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Melissa & Samantha – A Gatsby Inspired New Years Eve Wedding

Melissa & Samantha – A Gatsby Inspired New Years Eve Wedding

Jenn Marie photography South Bend USA American lesbian two bride same-sex couple wedding marriage Dancing With Her

These two lovers married in a Gatsby-inspired New Years’ Eve Wedding, incorporating personal and unique aspects throughout the ceremony and reception.

Tell us a little about yourselves?

S: We live in South Bend, Indiana, with our energetic mini-Goldendoodle, Lionel Messi. We’re both from the area. I grew up in a tiny country town called Nappanee, Indiana, and Melissa was raised just outside of South Bend in neighboring Mishawaka. 

We’re Hoosier natives, but Melissa has resided all over the world. As a professional basketball player after college, she spent time living in Germany, Finland, Iceland, and Puerto Rico. Melissa came back to the states in 2013 and now works at her alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. She is a Regional Director of Development for the Athletics Department. Where she gets to help former athletes, alumni, and devout supporters connect, engage, and give back to the university. 

I’m a lover of poetry and creative writing and make my living as a copywriter/content strategist for the Marketing Department at Lippert Components. A world-leading supplier of products for the R.V. and marine industries, located in Elkhart, Indiana.

We thoroughly enjoy traveling, despite my tremendous disdain for flying. I’d never even been on a plane until I started dating Melissa. But it was something from the start that I knew I had to conquer if I was going to keep up with and keep dating this girl. Melissa’s always had a job that requires travel, and her current position takes her to both the East and West Coasts frequently. Even though her schedule can be very hectic and lonely at times, her career has taken us on some very memorable trips. Exploring new cities together might be our favorite hobby. And even though it takes a lot of courage and glasses of wine for me to get on a plane, I’m always so happy I did. Drinking wine from a rooftop downtown San Francisco is a lot cooler than a rooftop in Indiana, ya know?

We’re also brewery enthusiasts and foodies who are always seeking new cuisines, beverages, and culinary adventures. And we balance that with a love for sports and the outdoors. We enjoy camping, hiking, and kayaking whenever the weather in Indiana permits us to do so. 

How long have you been together, and how did you meet?

We’ve been together since September of 2015. However, we grew up playing basketball against each other, starting in elementary school. (With Melissa’s team usually winning – considering she went on to be a standout point guard for the University of Notre Dame and professional athlete). But despite knowing of each other from a young age, our adult lives didn’t cross until June of 2015. 

I was with a group of friends who were walking into a crowded bar in Chicago for Pride weekend in the Andersonville neighborhood. Melissa was with a group of friends who just so happened to be leaving the same bar. I recognized her first and went up to say hi. It took her a second to realize who I was, but lucky for me, she remembered my name. We then had a very brief interaction before going our separate ways. 

Feeling intrigued and curious about my former basketball rival, I naturally looked her up on social media and sent a friend request on Facebook. Duh. But after a few days of no reply, I panicked and deleted the request out of pure embarrassment. Melissa, who is very rarely on Facebook, and has 40-50 unnoticed friend requests on any given day, had no idea I’d even attempted ever so slightly to reach out to her. 

Nearly two months go by, and on a scorching and humid day in August, I went out for a jog around the river in Mishawaka, where I was living at the time. And as it turns out, Melissa also decided to get a run in on this balmy day – same place, same time. I remember rounding a corner around the river and immediately seeing Melissa jogging towards me.

As our jogs moved us closer together, a wave of panic, embarrassment, and defeat came over me. Hoping she wouldn’t recognize me in my glasses, I smiled, waved, and upped my pace to a full sprint to get to my car before she realized who I was. On the other hand, Melissa, who hates running in general, smiled, waved, continued on her jog…then recognized who I was and went an extra lap around the river to find me. I, however, was long gone. So naturally, she too went to Facebook to find me.

Later that night, I received a message from her asking if I was running around the river earlier that day. We exchanged several messages after that, then we went on a first date (a jog around Notre Dame’s campus), and have been together ever since. 

