By Azure Nelson,
Published Sep 10, 2009
We have two great loves here at the Savvy Scoop: interesting stories and finding inspiration to help you make your wedding special.
Our monthly feature Real Wedding Challenges combines both of these loves. On the last Friday of every month we introduce you to a real married couple who worked through a challenge in planning their wedding. Since these couples are no longer in the midst of planning a wedding, we think you’ll find their solutions and perspectives refreshing. To read the first Real Wedding Challenge, click here
This month we’ll look at a couple who started off with one challenge, how to plan a wedding in a different state, and wound up with a family blessing, a family tragedy and a truly beautiful and memorable event.
As always we’d love to hear from you, what types of wedding challenges are you facing? What types of couples would you like to hear about?
Ken and Adrien, both 34. Ken worked for a Broadway theater company, Adrien was a partner in a research consulting firm.
Wedding date and location:
May 13, 2006, Berkeley, California
How we met:
How did you decide to get married?
We realized pretty quickly that we had great chemistry, and shared values and life goals. Ken was the father of a three-year-old son, Jacob. Jacob’s two mothers lived in Berkeley, and the three were considering having a second child. Adrien was contemplating the same relationship with another lesbian couple. We’d been dating for about four months when Ken proposed on the roof of the Gansevoort Hotel. It was another 17 months before we actually got married.
How did you decide on the place and date of the wedding?
We’re both from California, and travel back and forth to there quite a lot. Although we had both been in New York for about five years, we felt like California was still home, and a lot of our friends and family lived there. We decided to have the wedding at the chapel of the Pacific School of Religion, where Nicole (Ken’s son’s mother) was director of admissions. We chose the date fourteen months ahead of time, but then it turned out that Luka (Ken’s second son) was due at the same time, actually on the wedding day!
What was your biggest wedding challenge?
When we started planning the wedding, we thought the biggest challenge would be planning from across the country, but then major family events happened. Ken’s second son, Luka, was born a week before the wedding. That same night, Ken’s dad went to the emergency room because he was feeling dizzy. The next day he was diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer, which had spread to his brain. He required emergency surgery three days before the wedding. The surgery was successful, but Ken’s parents could not fly from L.A. to the wedding. Needless to say, it was a stressful week. But, the outpouring of support and love from friends and family pushed us through the finish line. The events also emphasized for us the importance of declaring love whenever you have the opportunity.
Describe your wedding:
Nicole (the mother of Ken’s son who was born days before the wedding) was supposed to officiate, but she was still recovering, so a colleague of hers filled in. She really became our “anchor in the storm.” Jenni, a friend of ours who is also a theologian, gave a sermon about taking risk in the face of adversity. The ceremony itself was pretty short and sweet, we made vows, Adrien became “Papa” to Ken’s sons, and the community promised to support us and our growing family. A few friends sang songs, and did readings. Ken’s oldest son, Jacob and Adrien’s nephew and niece, served as ring-bearers. After the wedding we had a reception on the Hornblower.
Since so many of our nearly 200 guests were from out of town, we really wanted to share the beauty of the Bay with them. We chose our menu from their catering options, and they helped us find a photographer. We created the centerpieces ourselves, and found the singer on our own.
What’s the best wedding advice you were given?
Take time for yourself and your relationship amid all the details of planning the wedding event.
What’s the worst advice you were given?
The benefit of having a big gay wedding at the time was that relatively few people were doing it, so fewer people were offering bad advice!
What made you happiest about your wedding?
That so many people were so touched by it. Years later, people still remark that it was the most intentional and meaningful wedding they have attended.
What would you do differently if you could do it again?
We planned the wedding ourselves. While we were pretty good about delegating tasks for the wedding day, we should have also designated a coordinator to supervise and make last-minute decisions for us so we could have “turned off” our inner control freaks and simply enjoy the day.
Any advice for other couples getting married?
Make decisions about your wedding that are meaningful for you. Gay or straight, this is your opportunity to intentionally express yourselves and your values, as individuals and as a couple. Don’t waste time, our story shows that love is too precious to let pass you by.
Ken and Adrien are still happily married, living in New York City. Ken’s father passed away not long after the wedding. Last summer, as a surprise for Ken’s mother’s 60th birthday, they renewed their vows. This time, Nicole, now an ordained minister, was able to perform the ceremony. The second ceremony took place in California, during the time when gay marriages were legally recognized there.
Thanks to Ken and Adrien for sharing their story.