It’s challenging dating someone in the military who’s away for work for months on end, but every sacrifice has been worth it to be together.
How did your love story begin?
We started dating in September of 2015. We met because we were both looking to make friends after we each moved out to California by ourselves and met on the beach. She was there for a college back-to-school bash, and I was just hanging out with coworkers. We started talking, went on one date (with extremely bad sushi), and we just couldn’t handle not being together more.
Tell us about the proposal.
D: Jess was about to graduate college. Which was also right by her birthday, and I made plans to steal her for a night from family and friends to celebrate her “big day.”
She’s always been a sucker for sunsets and views. So I arranged for a sunset horseback ride that would conclude with a private room back at the stables. It was already set up with a fireplace, candles, flowers, a romantic backdrop of the Calabasas mountains, and ready for us when we concluded our trail ride. We rode right past it, and she said, “wow, that’s so cute I can’t believe someone planned that for their person.” It took everything in me to not lose it.
While the rest of our horseback trail group offloaded the horses and left. We got a private treat feeding the horses and once we were alone, we had the room to ourselves. I was so nervous I couldn’t even speak, and she still had no idea what was happening. She just kept saying, “I can’t believe you did this for my birthday!” She started taking so many pictures and just was overwhelmed by excitement for just how romantic everything was. I finally had to stop Jess from enjoying the scenery to tell her how I feel and pop the question finally. It wasn’t until I pulled out the ring and asked that she finally understood what the “surprise” was all about.
Darah, you struggled with an unspupportive family while planning your wedding, tell us more.
D: Leading up to the wedding, my family was not supportive. They kept questioning if I was really gay. If Jess was an equal partner and if I was making a mistake. They said they didn’t support or couldn’t celebrate the wedding because they didn’t see our marriage as a true wedding or could believe that I was doing this for love.
My mom has always been controlling and extremely hurtful. Even weeks before the wedding she sent a message to Jess trying to tear her down and blame everything on her, explaining she was bad for me. Leading up to right before the wedding, my parents were at the restaurant directly above where we had our rehearsal dinner trying to withhold my sister from attending our bachelorette party and ultimately had my brother show up last minute, knowing he was our ring man. Many of my family’s sabotage was done just days before the wedding to try to make it as difficult as possible to get married.
What led you to deciding to marry at the beach?
We always wanted to be married on the beach, we had met in SoCal and being in the military. So it was important for us to incorporate all three. We got married at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside on the beach, and it was perfect.
Also as we were having a fall wedding and wanted to incorporate fall colors, burnt orange is Jess’s favorite, and Teal is mine. We wanted it to be beachy, relaxed, and just intimate. Full of love with friends and family since they were all traveling for our big day.
Tell us your experiences finding the perfect outfits for you both?
D: I took forever, changing my decisions probably fifteen times. I struggled to find the perfect outfit because I struggled to know who I was and what I truly wanted to portray of me on my big day. Knowing I wanted all white, but I really struggled with wearing a dress or suit. I ultimately finalized my outfit with an elegant but simple white pant and vest suit with a touch of color in my bowtie. I also knew I didn’t want a bouquet but still wanted a feminine aspect, so I came up with the flower sash as the last touch.
J: I went into the bridal shop looking for a short and simple dress and I ended up finding a beautiful long train with a sparkle v cut dress, and I knew it was the one. I tried on one other dress and nothing compared to the other one, and I knew that even though it was a dress I never imagined I’d pick, it was perfect.
Tell us all about the wedding day.
D: A funny bit for the big day was when our venue told us as long as we provided a list of all guests and vendor’s names to the military base front gate, they would be allowed on base. Well, that information never got passed from our venue to the security front gate. So the morning of our wedding, I had to drive back and forth every time a guest or vendor tried to access the base. Which caused a HELLACIOUS and stressful morning!
Nonetheless, Jess and her bridal party got ready in her villa next door. And I got ready with my party at my villa. We were doing everything we could not to peek over.
After we were dressed, Jess and I did a “first touch” where we kept our eyes closed but just had a moment to be together and share words of love before we made the long walk. The ceremony was small and intimate and beautifully done. Of course, we both were balling and had everyone else crying during the exchange of our self-written vows.
After the conclusion and taking pictures with family and our bridal party, all of our guests headed up to our reception room with a beachside outdoor patio to enjoy cocktail hour and watch the sunset. Jess and I had our own private post-ceremony photoshoot on the beach that lasted until sunset, and our reception began just after.
Our reception was a bit traditional, but being that my parents weren’t there, I had the daddy/daughter dance with my youngest brother.
The rest of the night was spent dancing and enjoying our loved ones. And once the reception was over, we ended the night with a bonfire on the beach.
What are your favorite moments?
My favorite moments were just being able to spend time with friends and family members that had all traveled out to see us for the big day. But of course, the best moment was when I first saw Jess after I turned around at the alter.
Another one of our favorite moments of the day was the cake smash into each other’s faces. The reactions we got from our guests who weren’t expecting two women to do that were amazing!
Do you have a stand out vendor?
Bri Short, our photographer, was definitely our stand out vendor. Her enthusiasm and positivity just took all the awkwardness of any photoshoot. She was so authentic and down to earth and was truly able to capture our emotion and every little detail of our day. She was referred to us by a family friend, and although we never met or knew her before our wedding, she felt like family from the first time we talked. Her attention to detail and just pure rawness and love for LOVE was incredible and so inspiring.
Any advice for other couples planning a wedding?
Communicate early and often with your partner to establish what values mean the most to you and what will make YOUR day perfect. Regardless of what any family or friends say. Don’t let anyone dictate who should or shouldn’t be there. Trust your gut, and incorporate anything that expresses your love and who both of you are. Also, have a backup plan for pretty much everything because you never know what could happen. Even just the day before or of the wedding.
Photography by Bri Short Photography
Cake Karla Makholm
Cake Topper BytheSeaWedding
Catering Pacific Views Event Center
Engagement Rings Newport Beach Jewelers
Entertainment Southwest Production Group, DJ Richard
Florist Brandi Nicole Floral Design
H&MU Peretti Hill
Venue Del Mar Beach
Wedding Party Outfits Azazie
Wedding Rings Arthur Jeweler