Gorgeous LGBTQ Wedding Luray, Virginia
Where do you two live? Tell us a little bit about what you both spend a majority of your time doing.
We live in Washington, DC. Chantel is a fundraiser for the nation’s largest LGBTQ civil rights organization, the Human Rights Campaign and Rebecca is a nurse working in health policy and advocating on behalf of veterans for the organization Paralyzed Veterans of America. Whenever we get the opportunity to escape the city, you can find us traveling around the world, hiking the outdoors, playing with our Australian Shepherd puppy, and enjoying a nice glass (or bottle) of red wine.
How long have you been together?
Over 5 years
What is the first thing you remember about the other when you first met?
We met at Sisters Night Club, a lesbian bar in Philly’s Gayborhood, which sadly is now closed. It was St. Patrick’s Day and we both were feeling pretty good. Rebecca was immediately attracted to Chantel’s blonde hair and blue eyes and offered to buy her a drink at the bar. Chantel’s first impression of Rebecca was that she was absolutely wild. Needless to say, Chantel happily accepted the drink. We spent the rest of the night talking and dancing and exchanged numbers before parting ways. We didn’t see each other again for another 6 months later and have been together ever since.
How did the proposal go down?
There were two proposals – a week apart and neither of us knowing about the other. Chantel asked Rebecca first on a well-planned hike to the top of Crouching Lion Mountain in Oahu, Hawaii. We hiked the mountain after rainfall with our two local friends, slipping numerous times from the muddy terrain and not knowing if we’d ever make it to the top. Rebecca kept insisting that we could always do this hike another time, not knowing the main goal of the hike was the proposal. When we finally made it to the summit, it was an absolutely clear look out with the mountains meeting the ocean and the perfect setting for our engagement. I guess you could say it was well worth the hike. Only a week later Rebecca took Chantel out to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee for a camping trip. We did yet another long hike to a waterfall and Rebecca asked Chantel to get the camera from the backpack, forgetting the ring was in the same pocket! Chantel pulled out the ring instead with a huge grin on her face. Although that part was not planned, it was the perfect moment and through the laughter, Rebecca proposed to Chantel.
Was there a memory from your wedding that sticks out more than others?
There is one moment that stands out from all the others. A little back story – Rebecca’s parents were in Hawaii when we got engaged and were not thrilled to hear about it. They love us both and make that clear, but at the time, our relationship as a couple was not something that was frequently talked about. It took months for us to start talking with Rebecca’s parents again and a whole year before we were allowed to talk about the wedding in front of them. Over the year leading up to the wedding, Rebecca’s father who is a devout Catholic worked on coming to terms with his daughter’s queer relationship and came up with a compromise to come to everything but the actual wedding ceremony. Rebecca’s two older brothers walked her down the aisle and her younger brother was to do the father-daughter dance. When it was time for the father-daughter dance, Rebecca’s younger brother walked up but then stepped aside. Rebecca’s father walked up and kindly took Rebecca’s hand for the dance. To the surprise of everyone in the room, Rebecca was able to dance with her dad at her wedding. For the first time, Rebecca’s father told her ‘I just want you to be happy’ and there wasn’t a single dry eye in the room.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to other couples planning their wedding?
We heard stories of people who dreaded the wedding planning and were constantly stressed throughout the process. That was not our experience. We had such a fun time planning this day together and took advantage of meeting new people, seeing new places, and turning even the smallest decisions into adventures. Take time to enjoy the process and don’t sweat the small stuff.
If you could change one thing about your wedding what would it be?
Not. One. Thing.
Why did you choose the wedding venue/location you did?
We knew we wanted to celebrate our love in the outdoors, and we wanted it to be earthy and organic. We found Khimaira Farms online and loved that it was in the Blue Ridge Mountains right outside Shenandoah National Park in Virginia – and not too far from DC. We made an appointment to see the venue and had some others as back ups, but this was to be our first venue visit. We met with the owner, Linda, and were immediately charmed not only by the venue’s stunning mountain views and the farm’s dedication to sustainability, but we were really swayed by our interaction with Linda herself. She is extremely experienced and passionate about weddings, and it is contagious within moments of meeting her. After our encounter with her, we booked the venue immediately and cancelled all other venue appointments we had planned. There was no need to see another, when you know, you know. Even after the wedding, this was one of the best decisions we made throughout the whole planning process.
Did you run into any issues with vendors who were not gay friendly?
We were preparing ourselves to experience some discrimination since it was such a rural area, and we did indeed have some encounters of bigotry, but to our surprise, the people in the wedding business in Luray, Virginia were extremely kind, helpful, and accepting. Our venue owners, florist, caterers, and accommodation hosts were all such a pleasure to work with.
Top 3 things that make a marriage last?
1 – Lots of fun and sexy date nights
2 – Open communication
3 – Spontaneity
What do you think makes it hard about planning a wedding without the support of your family?
It is very important that we start off by saying how lucky we are to have such incredible siblings and friends who have been tremendous allies and stepped up throughout our wedding planning process. Chantel’s father, who has been a rockstar ally since day one, filled a big void and helped us to understand that other people will come around in time. Although during that waiting period when some of our closest relatives weren’t as supportive, it was really tough not being able to share in the excitement of such a special time in our lives. However, because our family wasn’t as involved, it really allowed us to fully embrace the planning process together as a couple. The wedding was a complete reflection of us and our love. Every decision we made was what we wanted without the influence of anyone else. Some of our family members who weren’t as supportive in the beginning, came around in due time through their own realization that love simply is love.
3 songs that remind you of each other:
1 – Brandi Carlile – I Belong To You (Our first dance song)
2 – Lucius – Two Of Us On The Run
3 – Lord Huron – Ends of the Earth
Why’d you choose Steph to document your wedding day?
It was really important to us to have a photographer who understood queer relationships and would be able to capture our love on camera. For such a special day in our lives, we wanted the best of the best, and according to her reviews, she was just that. We immediately connected through phone calls and later Skype chats, and we felt at ease knowing we had someone so experienced. One thing you don’t realize until after the wedding is how much time you actually spend with your photographer. Not only do the photos matter, but the photographer’s personality matters as well. Steph spent the entire weekend with us – meeting our friends and family and fitting in perfectly. We came out of our wedding experience not only with photos but also with a new and wonderful friend. Choosing Steph to capture our wedding was one of the best decisions we made.