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Long-Distance Adventures and an Intimate Wedding

Long-Distance Adventures and an Intimate Wedding

An intimate lesbian wedding in Portland, Oregon

How long have you been together, and how did you meet?

We’ve been together since we met in 2017 almost six years ago, when we matched on a dating app. We were both living in Abby’s home state of Maine and immediately hit it off. In a classic small-town Maine moment, our first date included unexpected run-ins with family friends and one of Abby’s childhood teachers. Neither of us was looking for a relationship at the time, but we couldn’t stay away from each other. It was the easiest and most comfortable beginning of a relationship either of us had experienced. Through medical school and job changes, our love turned long-distance as we moved between Maine, Massachusetts, California, and DC before finally settling in Oregon together.

Aside from your wedding, what is your favorite memory together?

One memory we’ll always cherish is an open-water marathon swim we participated in together. Abby swam from Vermont into Canada with Shaina navigating the course in a kayak. This took seamless teamwork between us to execute well, and we sure did! It was a big accomplishment that we had so much fun sharing and something we still laugh about to this day. We showed up to the starting line with the cheapest gear possible and competed against people with fancy kayaks and much more experience. With Shaina’s sharp navigation skills and Abby’s endurance, we pulled into a third-place finish!

Tell us about the proposal.

The proposal was a big surprise! We had talked about engagement rings and decided we wanted to find vintage ones instead of going the traditional route. Shaina sneakily found the perfect 1940s ring at a vintage watch shop in West Hollywood and planned a low-key, intimate proposal. A few months later, on a quiet December morning back in Maine at one of our favorite spots overlooking the islands and lighthouses of the bay, Shaina got down on one knee and asked Abby to marry her. Abby was literally speechless but eventually managed to say, “Is this for real?!” before saying yes. We kept the news to just close family and friends until announcing our engagement a couple of weeks later.

Any stories from the lead-up to the wedding stressful or funny?

We couldn’t really decide what we wanted to do for a wedding because nothing we talked about felt like “us.” On top of that, pandemic restrictions and being on the other side of the country from our families made planning anything feel impossible. Having a small intimate ceremony ended up being exactly what we wanted, but some family members were sad about potentially not being invited if we were going to elope. By the time we actually got married, we had already told our families we were eloping about five different times in five different ways, with all those previous plans falling through. It kept them on their toes, and when the event finally happened, they were just excited they made the guest list and could participate! And we were very glad they did. 

Talk us through your wedding day.

We planned the entire event in six weeks with the help of the Elope in Portland team. They are an all-in-one company specializing in elopements and small weddings run by three local women familiar with the wedding industry in Portland. Their services included photography, bridal bouquets, and a personalized ceremony. We just had to choose a location and time! We decided to include our parents and siblings in our big day and rented a house we could all stay in together. Most of the morning leading up to the ceremony was relaxed and spent hanging out with each other and our families. Shaina’s mom helped us incorporate some wedding traditions from her Chinese heritage into our morning, including soaking in a pomelo bath and making evergreen twigs to wear in our hair. To keep some tradition in our day, we got dressed separately with the help of our moms. We had gone dress shopping together to get Shaina’s dress, but Abby wanted to keep hers a surprise. Abby also made her own floral headpiece to match her dress because she wanted something a little whimsical in place of wearing a veil. We had a first look in front of everyone before heading off to the ceremony.

The ceremony was held at a small historical chapel in our neighborhood near our first home together. Neither of us is actively religious so we never imagined getting married in a church! Something about the idyllic location next to our neighborhood park and the warm wood paneling throughout the chapel made it feel like a familiar ode to our hometowns in New England. We met our photographer and officiant there, and they presented us with beautiful bouquets beyond what we could have imagined. On a whim, we walked each other down the aisle to start off the ceremony. We wrote our own vows and recited them to each other for the first time in front of our families. Despite keeping our vows a secret beforehand, we managed to compliment what the other said perfectly. Having such a small group witness this was incredibly intimate and all the more meaningful. We mostly remember being very giddy and holding each other’s hands through the whole thing. When it was officially official, Shaina honored her Jewish heritage by stepping on a glass while everyone shouted, “Mazel Tov!” We spent the next hour taking pictures with our amazing photographer before heading back to eat cake. 

We finished the night by having dinner at Departure, a restaurant at the Nines Hotel in downtown Portland. The restaurant staff was incredibly welcoming, topping off our champagne, taking Polaroid pictures, and giving us a special dessert after several food courses. It felt like an intimate little wedding reception where we got to talk in-depth with all our guests and enjoy a delicious meal. This night was so special beyond being our wedding day because it was the first time we got to merge our families into one and witness the bonds growing stronger between everyone. We highly recommend going this route to any couples we know who are getting married.

Advice for other couples planning a smaller wedding?

The best advice we have for other couples planning a small wedding is to keep the focus on you and your guests (if you choose to have any). Going the intimate route means that you’ll be spending a lot of time with whoever is there, and that will set the vibe for the day. We were lucky to have our immediate family members being so overjoyed and supportive, but if that’s not the case for you, then invite your chosen family who can give you that same love! We only wanted to feel unconditional love on our day and keeping the guest list small made that happen. Having a small group for a wedding is already nontraditional as it straddles the line between elopement and a wedding. This allows you a lot of creativity when planning your event. For instance, our party was small enough that we found a home rental that accommodated us all, and we could fit at one table in a truly fantastic restaurant with great food, atmosphere, and service. Not only did this save us a bunch of money, but it gave us an unforgettable experience that was just as meaningful for our guests.

Photography by Andrea Zajonc

Ceremony Venue Oaks Pioneer Church
Dress Boutique Brides For A Cause
Dress Designer Needle And Thread
Florist Floral Sunshine
H&MU Marina Haynes
Officiant Rev. Dee Richardson
Wedding Planner Elope In Portland
Wedding Rings Atomic Gold

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