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Nic & Rachel – A Wedding in a Flower Garden

Nic & Rachel – A Wedding in a Flower Garden

Mary Bell Photography lesbian gay same-sex couple multi-cultural religious Filipino Asian American wedding Dancing With Her magazine

After 3 years of long-distance dating, and a proposal at a Betty Who concert, Nic and Rachel wed in a flower garden while the Viburnum were in full bloom.

Tell us about how you love story began.

We got married on our fourth dating anniversary. This May will be seven years together, three married. We officially met on Instagram. Nic was covering one of my favorite songs, “Somebody Loves You” by Betty Who. We talked for months before we decided to meet in NYC, her hometown, in the Summer of 2014. We dated for four years long distance due to school and work schedules but finally moved in together after getting married. So heteronormative of us!

Nic proposed to me on stage at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, at a Betty Who concert, the original artist she was covering in the first video I saw of her. It was the end of the night, and Betty started playing “I Love You Always Forever.” We were a few rows back, and Nic started pulling me out of nowhere towards the side of the stage, through a sea of people. When we got to the side of the stage, I thought she was pulling me onto the stage to dance, and I was NOT EXCITED to embarrass myself. But once we got up there, she got down on one knee and asked me to marry her. I said yes, and a room filled with hundreds of sweaty, dancing members of our LGBTQIA+ family erupted. 

What was the inspiration behind the vibe of your wedding?

We wanted our wedding to feel intimate, comfortable, and fun. It was very important to us that the day represents our relationship and our life together. For us, that meant little details like lighting sage in the opening of our ceremony, bringing my crystals from home to set out on our reception tables, and dancing to bachata music with our friends and family. 

Did you undertake any DIY projects for the big day?

SO. MANY. PROJECTS. I really hit the wedding jackpot marrying an artist. She actually made a geode into a ring box for the proposal. Painted and illustrated all of our signage and chalkboards. She handmade our ceremony veil after the one we commissioned, didn’t turn out well. And perhaps the most considerable undertaking, her entire wedding outfit. 

Talk to us about your experience finding the perfect outfits. 

Finding the perfect outfits was probably the most challenging part of wedding planning for me. Contemplating having Nic make my dress, to be completely honest, but I really wanted that first look moment. 

I am fortunate that I knew I wanted to wear a dress and had multiple options to explore when my mom and maid of honor asked to go dress shopping. Knowing this is not a luxury a lot of queer people experience. 

I didn’t find any that really checked all of the boxes for me, so I decided to have my measurements taken by a seamstress and customize a dress with a designer. The designer wasn’t local, and even though I received progress photos, I was devastated and panicking to find an alternative when it arrived. I ended up cutting up the dress and using the materials, along with some lace and appliques I found to piece together a dress with a local seamstress. It took months and dozens of fittings, but it was finally ready three days before the wedding. I also wore a vintage gold headpiece Nic had found years before in a Toronto thrift store, long before we planned on getting married. I never wore my wedding shoes!

On the other hand, Nic knew from the beginning she wanted to make her wedding day outfit. She had considered wearing a dress but ultimately decided it didn’t quite feel authentic. She ended up sketching, sourcing materials, hand sewing, and making her own alterations, all within a few weeks. Her wedding blouse was a feminine take on the barong, a traditional male Filipino wedding shirt, known for its sheer fabric and detailed embroidery, paired with her mother’s vintage chain belt. 

We were gifted incredible family heirlooms from both sides of our families to wear on the wedding day. It was very important to my grandmother, especially for Nic and I both, to wear something from her. I remember her coming over with dozens of jewelry boxes to sift through so we could each have something special. I would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that one of our outfits’ best parts is seeing the influence of our families in them.

Talk to us about the wedding day. 

We spent the night before together but met with our separate wedding parties in the morning. I remember spending the early hours of the morning alone, painting my nails, eerily calm! I walked the gardens with some of my bridesmaids and cuddled in bed with my niece. Nic later told me that was the complete opposite of her morning! She was flooded by her family and bridal party in the best, most chaotic way. I felt like time was moving so slowly to get to see her finally. I think sharing our first look together alone really took the edge off before we had to walk down the aisle.

The ceremony was honestly everything I could have imagined. I remember being so focused on her and just being so excited to marry her finally. My aunt officiated. Our nieces and nephews were scattered around our feet, laughing and jumping with excitement. I remember looking back at my brother in my bridal party, and he was holding our one-year-old baby sister with tears running down his face. I actually don’t think anyone made it out of that ceremony with dry eyes. We said our vows and meant our vows. And it was perfect. 

By the time we made it to the reception, we had been sweating in 94-degree heat for hours- something we were NOT prepared for in early May. We surrendered our perfect hair and makeup and danced, ate, and drank through the night, high on finally being married. We cried through all of the speeches. Cried laughing at Nic’s father-daughter dance (her dad had MOVES). And enjoyed every moment of celebration we had worked so hard for, both in planning, and in our relationship.

I want to mention that the day was definitely not without a few hiccups. Guests didn’t stand when Nic walked down the aisle. Our reception DJ never announced us entering the reception. People who RSVP’d didn’t show. Things happen, and you try to make the best of it. Ultimately, when I think of our wedding day, those are never the parts I remember. 

What are your favorite moments?

Our first look. Our first dance. It felt really special and intimate even with 100 people watching us. The reality of being her wife while simultaneously being surrounded by everyone we loved was overwhelming in the most beautiful way. It was not wasted on us that we were so incredibly lucky not only to be supported but celebrated by our families. Nic is from a big Filipino family who has unabashedly stood for our relationship from the very beginning regardless of any religious or cultural biases they had been raised in. Having all of them there with us to share the day was an incredible gift. 

Did you incorporate any family or religious traditions into the day?

We did! It was essential to both Nic and I to incorporate Filipino traditions in the ceremony. All of the men in our families wore formal Filipino barongs, including my dads and grandfather. We also performed a traditional Filipino cord and veil ceremony. The veil was draped over us both, representing oneness, by my mom and stepdad. The cord has two interconnected loops, one placed over each of us symbolizing an unbreakable bond, which my dad and stepmother placed over us while Nic’s mom read passages in Tagalog.

Advice for other couples planning a wedding?

Invest your money into vendors who align with your values. Stop trying to make everyone happy. This is the one day to make it entirely about you and your partner. Large wedding parties are a lot of work and add more stress to planning. Make sure you can sit, and dance, and eat the fantastic food you paid a lot of money for in your wedding outfit. Nobody cares if you have wedding favors, I promise.


Photography by Mary Bell Photography

Cake Liberty Baking Co.
Catering GetPlated
Florist & Venue Wollam Gardens
H&MU Artistry by Kelsey Lacy
Prop or Furniture Hire Something Vintage Rentals & Design
Stationery K Chow Studios
Wedding Rings Tiffany & Co.

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