Melissa + Kimberly

Wedding Colors: plum, burgundy,
champagne, pink, white, gray

Wedding Location: Trevi Catering, Wickliffe, Ohio

Wedding Season: fall

Jodi Hutton, a photographer in Northeast Ohio, started a nonprofit called Rai of Love in the memory of her cousin. Jodi’s cousin, as an organ donor, gave the gift of life when she passed away in her teens. Jodi says “I wanted to take the love she embodied and pay it forward.” So Jodi decided to put her love in action and she teamed up with a group of inclusive and talented wedding professionals who collaborated with Jodi to give one chosen couple a wedding of their dreams for free. Melissa and Kimberly were the winners. “I brought their dream to fruition, they also made mine a reality.” said Jodi. Check out this gorgeous wedding and then read some of the couple’s personal story and input below.

Q: Tell us about your wedding!

A: My wife and I both are huge fans of Harry Potter and autumn colors. We chose our color palettes to include lush plum, burgundy with hints of champagne. We had accents throughout that had subtle nods to Harry Potter: our seating chart, agenda signage and our wedding cake. We also incorporated an Irish Hand Fasting during the ceremony to pay homage to my wife’s Irish heritage.

Q: Let’s talk wedding decor. How did you decorate your space for the ceremony and the reception? Was any part of the decor DIY?

A: We had purchased the wood rounds, mirror and fairy lights for the centerpieces with the table numbers. They gave the space a slightly rustic feel when paired with the burlap chair sashes we used. We also got signature cookies that said “Love is Love” so that everyone in attendance knew they were loved and welcome as they were.

Q: What were the florals like in your wedding?

A: We were so in love with the florals at our wedding. We had a combination of flowers that we both loved. But the best part was that our bouquets were not directly matching but complimentary to one another. My bouquet used several of my favorite flower (dahlias) and my wife’s included more of her favorites (the ranunculus and the kangaroo paws). Hints of both were incorporated into all of the bridesmaid bouquets and bouts but were also included in our cake design. I feel as though the lush rich colors popped in every picture that we took.  I’ve received endless compliments and inquiries about our floral designs.

Q: Did you personalize the day in any way? What were some of your favorite parts of your wedding?

A: Kim: My favorite part was Melissa walking down the aisle towards me, our first dance and when we got pronounced wife and wife. Although we had done the rehearsal and I had seen Melissa in her dress all day, watching her walk down the aisle towards me was still really magical.

Melissa: My favorite part of the day was the first look. I had no clue what Kim’s dress looked like and was so excited to finally see her. We opted to keep everything secret and get ready separately, so it made that moment really special and magical.

Q: Let’s talk fashion. How did you both choose your wedding day look?

A: Kim: I knew that I didn’t want to wear a suit despite not normally being a super dressy kind of woman. I felt as though the “dress chose me.” My wedding dress wasn’t even a dress that I normally would’ve gravitated towards but my MOH convinced me to try it on. I made alterations to make the skirt of the dress less full and felt like I had truly found the one. My wedding style for my hair was an elegant choice for long hair. I didn’t to wear it down but also wasn’t a big fan of updos, so I landed on a compromised classy combination of the two.

Melissa: I knew that I was a fan of the fit and flare dress style, as it was the most flattering on my body type. I had not however planned to wear anything completely open backed. I went dress shopping to try on a specific dress at a Lillian West trunk show and left with a Justin Alexander dress the stylist insisted I try on. I had already declared another dress “the one”, but when I tried on my dress, I felt so beautiful I was literally speechless. After I chose the dress, I fell in love with these shoes by Bella Belle. The lace complimented my dress perfectly and I genuinely felt like a princess.  I chose a hairstyle that would be completely romantic and feminine with a slight edge with a design on the side my hair is shaved on. I loved the feeling of being bold but also elegant.

Q: How did you meet? Tell us about the proposal.

A: Kim and I have been together since June of 2019. We had seen one another on Bumble, but Kim didn’t swipe right (haha!). We met a few weeks later at a LGBTQ+ social mixer for Stonewall Sports Cleveland. Kim was new to Cleveland having recently moved from Philadelphia. She missed the deadline for kickball and decided to still come to the mixer to meet new people. I’m on the board of the nonprofit and was there with my team. I recognized her from Bumble and struck up a conversation after buying her a Truly (which is one of the reasons we have the Truly photo) and the rest is history. We felt an instant comfort and calm around one another that made starting a new relationship feel natural and rather effortless.

