Michele & Carey’s Wedding Story
Michele and I met in May of 2004 online, at PlanetOut.com. Michele had just moved to Arizona from Los Angeles 3 weeks prior to our meeting, and had gotten out of a 7 year relationship only a few months prior to that. I had been living in Arizona since 1997 and had been single for about 2 years prior to meeting Michele.
Both of us had been actively meeting people online for a few months. In fact, just before we met, I had been corresponding online with 4 different women named Michele! What are the odds?
I emailed Michele because I was impressed with how down-to-earth and sincere her profile seemed. I thought it was hilarious when I learned that I had met yet another Michele and thought to myself: "this has got to be the one!"
Michele called that night and we met in person at Starbucks a few hours after our first chat. For me, the attraction was instant and the first thing that went through my mind was: "I am going to marry this woman!"
For Michele, the process was a little slower (due to the previous long term relationship having just recently ended) but she soon learned you can't fight destiny and she came around within about a month!
In February of 2005, Michele was on business in San Francisco and I flew in to meet her for the weekend. Unbeknownst to me, Michele had already called my parents to let them know she would be proposing (news which made my parents ecstatic!).
Michele's plan was to propose to me in the Japanese Gardens, but she was too excited and ended up proposing to me in our hotel room a few hours after I arrived!
We told Michele's parents over dinner shortly after we returned from San Franciso and they were very gracious and happy for us. They will be hosting an "after wedding" dinner in our honor for our out of town friends and family the night after wedding. We are very lucky to have such a large group of family and friends who are supportive of our relationship and our marriage.
We moved in together in June of 2005, purchased a home together in December of that year, and set a wedding date shortly thereafter. Our wedding date is October 27, 2006, and we are planning a big Hawaiian luau wedding.
So far, the wedding planning process has been bumpy but wonderful and we look forward to sharing our adventure with you!
Nothing can spoil the mood like the big, bad “B Word”: BUDGET!
Michele: When Carey and I started to plan our wedding and began discussing our expectations of the day, our views were slightly different. OK, they were COMPLETELY different. Hey, I am a girl that grew up in Los Angeles, where keeping up with the Jones’ is the norm. Carey grew up in small town Utah – a world away from the image obsessed culture of LA. So, when it came to discussing our wedding budget, things definitely got a little tense.
Carey: We both wanted a nice wedding, but Michele’s definition of “nice” came to about $35,000 and mine came to about $5,000! When we first started planning, Michele had all sorts of ideas: a limo to drive us to the wedding, extravagant attire, expensive flowers, gourmet food, and lots more. Once I added up the price tags for all of these items, Michele saw that her version of a nice wedding would take us years, not months, to pay off. On the flip side, I also came to realize that $5,000 wasn’t going to get us very far and that we would not be able to incorporate the things we each wanted on our special day.
M: So we sat down and created two lists each – a “Wish List” and a “Deal Breaker List”. The Wish Lists contained things we really wanted for the wedding. The Deal Breaker Lists contained the things that were most important to us and not negotiable. When we broke the lists down like this, we realized there weren’t as many things on our Deal Breaker Lists as we first would have thought. It was a great way to get down to what really mattered to each of us.
C: We compared our lists, weeded out the “Wishes” that were breaking our budget, and discussed ways to fit in the “Deal Breakers”. We also started to investigate alternate means of getting the things we really wanted. Let’s face it, weddings are outrageously expensive and you have to think outside of the box if you are on a budget. Some examples of how we avoided high price tags on important items: we booked a photographer for half of the going rate because she is a college student still finishing her degree at the local university, but her portfolio is amazing and her work has been featured in several magazines. We compromised on an off-beat wedding site that has an old western saloon on one end of the property (ugh!), but has a separate beautiful outdoor courtyard and large white party tent on the other side (yay!). The site has an all inclusive package that includes our food, alcohol and a wedding coordinator – all for less than half of what the other locations were charging just to rent their site!
M: By doing a little digging and giving up some of our original ideas of what a “perfect wedding” should look like, we have been able to save ourselves thousands of dollars. The best part is that our wedding now feels like us, rather than some ideal of what a wedding should be or should cost. And the best part is that neither of us feels like we gave anything up, because our wedding feels perfect to us.
C: The best advice we can give couples out there is communicate, communicate, communicate. Even if it’s hard at first, get everything out on the table. Then, narrow down what really matters. You will find that a lot of the “Wish List” items fall to the way side when you look at the bigger picture.
While one of you may have to loosen the purse strings a little and the other may have to tone it down a bit, but the B Word doesn’t have to be a bad word if you work together!
Coming Out All Over Again
What you have heard is true – coming out of the closet is a never ending process. Especially when you are planning a wedding.
Carey: As soon as we started to plan our wedding, I went online and tried to find gay friendly vendors. Naively, I expected to find websites of florists and caterers, emblazoned with large rainbow print, proudly stating: “We Cater to Gay and Lesbian Couples!” What I found instead was that very few wedding vendors had ever worked with a gay or lesbian couple, let alone advertised to them. I knew then that we were in for an interesting few months.
