Wedding Day—a day so important that it’s often simply referred to as The Big Day. With marriage equality finally being a reality in Minnesota, more GLBT couples are finding themselves knee-deep in wedding planning—for better or for worse. Though it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of decisions and details, it’s important not lose sight of the most important part of the wedding day—the commitment made between two people who love and cherish each other. For their wedding in September 2013, Laura and Melissa Houghtaling planned their day to spotlight their collective and individual personalities, and they kept their love and enjoyment of each other as the focus.
Laura Andrews (a graduate student) and Melissa Houghtaling (a lawyer) met on OkCupid when the online dating website suggested that they would be a good match. Laura sent the initial casual message remarking on their compatibility, and Melissa responded with an equally short quip about how they would get along because they both liked food and drinks. That line set Laura up with a perfect excuse to suggest a meeting. When their schedules aligned several weeks later, the women penciled in a dinner date for a Wednesday in August 2011. On the day of their first date, Melissa was running late because she had to “drive from downtown St. Paul to Uptown during rush hour—without air conditioning in my car—and I met every red stoplight on Lyndale!” When Melissa finally appeared (frazzled, sweaty, and worried that Laura gave up on her late date), she found Laura outside on the phone, arranging a back-up date just in case Melissa blew her off.
What could have been a complete disaster was met with humor and understanding. Laura responded to Melissa’s apology with a bit of light-hearted sass, and the two sat down to dinner. Melissa found Laura’s sassy attitude “infectious,” and suggested they continue their date with drinks on the rooftop patio of Moto-i. As the date continued to improve, the two finally exchanged phone numbers, and Laura invited herself to a Fringe play with Melissa and her brother. After that night, the stage was set for Melissa and Laura to share their lives together.
After a year and a half of dating, Laura decided they should take the next step. Valentine’s Day 2013 was met with the usual romance (planned by Melissa), but Friday, February 15 was destined to be even more memorable. While Melissa was out to lunch with a friend, Laura sneaked into Melissa’s office to prepare her surprise. Melissa returned to find a small ring dish on her desk with the inscription, “Grow old with me; the best is yet to come.” Placed delicately in the center of the dish was a beautiful diamond ring. Melissa peeked her head out of her empty office to ask her co-workers what was going on, and Laura came around the corner, “rose in hand and high heels on feet.” Melissa was surprised to see her girlfriend in her St. Paul office “in the middle of a work day AND in high heels,” and asked what was going on. Laura responded casually, “Oh, I just stopped by to see if you wanted to marry me.” Melissa’s answer was an absolute yes, and the two returned to their work after a wine toast and excited phone calls to friends
The women set their wedding date for September 13, 2013 and began their planning. With about seven months to plan their big day, the two decided to do most of the planning themselves and opt for contracting a day-of coordinator to ensure everything ran smoothly on their wedding day. Once they decided that the Minikahda Country Club would be their venue, Melissa and Laura utilized Minikahda’s preferred vendor list and weddingwire.com to choose their vendors. Melissa notes, “Many of our decisions were based on two factors. Were the vendors reasonably priced to fit with our budget? And, were the vendors comfortable with a same-sex wedding?” The couple specifically stated to potential vendors that their wedding was a same sex wedding. Melissa adds, “We didn’t want vendors who were not comfortable with us or with our guests to be involved in our special day.”
Finding vendors who are accepting and welcoming to same-sex clients can be a nerve-wracking experience because marriage equality is still new in Minnesota. Because wedding vendors are trusted with providing services on such a monumental occasion, it’s important to determine if a potential vendor is going to be comfortable working with GLBT couples. GLBT Minnesotans, however, are fortunate enough to have access to an overwhelmingly welcoming wedding industry. Melissa and Laura found this to be particularly true during their planning process: “Almost everyone we spoke to was not only comfortable with a same-sex wedding, but excited to work with us!”
Once their vendors were chosen, Melissa and Laura developed the aesthetic of their wedding based on their personal styles. Though the women define their collective style as “classic with a twist,” they note that Melissa’s style is a bit more contemporary while Laura’s style tends to be more whimsical. Driven by her love for design, Melissa found inspiration in magazine and online sources, and they worked together to refine those ideas into a cohesive style. They chose to use a red, black, and white color palate to keep their design clean and classic. “It was really important to us that our ceremony and reception was both romantic and fun. We wanted our guests to feel the love we share with each other and show them how much we love and appreciate their support.”
In order to celebrate their love for each other, their friends, and their families, the women planned to incorporate many personal details into their ceremony and reception. One of Melissa’s friends built the arbor used in the ceremony, another friend stepped in as the officiant, and more friends provided the music for the ceremony. During the ceremony, the couple placed love letters into a custom-made, wooden wine box, which they plan to open on their first anniversary. The couple chose to honor Melissa’s brother by skipping the party favors and donating to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund in his memory. Even their dog Elliott was included in the celebration; they used photographs of Elliott as table markers at the reception.
Though they were celebrating the beginning of their life together, it was important for both women to be honored as individuals. Each woman wrote her own vows, and they both took turns walking down the aisle. Melissa and Laura also wanted to highlight their own personal styles, and this was accomplished particularly well through their unique wardrobes. The women shopped separately for their wedding gowns, which allowed them to both find their perfect dresses. Melissa found her dream dress at Brides of France, while Laura purchased her dress from Rush’s Bridal. They then planned a costume change during the reception to show off their more casual, fun side. Melissa spent the rest of the evening in a red Banana Republic suit, and Laura wore a white party dress from Flutter Boutique. Both women danced the night away in custom Converse All-Star high tops which were embroidered with their wedding date.
Perhaps the most unique detail of their wedding was their getaway car: a bright orange, 1976 VW Beetle convertible, owned by the couple. Driven by Melissa’s desire to own a vintage beetle convertible, Laura hunted one down in 2012 and purchased it from the original owners. They add, “We love the car because it always makes people smile as we pass them, and it’s fun to watch kids ‘slug’ their friends as we drive by in our ‘slug bug!’”
By incorporating personal details into their classic wedding, Melissa and Laura were able to create a fun and romantic ceremony that honored their journey as a couple and as individuals. As they grow together in years to come, the tiny details of their special day may fade from memory, but their love and commitment to each other will continue to get stronger. Melissa expresses, “I count myself as the luckiest girl in the world for finding such an amazing partner in life. She makes me impossibly happy.”
Photography by Natalie Finazzo Fox and Leslie Plesser from Rivets & Roses
Wedding: Melissa and Laura Houghtaling
Date of Ceremony/Reception: September 13, 2013
Number of Guests: 176
Location of Ceremony: Minikahda Country Club upper deck (outside)
Location of Reception: Minikahda Country Club Ballroom
Rings: Brilliant Earth
Accessories: Shoes– Ralph Lauren, Converse
Bridesmaid Dresses: Alfred Sung dresses from The Wedding Shoppe
Bridal Gowns: La Sposa dress from Brides of France (Melissa), Allure Brides dress from Rush’s Bridal (Laura)
Day-of Coordinator: Bliss
Invitations/Stationary: Weddingpaperdivas.com (invitations), Zazzle.com (programs, table numbers, menus)
Linens/Tableware: Provided by Minikahda
Decorations: Made by Melissa and friends
Main Photographer: Natalie Finazzo Fox from Rivets & Roses
Second Photographer: Leslie Plesser from Rivets & Roses
Cake: Angel Food Bakery
Cake Topper: Etsy purchase from MissSarahCakes