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Emily & Erica – Finding Love Amongst Unhappy Marriages

Emily & Erica – Finding Love Amongst Unhappy Marriages

Ashley Biltz Photography Pittsburg Pennsylvania lgbt same-sex two brides lesbian USA American wedding Dancing With Her directory magazine

Erica was married to a man, and Emily was also in an unhappy marriage when these two met while working together at the same law firm. Their connection and chemistry was undeniable.

Tell us more about meeting one another, and falling in love.

Emily and I met while working together at the same law firm. I was a younger associate and unhappily married to a man, while she was a successful partner, also I’d eventually learn, unhappily married. Emily was out and had been for years. I was in the midst of an existential crisis, so to speak.

Though I had run into Emily in the office elevator on occasion, we had never been formally introduced or had a real conversation. In fact, I thought she was intimidating, if not a bit unapproachable, and I didn’t have much interest in attempting to develop a friendly relationship with her.

Meanwhile, in January of 2016, I broke down in the shower crying one night, realizing I hadn’t explored something really important about myself – my sexuality and orientation. I couldn’t even explain why I was just having this revelation, but it was happening, and it was real. Feeling trapped, and frankly panicked, because I was in married to a man, and I didn’t know what my path forward should be.

Six months later, at a firm retreat, I was frankly annoyed to find that my accommodations for the evening happened to be in the same hallway with only one other lawyer – and that it was Emily. When I walked out of my room for dinner, she was there, and so we had to walk the grounds together. My annoyance at being “stuck” with someone I wasn’t even friendly with dissipated quickly. Immediately, I was taken aback at how friendly and funny she was, something I wasn’t expecting. And of course, her confidence combined with her beauty was striking, and I immediately felt an attraction to her, unlike any I had felt before. The rest, I guess they would say, is history.

After that, our paths kept crossing – it truly did feel like the stars aligned for us, even if the circumstances weren’t ideal. We’d run into each other in the elevator bank, in the building lobby, in the hallways – though we never really had in the past. I found myself walking out of my way through the office, just so I could pass by her office. And I kept creating excuses to talk to her, even though we didn’t work on cases together.

One night, I was out celebrating with some colleagues, and someone mentioned that Emily was likely also out celebrating because she’d had a big court filing that day. He texted her, and I became inexplicably ecstatic at the possibility of seeing her out in a social setting. Before I knew it, we were all out together, laughing over cocktails. After that interaction, I knew immediately that I had to explore my feelings for Emily, and more importantly, what that meant about me. It wasn’t just about Emily – it was about learning about myself and accepting and loving this realization about myself.

Within a few months, Emily and I had both left our marriages and fell very quickly into a serious and committed relationship. It wasn’t always easy, especially initially having to hide our relationship in the workplace. Nonetheless, we often say that we feel as if we are cheating the universe, because over four years later, we couldn’t be more in love or committed to one another – which culminated in our marriage this October.

We often say we think the obstacles we had to overcome in the beginning of our relationship made our bond even stronger.

In the midst of all of this, I had to figure out what my coming out experience would be like. In the end, I just revealed our relationship to family and friends in a way that felt authentic to me. I did it with no hesitation and was fortunate enough to be greeted with an immense amount of love and support from most. I did lose a few friends in my journey, and a few family members distanced from me, but overall, I learned who was really in my corner, and what really mattered most to me in life – meaningful relationships with family and friends who love and support us unconditionally.

Tell us about the proposal. 

Erica: I had been in South Carolina staying in a hotel during a federal trial for nearly a month. Our reward for spending that much time apart (the most we had spent apart in almost three years) was a splurge vacation to Santorini, Mykonos, and Athens. I bought Emily’s ring while I was away on trial, and it took all of me to keep the surprise – I was so excited. 

As soon as we got to our cave-house Airbnb in Santorini, I knew that’s where I wanted to propose, and I knew I couldn’t wait to do it. Our first morning there, I had the ring with me on our patio overlooking the cliffs and the Aegean Sea, but I was so nervous I kept delaying the proposal.

Before I knew it, our breakfast was over, and we were planning our activities for the day. Emily went to get some supplies from the local store and some fresh coffee for me, so I worked up the courage while she was gone. When she returned, I finally proposed (which I had rehearsed more than I care to admit). We both cried, and she said yes. Then, she abruptly got up and went into the house, leaving me confused. She returned within moments, with a ring for me. Unbeknownst to me, she had also planned to solidify our relationship that trip. It was a magical day and trip. 

What lead you to the wedding venue? 

