Their proposal might have been unconventional, but for this couple who’ve known each other for more than 17 years, it was perfectly them.
Tell us about the rather uncoventional proposal.
We had casually talked about “If we ever get married,” or “Maybe after a year or so of living together, we can talk about getting married”- very casual conversations with no real proposal. Then, in March of 2019, we were on the phone, and Donna said, “Did you know 2020 has a leap year!? I wasn’t all that impressed by that trivial fact. Then, she followed up with, “But, the leap year falls on a SATURDAY next year!” I again said, “um… ok” Donna then says, “We should get married on a leap year.” I immediately said, in “2024? what happened to us living together for at least a year? I’m in town next weekend. Let’s talk about that when I get there.”
I’m a very rational, logical person. So, to me, more data was needed. I got to town the following weekend, and we sat down and made a pro/con list of whether we should try to plan a wedding in winter, a cross country move, and figure out which one of us was actually moving, in less than a year. Donna finally got up from her chair, came over, and said, “we can make lists for the next five hours. The question is, do we want to be married. And, Christina, I want you to be my wife. So, will you marry me?” All of my logical, list-making brain turned to mush. And, I cried ugly tears, and said YESSSSSSSSSS!!!! The frantic planning began!
We got engaged in March 2019, and the wedding was February 29, 2020! Eleven months to plan a wedding across the country was crazy! I traveled back to Pittsburgh about every five-six weeks, and those visits were packed with appointments.
Why did you choose Pittsburgh?
We chose to get married in Pittsburgh, PA, Donna’s home town. She has a larger, close family, and I knew my closest people would be willing to travel.
Donna and I had another venue in mind, but they had a temporary hold for another event. We waited and waited, hoping it would open up, but it didn’t. We went into panic mode, and I made a massive spreadsheet of potential venues. I flew back to Pittsburgh on a last-minute flight and toured nine venues in two days. As soon as we walked into the Energy Innovation Center, we knew it was meant to be. It’s a beautiful historic trade school remodeled and operates as a nonprofit that houses organizations that promote sustainable energy resources. That really appealed to us and with the tall industrial ceilings, original flooring, and the gorgeous views of downtown Pittsburgh. It was absolutely perfect.
What was the inspiration behind the theme?
We wanted a fun, playful theme. I love all things sparkly, so I wanted to incorporate anything that had sparkle and bling. We also wanted to pay homage to the building’s industrial theme, including metals like silver, gold, and copper.
We had a “game” theme. During cocktail hour, guests were able to enjoy playing games, such as Cornhole, Giant Jenga, and Connect Four, in addition to the photo booth. We had a popcorn bar and a cotton candy machine to round out the game/fun/carnival theme. Both were massive hits with our friends and family.
Talk to us about your outfits.
Donna had previously modeled for Thuy Custom Clothier, a queer designer in the bay area. So, as soon as we got engaged, she knew she wanted a custom Thuy suit. She also had a custom bowtie made by Knotzland bowties. Knotzland uses sustainable and recycled fabrics, and it is black-owned. It was essential for us to incorporate as many vendors who were queer and people of color as possible in our wedding.
I knew I wanted a blush pink dress with as much sparkle as I could find. Scouring gown sites and I found a Rebecca Ingram dress by Maggie Sottero. I stared at it online for about three weeks and then found a salon that had it in stock. I went and tried it on and loved everything about it, but I still wasn’t sure, I wanted MORE drama!
A few weeks later, I tried on the dress at another salon in Pittsburgh, PA, and mentioned to the owner that everything about the dress was perfect, but I wanted MORE. I said, “if only the train was a bit longer, and there was more detail down the back of the train.” She ducked into the back of the store and came back with good news. She had called the designer, and they were willing to customize my dream dress. They added eight more inches to the train’s length and shipped a massive envelope of extra appliques, which my expert seamstress placed all over the dress. I had the design I loved, in the color I wanted, with a sequin layer under blush tulle. It was perfect.
Talk to us about the wedding day.
