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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  • Such a beautiful wedding and a wonderful story to go with it – melts my heart!

  • Sara C.


  • Sarah

    So beautiful! *Trying to inconspicuously wipe my tears off at work* Thanks for sharing!

  • Great story for V day.

  • Beautiful story. Got me feeling all emotional over here. Congratulations!

  • carrie

    Oh I love this! I don’t exactly know why I have tears. I just do. I so much heart the picture of you guys laughing so heartily during your ceremony!

    And you got married at RED ROCKS! That is epic. Congrats to you both!

    • I wanna know the story with the laughing pic! It’s lovely!

      • Ah, Jennifer here! So yes, that picture is where our officiant, Josh, took my vows of making Wes meatloaf and making him get out off the office sometimes and ad libbed in our vows that I would kick his butt when he needed it. It made the whole audience laugh too!

    • IT IS EPIC! I loved Red Rocks. We really wanted a mountain wedding but actually going to the mountains was way out of our budget. Red Rocks was in the budget because as a public park it had a really good wedding package. We even got our food from the Rocks restaurant, which was phenomenal.

      • carrie

        So cool! Red Rocks is a life list item for me. Thanks for sharing the story above too – I love it all! :-)

  • maura

    it’s raining indoors today. damn.

    this is so wonderful, and i love seeing even more brides/weddings/families represented on APW!

  • Gorgeous wedding and story. I love Jennifer’s dress!

  • Karina

    Agree, this was a perfect post for today. Tears all around. <3

  • I’ll definitely be sharing this! I have a friend who is studying ASL interpretation who would love this. :)

    • We always need more good interpreters. I’m so glad you can show your friend what lovely interpreters can do for a wedding!

  • Class of 1980

    Jennifer, you are both adorable. And I just have to say, I fell in love with Wes from the first photo. No wonder you did too! ;)

    I grew up next door to a family with a deaf son. His mother had measles during pregnancy and he was born with a hole in his heart and deaf, though he did wear a hearing aid.

    He had open heart surgery at the age of five and they told his parents he might only live to be thirty. Imagine my delight to see him on Facebook – in his early forties, looking super happy and healthy and MARRIED with a child! I think he met his beautiful wife at a deaf academy.

    It was astounding to see that his future turned out so much better than was predicted. Judging from his posts, he is over the moon about his life.

  • Wonderful post! I love this wedding…

  • Louise

    Beautiful post and wedding! Though I’m curious why “deaf” is written with a capital D? Is there a specific reason for this?

    • Deaf with a capital D is a cultural connotation. We are physically “deaf,” but because we sign and are involved in Deaf culture events and see ourselves as Deaf from a cultural perspective, we use the capital D.

      • Louise

        Ah! I thought it must be something like this. Thanks for the clarification!

  • This is so beautiful! I’m so glad you were able to build a wedding that was perfect for the two of you and reflected what you wanted in the day. Congratulations!!

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  • I love this! As someone getting married to a non-native speaker of English, I have been thinking a lot about what it mean to find interpreters (not an easy task when the language in question is Mongolian) or how we might find ways to make the ceremony and day as bi-lingual and bi-cultural as we possibly can. Our ability to communicate in two different languages and cultures is a big part of what makes us who we are and I want to honor that in our wedding.

    So thank you for sharing how you did that for you….and for giving me ideas to think about in how to do it for us as well.

    • I loved this post because of the couple’s commitment and intentionality of doing a interpreted (both ways) wedding. We also did a bilingual wedding (French/English), though we did not use interpreters. Parts of the wedding were in each language, and the surtitles of the text translated into the other language were projected on a large screen using an aesthetically pleasing power point presentation. Though some of our guests spoke both languages, maybe half or more only spoke one of the languages. Anyhow, I mention this because if you have trouble finding interpreters, perhaps this could be another option to consider? It worked really well for us as a way to be as inclusive as possible to our guests of both languages. (And it was actually ended up being pretty too, which was a plus.) Good luck!

      • Parsley

        We did something similar at the bi-lingual wedding I officiated. One of the readings was in English, the other in Italian, and they were each printed in the program in the other language. The couple wrote vows that they read in English, and I learned to prompt the traditional vows in Italian, and I think we printed those in English, too. So, for the most part, everyone got to read what they couldn’t understand, and everyone could understand something. I love this wedding with the interpretation, but if that’s not possible, and you’re doing a multi-lingual wedding, this is another option.

