How we met: Ana and Gina met in the summer of 2008 on a softball field in Northampton, MA while both dating other people. Ana’s first comment to Gina was to remark upon her sizable rear end (something like “Dang you got a booty on you, girl!”). Gina blushed. They liked each other at once.
Many moons and relationship transitions later, Ana and Gina’s friendship grew to new levels at the end of the summer of 2010. That fall, Ana came to visit Gina in Oakland, where she visited Gina’s classroom, leaving a list of helpful organizational suggestions at the end of the school day! Thus began a few months of long-distance love, Ana still in Philadelphia and Gina in Oakland. There were nightly marathon Google Video Chat sessions, interrupted frequently by Ana’s old overheating laptop, and a lot of frequent-flier-mile strategizing to facilitate cross-country trips about once a month.
They moved Ana to Oakland in a wild cross-country adventure, loading everything they could fit into Ana’s 1993 Mazda MX-3 (not at ALL a large vehicle) and insanely driving it from Philadelphia to California, with a stop in Iowa for Christmas with Gina’s family. After fully redecorating (and rejuvenating!) their apartment, Ana settled in to life with Gina (and her cat, Kingsley) in Oakland. With a clear “Ana cooks, Gina does dishes” demarcation of chore territory established, they occupy a space of domestic bliss. They both work too much but keep trying to find the time to have fun together and continue their adventures, a very significant one being this wedding!
The Proposal: Ana is a hard woman to surprise. Gina laid the groundwork of deception by telling Ana that her ring, the stone for which they had picked out together, wouldn’t be ready until a few weeks after they returned from a whirlwind trip to the East Coast to attend a wedding, visit family and friends, and celebrate Ana’s graduation from graduate school.
In reality, Gina had already gotten the ring and hid it in the bottom of her backpack as they packed for their trip. There was exactly one day out of the fifteen of their trip when they would be alone, staying in a hotel without any friends or family. This day came when they arrived in Northampton, MA for Ana’s graduation from the Smith School for Social Work. This is also where they met, so Gina had picked this to be The Day.
Gina had imagined them taking a nice walk through the gardens of Smith’s campus, then sitting together on a blanket sharing a bottle of wine while she smoothly popped the question. What actually happened was fairly close to that, with a bit of reality biting added in.
Gina got a bottle of wine and airline blanket from their car and they headed across campus after dark. When they got to the garden, their feet were soaked from all the dew on the grass, and Gina’s idea of sitting on the blanket together went out the window.
They found a bench near a fountain next to the gardens and sat down. Gina started talking about how much she loved Ana, and how meaningful it was to be back together at the place where they met. Ana was busy swatting at mosquitoes, which Gina had COMPLETELY left out of her proposal-planning equation… Gina realized she needed to get this show on the road before they were eaten alive! Ana asked if Gina had any bug spray, which she did not, but Gina turned and started looking through her bag as though searching for some. She pulled out the ring, and said something to the effect of asking if Ana would marry her. Ana teared up, said yes, and asked Gina to say the whole thing again, this time on one knee. Of course, Gina obliged.
Three months later, Gina awoke after a delightfully long sleep to Ana coming home from a local Farmer’s Market. She handed Gina a plate with an extraordinary pastry on it, sort of a croissant-cinnamon roll hybrid, and a gorgeous ring stuck in the middle of it. Ana had gotten a charm from Gina’s mother that had belonged to Gina’s grandmother with three garnets in it. Ana had used one of the stones to create a custom engagement ring for Gina then surprised her with it pastry-style. Ana asked Gina if she would marry her, and while tearing up, Gina said yes. That was probably the tastiest pastry Gina has ever eaten
Planning: We read some really good advice about planning our wedding on a teacher’s blog about applying the backwards-planning method of lesson planning to her wedding. We started by writing down what we wanted the general feel of our wedding to be, what we wanted to remember when we looked back on it afterwards. What emerged were the ideas of spending lots of quality time with the people we loved, spending that time outdoors someplace beautiful, and having our wedding be a shared creation among all of our friends and family who joined us. We started looking for an outdoor venue that could ideally host close to all of our guests, and Hidden Valley Retreat in Escondido, CA was just what we had in mind.
When we found Hidden Valley online, we called them immediately, long after business hours had ended, and booked it sight unseen (we live about 450 miles north in the Bay Area). We made a trip the following month and LOVED the energy, style, and gorgeous setting. We made four trips down to the San Diego area to coordinate and plan, utilizing the referrals and experience of the fantastic onsite event planner.
We created many elements of the wedding decorations ourselves, and we wrote our ceremony together with the help of our wedding party. Rather than having an officiant, we decided to have the entire wedding party “marry” us by taking roles in the ceremony. We spent about eleven months putting everything together, buying up wine by the case during BevMo sales, then drove it all down to Escondido in a rental minivan, finally ready to make our wedding dreams come true.
Photos by Kaysha Weiner.