Erica: The park where we were married is actually a place we hadn’t been to before, despite being very familiar with the area. We happened across it from viewing photos and knew it was the perfect location for us. Especially because Em isn’t religious, so we wanted to respect that for our ceremony. Even though I had lived just about a mile from the park when I was in law school, I never saw it. Finally, two days before our wedding, Emily and I made a little day-date out of going to walk through the park, and it was just a stunning as we imagined. 

Emily was the one who had the idea of using our backyard as the reception venue, and it ended up making our wedding even more special than we could have dreamed. During planning, she asked me to go out onto our back patio with her. She wrapped her arms around me, pointing out to the backyard. Explaining her imagination for where our reception would be, and saying how we would forever enjoy the memory of hosting the event at our home. It was perfect. We’ll always have these fond memories of celebrating our love at our forever home. 

Tell us about the DIY projects that brought your day to life.

We did as we are both pretty hands-on when it comes to planning and hosting – we love entertaining. We bought many lanterns and decorated each of them (approx. 25-30) with flowers, greenery, and rope. The lanterns were used throughout our backyard and reception area, and my dad assisted us by hanging them from trees, deck, etc., to create the environment we were hoping to achieve. 

We also created table signs for guests to read about each LGBTQ+ figure/ally we selected for our table names. It was important that our guests understand these figures’ importance in our lives and those in our community. 

https://vimeo.com/486162756
Tell us about your wedding day.

It was perfect for us. We spent the morning alone together, finishing some last-minute things and exchanging gifts in private. Then, our nearest and dearest arrived to have some champagne and do hair and makeup with us. We had a blast just celebrating with our moms, our closest friend who officiated the wedding, and my cousin, who was one of the first to know of our relationship. 

Then, we went to the city for our ceremony, where Emily surprised me with a live violinist. Our ceremony included our best friend marrying us. Each of us writing our own wedding vows, and excerpts of the US Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage as one of the readings, as well as a gorgeous poem by another of our closest friends. It was perfectly us and super personal, which is exactly what we wanted.

What are your favorite moments? 

Our officiant was our best friend, the Supreme Court decision as a reading, our own written vows to one another. All of the personal touches at the reception. Including the personalized table names, hand-selected music our DJ so graciously played. And most importantly – celebrating our marriage with those closest to us, especially during a pandemic. 

As for our reception, it was important that it felt less like a wedding and more like a party. We simply wanted to celebrate our love with those who mean the most to us. Which was even more profound amid a pandemic. 

Do you have a stand out vendor? 

Honestly, we felt spoiled by the incredible vendors who helped bring our day to fruition. Above all, our videographer and photographer documented our day in a way that was beyond our wildest dreams. They have both gifted us with priceless mementos to remember our wedding day, and we couldn’t be more grateful. On top of that, they’re both genuinely remarkable human beings who made us feel comfortable and special on our wedding day. 

It was important to us that the people who would spend the entire day with us were not only incredibly talented but also kind, welcoming, and genuine. We actually parted ways with our original photographer after feeling a very cold reaction (i.e., never communicated with us at all once she learned we were a gay couple). That, coupled with some very insensitive social media posts, led us to realize we hadn’t spent enough effort focusing on who we wanted documenting our day. We immediately reached out for some referrals, and we’re beyond fortunate that our photographer had availability for us.

What does marriage mean to you?

Marriage simply is an official commitment for the legal recognition of our relationship. Honestly, though, we felt just as committed to ourselves before our wedding as we do now. It was still essential for us to make things “official,” not because of the outside pressures but rather because we wanted one another to enjoy the special ties that married couples enjoy.


Photography by Ashley Biltz Photography

Accessories The Exquisite Bride, Dareth Colburn Designs, Cartier, Ferragamo
Cake Bella Christies and Lil Z’s Sweet Boutique
Catering
Bistro to Go
Ceremony Venue
Mellon Park Walled Garden
Cinematographer
Pictory Productions
Desserts
Erica’s Mom, Patti’s Pasticceria
Dress Alterations Michael’s Bridal Galleria
Entertainment DJ Scottro, Brett Trottier Music
Florist The Farmer’s Daughter Flowers
Gown Boutiques BHLDN, Jenny by Jenny Yoo
H&MU Dessa Marie Artistry, Emily Raad
Lighting EF Lighting
Planner Shayla Hawkins Events
Printer Prints of Love
Prop or Furniture Hire Party Savvy Event Rentals
Rings Blue Nile
Shoes Jimmy Choo
Stationery DIY Paper Boutique
Transport Elite Coach Transportation

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