*At some point, most women fantasize about their wedding. Not Janet Mock. As a trans woman, Mock never dreamed she'd have an incredibly affirming, eye-opening relationship that would lead to marriage — until she met her husband. Now that she's found her guy, she's opening up about planning the wedding she once thought impossible. *
Our story started on the dance floor of a bar on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. It was 2009, and I was tipsy and twirling when I bumped into Aaron. He was gorgeous — the kind of handsome I'd seen in my mind when I let myself be the girl who can have that, the girl I'd watched on screen so many times in rom-coms that always seemed to end in marriage. Within minutes of our meeting, he invited me for a cup of coffee, and in a nearby fluorescent-lit café, I discovered that he was more than good-looking. He was kind and attentive and had a generous ear. I knew he was my guy, but I was unsure if I'd be his girl.
After our third or fourth date, I anxiously sat across from Aaron in his apartment as I prepared to open up in a way I had never done before. Breathing in deeply, I said, "I have to tell you something." I shared the broad strokes of my unconventional girlhood, coming of age as a young trans woman. I told him about knowing that I was different since I was a child, transitioning through the halls of my middle school and high school, and finally being seen and accepted as my most authentic self. I told him about landing in New York City as a 22-year-old grad student and yearning to be a journalist and tell stories that shifted culture. After I had nothing left to say, Aaron stepped toward me and asked if he could hug me.
Aaron proposed to me five years later at our home last December. There were no frills and there was no hesitation as he slipped an oval diamond engagement ring with a rose-gold band onto my finger. When I said yes, I had never been more certain about anything. We knew we would have a short engagement and a small wedding near the ocean in my hometown of Oahu, Hawaii.
But as we began to plan, I struggled to imagine what my wedding day would look like because I had never imagined that I would actually have a wedding. I grew up in a world where girls like myself rarely got the guy in the end, where partnership wasn't readily accessible, safety wasn't guaranteed, and love wasn't part of the equation. I had no blueprint for happily ever after.
I spoke with other brides in my life — my girlfriends Mai, Alicia, and Nicolette — who offered advice on what to do: Pick a location, interview planners, set a budget, and, most important, make sure you and Aaron are on the same page about what you want. Then I began pinning and following Instagram accounts like @caratsandcake, @apracticalwedding, and @Brides for inspiration.
Walking toward Aaron was the highlight of our wedding. All day I was managing details, texting with my planner, getting glam with my girls...then I saw my best friend, my partner, my everything and I just let all the details go. I was fully present, and so was he. Our synchronized "ugly cry" was the highlight of my wedding. Just the two of us, fully present in front of our people meant everything. It was a dream, an impossible dream come true.
Though a wedding doesn't make a marriage, being able to show up and declare our commitment in front of the people we love meant everything to us. The whole day was a statement on the transformative power of being seen for who you really are and being loved not despite your past and experiences but because of it.
Janet Mock is the New York Times best-selling author of Redefining Realness and the host of MSNBC's weekly pop-culture show So POPular! She can be found @janetmock on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.