We’ve been together for 3.5 years. We met at a queer dance party called Night Crush, three days after Ari moved to Seattle for a three-month travel nursing contract. She was only supposed to be in Seattle for the summer, so we decided to keep things “super casual.” Within three months, though, we had moved in together. By six months in, we had adopted our first dog, and gotten a shared phone plan and matching tattoos. It was pretty clear early on that we were in this for the long haul.
We first decided to get married the night of the 2016 presidential election. We were absolutely distraught, of course, and one of our many fears was that we would lose our marriage rights. In between sobs, Ari accidentally blurted out that we should just get married, because what if we weren’t going to be able to anymore? The next day, we talked about it again, more calmly, and realised that we wanted this, regardless of the political situation. We chose an acquaintance of ours, a queer person of colour who has his own small jewellery design business, to help us design our rings, and said that either one of us could pop the question when we felt so inspired.
For Kat’s birthday, a few months later, we went on a weekend trip to the San Juan Islands, which are a few hours away, and our favourite little escape from reality. Ari planned a picnic near a lighthouse in a state park, and made a cute queer playlist of artists we love. We were the only people around – just us and the ocean, little seabirds and seals. Kat kept asking why Ari wasn’t eating anything, and was taking FOREVER to eat her stupid little cheese rollups, while Ari got more and more anxious.
Finally, Ari pulled out the rings and told Kat that she wanted to be together forever.
Neither of us really remember exactly what was said, except that at the end of it, Kat said, “Are you proposing to me?” Ari said, “I’m trying to,” and then burst into tears. Haha! Anyways, we both laughed and cried and kissed and took a bunch of selfies and it was perfect.
We were actually pretty relaxed about the whole wedding planning thing until a few months before the wedding; when we started getting stressed out with everything there was left to do. We were so lucky to have our loved ones by our side the whole time, supporting us and helping us plan everything and offering to take things off our plate.
Finding the perfect outfits was a nightmare. First, we had to decide what we wanted to wear. We both are androgynous, and wear a lot of menswear, but we didn’t want to be twinning all night. Kat decided to wear a suit, but she’s only 5’1” with a juicy booty so there’s no way she could have bought one at the store. She had her suit custom made by Duchess Clothier, a Portland company that makes suits for all kinds of human bodies. Portland is three hours away from Seattle, so it was a lot of driving back and forth for fittings, but definitely worth it. Her shoes were from Tomboy Toes, who make dapper shoes for tiny queer feet.
Ari, who is nonbinary, wanted to wear something that felt genderless. She found a jumpsuit from ASOS, but it needed some major adjustments. She has had top surgery, so we had to find a tailor willing and able to take the garment completely apart and put it back together for a flat chest; as well as make other alterations, like cutting off the sleeves, and bringing in the pants legs so it looked less like a gown. This was more challenging than you would think. It involved lots of crying and pledges to just wear a garbage bag instead, but the end result was everything she dreamed of. She wanted to wear silver oxford flats, but when she found the perfect pair, they would only ship to the UK. Luckily, one of Ari’s friends is living in England right now and was kind enough to buy the shoes and mail them to us.
We wore matching earrings, and Kat had a pocket watch that Ari bought for her as a wedding gift. Ari wore a triangle necklace that Kat gave her the night before the wedding, and a very special necklace that she made herself out of one of Kat’s wisdom teeth. Normal people stuff.
Kat doesn’t like being the centre of attention; and found the idea of saying vows in front of 130 people really horrifying, but we still wanted to write our own vows to exchange privately. The morning of our wedding, we sat in bed and read our vows to each other, and it was one of the best parts of the whole day. We laughed and cried and it was the perfect way to centre ourselves on what really matters before getting into all the craziness.
We had a big wedding party: Kat’s side was her sisters and friends she’s had since childhood; Ari’s side was her siblings, and some of her closest friends from the various places she’s lived over the last 15 years. Our dogs, Pizza and Brown Cow, were there, too, all dressed up for the party. We all got to the venue early to hang out and get ready. I’m pretty sure that half of the people there had a role in getting Kat dressed – there’s a picture of Ari’s little brother kneeling on the floor to help Kat get her pocket watch on right that pretty much sums up how sweet and helpful all of our people were (not pictured, Ari’s friends doing the equally important work of handing her paper cups full of champagne and trying to force her to eat a mini bagel). Then we did pictures as a couple and with our wedding party – after weeks of a heat wave, it rained on our wedding day (of course), which made getting pictures done a little tricky, but the skies cleared up just before the party started, and we made it work.
