Sarah & Jen

*Sarah, Web Developer & Jen, Massage Therapist*

As we explore the idea of unexpected outcomes this week, Sarah’s post (she’s the one in blue!) about figuring out what their wedding was going to be is perfect. Sarah and Jen moved from not being totally sure they could make a wedding happen, to wanting a simple party, to something else all together. I hope it reminds all of us that weddings are malleable, and we can make them into what we need them to be.

At one time, I thought this would be a story about a gay wedding. And obviously, it is. But really, I think ours is just a story about A Practical Wedding, and how two girls in love found a way to have one, despite their fears.

In May 2010, a handful of circumstances converged to make Jen and me realize that we wanted to make our commitment to each other official and public. We had been together five years, and a wedding was something I had fantasized about. In all my fantasies, though, I couldn’t figure out a practical way for us to make it actually happen. I always got bogged down with thoughts of how we would find a rabbi (we’re not part of a congregation), how our families would react, who would walk whom down the aisle, and how we would afford all the little things that make up a wedding (in New York City, no less). And then one day, I had the realization that our wedding could be whatever we wanted it to be—it could be as simple as a cocktail party where we toasted each other with our friends around us, no rabbi and no wedding trappings if we didn’t want them.

I proposed this idea to Jen and we set a date not too far away that seemed like a reasonable time to pull off such a simple party.

As we started to tell our family and friends about our idea—“A simple party, not even a wedding really, more like an anniversary party, no need for cake, bouquets, an officiant, or even a sit down meal,” we defended—the reactions we got surprised us. Somehow, I didn’t really expect approval from either our more conservative family members or some of our more radical friends (who have spoken out against working toward same-sex marriage in favor of broader marriage equality). Still, we were afraid of getting negative reactions—that two women couldn’t legally get married, that we were calling attention to ourselves for no reason, that we shouldn’t need a wedding to validate our already strongly committed relationship, or even that we were too young at twenty-four to make such a commitment.

But no one said any of those things. They were happy for us. Some almost happier than we were. They treated us like any other engaged couple and asked where we would be having the wedding, what we would wear, who would conduct the ceremony (we never even talked about a ceremony), and amazingly, what they could do to help. Almost no one seemed to care that the wedding would be purely emotional, since we weren’t interested in getting an out-of-state marriage certificate. (New York State did not offer a legal marriage to us at that time, and the Federal government still won’t recognize one).

Suddenly, what we had thought would be a quiet affair, where we would slip in a toast about our love for each other, became the wedding I had thought I would never be able to have. Even the host at the restaurant we booked encouraged us to look into doing an outdoor ceremony in a neighboring park.

My mom came with us to try on dresses and to find Jen the suit she would end up looking like a rock star in. My coworkers threw us a surprise shower. A friend agreed to lead a ceremony that other friends helped us to write. A simple menu of hors d’oeuvres sprouted into a full lunch menu and open bar, magically still within our meager budget.

We weren’t without our wedding drama, but thankfully, most of it ended up being the kind we can laugh about now. Like how the zipper of my dress broke while I was putting it on the morning of the wedding, and my mother-in-law skillfully sewed me into it within moments, zipper be damned. And of course we had to have some hard conversations throughout the whole process, with each other and with our families. But I never even expected to have the opportunity to have those conversations, so in the end it didn’t matter that they were hard, just that we got to have them.

Once we decided to have a non-traditional wedding, all the details we didn’t really care about fell to the wayside, and we didn’t feel bad about what we might be doing differently from other people. We realized that we needed to have a wedding that would make us happy, and to us that meant making a lot of it ourselves. We didn’t have to worry about flowers at the reception since the restaurant took care of that—great because neither of us cared one bit about flowers. Our bouquets were silk flowers we wrapped together with ribbons to match my dress, because we wanted to have something to hold. Our clothes were more or less off the rack. Our thank you notes were cards we printed ourselves with an image I created of our wedding cake topper. Our wedding cake topper was a porcelain figure of two embracing owls that I found for Jen while studying in Europe during which time we spent eight months at opposite ends of the world. We even made the rings ourselves, with the unbelievable help of the brilliant jeweler and craftsman at New York Wedding Ring.

On August 1, 2010, we had the ceremony outside under a gazebo in a park we visit weekly. Our sweet little dog got to be there. We laughed, we cried, we kissed, while we read aloud well-considered words, and our friends surprised us with their own recitations. There was no aisle, no wedding party, just a round gazebo filled with all the people we love. People I never expected to be able to see together in one place.