Tell us about the proposal.

I proposed to Melissa on September 17th, 2018. I had planned this day for months. She was in the midst of a hectic time at work, so I booked a weekend getaway for the two of us in Traverse City, MI. Neither of us had been here before, but it was on our bucket list. And since exploring new cities is our favorite thing to do together, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to pop the question. 

Being a writer, I wanted to incorporate poetry into the proposal. When we first started dating, I would read poetry to Melissa at night, so it seemed fitting to build this in. Using some of the poems I had written for her throughout our relationship and writing some new ones, I compiled enough poetry to make a short book. One of the poems, of course, being my proposal poem.

I created the book online and had it printed as a hardback by an unknown author with the initials M.A.S. Which stood for Melissa and Sam, but was also convenient to playoff as Mary Ann Samyn, a poet I studied in grad school. 

While Melissa was away in California for work a few weeks before our trip, I told her Mary Ann Samyn was visiting campus for a reading, and I was going to go watch. A few hours later, I called her saying I’d just gotten back from the poetry reading, and I had brought home with me the author’s newest book. Fortunately, Melissa fell for this, hook, line, and sinker – and even suggested we take the book with us to Traverse City to read together.

Fast forward to our getaway weekend. We arrived in Traverse City on a Sunday, and Monday was going to be the big day. With unseasonable hot weather for that time of the year in Michigan, I planned a day of hiking out to the beach at Sleeping Bear Dunes. One of the most beautiful landmarks in the state, if not in the entire country. We set out for our hike that morning with a bottle of champagne and half a bottle of water in my backpack, along with a very nice ring.

Twenty or so minutes into our trek, we found it odd that we hiked dune after dune without seeing any beach or water. Wearing swimsuits, sandals and equipped with little hydration, this soon became a bit of a worry for me. Thankfully, we’re both in decent enough shape that we managed to navigate the nearly two miles of sand in eighty-five-degree heat and finally made it to the beach.

We popped champagne and took some pics. Then Melissa again fell right into my plan by asking if we could read my new book. Before we sat down on our beach towels, I secretly turned my camera to video and leaned it up against a log on the beach. I opened the book to the poem, “Uncharted” (a world that represents our relationship, our love for travel, and a new chapter in our lives) and began reading. A few stanzas in, Melissa said the poem sounded like my writing. I quickly reassured her it was the book I bought at the reading a few weeks ago. I kept reading and finally turned to the last page where the only line was, “Melissa, will you marry me?” She screamed I screamed, I pulled out the ring, and the rest is history.

Tell us more about your experience finding your wedding day outfits.

S: I knew from the start, for whatever reason, that I wanted a black jumpsuit with a white jacket. I wasn’t really sure what that was going to look like, but I decided early on, that was my attire. I began looking everywhere for a jumpsuit that was fancy and elegant enough for a wedding but came up short search after search. So, then I went to Instagram to find wedding jumpsuit hashtags, and that’s where I stumbled upon Varca Bridal in Chicago. She had a full line of white wedding jumpsuits but also did custom work. 

I reached out to Sarah Varca and asked if she’d be interested in a black jumpsuit and jacket. Being the cool, creative badass that she is, she was all about it, and our journey began. One of the first things Sarah does when she’s trying to get to know her custom brides is asking, “how do you want to feel on your wedding day?” I responded with, “I want to be a boss ass bitch.” And she nailed that 100% with my outfit. She’s truly a creative genius, and I don’t even know how she made the look she did for me, but it was absolutely perfect. 

M: I bought my dress from a local bridal boutique called Simply Yours. I went dress shopping in Chicago with some friends and my mom. The first dress I tried on, everyone told me that was the one. I didn’t believe them since it was the first dress and just thought everyone was getting emotional for the first one. 