We had a cocktail hour before the ceremony, so people could have a chance to socialise a little, take a polaroid and sign the guestbook, and get a drink. Instead of having a formal procession in, we just all sort of headed up there together (including Pizza and the Cow) when the song started playing. It felt more true to us than making things super formal. Our brilliant and beautiful friend, Skylar, officiated the wedding, and it was the best ceremony we could have imagined. It was so funny, so sweet, and so authentic – we feel so lucky to have had our ceremony performed by somebody who loves us so much, and who truly understands who we are, and what our relationship is all about. After Skylar said a million nice things that made us cry, Ari read an excerpt from a poem called Royal Heart by our favourite poet, Andrea Gibson, about opening yourself up to being in a relationship, and being willing to go all in, knowing that it won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it. The last few lines say, “Baby, throw me. Throw me as far as I can go. I don’t want to leave this life without ever having come home, and I want to come home to you. I can figure out the rain.” Then we did a little repeat-after-me section, exchanged our rings, and that was that! Looking out at our guests and seeing so many people we love, smiling and crying and just radiating love towards us was an unexplainable feeling.
After the ceremony, we got right into dinner and dancing. There was a photo booth upstairs that was a huge hit – you know queer people don’t mess around when it comes to photo booths. People got printouts of their photo strips, and we got a copy, too. There are so many hot and funny pictures from that photobooth – we’re so glad we splurged on it. The one low point of the day was the food – it wasn’t that great to begin with, and then it ran out really fast, due to a catering disaster. Luckily, our families jumped in to save the day, before we even knew there was a problem, running out to grab cheeseburgers and egg rolls, and ordering a dozen gourmet pizzas. Honestly, watching all our friends dancing around, feeding each other slices of pizza was really funny and cute, so it all worked out in the end. For dessert, we had tiny pies, because one of our first dates was eating pie on a blanket in the park, black and grey cupcakes, and the amazing rainbow cake.
That’s pretty much it – we danced until midnight and then went home and ate leftover pizza and champagne naked in bed. I wouldn’t change a thing about our day (except maybe picked a different caterer) – it really was everything we had imagined.
After the wedding, we went back to the San Juans for a few days, and got tattoos of the last lines from our wedding poem. Kat’s says: I want to come home to you; Ari’s says: I can figure out the rain. Then we went to Michigan, and had a casual, fun, outdoor party (no ceremony, just dancing and picnic-style food and booze) with Ari’s family and Midwest people who couldn’t make the long trip to the west coast, as well as Kat’s sisters, who came along for round two.
Neither of us ever thought we wanted to get married – until we both suddenly felt otherwise!
For us, marriage is important for a few reasons. Partly, we wanted the legal recognition of our relationship. Ari volunteered for years with the marriage equality campaign in the state of Illinois, with an amazing group of activists. During that time, she learned a lot about how the law benefits married people – passing property and money to your partner after death, tax breaks, insurance issues, and the ability to be with your partner in the hospital, or help make healthcare decisions if your partner is incapacitated, to name a few. The rights of queer and trans people are under attack in the United States – this administration is literally trying to strip trans and nonbinary people of our civil rights, and delegitimise our very existence. While marriage equality is not as pressing an issue as the death rate of trans women of colour, or unequal access to health care for queers, etc, being married legally protects our relationship and our lives, so a certain degree.
More importantly, though, we wanted to be married because we wanted to make that commitment to each other. Being married hasn’t changed a lot in our day to day lives – it’s pretty much the same as not being married, only cuter, because we get to call each other wife. It feels different, though. It feels special. Marriage, for us, is publicly declaring our commitment to each other. Not through cisheteronormative rules about having kids, monogamy, or settling down, but by standing up in front of everybody that we love, and saying that we are for each other, we’re in this for life, and our love is worth celebrating.
Photography Chelsea Terry Photography | Cake Maggie Matthews | Ceremony & Reception Venue Canvas Event Space | Celebrant Skylar Audesirk | Day of Coordination Sherrina Sezto | DJ Reverend Dollars | Rings Joseph Keith Jewelry | Hair Allyson Hoepfner at Red Chair Salon | Lighting Stokes Productions | Photobooth SnapBar | Signage Kate Bernatche & Emily Shine | Pet Accessories Flowers and Frosting | Cows Bow Tie The Dapper Dog Shop
Kat’s Outfit: Suit & Shirt Duchess Clothier | Shoes Tomboy Toes
Ari’s Outfit: Jumpsuit ASOS, tailored by Nordstrom | Shoes Zalando