THE LOVE TALE & ENGAGEMENT
We have been together for eight years now. We went on our first date in January of 2012 after meeting online through OkCupid, before dating apps even existed! Ashlee had just returned from studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa and Jen had just began graduate school in Oakland, California before this initial meet up. Once together in person, we found ourselves so lost in conversation that we barely ate dinner and knew that we had found something one of a kind!
A little over six years later, in August of 2018, we proposed to one another at Heidrun Meadery in Point Reyes Station. We knew that this space was the perfect spot to get engaged as it was where we first talked about getting married! We asked one of Ashlee’s close friends to take photographs for us as we shared meaningful words with one another in a beautiful garden setting surrounded by the most spectacular flowers.
We both wrote words to say to one another to ask the big question and were involved in picking out rings together. Although we didn’t know it, we both created a customized ring box to use during our proposal. The day of our proposal itself, we pulled out our ring boxes one at a time only to realize that we had independently purchased the same design of wooden ring box from the exact same individual on Etsy! We were so excited and simultaneously not at surprised as it was just another representation of our being in sync with one another.
After taking a few months to soak up the excitement of introducing each another as “fiancé”, we began the process of thinking about where we might want to make it official. Our engagement was about 14 months and we appreciated being able to have this amount of time to add many thoughtful details as an offering of love for our family and friends. We were also grateful to be able to take engagement photos with our wedding photographer in some of our favorite and most meaningful places in the East Bay including Joaquin Miller Park, Albany Bulb, and at our home in Berkeley with our dog Jay.
PLANNING THE WEDDING
When thinking about the feeling of our wedding, we really wanted to create an intentional and memorable experience for our friends and family to come together in celebration of our marriage. We wanted to support and highlight local vendors and individuals with whom we were connected as much as possible.
One of our vendors that helped us to create the most incredible vibe was our live band, Vybe Society. This team really became a part of our community during the process of crafting the musical moments throughout our special day. We loved being able to go to their showcases before our wedding and will continue to do so throughout our marriage! Another vendor that we felt really helped support the theme of our wedding was our floral team from Front Porch Farms. We knew that we wanted to support a local grower that highlighted the gorgeous fall earth tones that are in season this time of year and were blown away by the art she created to help bring even more beauty to our fantastic venue.
One of the most important DIY projects that happened for our big day was that Ashlee’s aunt hand propagated over 150 individual succulents for our family and friends as guest favors! These succulents were grown as cuttings from Ashlee’s Nana’s garden and was truly a labor of love, being re-potted many times and painstakingly cared for the months before our wedding. We purchased garden tags from Etsy to add to our favors with the message “Let love grow” so that our loved ones could take a piece of the earth with them and continue to cultivate this succulent as a memory from our wedding. Another series of DIY projects were taken on by Jen’s sister, who is incredibly creative. She single handedly created all of the chalkboard signs we used during our wedding and baked a delicious rainbow layer cake from scratch for us to cut together!
One part of our wedding that we wanted to keep a surprise from one another were our outfits. Jen found her dress at a bridal store in San Francisco, the second store she visited with her mother and sisters. Jen was so relieved to find a dress in which she felt “that feeling” that was simultaneously very comfortable.
Ashlee’s journey of finding the perfect outfit was a particularly special one! Ashlee’s vision was to create a wedding jumpsuit using her grandmother’s wedding dress from the 60s that her mother also wore during her marriage, which happened to be on the exact day and year Jen was born! Ashlee, her mother, and grandmother worked closely with a bridal alterations and design specialist for this project. After about nine different appointments, an individualized jumpsuit was created from scratch, transforming a portion of the skirt from the original family dress into a removable train to attach to the jumpsuit.
THE WEDDING DAY
One component of our wedding that meant a great deal to us was our marriage ceremony. We exchanged both shared vows that we wrote together as well as our own individual words to one another. Following this ceremony, we had the privilege of being able to celebrate into the night with the most amazing live music surrounded by our dearest loved ones.
We are incredibly grateful to have also had the support of our families who were with us all along the way. Everyone contributed to making our wedding a success, especially our parents and siblings. We were appreciative to have extended family and friends in attendance of our wedding from all across the country.
There were so many favorite moments, from walking out hand and hand after having our first kiss as wives to being lifted up in chairs surrounded by our friends and families during the Hora, we had so many unforgettable memories from our wedding day! Some of our very favorite memories were also the intentional times that we carved out moments to just be with one another. One such moment was that we requested that immediately after the ceremony we have ten minutes away from the cameras and the excitement to be present with each other. Being able to spend this one-on-one this time with each other throughout the day made all the difference as it allowed us to slow down and take it all in.
We collaborated closely with our officiant to create an intentional experience that included many meaningful cultural and religious traditions. We incorporated the African American ritual of jumping the broom. For us, this custom represents the joining of two families and jumping into a new life and making a home together. We wanted to also include this ritual to remind us of a time when vows were not legally sanctioned for African slaves in the United States so they jumped the broom as a way to ceremonially unite. We also included the Jewish tradition of breaking the glass, honoring the transformation couples experience when they commit to one another in marriage. For us, this ritual embodies the hope that our bond of love be as difficult to break as it would be to put together the pieces of glass while simultaneously breaking down barriers within our marriage.
If we were to offer any advice to couples planning a wedding it would be to be true to your own vision as a couple. Rather than trying to meet the expectations of everyone who may have an investment in your special day, it is incredibly important to distill down the core values that you have individually and within a partnership when creating this experience. Whether it be during premarital counseling while taking a long hike, or over a cup of coffee in the morning, we believe in having meaningful discussions about shared core beliefs because it is not just about the wedding day, but the lives you are building together!
Our relationship as an interracial, interfaith, same-sex couple has included the process of navigating many challenges while joining our lives. These invaluable experiences allowed us the opportunity to develop a rich, multi-faceted partnership. We deeply value communication and have gratitude for the windows of connection between our own individual stories. We believe in marriage as a journey of continuously cultivating our relationship, life-long self-reflection and growth, and taking the time to express gratitude for one another during both celebratory and challenging times.
A quote that guided us throughout the process of planning our wedding and has been meaningful during our entire relationship is from the phenomenal Maya Angelou:
“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope”
As we experience the first months of marriage, we do so with this quote in mind and with the knowledge that our commitment to one another will be a journey of loving accountability, communication, challenge, and hope.
Photographer Susan Adler Photography
Band Vybe Society
Catering Elaine Bell Catering
Coordination Lisa Bravo Events
Custom Jumpsuit Designer AlekSandraD Fashion and Design
Florals Front Porch Farms
Gown Made with Love Bridal
Hair and Makeup Whimsy Bridal
Officiant Jacqueline Duhart
Rentals Encore Events Rentals
Venue Olympia’s Valley Estate
Videography Blue Moon Productions