Kim’s Proposal: Melissa and I had discussed how we each felt about marriage and planned to spend our lives together. But she had no clue that I was planning to propose. Melissa’s cousin, Mika, and her family were coming from Texas to Ohio to her dad’s for Christmas. I messaged Mika and we sneakily figured out what kind of ring Melissa might like. Mika’s dad (also in on the secret) invited us to join them for what Melissa thought was just Christmas dinner. Little did she know that an even greater surprise was waiting for her underneath the Christmas tree!  After deciding I wanted to propose, and reflecting on our mutual love of Harry Potter, I chose to incorporate that into the proposal. I purchased Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and spent a full day (while Melissa was out of town) hollowing out the book. The package was wrapped like a parcel from Hogwarts. I made it so the book would open to the ring and the chapter The Unbreakable Vow. Melissa didn’t notice that everyone in the room was taking pictures or that I had been down on bended knee behind her as she opened it waiting for her answer. She was so surprised she forgot to answer! Finally she answered with a very emphatic, resounding YES!

Melissa’s Proposal: Right after Christmas I ordered the custom ring I’d chosen for Kim and thought about how I wanted to propose. In January, Kim and I were flying home from a short business trip to Vegas. While we were waiting to board our flight, I scrolled across something on my Facebook timeline that said Ohio Wedding Giveaway. I thought for sure that it had to be fake or spam, but on the off chance that it wasn’t, I saved it. The post had been made by a nonprofit called Rai of Love that was donating an entire wedding to a couple in need. That evening back home, I noticed that among the other photos, their page also had an engagement photograph of two women and thought to myself, “So there’s a chance!” On January 16th, I sent in a video submission, telling our story. I poured my heart into describing our unsupportive families who won’t come to the wedding, Kim having gone back to nursing school to save lives and how, if we were chosen, I’d like to make the whole thing a surprise and propose to Kim. Unbeknownst to me, my close friends I had told about my secret submission also submitted essays nominating us to win. Jodi Hutton (our wedding photographer and founder of Rai of Love) chose us to win! She contacted my cousin in Texas, who worked with our best friends in Ohio, and set a plan in motion to surprise both Kim and I in February. That evening our friends convinced us to go to our local gay bar, Twist, for a post dodgeball drink. What we didn’t know was that Jodi and her amazing team of vendors wanted to surprise us with the news, just like I’d planned to surprise Kim. The entire Stonewall Sports league was in on it and our best friends had brought Kim’s engagement ring with them. Rai of Love announced to everyone that we had won a free wedding and I was able to give the love of my life a ring that promised her forever. We were surrounded by excitement, happiness and more importantly the love of all of our close friends.

Q: What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?

A: Kim: The first look! I definitely had a lot of jitters going into that one. I had been waiting to see Melissa in her dress for months and I had no clue about anything she was doing except for her hair. It was going to be the first time that I got to see the whole package. It was going to be so exciting but also nerve wracking because a lot of people were around (as we did it in a public park).

Melissa: I was the most excited about the first look, the vows and the first dance. We hadn’t seen anything the other was going to be wearing. We hadn’t shared or collaborated on vows at all.  So both of those moments were experiences I had dreamt about for months. The first dance was the culmination of month’s of practice. I love dancing but my wife was nervous so we took private lessons for months.  I was definitely looking forward to sharing that special moment dancing for the first time as a married couple.

Q: Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?

A: Kim: We got really great advice that I highly recommend other people follow. Please make sure that you set aside 5-10 minutes with your spouse to let the moment and the day sink in. We had our bridal party sneak us away for a private moment that I will always remember.

Melissa: Remember to eat and drink water throughout the day. I heard so many stories of lightheaded, drunk or starving brides. I made sure to nominate two ladies in my bridal party to literally feed me snacks throughout the day (muffins, mini sandwiches, water, etc). I woke up the next morning hangover free and feeling refreshed despite the extremely long day. Also, don’t skimp on the photographer. Your way to hold on to these memories will be your photos of that day. It is worth the money to make sure you get photos that you’ll cherish a lifetime!

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Photographer: Jodi Hutton Photography
Handmade Goods Designer: The Details Duo
Signage: Laserpopshop
Invitation Designer: Brittney Nichole Designs
Hair Stylist: By Carla Marcelle
Hair Stylist: Kelly J Hair Cleveland
Makeup Artist: Beauty by Carelicha
Beauty: Bombshell Beauty
Apparel: Belle Amour Bridal
Apparel: The Dress Rack Medina
Reception Venue: Trevi Catering
Bakery: Canela Bakeshop
Floral Designer: Diana Elizabeth Designs