An Art Nouveau summer wedding for vintage-loving queer, Christian brides accentuated with peacock feathers, family and devotion
Leslie and Rachel married in a late afternoon ceremony on June 16, 2012, at Scarsdale Congregational Church, UCC in Scarsdale, New York, where Rachel was serving as a Minister of Christian Education. The then-Queens residents—who have since moved to Berea, Kentucky, chose an Art Nouveau theme that ended up having a special emphasis on peacock feathers.
“When Rachel took me ring shopping, I found an engagement ring that was Art Nouveau, and that sparked the idea,” says Leslie. “Then, we found an Alphonse Mucha print from the 1910s that had two women who looked a lot like us,” says Rachel. “My mother, who is a graphic designer, doctored it and made it look more like us, and then made a gorgeous wedding invitation out of it. That pretty much set us on the path.”
Leslie and Rachel met in seminary in 2005. “Our faith is an important part of who we are,” says Leslie. “Many of our guests said they were surprised to find that a gay wedding was the most religious ceremony they’d been to in years. It was an hour-long service with congregational hymns, blessings from three ministers, a sermon, and communion. My favorite part was our exit. We walked together down the aisle, holding hands and singing a capella the spiritual, ‘Guide My Feet While I Run This Race.’ The congregation joined in on the second verse. It was a powerful recognition of the fact that we really believe that God created and continues to create our marriage.”
The brides’s families played an intricate part in the wedding. Both of their dads walked them down the aisle, and afterwards, gave each other a high-five. “It was pretty cute,” says Leslie. "As a children’s minister, I worked very closely with the kids of the church, and I wanted them to have a role," says Rachel. "Leslie’s stepmother and niece made sticks with bells and ribbons on them for the kids to wave. They came down the aisle at the beginning of the processional. It was a great way to set the tone of joy and fun. And I think they really liked getting to be part of it. I love that I was part of a church where people would joyously let their kids be part of a same-sex wedding."
For their reception, Leslie’s father and niece made a photobooth with a smiling crescent moon in the background, inspired again by the 1910s. Rachel’s mother made paper masks for guests to have fun with, and she and her best friend, also named Rachel, created white paper flowers for centerpieces. Her mom also decorated the paper-covered tables with silkscreened squares encouraging guests to write or draw messages to the brides. Leslie’s mom finished off the décor with mustard- and rose-colored fabric, tying their palette together.
Intricate details and a cohesive theme made for great photos, Rachel points out, but she’s also clear that “they didn’t really matter to what kind of time we had. The food mattered, though. Good food is important.” Leslie agrees, saying, “I learned that the details don't actually matter. When I took the attitude ‘What happens, happens,’ I had a blast.”
For a sweet treat, the queer brides started with the cake-cutting and a champagne toast, because many of their guests couldn’t stay all evening. “We started with the cake-cutting and a champagne toast, because many of our guests couldn’t stay all evening,” says Rachel. “We found really cool edible peacock feathers from etsy.com as toppers on our cupcakes. The main cake was made at Babycakes NYC, a bakery that produces sugar-free, gluten-free, nut-free and vegan cakes that are actually really delicious. This was important because I can’t eat sugar, and many of our beloved guests couldn’t eat some of the other main cake ingredients. So we found a way to feed everyone!”
Buon Amici, a little local deli in Scarsdale, laid out a resplendent buffet of Italian foods (some gluten-free, including chicken, pasta, meatballs and gnocci, as well as a mozzarella bar, made fresh for the guests and served with accoutrements such as ham and salami. “We also had strawberry shortcake for dessert, made by many of our loving guests,” says Rachel. “We had a huge team of volunteers working for days before the wedding to try to cut costs. It was an amazing gift that they gave us, and delicious, too!” Desserts also included more than 1,000 bourbon balls, a nod to Leslie’s Kentucky heritage.
The devoted lovebirds celebrated their marriage with a live Brooklyn band performing while the 200-plus guests enjoyed a contra dance. Rachel says she can’t remember their first dance song, but it’s clear she had another focus. “It was something bluegrass. But I do remember the feeling of it. So many people were watching us, but I didn’t really even notice them. I only had eyes for her, and she was so beautiful!” They both danced with their fathers for the father/daughter dance, one tradition they made sure to keep. “I wanted Roy Orbison’s ‘You Got It,’ because my dad used to sing it to me all the time as a kid,” says Leslie. “’Anything you want, you got it, baby!’ It always made me feel special.” Rachel’s DJ friend Emily Chilko, who has played a number of weddings, took over the music for the second part of the reception. “She gave her services to us as a gift, and it was an amazing gift!,” says Rachel.
MAIN CAKE: Babycakes NYC
CUPCAKE TOPPERS: Etsy
PHOTOGRAPHY: Cindy and Sharon, Same Sex Wedding Photographers
FLORISTS: Colonial Village Florist (bouquets and corsages); Kate Chilko, a friend (boutonnières and table flowers); Fran Grenley, a friend and coworker (ceremony flowers)
HAIR: Momotaro Salon (Leslie)
MAKEUP: Red Door Spa