Castle of Love
Cheril and Monica’s wedding ceremony is a fairytale come true
By Katie Gallagher
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In the fall of 2003 at the 29th anniversary celebration for African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change in New York City, Cheril Clarke was performing spoken word poetry as part of the entertainment portion of the evening. Monica Bey was an attendee who came by chance, listening intently in the audience. While gathering e-mail addresses after the performance, Cheril put a star next to Monica’s name.
“I thought she was stunning and wanted to remember who she was,” recalls Cheril. “I didn’t realize that Monica saw the notation and had made one of her own.” Monica didn’t wait long to ask Cheril out to dinner.
Dinner turned into a relationship, and a relationship turned into a proposal. At the time that Cheril asked Monica the question of a lifetime, the couple was a member of a gay/lesbian supper club, and Cheril involved them in staging a fake event so the moment would be a surprise and shared with all of their friends.
A year and a half later, on January 15, 2007, Cheril and Monica made their promises. While they were both involved in the planning, Monica explains, ”Due to my hectic work schedule at the time, Cheril actually did the bulk of it. She knows exactly what I want and kept everything under control.” The joke was on Cheril, who says, “To my surprise, I actually did most of the planning. I thought once I bought the ring I only needed to show up.”
Oheka Castle in Huntington, N.Y., made for a gorgeous setting for the couple’s wedding. The ambiance and service kept it stress-free. “Oheka Castle made it a breeze. We only had to worry about hiring a photographer, florist and entertainment,” says Monica. “Everything else was taken care of by the venue, which is so elegant and beautiful, it didn’t need much added to it.”
Ohkea Castle, which also catered the black-tie reception, set the Cinderella-esque tone with lavish backdrops and romantic air. Dalsimer Florist arranged the enchanting flowers in shades of bridal white.
Both ladies wore traditional wedding dresses that they donated to charity afterwards, spreading the warmth and love experienced on their day of giving themselves fully to someone else. Visions Hair Salon of New Jersey and Ginger Jones of GoGirl Enterprises, were behind the hair and makeup, and dolled up both ladies. Joel Greenberg and Wendy Stewart were there to document the landmark in the couples’ lives with timeless photography.
Details are fabulous, but what really matters is the experience of the day; the way the couple and the guests feel as they celebrate what is easily one of the most memorable days in a lifetime. When asked what her favorite part of the ceremony was, Cheril responded, “The end. I couldn’t wait until it was time to hug and kiss my bride.”
An exciting and formal venue immediately incites a feeling of enthusiasm and anticipation, and when combined with a true appreciation of the reason behind coming together to celebrate, the vibe at a wedding is almost tangible. “I was so excited,” gushes Monica. “I think our guests enjoyed the food the most. There was enough food for two weddings.”
Of course, while weddings are amazing, they can also be overwhelming. The buildup and climax is visible from the coordinators to the guests and ultimately the couple, who has been there wading through the fun but stressful details every minute of the engagement, all the while hoping and praying that everything goes according to plan. “Everything felt just right,” says Monica. “I was a little nervous, which anyone would be, but I knew in my heart that everything was going to be OK. And it was.”
Many people find it hard to take in all that’s going on around them on their special day. It’s easy to get caught up in the many guests. You could spend the whole evening simply greeting everyone and feel the night go by in flash. It’s important to take in the sounds, smells and feelings as they happen. “We felt exhilarated, but when it all came to an end we were extremely tired as the day started very early and didn’t wind down until midnight,” Cheril remembers. “It was everything and more.” The moments, laughs and tears that are behind every smile of the day make all planning and waiting worth it in the end.
The couple spent their honeymoon relaxing on an R Family vacation cruise to the Caribbean, starting off their lives together in island-breeze leisure. While the whole process wasn’t all a fantasy, as both women experienced the difficulty of family members not attending, they made the day about the love they share between them and that will always be enough. Both ladies agree on advice for other couples planning weddings saying, “Be true to your union. Do things in away that works for you and your spouse and no one else.” And that’s exactly how it should be. The couple is currently carrying out their happy ending in Mount Laurel, N.J.