Going the Distance
This Southern love story is anything but old-fashioned


Clifton Thomas and Adam Stewart are celebrating six months of married life in December 2010, all thanks to the whims of Adam’s junk mail filter. At least, that’s what got it started. Adam didn’t use his Yahoo! Personals account much and most of the website’s e-mail alerts were automatically tagged junk mail. Mysteriously, a “recommended match” notification slipped through to his inbox one day. “I was intrigued and decided to reply. A year and a half later, Cliff moved from Houston to Atlanta, and two years after that, we were married,” Adam explains.

“Once I knew Cliff was going to move, I knew that I would propose,” says Adam. And he did, with a little help from Taco Bell. “I used their hot sauce packet with ‘Will you marry me?’ on it as a prop,” he says. Adam followed the spicy suggestion up with a much spicier diamond and sapphire channel-set band. Not only did Cliff say ‘yes,’ but he surprised Adam with a diamond channel-set band a few weeks later from the same company, Sun Jewelry in Los Angeles.

“Marriage is the ultimate pledge that you will stick by someone no matter how hard times get,” states Adam, “So that’s a very reassuring thing, since relationships are not easy at all.” It isn’t made any easier by the currently limited status of same-gender unions throughout the nation.

No strangers to traveling for the sake of love, Adam and Cliff had to go the extra mile for a bona fide marriage certificate. “We wanted to get married in Massachusetts because it was the first state to recognize our union as marriage,” says Adam.

The biggest aspect of wedding planning impacted by their choice to marry in Massachusetts was the size of the guest list. Thirty-nine friends and family members did attend, but some special people could not. “On the positive side, we were able to spend plenty of time with every guest,” says Adam, “We never felt overwhelmed trying to make time to speak to everyone in attendance, and so we got to make sure we enjoyed our dinner, too!”

Braving organizational hassles, Adam and Cliff took it on themselves to plan the wedding. Ultimately, they deemed the experience rewarding and fun. “Even though we were engaged for two years, we didn’t really start planning the wedding until a year before we tied the knot,” says Adam.

One hurdle came in trying to pin down the few guests that did get an invite. “It was an incredible challenge to get some of our guests to RSVP,” says Cliff, “We heard about that from previously married friends, but it was still surprising that we had to place calls and send e-mails trying to find out who would attend.”

“Since we wanted a legal wedding, we had to plan the entire thing from afar. We only got to visit Massachusetts one time during the planning,” says Adam. Friends proved to be a great advantage as well, acting as “eyes from afar.” Rob and Anne McWaters, two of the couple’s closest friends, happened to live near the wedding location and could provide immeasurable help. As a wedding gift, the McWaters even handled all the decorations and flowers, choosing white calla lilies and red Gerber daisies. “It was truly an amazing and special gift,” Adam says, “They really did a great job with everything!”

The ceremony and reception were held at the Griffin Museum of Photography in Winchester, Mass., on July 10, 2010.

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Photography by Katherine Atteberry

Guests dined on catered delights from Green Olive, including dried cranberry salad; chicken picatta; mahi mahi with a green gazpacho sauce; fresh pasta with tomatoes, parsley and garlic; and haricot verts with roasted almonds and a roasted red potato salad. The wedding cake was a dark chocolate sponge cake with butter cream frosting, with alternating layers of a cinnamon-walnut ganache and mocha butter cream frosting.

Adam’s parents hosted a Sunday morning brunch for the attendees at J.J. Foley’s Irish pub that was talked about for weeks. A reception of hors d’oeuvres, drinks and dancing late into the night finished the special evening perfectly.

Playing off their interracial union, the grooms decided on a black and white theme. “Plus, black and white never go out of style, making it simple but elegant,” Adam adds. While Cliff donned a white tuxedo jacket, Adam simply chose to wear his own. Both sported boutonnières of a single white calla lily.

“Every person who was a part of the ceremony was one of our best friends,” Adam says. Lolita Morrow was the state-designated officiate, Rob McWaters and Eboni Williams read selections, and Jeff Hindman played the guitar for their entrance and the recessional. “Having people close to us perform the ceremony made it absolutely perfect,” Adam says.

>Rob and his wife Anne were not the only McWaters to play an integral role in the warm, hand-crafted ceremony. Their son Ben, only 22 months old at the time, took on the role of ring-bearer, carrying two tungsten carbide wedding bands in a basket down the aisle

“It really was everything we wanted. I guess being guys, a wedding is never something we sat and planned as we were growing up,” Cliff says, “But I really would not have changed a thing.  The only thing missing is national recognition, but hopefully that is coming soon!”

As for the process, Adam has his priorities straight. “Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if it rains, if you don’t have everything rehearsed perfectly, or if any little thing goes wrong on the day of the wedding,” he says, “It just matters that everyone has fun and that you marry the person you love.”

When asked what advice they have for other soon-to-be-weds, Cliff, a middle school English teacher, has the perfect lesson plan. “The day really does go by quickly. Try your best to enjoy each second of the wedding,” he reminds couples, “Make sure you do what you prefer. It really is your day. Also, we are really glad we decided to get married somewhere it is legal. There is truly something special about getting a real marriage certificate. Finally, create your own traditions. Be creative since you are not bound to any traditional expectations!”