Fall fairy tale wedding at a Victorian manor
Renee and Samantha’s fall wedding had a dark, romantic fairy tale theme with navy and wine as the colors. Renee proposed to Samantha at Atlanta Pride before the parade, and they were engaged for two years before their October wedding at the Cardwell Manor in Sevierville, Tennessee. Their first dance was to “This I Promise You” by *Nsync.
What advice would you give to engaged LGBTQ+ couples?
The best advice we can give to engaged couples is don’t rush anything. Have an engagement that you want to have not what everyone else is doing. During the time as an engaged couple, learn more about each other and grow as one. This is the time before you both make a life-changing mark on your life. Listen and communicate with one another and really focus on you both and the life you’re about to develop as a family.
Advice for vendors and venues working with LGBTQ+ couples?
The best advice that we can give to vendors and venues working with an engaged LGBTQ+ couple is to really focus on the couple’s needs. We are the same as every other human. Sam and I had a hard time finding a venue and vendors for our wedding with living right in the middle of the Bible belt. We got turned away, prayed to and completely ignored.
However, once we found our vendors, it was truly a blessing. When I first asked Cardwell Manor if they do same-sex marriages and Amanda White’s response was, “Yes, love is love here at the manor,” from that moment forward I knew we found the place. They went above and beyond for us. They made us feel so welcomed. Their dedication and professionalism to Samantha and I during our planning and the day of a wedding was a true fairytale and how they treated us with open arms is the best feeling in the world being a gay couple.
Our photographer, Josh Shoopman, truly made our wedding and engagement photos. He continued to remind us of how appreciated he was to be apart of our day, how great we look at a couple and he truly is a genuine guy who was so excited to be apart of an LGBTQ+ wedding.
The advice I can give is to accept everyone with open arms. To really be honored to be a part of someone’s day; we as the couple can tell. The littlest things can mean the world to a gay couple.
What challenges did you face as an LGBTQ+ couple planning your wedding?
Sam and I actually had our first wedding, a destination wedding, booked, planned and paid for and then canceled and lost everything because we weren’t going to continue living in a toxic environment with people who didn’t accept us for us. Renee’s father and his wife helped us and with the planning, basically everything. We honestly didn’t really get a say so in the wedding. We were having a wedding they wanted us to have.
We went to Nashville for Samantha’s last dress fitting. Then all of a sudden everything took a turn. They didn’t accept who we were, why we were getting married, that Sam was not allowed to take my last name, if we have children they won’t be a real Rosa, that my father wasn’t going to walk me down the aisle if I didn’t wear a dress, that I shouldn’t be with Sam, that we basically are going through a phase of being gay, and Sam is just using me.
The night turned very south. We left and drove back to Knoxville. During that week, we went through an emotional rollercoaster and choose to cancel everything. We weren’t going to continue to have a wedding and have people who didn’t accept us be a part of the day. Since it was a destination wedding, it was very challenging and they helped pay for half of it.
As a couple, we didn’t want them to bring the most important day of our lives down. How we weren’t accepted as a couple from our own family has been very hard. We were engaged for a year and were supposed to get married in October 2017. During March 2018, Sam and I talked and we said we weren’t going to change who we are for other people. That we are getting married but this time around, we are going to plan it ourselves and pay for it, so therefore people can’t control our big day.
We were so determined to have our wedding and we did it. We didn’t let anyone come between us the second time around. I can honestly say it was the wedding we were supposed to have. It was a fairy tale. We did it ourselves. The amount of pain and hurt that Sam and I went through, we didn’t let it continue to bring us down. We turned around and said you know what, they are not going to win. We are getting married and we are going to have a breathtaking wedding, and we did on October 20, 2018.
Being in the Bible Belt, we also got turned down over and over from all sorts of venues. We would get down and give up, then I would get back up and search again for a venue. One venue completely ignored us once they found out we were gay, then we blasted them on social media and the venue called and left voicemail after voicemail trying to get our service back because they didn’t want their name to hurt for turning us away.
We had a very hard time trying to find somewhere to get married and who accepted an LGBTQ+ wedding.
We actually had really close family members who didn’t come to the wedding because they didn’t accept our marriage of woman and woman. It did put a hardship on our family because it was on my mom’s side. We all are very close but due to their religious beliefs that didn’t show. We all got text messages saying how they and their church were praying for us and for all the family who went and supported us.
Did you encounter any pleasant surprises as an LGBTQ+ couple planning your wedding?
The surprise we encountered was having the amount of support and love from our friends and the family who accepted us. Because of everything we went through as a couple prior, everyone knew how bad we wanted this wedding. We had family and friends travel from all over. We actually even had our friend Skyler Jay from Queer Eye show up at the wedding!
Photographer: Josh Shoopman, Shoop-Shots Photography
Ceremony & Reception Venue: Cardwell Manor
Florist: Cardwell Manor
Catering: Famous Dave’s
Cake Designer: Brittany Brown
Officiant: Nikki Threadgill, Magnolia Matrimonies
Alaina Leary Lavoie
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