It started to rain as the ceremony ended and our guests made their way to the reception a block away. Instead of being a disaster, it solidified the day in my mind as a magical one. And the reception was just a grand old time. We didn’t have dancing, and no one could hear the playlist that Jen spent weeks perfecting, but we had unbelievable food (since we held the reception in one of our favorite restaurants), free-flowing drinks and champagne, tasty tasty non-wedding cakes, and time to spend celebrating and gushing with joy with people were actively supporting us.

It was a beautiful day, and surprisingly, not all that different from a wedding with a bride and a groom, except for the traditions we chose to skip over (which weren’t missed). I feel a little silly for not thinking that it would be “wedding enough” for us years earlier.

Exactly one year later, New York State had decided to allow same-sex couples to marry legally*. But we’d already powered through the hard part. We already had one year of marriage under our belts. Signing a piece of paper was a piece of cake.

*We were dorks and actually wore our exact wedding outfits to the Country Clerk one year later to have our legal ceremony. There aren’t any pictures because the camera they were taken on was stolen shortly after. The ones from our wedding day were way better anyway.

The Info—Photography: Grace Glenny / Ceremony Site: Sakura Park /Venue: Pisticci / Sarah’s Dress: David’s Bridal Bridesmaid Dress in Horizon / Sarah’s Shoes: Poetic Licence / Jen’s White Suit: Tahari / Mokume Gane Wedding Rings: Made by the brides with Sam of New York Wedding Ring / Silk Hydrangeas and Gardenias: Arranged by the brides, purchased from Pany Silk / Jordan Almond and Lace Flower Favors: Crocheted by Sarah

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Class of 1980

    CONGRATULATIONS, you cuties.

  • Reader47

    Beautiful! Also a big yay for New York Wedding Ring. My (now) husband made my ring with Sam’s help and its amazing.

  • Karen

    You had me at the blue dress! I love how your thinking and experiences evolved into the wedding you needed. Amazing how that happens. Congratulations on two years of marriage and here’s to many more!

    • Blue dress, white suit. That right there is just amazing.

  • Amanda

    Beatiful wedding, beautifully written! Thanks for the share.

  • Susanna

    Sarah, your shoes are killer!

    • One More Sara

      I was thinking the exact same thing!

    • Sarah

      :D Thanks! Finding those was a whole different harrowing story. They were pretty much the last shoes I was going to try on anywhere, after trying on so many. And to top it off, they were the last pair and on clearance. If I have to gush about any of the *stuff*, those are probably the things I’d gush about.

      • Great find, love the bow on the toes. Gushy indeed!

  • Liz

    What a beautiful story!

    If you’re looking to be part of a congregation (wasn’t sure if your note that you weren’t part of one meant you’d like to be or not, but just in case) please come join us at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah; it’s the country’s largest LGBTQ synagogue. On Tuesday evening, we welcomed almost 4K people to Yom Kippur services through the Open Door campaign, but Friday night services are more like 150-200.

    I’ve been a member for a few years and am heavily involved in the social justice group there; it’s really amazing, and the senior rabbi, Sharon Kleinbaum, is incredibly inspiring.

    Congratulations again on your lovely wedding.

    • Sarah

      Thanks for the suggestion, Liz. I’ve heard great things about Beit Simchat Torah.

      Mostly the comment was about the fact that it would be so weird to have a religiously affiliated officiant when we don’t really practice at all. But it never occurred to me to have a secular wedding because no one in my family had one.

  • KB

    Your cake topper is adorable :-) Also, I have also been surprised at the general support that I’ve received from people who I TOTALLY expected to be judge-y and opinionated about every single thing. It’s amazing and true that if you give people a chance, they’ll surprise you like that.

  • Eileen


    I’m probably way too excited that I live around the corner from your wedding – giant fistbump for Pisticcis!

  • What a beautiful story!

  • Autumn

    So much love in these. Makes me tear up.

  • Christa

    I fell in love in that park! My spouse and I both lived a few blocks away, so we went there on our first date, and it was also where we escaped to talk when we wanted some privacy (too many roommates). We spent so many hours there sitting and talking and reading. I learned to catch a softball there too, after I got LASIK and could see balls in the air for the first time in my life. Congratulations!

