Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's easy. As we approach the anniversary of the Supreme Court's historic marriage-equality decision, real couples tell us the biggest hurdles they faced in planning their wedding — and how they overcame them. Liz Feldman, writer/producer on CBS's 2 Broke Girls, along with four other real brides share what tripped them up in their wedding planning and how they solved it.
When I was asked to write some introductory lines for Brides's same-sex wedding-planning guide, I got a little choked up. Just a few years ago, it was illegal for me to get married. The government had given us civil unions and domestic partnerships, but it wasn't the same. We weren't equal.
I met musician Rachael Cantu in 2008, and within a year, I was 6,000 percent sure I wanted to spend my life with her. With Rachael I'd found true comfort and absolute joy. We wanted to give a solid foundation to our future children, but we were forbidden to marry by DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act, signed into law by President Clinton in 1996) and California's Proposition 8 (stating that marriage was between a man and a woman). All I wanted was to wear a cute white suit, stand up in front of my friends and family, and promise to love this woman forever. So in 2012, I flipped Prop 8 the finger and proposed to Rachael. She said, "Wait! Is this really happening!?" followed by a "Yes, of course!" A few months later, she proposed back with a song she wrote.
In May 2013, I walked down the aisle to that song at our backyard wedding. It was the best day of my life; it just wasn't legal.
Photo: Courtesy Liz Feldman
To cover our bases, we flew to New York, which had legalized same-sex marriage, and had another wedding in Brooklyn. But even that wasn't federally recognized. We'd gotten married twice and were still being denied the legal bounty that straight married couples enjoy, like Social Security benefits and hospital visitation rights. Then, in 2013, the Supreme Court overturned Prop 8 and DOMA. And last year, when the Court made marriage equality the law of the land, I and so many others experienced the moment we'd fought for, cried over, and dreamt of. So it's now my pleasure and honor to write this, as I am finally, happily, legally married in all 50 states.
Photo: Shaun Baker Photography
My Father Disapproved
Both Amy Kaufman and Victoria Estevez pride themselves on being ready for anything. Amy, 46, is a transportation planner handling logistics for New York City events, and Victoria, 32, is an executive producer at a marketing firm. So when it came to pulling off their Brooklyn wedding, they didn't sweat the planning. But they did worry about how Victoria's dad would react to the news that they were tying the knot. "I'd never come out to my father, but I think he knew," says Victoria. Announcing her engagement, she was matter-of-fact. "I said, 'Dad, I'm getting married to a woman in about a year,'" she says. Her dad's reply was equally succinct. "He said, 'I love you, but I'm not coming and I'm not getting involved,'" Victoria says. Neither father nor daughter ever spoke of it again. In a way, Amy says, she was relieved he wouldn't attend: "I didn't want him to ruin the day with negativity." Amy's parents helped with everything from picking out flowers and attending cake tastings to visiting venues. Meanwhile, Victoria's mother rallied the extended family. "I have an uncle and aunt — my mother's siblings — who are both gay," says Victoria. While Amy's parents walked her down the aisle, Victoria's aunt and uncle escorted her. "It was such a big deal for them," she says, that their pride overshadowed her father's absence. "It didn't seem like a 'less-than' situation," recalls Amy. "We enjoyed a gorgeous, stress-free day surrounded by people who support us."
Photo: Sasha Israel Photography
"Our Song" Skewed Hetero
Ashley and Samantha Kiley-Roche had been together for five years when they decided to get married. "We shared a home and a dog, and the timing just felt right," says Sam, 31. Serious music lovers, they were looking forward to their first dance, but when it came to choosing a song, they hit a snag: "Our first choice was 'Home,' by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros," says Ashley, 30. But it features a man and woman singing to each other, which felt discordant. For six months they pored over their extensive music collection, and they finally came to a compromise. "Rather than the traditional slow dance, we decided to pick an upbeat option," she says. In the end, they chose "You Are the Best Thing," by Ray LaMontagne, which felt exactly right. "It's one of our favorites, and he just says 'you,'" says Ashley. There was another musical highlight: When the DJ played "Same Love," by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, a rap ode to same-sex relationships, guests formed a circle on the dance floor, holding hands and singing along. "Every few seconds, someone else would join," marvels Ashley. "Straight couples, gay couples, my mom's oldest friend from high school, all swaying back and forth. It was like the most amazing, most beautiful moment from the corniest movie ever."
Photo: Shane Carpenter Photography
We Didn't Feel Welcome at Our Resort
Victoria Lanteigne, 33, and Livia Lam, 39, were scrupulous about booking an LGBTQ-friendly venue and vendors for their Baltimore wedding. But when planning their honeymoon, "we didn't give it much thought," admits Victoria. The couple chose Thailand for its culture and cuisine, plus its mix of beaches for Victoria and city for Livia. Relaxed and besotted, they arrived at their upscale resort to start their honeymoon. That they'd made the wrong choice was immediately apparent: "At check-in, when we told people we were on our honeymoon, we were met with a murmured congratulations," Victoria recalls. "We were subject to a few stares from staff and some of the other guests." And when a friend had a bottle of champagne sent to the couple's room, it was addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. Lanteigne." Feeling subdued and self-conscious, they weren't comfortable being affectionate, so they left the resort, forfeiting their deposit, and checked into Phulay Bay in southwest Thailand. "We ended up having a great time and loving the country," says Victoria. "But we learned the hard way that you should think about the comfort level your destination has with LGBTQ couples."
Photo: Ashlee Nikole Photography
The Court Clerk Refused to Do Her Job
Everything about the wedding of Shawnte and Tavia Craig-Jackson went smoothly, aside from the driving rain that forced them to move their backyard jazz-themed ceremony under a tent and the reception indoors. But when the couple relocated from District Heights, Maryland, where they wed, to a small town in Georgia, they ran into problems. "We didn't experience bigotry from a government perspective until we moved," says Shawnte, 35. The couple had decided to hyphenate their names. "I went to change my driver's license, and the clerk at the DMV refused," says Tavia, 43. Even though the couple had brought along their marriage license, "the clerk insisted that in the state of Georgia, we needed to present the application for the license," Tavia recalls. This set off a 10-minute debate between the clerk and her higher-up. "We were probably the first gay couple they'd dealt with since the Supreme Court decision," says Shawnte. Adds Tavia, "I'm from Los Angeles. We don't have this kind of problem; it's the capital of 'do what you want to do.'" In the end, the supervisor ordered the name change and the couple got what they wanted: "My driver's license reads Shawnte Craig-Jackson."