A large Catholic family means a large wedding – 250 guests to be exact. Colleen, an artist and eternal optimist who is always testing out new cookie recipes, and Ellen, a paralegal and avid non-fiction reader with a tendency toward pessimism, married in a church and rented out a bowling alley for an epic reception.

DWH: What has your relationship been like?

C & E: We dated for about 5 years before getting married but have known each other since singing together in the church choir freshman year of college, long before either of us even knew we were queer.  Years later, we reconnected through social media and began visiting whenever we were in our hometown for holidays.

The first few years of our relationship we dated long distance and spent a lot of time riding the Megabus from Chicago to Cleveland to visit each other.

Now we live together in Ohio where we try to spend lots of time hosting friends, cooking and enjoying the outdoors in all kinds of weather.

DWH: What was it important for you to get married now?

C & E: The world has been pretty depressing lately, celebrating love and community almost feels like an act of resistance and certainly a breath of fresh air. We see marriage not only as a private commitment to each other but also a public one to our community, taking that step connected us to the support of our family and friends and a long history of couples who’ve promised to help each other grow and tried to add joy and love to the world.

DWH: Tell us about this wedding day, it sounds incredible!

C & E: To us, the most important parts of the wedding were having everyone we loved there and making sure everyone had fun.

We had a big church wedding officiated by a friend who is a pastor. To us, the rituals of the ceremony and making our commitment in front of family and friends was the central part of the day.

As Catholics, we couldn’t get married in our own church, but we were warmly welcomed by a local Presbyterian church and we were able to tweak parts of the ceremony to make sure that it reflected our own faith and background.

For music, we chose our favourite church songs and everyone sang along, it all just felt so joyful and natural.

We have a reputation for hosting good parties, so we knew our reception had to be epic!

After touring a bunch of big reception halls and art gallery type venues, we realised that we didn’t want dancing and drinking to be the central activities and widened our search. A formal dinner in a room full of tables isn’t what you’d plan for any other party, so why would we want that at the best party of the year?

We ended up renting out a bowling alley for the night and it was perfect! It was so relaxed because people could naturally move between the bar, bowling and dancing areas and really mingle.

Instead of a first dance, we threw out the first ball with our parents!

DHW: We weren’t wrong, incredible! What was your favourite part of the day?

C: The night before the wedding, we had a slumber party with the whole wedding party at the Cleveland Hostel. I loved having a smorgasbord breakfast with everyone in the morning and seeing our friends get to know one another.

Our parents and siblings came after breakfast to help us get ready and it was all so much more relaxed and chill than I would have expected. I don’t know how I didn’t freak out, but everything went so smoothly. Our friends helped us with hair and makeup and both of our mums came to the rescue with sewing kits!

E: I am really glad we chose to do first look photos. Originally, I thought that it was sort of a cheesy idea but seeing Colleen in her dress and having a few minutes together was a wonderful way to start the day. We kept our dresses secret from each other until that moment and Colleen totally took my breath away! We had actually shopped for our dresses together, but in different dressing rooms, with our friends and moms running back and forth to make sure we didn’t choose clashing (or matchy!) dresses. It was fun to have that special secret in the midst of all the planning.

DWH: How did you go sticking to a wedding budget?

C & E: Like everyone, we didn’t want to spend our life savings on a party, but we also knew from the start that we would have a huge guest list.

We cut out some big things, like a DJ and florist, in order to afford feeding 250 people and were lucky that our parents were able to be generous.

Our friends pitched in on everything from picking up the trays of food at the restaurant and decorating the bowling alley to making the bouquets and DJ-ing the dance floor. Instead of a tiered cake, we had a dessert buffet with a mixture of signature goodies contributed by our guests or purchased from local bakeries.

It was fun to have everyone involved and I like to think most people appreciated being part of the excitement and being trusted with helping out. Being surrounded by supportive and joyful people all weekend was a truly beautiful feeling!

DWH: Do you have any standout vendors?

C & E: We really lucked out with vendors! We found an amazing dress shop (Bendora Wedding Gallery) that sells only consignment dresses, so they had a great variety of styles and the prices were affordable. The seamstress we worked with was creative and talented and so excited to do a two-bride wedding.

Obviously, normal sizes don’t fit Ellen so the dress had to be totally taken apart and rebuilt, the seamstress even used the extra skirt fabric to make sleeves!

The event manager at our venue (Mahall’s 20 Lanes) made everything so easy, she was really relaxed and open to any idea we threw at her. Our food came from a local Polish restaurant (Sokolowski’s) that often caters to graduation parties and church festivals, we had sent friends to pick up the big foil trays right after the ceremony and people served themselves buffet style. It really was the most delicious food in town.

And, of course, our photographer (Rachel Joy Barehl) was amazing! She was so in tune with the feel of the day and kept us on track but focused on each other. She captured a million good shots without ever being in the way or pulling people away from their partying.

It is great to know that the money we spent went to truly talented local people who share our values.

Photography by Rachel Joy Barehl