After a few more stores and trying on several more dresses, the first dress really was the one. But I wanted to try a local store before I purchased anything, so I went to Simply Yours when I got back to South Bend. Lucky enough, they had almost the exact dress I had found, and it was a fraction of the price. It couldn’t have worked out better. I had no idea what I was looking for. I just knew I wanted something simple yet classic and got really lucky in finding a dress that met all those needs and more.

Was the wedding day everything that you hoped that it would be?

It was everything we planned for and more. I honestly can’t believe how perfect our day was.

After staying up a little too late with a few friends at the hotel bar the night before, Melissa and I kicked off the day by exchanging gifts and getting a workout in together. Although we slept in different rooms the night before, we wanted to see each other in the morning before getting ready. We work out every morning together anyway, so it’s just part of our routine. 

Then our different wedding crews showed up (friends, moms, and sisters), and we went into our different hotel suites to get ready with hair and makeup.

Melissa left the hotel first to go to the venue to put her dress on. I left shortly after to meet her with our photographer for the first look. I waited at the bar of the venue until she was ready. I’ll never forget turning to see her. I’ve been waiting for that moment for over four years. Calling her my wife is my greatest honor. And seeing her in her dress was like a realization that all my dreams were coming true. It was really happening, right here in front of me. I was so excited. She also flipped out over my outfit. She loved it and couldn’t believe how fitting it was for me. 

Next, we had our private ceremony performed by Melissa’s former boss and our close friend, Jimmy O’Connor. He got ordained to do our wedding, and we were both so honored to perform the ceremony for us. He even stopped in the middle to have wine served to everybody in attendance, including us. It was a Brunello that we gave him when we asked him to marry us. It was also perfect timing because I was getting nervous standing in front of everyone.

After the ceremony, we piled onto a party bus with our closest friends to drink and take pictures around South Bend. Since we didn’t have wedding parties, we still wanted a moment to celebrate with our closest peeps before the reception started.

Then comes my favorite part of the evening — our entrance into the reception. We stood at a balcony over everybody, and the D.J. played “Love” by Kendrick Lamar. Probably the coolest I’ll ever be in my life. Everybody cheered, and then we walked down a staircase to the dance floor for our first dance, “At Last” by Etta James.

After that, cake cutting and father/daughter dances were the only traditional moments for the rest of the night. We drank, partied, and turned way up with our awesome D.J. and his hype man. Best night ever!

Amazing!! If you could narrow it down, what are your favorite moments?

S: Walking out on the balcony to get introduced as Mrs. and Mrs. Lechlitner-Lewis. Finally!

M: The ceremony is definitely one of my favorite moments. Some candles lined the aisle, and everything was insanely beautiful. We had a private ceremony which was really intimate since it was just our immediate family and a handful of close friends. 

There were some very personal, unique aspects throughout the ceremony, which just reflected our relationship so well. It’s also hard not to mention the reception. We had all of our favorite family and friends in one room to celebrate. The dance floor was packed all night, and since it was New Year’s Eve, we were all able to bring in 2020 together. It was an absolute blast. 


Photography by Jenn Marie

Bridal Boutique Simply Yours Boutique
Cake Adam’s Cake Shop
Catering Navarre Hospitality Group
Celebrant James O’Connor 
Cinematographer
Tim Seitz
Engagement & Wedding Rings E.Newcomer & Sons Jewelry
Entertainment & Photobooth 27 Entertainment
Flower Girl Outfits Gap, Costco
Gown Designer Varca Bridal, Simply Yours
H&MU Jenn Fishburn, Allee Do My Makeup
Page Boy Outfits Calvin Klein, Gioberti, Vans
Planner & Stylist KJ Designs Denver
Signage & Stationery Andrew Turner 
Transport Royal Excursion
Venue The Armory
Wedding Favors Homemade Kahlua by Melissa’s mother

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Dancing With Her is created on the beautiful land of the Bundjalung Nation. We acknowledge that we have benefited from the colonialism which dispossessed the Bundjalung People of their land and culture, and pay our respects to Bundjalung elders, past, present and emerging. We acknowledge sovereignty was never ceded. The land we live and work on is Aboriginal Land.

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