The wedding, honestly, felt like a dream. We had more than one person say, “this looks like a movie wedding!” The venue was perfect, the caterer did a fantastic job, and the food was delicious, from the mini fried chicken and waffles to the prime rib and then, to the late-night snacks after dinner, kept everyone full and satisfied.
The ceremony and reception were in the same room, so the staff and our fantastic Day of Coordinator and her team flipped the room during cocktail hour. The space looked gorgeous for the ceremony, but once we walked back in after the room was flipped, it was magical. The lights were low, and our DJ provided purple and pink uplighting, and the lights of downtown Pittsburgh sparkled behind us.
We had about 115 people in attendance, and we were able to spend time with everyone. There was something for everyone. With the games that we had out, if someone didn’t want to dance, they could play games for a while. And the cotton candy!! We had grown folks dancing with their cotton candy, and it was adorable. I expected the kids to love that, but I think the adults enjoyed it much more!
Family and friends danced late into the night, and our loved ones surrounded us at the end of the night and actually sang one of my favorite songs to us while we danced. (Prince – Adore). It was so sweet.
Walk us through your wedding day song choices.
Our wedding party walked to an instrumental version of Ed Sheeran’s perfect. It was a cello, violin, and piano version.
Donna and her father walked in first, after our wedding party, and then one of my best friends walked me down the aisle to meet Donna at the altar. We walked to an instrumental version of Beyonce’s Halo, performed by Brooklyn Duo.
Our recessional song was another Beyonce song. Love On Top. It was fun and upbeat!
Our first dance song was Stand By Me, by Ben E. King, and Hey, Baby, by Bruce Channel (we went old school!). Our amazing DJ morphed the first song, which we did a box step to, into the second song, which we did a swing dance routine too (IN A BALL GOWN!)
What are some of your standout memories from the wedding day?
Our vows. We wrote our own vows, and one of my good friends performed the ceremony for us. It was so personal and sweet. There were tears and a lot of laughter throughout the ceremony, and it was absolutely us.
Donna’s college roommate would do a reading of “I wanna grow old with you” by Adam Sandler, from The Wedding Singer. The night before the wedding, he decided to sing the song instead of reading it. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the rehearsal, and the same thing happened at the wedding. There were tears everywhere. It was absolutely lovely.
I think our ultimate favorite moment, though, was our first dance. As I mentioned, we lived in different states and had only a few times in person with each other to practice our choreographed dance. We practiced the whole week leading up to the wedding, and every time, we made a bunch of mistakes. The morning of the wedding, we practiced once more and still made mistakes. And, I had never practiced in a huge ball gown that felt like it weighed a ton. I was terrified, and Donna was more confident that we could pull it off. We did our dance, which was a box step, leading to a swing dance, and it was absolutely perfect. It was such a fun dance, and we were SO happy.
What does marriage mean to you?
Growing old together. I know that may sound trivial, but we are looking forward to the basics over the coming decades. Since we were long distance for so long before we got married, all of the little things feel so precious. We love cooking dinner together, folding fitted sheets (no one can do those alone!), and planting new citrus trees in our yard. We have little oranges now. Donna teases me when she sees a gray hair, and I tease her for falling asleep mid-sentence. These are the things that make it perfect.
Photography by Kristy Lumsden Photography
Bow Tie Knotzland
Cake Moios’ Italian Pastry
Cake Topper Etsy
Catering Bistro To Go
Cinematographer Loyalty Entertainment LTD
Engagement & Wedding Rings Shane Co.
Entertainment Loyalty Entertainment
Florist One Happy Flower Shop
Gown Designer & Boutique Maggie Sottero, The White Orchid Bridal
Makeup I.Z. Beauty Pgh
Photo Booth Steel City Selfies
Planner & Stylist Day Of Pittsburgh
Printer Flower City Printmakers
Prop & Furniture Hire Eventioneers
Shoes Stacy Adams
Stationery & Signage Vistaprint
Suit Designer Thuy Custom Clothier
Transport W. L. Roenigk
Venue Energy Innovation Center
Wedding Favors Nice Price Favors
Wedding Party Outfits Davids Bridal