours for free! Many of our friends were also involved: Marti Gould Cummings was our drag queen MC, Steve Shakewell our DJ. Varsity Interpretive Dance Squad did one of their awesome stripping routines (classy, of course), and we had songs sung by Luciana, Drew Brody, and Derek Nicoletto. Other friends helped with flowers, oversaw the reception venue (even negotiating better prices with them!), and were present and supportive for most of the hectic times that laid ahead for us.
We had speeches and toasts by my mom, my best man, and Dakin’s dad, and then treated everyone to an amazing cake: a three-level six-color secret pride cake by BAKED that "looked like Rainbow Brite threw up on it,” our MC Marti Golde Cummings joked. Then we did the bouquet toss, garter throw, and first dance (“Sunshine” by Mother Funk).
When our reception ended, we invited people over to our suite at Yotel and made full use of the beautiful terrace. People stayed out until the early hours and there were many trips back down to the bar to bring up more champagne. This had been one of the best, smoothest weddings I had ever been to — and it was ours.
Here are some additional words of wisdom:
-It's a myth that you will engage in intimate relations on your wedding night — it rarely happens!
-Everything flies by in a blur. Be as present as possible and enjoy every moment, even if it hasn’t gone quite according to plan.
-Be sure to really get as many photos with your family and friends as possible — you'll want those memories.
-Video everything! I initially wasn’t mad about the idea, but it is so wonderful to have and look back on.
-Allot the time to send save-the-date cards (online ended up being way more affordable).
-Be real in all your heart during the day. Things might be crazy and not go the way you want, but if you and your partner take everything at ease, your day will be filled with wonderful memories.
The best memory of our wedding was seeing all our close friends and family together celebrating something once never thought possible, and knowing as the ages go by we had that moment, when we became one.
Dakin and I have started our new life together. He wrote about what that feels like recently. And while it is a marriage, it's a gay marriage. It's different. We weren't allowed to marry legally when we were growing up, so now that we can, you can rewrite all the rules to make your marriage perfect. It takes time, it takes A LOT of work, and you will have to give up things, but you will receive much more when you are with the one you love.