Cheryl and Beth were the first same-sex couple for Plan It Perfect since the legalization of these marriages in Maryland. The couple had been together for ten years, and could not be legally united in any of the other states they had lived in during their relationship. When Beth’s work brought her to Maryland just after the new marriage laws passed, they quickly decided to wed. The prospect of joining together a couple that had wanted to get married for so long was exhilarating. But the enthusiasm about that quickly took a back seat to the even more unique quality of this couple. Brides Cheryl and Beth were both completely blind. Neither one was born with any usable sight.
Beth has a full-time job with a government agency, and Cheryl was finishing her master’s degree in Archeology. They decided to invest in an event planner due to their busy schedules. Furthermore, they knew that, although they were very independent and could accomplish anything that a sighted couple could do, there would be some wedding tasks that would be made easier by having assistance.
Cheryl and Beth understand sighted individuals’ appreciation for aesthetics, and the first thing they explained to me was, “Even though we can’t see, our friends still judge us for the style choices we make.” My response was, “Don’t worry. I won’t let you have an ugly wedding!” They wanted an exciting venue with a great view for their sighted guests to enjoy. They would also have quite a few visually-impaired guests, so the venue had to be in a location that was easy to navigate. There was also an incredibly aggressive budget that had to be met, so the venue and catering needed to be incredibly reasonably priced.
Throughout the planning process, I got to know the couple and gain a better understanding of what life is like for a blind couple, in order to ensure that their wedding was appropriate for their needs. I learned how to lead them through crowded spaces during site visits, and I became very aware of how many “normal” things the blind couple could do. They take ski trips, and they hike. Most importantly, they love each other just like any other happy couple. Cheryl and Beth did not want any special treatment for being blind, other than what was absolutely necessary in order to accommodate their lack of sight.
The planning process was very similar to any other wedding. A budget was developed, a planning timeline was established, and priorities were set. After that, Plan It Perfect provided the couple with negotiated proposals from different vendors, and contracts were established. The aesthetics of the wedding were left completely up to me. Oh, how fun! I so rarely have carte blanche rights to make ALL the decisions! I decided on a fall harvest feel for this October 25th wedding. Deep reds, dark pinks, purples and oranges were the color palette for the flowers and the wedding party attire. The brides had learned in high school chemistry class that these are “warm colors.” Even though they could not see the color palette, they liked the idea of using this color scheme for their fall wedding.
The dress shopping experience was one of the most gripping parts of helping plan the wedding, for me. It was a wonderful challenge to not only find two dresses within the limited budget, but two dresses that looked great next to each other. The brides were keenly aware of their different skin tones, and wanted to make sure they both had shades of ivory that complemented each others’ dresses and their own skin tones. In order to achieve this, the two brides went shopping together for a side-by-side comparison. I brought them to I Do I Do, in Gaithersburg – a bridal consignment shop. We sat with the consultant, and I asked both brides: “Do you have any thoughts on what you want in a dress?”
Cheryl replied “We know we want them to be ivory in color, and tactile.”
I then asked, “How do you feel about lace?”
Cheryl confirmed, “We love lace!”
I added, “How do you feel about beads?”
Beth, “Beads are good.”
Then, “How about sequins?”
Cheryl replied, “We would definitely consider sequins.”
And finally, “What about embroidery?”
They both agreed that embroidery would be great!
We found dresses on the rack that looked great together and had all the textures and details we had just discussed. They enjoyed exploring the textures of each others’ dresses and offering their opinions on the elaborate lace, beading, embroidery, and sequins. Although their taste in clothing is typically quite simple, the mixed textiles in their dresses were stimulating for them.
The search for a venue began with the same basic criteria that are used for any wedding: Is the date available? Can it accommodate the amount of guests we are having? If there are outdoor spaces, is there a viable rain plan? Is it beautiful? Do they have good food? Is it within budget? Beth and Cheryl were interested in all of those points and relied heavily on me to describe the setting of each potential venue on our site visits. Remarkably, Beth and Cheryl were able to get a feel for each space as they stood in it, commenting on how long and narrow a room must be, or recognizing that there must be a large retaining wall at the back of a garden, based on the echo.
The nuptial ceremony was held at the couples’ church, Emmanuel Episcopal Church, in the historic Mt. Vernon district of Baltimore. The available ceremony time was high noon, so the reception that followed was a luncheon at the Holiday Inn Inner Harbor. The hotel has a ground floor ballroom that the couple elected not to use, and a penthouse level ballroom with views of such Baltimore landmarks as Camden Yards, the Bromo Seltzer Tower, and the picturesque Inner Harbor. Cheryl and Beth joked that they invested in a nice view for their guests to appreciate. After the typical ceremonial activities of first dance and toasts, lunch was served and the brides danced with their fathers to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are.” Then, the crowd began to dance to the couples’ favorite songs as they were played by a DJ from Absolute Entertainment. The signature dance of the afternoon was a conga line – the best way for a mixture of sighted and visually-impaired people to share the dance floor!
The entire event was captured on film for the guests’ enjoyment by photographer Christine Barker. Christine brought her husband and business partner, Cary, to help her capture some additional shots that were needed in order to deliver the photo files in a way that worked for Beth and Cheryl. Typically files are labeled as “IMG” followed by a series of numbers. These file names would mean nothing to the couple when they were sending the appropriate pictures to their family members. Cary was stationed at the entrance of the church and took a photograph of each guest holding a name card. This way, Christine and Cary would know the names of every attendee and could label each image file appropriately. Files were then labeled, “William Stoddard dancing at reception with a wonderful smirk.” This also aided Beth and Cheryl as they worked with Christine to select some images to be used in their letterpress and Braille photo album that they can share with their friends and family.
The décor for Cheryl and Beth’s small wedding was not overdone in quantity, but was bold in texture and vibrant in color. The church required floral arrangements at the altar. Two large arrangements were crafted to frame the altar in rich fall colors. Men in the wedding party wore red pocket squares that matched their boutonnieres, while women in the wedding party carried small nosegays of coordinating flowers. The brides received wrist corsages, in lieu of traditional handheld bouquets. They were each escorted down the aisle by their parents while holding their canes for guidance. With one hand on a father’s arm and the other hand holding the cane, a traditional bouquet would have been a burden to juggle.
At the reception, the centerpieces were comprised of a triptych of floral arrangements in varying container shapes and sizes. The tall cylinder vases were wrapped in lace that coordinated with the bride’s gowns while the square vases were banded with a burgundy ribbon, and the short cylinder vases were not adorned at all. The flowers were fragrant and were supplemented by even more aromatic herbs that also complemented the brunch menu. The exciting textures of the flowers were appreciated by everyone, particularly Cheryl and Beth. Although the appearance of the room was described to them before the event, in order to obtain their approval, the vision was not complete for the brides until they were given an opportunity to feel and smell the flowers. The simple act of presenting their centerpieces to them was an enlightening and humbling experience.
To this day, Cheryl and Beth’s wedding continues to be one of the most gratifying and eye-opening experiences of my life. Yes, it was my first same-sex wedding. But it will always stand out as the most unique challenge with which I have ever been presented, and an experience for which I am eternally grateful.
For more photos of this wedding, check out the Gallery