Sometimes it’s love at first sight. But sometimes love takes its sweet time, simply waiting for the right moment to appear, gradually developing without fanfare or a sudden rush of clarity. For Alisha Linnea Nehring and Kata Garrison, their romance hid in plain sight for years and developed slowly through a mix of magical and difficult moments, proving their love to be a delicate balance of reality and “shiny, sparkly stardust.”
Kata and Alisha initially met in the early 2000s when they both were part of the Drag and Debauchery troupe at Lucy’s. Though they can’t remember an exact initial meeting “due to the debauchery of the time,” an introduction occurred at a New Year’s Eve party in 2004. But that New Year didn’t bring romance for the two, and it wasn’t until 2009 when the couple connected again.
After meeting up a few times at gatherings, their mutual friend (and eventual bridesmaid) Mina flew to town and gave Alisha the perfect opportunity to ask Kata for a date. Though Kata later tried to get out of the brunch date, the duo finally had their first date at a cozy restaurant on Selby Avenue in St. Paul in early October of 2009. After eating, they walked around the neighborhood and watched the Twin Cities marathoners race down Summit Avenue.
The couple’s first year together was easy and fun, full of laughter and good times. Kata, an artist and bartender extraordinaire, seemed to provide the perfect balance for Alisha, who is an attorney. Alisha fell for Kata’s generous smile and large laughter, and she calls Kata “the anchor to my heart and home when I am trying to run off the cliffs of dreams and possibility.” Kata’s cooking skills also sweetened the deal; “My belly and heart are full!” Alisha exclaims.
Kata was drawn to Alisha’s loyal and loving nature. She adds, “Ask anyone who knows Alisha; you could not ask for a better defender or supporter.” Kata also loves that “the same woman who works within the confines of law and justice also has a policy of ‘shiny sparkly stardust’ and ‘ask the universe’ when the future is uncertain.”
But they were soon faced with several challenges, and had to consider whether it was possible, or even desirable, to navigate those challenges together. As the couple made the conscious decision to work through their challenges, they realized they were both seriously committed to each other: “It was only when we were able to look at each other through tears and frustration and ‘know’ that we would never separate despite the urge to run that we both knew we were in it for good.”
Throughout the years, the couple has grown stronger by supporting each other as individuals. Alisha appreciates that Kata “encourages me to grow and helps me develop my strengths while navigating my faults.” In turn, Kata loves that Alisha fights for her beliefs and doesn’t sugar-coat anything, adding that she needs Alisha’s “balance of honesty and reassurance in my life.” Kata appreciates how Alisha pushes her to expand her boundaries all while loving “the things about me that I think are unimportant and sees me for who I am.”
When it came to conversations about marriage, the fun-loving couple relied on their realistic and rational sides: both Kata and Alisha struggled with how a “heteronormative paradigm” such as marriage could be reconciled with their queer identities, so they had to unpack what marriage and a wedding would mean for them.
Kata explains, “We grew up in a culture where marriage was not an option. It was hard to wrap our head around what that looked like for us individually and together. Minnesota legalized marriage at the same time the benefits of marriage became tangible for us.” Through careful consideration, the couple decided to go forward with a wedding, but their wedding definitely occurred on their own terms, with a balance of tradition and their own unique aesthetic.
When planning their wedding, the couple had a few key elements in mind: Alisha wanted an evening wedding in a flower garden, and Kata wanted a dance floor and a large space to accommodate their guests. But they knew they had to be flexible and practical with their vision, especially for a fall wedding when weather is unpredictable.
The duo easily decided on the Historic Washington County Courthouse in Stillwater, which offered a beautiful view of the river and the opportunity to incorporate their vision. Whimsical, yet practical, the location lent itself well to an outdoor ceremony and an indoor reception. The classic beauty of the venue needed very little additional decoration, and a Sunday event was affordable and flexible. The couple chose to marry on Oct. 11, 2015, five years after their first date.
When it came to expressing their aesthetic and identity as a couple, the pair saw the power (and fun) of claiming a classic aesthetic to express their queer identity. Alisha and Kata expressed the importance of ensuring that everyone felt comfortable and welcome: “Staying traditional was the basis that everyone could relate to, but we wanted all our people (wedding party or guest) to feel entirely themselves. Being artistic and appreciative of performance, we love the production of dressing up.” By queering a classic aesthetic, the couple thoroughly “embraced the fancy!”
Following Alisha’s desire for a nighttime garden wedding, every tiny detail evoked a 1920s jazz-inspired midnight garden (with a bit of “shiny, sparkly stardust” thrown in for good measure). With the help from the florist and the flowers available at the farmer’s market, the couple was able to develop a color palate that reflected their ideal aesthetic. The color scheme incorporated rich jewel tones with flashes of gold, balanced by more neutral, earthy hues.
The bridal party looked fabulous in vintage-inspired formalwear. Bridesmaids donned individually selected Adrianna Papell dresses in a variety of neutral colors (with sparkle and pizzazz, of course), and the “bro-maids” wore black velvet jackets and charcoal gray pants. Alisha looked stunning in a simple, elegant bridal gown that lent itself well to dancing, and Kata’s wine-colored velvet jacket added a splash of color that matched her joyful personality.
Prior to their ceremony, Hennepin County Judge Carolina Lamas (whom Alisha clerks for) legally married the couple. But the duo had an even more familiar face officiate their wedding: Kata’s father. As a Methodist minister, Kata’s father officiated the weddings of her other siblings, and it was important for this tradition to continue for this celebration.
The October ceremony was magical, but one surprise sticks out: the abundance of ladybugs. The day was unseasonably warm, and there were ladybugs everywhere. Kata recalls, “We attribute this blessing to Alisha’s great grandmother, as it was her birthday that day!”
As expected, the couple threw an amazing reception with dancing and decadent food. The couple needed to accommodate several dietary restrictions for themselves and their guests, so they chose to cater through Brasa Premium Rotisserie, a delicious and queer-friendly choice. Alisha adds, “We love to feed our people! We wanted to find a vendor who could allow us to break bread with everyone.”
Bite-sized desserts were custom made by pastry chef Taylor Kollitz and played into the garden theme with fall-inspired colors and flavors. Guests nibbled on dark chocolate mini muffins with plum frosting, mini mango tarts, and decadent cranberry and chocolate macaroons. The little treats were also conscious of dietary restrictions, so everyone got to savor the sweetness.
At the heart of all the festivities was the most important element: the couple’s friends and family. Their crew set up the venue and tended bar; friends pitched in for ceremony music and flower arrangements. The couple acknowledges that the wedding would not have happened without the assistance: “The sheer bliss that followed was a result of their outpouring of love. Our wedding was produced by the community we call family. Our marriage is dependent on their love and support. We count ourselves beyond lucky!”
And lucky they are, for Kata and Alisha have each found someone to balance their unique gifts and celebrate their individual spirit. Side by side, they will continue to add sparkle to each other’s lives for many years to come.
Gallery photography by Troy Kivel, PixelPosey Photography