  • What a sweet story and a beautiful wedding!

  • angela

    beautiful photos and a beautiful story!

    have to say, my favorite part is your adorable mini schnauzer :]

    • Wes

      Said adorable miniature schnauzer did completely steal the show during the wedding! “Look at me! I know everyone is looking at me!”

    • JJ says, ” I know! I’m so cute!”

      Really, I am so glad we included her. My favorite pictures all have her in them.

  • Claire

    Gorgeous! Love that you were able to create a wedding that was true to your vision. Congratulations!

  • Ashley

    I love your story! Finding and making primary the things that are most important to you both is key.

    Thank you for sharing a piece of your love affair.

    P.S. sign language is a beautiful language, the most expressive way to say something.

  • Such a beautiful story! Definitely feeling the warm-fuzzies over here!

  • April

    Sobbing at my desk during lunch break… *le sigh*. Thank you for sharing this lovely story, lovely wedding and to the adorable and lovely, sweet couple – CONGRATULATIONS!!!

  • Spicy MacHaggis

    Aw. That totally made me cry.

  • I love this, I got chills when I read, “So that dream died, and with it, my interest in anything related to weddings.” Just knowing that you did have the wedding, that you did find such an amazing partner, that the dream didn’t die made reading that sentence so emotional. What a beautiful wedding and I love those photos of you guys laughing during the ceremony. Perfect.

  • “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.”

    How beautiful that you each found someone who speaks your language! And such a lovely wedding! Everyone looks so happy. :)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Yay for wedding shoes from Payless!

  • Z

    Awww, yay! That last picture of you guys together melts my heart.

  • Moz

    This is incredibly beautiful. Congrats on your marriage.

  • “…We wanted to make sure every single person at the wedding understood what was being said…”

    I would have loved to been one of the guests at this wedding. It looks like it was amazing, and the cross-cultural and bilingual intentionality is inspiring. I love sign language, know some, and got so excited reading your wedding story. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Denzi

    EEEE! Jennifer! (I did come straight home from West Egg to read this. *grin* ) Loooooove the laughing picture, and the way you did your hair, and the glorious bilingual festival! (Also, geez, Wes really is that much taller than you. O.o )

    • I’m so glad you read it, and liked it! Yeah!

      Wes IS tall. And I’m really short. It makes for funny pictures.

  • Janelle McCann (aunt)

    Jenn, this is truly a tribute to love! I am still smiling . . . You and Wes had the most wonderful wedding I have ever attended. It was filled with love, laughter, warmth, beauty, peace, joy and more love!!!! Everything was beautiful. You were stunning! Wes is a prince of a man and it so came across throughout the day. Happy Valentine’s Day to two eternal sweet hearts!

  • Laura

    OMG, you two, what a beautiful wedding! Jennifer, your dress is gorgeous and the incredible backdrop of Red Rocks is stunning and the photography is so lovely. Most important, of course, is how you were able to make it just the right wedding for the two of you. Thanks for sharing it. And gah, you guys look so happy, it is killing me over here. Congratulations!

  • what a beautiful wedding in a beautiful place! love her dress

  • suzanna

    This one just melted my heart. The obvious joy in the pictures, the sweet sweet story…awwwwww!


    I am so stoked this wedding is featured! My parents are Deaf! They have been married for 35 years and have shown me the best example of what marriage can be.

    I have to say I am very impressed with the number of interpreters you utilized and how you did it. Needing interpreters to be SEEN rather than heard is tricky, no bones about it. A big CONGRATULATIONS to you both! I wish you so much happiness!

  • pixie_moxie

    First off in the “oh my beautiful wedding” category I love that you got married at Red Rocks! I cant get over the beautiful juxtaposition of your tiny self next to your husband and the laughing picture is golden :) Thank you so much for sharing these moments and your wedding story. What a beautiful way to celebrate your wedding with all involved.

  • Melia Peterson

    my fiancé and are looking for someone who can perform our wedding in ASL, does anyone know of such a person?