Michele: Our first experience coming out of the closet was when we were searching for a florist. We set up a meeting to draw out a plan for our arrangements. She introduced herself to Carey and then to me. While shaking my hand, she said, “How nice of you to come with your friend to help her choose her wedding flowers!” Carey and I looked at each other, and there was a brief moment of panic.
C: I quickly said, “No, this is Michele, my partner. We are the ones getting married.” I could tell the florist was a little shocked and for the remainder of our meeting with her she was cordial, but visibly uncomfortable. We ended the meeting with her committing to doing our flowers and saying she’d follow up with a written bid within 2 weeks. About 8 weeks later, after many unreturned phone calls, we got a brief note in the mail stating that she was “too busy” and would not be doing our flowers.
M: We knew that it was not that the florist was “too busy” but rather “too freaked out by a lesbian wedding.” We learned at that point that we’d have to come out of the closet to each vendor up front, before setting up any meetings.
C: From that point on, we started every conversation with each potential vendor with, “We are a lesbian couple planning our commitment ceremony. We want to make sure you know this up front and that you do not have a problem with it.” At first I was irritated that we would even have to do this. It felt like we were making a disclaimer about ourselves (“WARNING: Lesbians Getting Married!”). But the fact is that the wedding industry has not yet caught up with gay and lesbian weddings and coming out to every vendor is a necessary step. Otherwise, we run the risk of wasting our time or being disappointed by responses like the one we got from the florist.
M: On the flip side, we’ve been welcomed by the majority of our vendors. We found a new florist who is thrilled to be working with us and one of our vendors even came out to us – by telling us that her father is gay.
C: I would say we have definitely experienced more positive responses than negative once we started coming out to everyone up front.
M: So, while you think you may have already come out of the closet once and for all, if you are planning a wedding, be prepared to come out A LOT in the coming months.
C: And remember, the money you are spending on your wedding is just as green as any straight couple’s, so don’t waste your time with vendors that aren’t 110% comfortable working with you. If they have any hesitation at all, hang up and call the next vendor. Don’t forget to ask your friends and family for referrals and use your local gay and lesbian newspaper, community center or business directory as a resource. There are lots of great vendors out there – you’re just going to have to open the closet door (again and again) to find them.
Let The Show Begin!
We are now 8 weeks out from our wedding day. At this point, time feels like it’s moving faster and it seems like the last several months have just flown by!
People tend to forget that putting on a wedding is quite literally producing an event. While nobody wants to think of their wedding as “scripted”, the reality is that much of the day will need to be laid out in great detail if you want it to all come together. You don’t just show up to your wedding and hang out, with no plan in place. If you did, you’d have a bunch of people staring at each other, wondering what the heck was going on! There are different parts of a wedding that need to flow together – the ceremony, music, entertainment, lighting, meals and much more. As with any event, bringing all of these elements together takes a clear and specific plan of action. And yes, maybe even a few scripts.
In our case, our invitation list grew from 75 people to 125 people overnight, thus turning our small production into a rather large one. We did a lot of planning in the beginning, but now the last minute “to do” lists are growing larger and the deadlines are looming close. The key at this point in the game is focusing on getting a little accomplished each day and remembering to communicate with your partner each step of the way.
A word of caution: be sure to remember that while your wedding is likely you and your partner’s first priority that may not be the case for your family and friends. This is not to say they are not supportive or excited for your big day. It just means that it’s probably not on their minds 24 hours a day like it is yours! Don’t be hurt if the RSVP’s aren’t coming in as quick as you’d like, or if people don’t tune in immediately when you start rattling off details about the bouquets and cake flavor. Just stick to your “to do” lists and try to be patient with those that are not in “Wedding Land.”
As our wedding day approaches, we are simultaneously more excited and stressed with each passing day. But, just like with any great production, if you stick with the plan and remember to breathe, you’ll have a wonderful wedding day that everyone will enjoy and that you will cherish forever. Break a leg!
We Did It!
Well, we did it, we're married! We held our ceremony on October 27th, at sunset, with 75 of our closest friends and family. The weather was gorgeous and the whole evening came together perfectly. We had a Hawaiian themed wedding, with Hawaiian musicians playing the entiring evening, lei greeters handing out shell leis and orchids to guests as they arrived, and a Polynesian dance performance after dinner. With all of our friends and family there, and the energy of love that surrounded us, we could not have asked for a more beautiful or wonderful night. All of the hard work, stress and planning was well worth it.
Now that the family and friends have all gone home and the gifts are all unwrapped and put away, we are left with this wonderful feeling of being married. It feels safe, comfortable and right. Although we are not legally recognized as a couple, we – and all of our family and friends – know that we are married. We know it will take the government and the world a while to catch up, but that won't stop us from living our lives as partners and spouses.
One final thought before we head off to Hawaii for our honeymoon: If you and your partner are wondering if you should get married, if you're worried about what the world thinks and how hard it might be to be in a gay marriage in our society, our advice is DO IT ANYWAY. Don't let society or what others think define your live or your love. Love makes a family, plain and simple. In the end, that truly is all that really matters.
Thank you for letting us share our experience with all of you.
Carey and Michele