    • Sarah

      That’s wonderful! I bet that tiny little park has all kinds of love stories in it. I’m always amazed at how many people even know of its existence, since it’s just one block long and nestled away in Morningside Heights.

  • Congratulations! I enjoyed reading your wedding story!

  • Claire

    Congratulations! And yay for making your wedding be just what you needed it to be. It sounds lovely.

  • Oh my goodness, I love this. As someone who also married another lady in a place that doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage, we were worried about people questioning our decision, and instead (as you were) we received so much jow and love instead.


  • Bubbles


    I would just like to say that I am very opinionated when it comes to matters involving cake, and I think that if it’s cake, and it’s at a wedding, it is wedding cake by default, fondant be damned!

  • amigacara

    ” But I never even expected to have the opportunity to have those conversations, so in the end it didn’t matter that they were hard, just that we got to have them.”

    Oh man, that part made me cry. So true of my wedding process and so many other important areas of life as well!

  • Amy March

    Great. Now I want cake like a ravenous wolf. I hope you’re happy.

    • Class of 1980

      I have never been bored with wedding cake. ;)

  • I love the blue dress – so lovely, and giving me (minor) dress regret!

  • Congratulations! Your words & photos are just lovely but your cute pup stole my heart :-)

  • Laura

    I have to ask about this, because I found the reactions of your friends a bit confusing. I’m not sure that it is possible to work towards broader marriage equality without fighting for same-sex marriage. Can there be marriage equality when the right to marry is denied to such a huge chunk of the population? Or maybe I misunderstood that they meant?

    Your wedding was beautiful. I love the blue dress/white suit combo! Also, the cake. Real icing. Mmmmmm, icing.

    • Sarah

      Thanks! It was a little hard to phrase that sentence, and I didn’t go as far with it as I perhaps could have. Many of my friends, and myself included, are advocates of rethinking the civil benefits of marriage. Broadening the definition of what family is, and finding ways for dependents who aren’t necessarily romantic partners or offspring to be protected under the law. More along the lines of the Beyond Marriage movement. Giving rights to more than just a couple who wish to be united, for all sorts of reasons.

      So I was worried that us choosing to link ourselves using that word, that institution, would make it seem that we didn’t care about others who are still unable to have their marriages legally recognized (even though, at the time we weren’t even considering any kind of legal wedding – we just wanted our community behind us). Much in the same way that opposite-sex couples might be worried that their friends/relatives in same-sex relationships and can’t have a legally recognized marriage will think they are betraying them by getting married themselves.

      The above ramble is totally why I didn’t go further with that sentiment in my post. There’s lots there, and I’m glad APW encourages discussion about it.

      I should add though, that was my fear, but none of my friends actually reacted that way (at least not that I am aware of). They were completely supportive of our decision. Despite my fears, no one said marriage was a patriarchal institution we shouldn’t even want a part of, or that we were trying to be “straight”, though I’ve heard those words out of some of my friends’ mouths in other circumstances. Probably because they knew us, and they knew that was never the kind of marriage we were going to have.

      • Laura

        Oh! Okay, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!

  • ZWP

    what a cute couple… so much joy and happiness on these faces!

  • Sarah

    For all the people talking about the cake, tt was from Costco. Theoretically, you could probably get the same exact cake for less than $15 if there’s one near you. Talk about low stress dessert planning. We just grabbed two the day before and brought them to the restaurant in the morning before the wedding.

    • Amy March

      This is so not helping my cake craving. Must not take detour on way home.

  • Kate W

    This is one of the loveliest weddings I’ve seen on this blog. The enthusiasm for each other and joy just radiated through. I was very moved.

  • Jen does look like a rock star in that suit!

  • Joanna

    Love, love, LOVE the shoes you wore!!! Oh, and the cake topper too. Oh, and the fact that you both got the day you wanted, simple as a breeze.

  • Sarah

    Thanks again everyone for the sweet comments! And thanks APW for posting our wedding.

    I hope we are paying forward the inspiration we received in abundance from this site during our planning, and for the last two years of trying to figure out what being a wife is.

  • Rayan

    The first thing that you will have to do before you
    become a professional photographer is getting a
    degree in photography. This is the only way that you will be able to convince
    people that you are qualified. After the degree, ensure that you are certified
    to operate as a photographer. The next thing that you will need to do is to
    have a portfolio. Most of the clients that you will come across will want to
    see the work you have done. Ensure that your portfolio has different types of
    photos that you have taken. This will be a way to show that you are versatile.