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Jennifer & Wes

*Jennifer, Geek Herder (Former Background Investigations Analyst) & Wes, Security Researcher and Engineer*

We pondered writing posts putting Valentine’s Day into a feminist narrative today. But as those of you following along with the APW book tour on Twitter know, I got home after a month on the road late last night. Feminist discussion posts will have to wait till I’ve slept. So instead, we started today with a wedding that made me want to hug the world. This afternoon’s wedding takes it a step further, and it left me in a puddle of tears while I edited it. (And there is more goodness later today!) Jennifer and Wes are Deaf, and their story of finding a way to communicate love in a way that everyone could understand is a powerful reminder of what’s important.

Like many other little girls, I remember dressing up and playing wedding. This memory was always accompanied by my mother’s wedding veil that she had made and given to me to play dress-up with. I played with that veil until I began seventh grade, which is also consequently when it fell apart.

In middle school, I stopped thinking about weddings or even dreaming about getting married one day. It’s kind of sad how that happened. I honestly believed I would never get married. By then it was pretty obvious that I was Deaf and there were no Deaf boys near my age, or that I knew of, anywhere in my area of Northern Colorado. So that dream died, and with it, my interest in anything related to weddings.

When I began college, I got my introduction to the online world and forums. It was on one of these forums for Deaf people that Wes and I met for the first time. We began chatting over IM, but I was a nineteen-year-old college Freshman, and he was twenty-five. It was pretty obvious we were at really different stages in our lives, however, we talked regularly from this point onwards.

Over the next eight years our friendship continued. Wes was always there to ask questions or bounce ideas off of, whether they be about being Deaf or anything else that happened in my life. Ironically, he was my main go-to for all questions I had regarding boys and relationships, even though I had never been in a relationship. I was the type of girl who had a longtime crush on a guy from afar.

After my college years, I only went out on maybe three singular dates, all with hearing guys, that didn’t go beyond the first dinner or cup of coffee. I found that dating a hearing guy was a real struggle. I would angle my good ear his way in the crowded restaurant and still only get 30% of his questions. I did a lot of smiling and nodding and pretending I just agreed (even when I didn’t have the faintest clue what he had said or what was going on).

Life happened, I graduated and started working. Wes moved around the country: from Maine, to Chicago, and then Arizona. In May of 2010, Wes hopped on a plane and flew to Denver to finally meet me face to face. I worried about how our friendship would survive the text to real-life-sign language translation. Our first date was at a little cafe where the biggest obstacle we faced was communicating our orders to the waitress, which we did by gestures and pointing at the menu. I had never experienced such ease of communication with anyone else in my life.

After our first date, and a few more months of flying from Arizona to Colorado to see me on weekends, Wes moved to Colorado. We dated for just under a year when he asked me to marry him, and I announced my agreement to my parents with a picture of the ring. As soon as we began planning a wedding, we knew we wanted interpreters.

I had been in at least seven weddings as a bridesmaid and had only seen one wedding with interpreters, and they were only for the guests. Having interpreters, particularly how we wanted to do it with interpreters for both Deaf and hearing people, was something that was pretty unique to all our friends and families. We wanted to make sure every single person at the wedding understood what was being said, and that included both of us, our two Deaf groomsmen, and the Deaf friends and family members in the audience.

Finding the interpreters was quite the ordeal, seeing as freelance interpreters can command the best pay rates. My mother knew the director of Colorado Families for Hands & Voices, and she recommended the two female interpreters we ended up hiring. The director had used these ladies in her own Deaf daughter’s wedding a few months prior and said they were fabulous and they loved weddings. Hooray! Two down, now we just needed to find a male interpreter to voice (speak) Wes’s vows and we’d be set. We got a list of male interpreters in the area from someone else we knew who worked with Colorado Home Intervention Program, and through emailing everyone on that list, we came up with a male interpreter who said he also loved interpreting weddings. Thank goodness. The whole ordeal had me stressed and in knots for a while because it was so vital to our wedding vision.

The wedding day came, and I wish I could say I was one of the brides to find my “wedding zen,” but I wasn’t quite. Having interpreters made the whole day so much easier for both me and Wes. Sign language is a beautiful language, but to us, it was our native language and it was the best possible way for us to express the vows we wanted to say to each other. I will never forget how so many of our friends and family mentioned that particular part of our wedding as their favorite thing. The location was spectacular, even if it was a hot day and the aspens hadn’t changed colors. Nothing that went wrong on that day was brought to either of us. I know for a fact that my father was running interference and he got the whole ceremony ready for us. All the little things were completely irrelevant. The only thing that mattered at the end of the day was that we were married (to each other!) and we had done it our own way.

The Info—Photography: Mark Mortensen / Venue: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre /Caterer: Red Rocks Rock Restaurant /Planner: Marcea of Something Blue Colorado / Officiant: Josh Ratzlaff /Flowers: Parker Blooms / Interpreters: Kirk Neuroth, Katie Kuminck, and Jody Gale / Dress: Mori Lee from Dora Grace Bridal / Shoes: Payless / Suit: Men’s Wearhouse / Bridesmaids’ Dresses: David’s Bridal / JJ the Flower Dog’s Collar: Made by Jennifer and her friend Carisa

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