Intimate fall backyard wedding in Berkeley, California
Nico and Marissa met doing what they love most: Giving back to their community. Nico was looking for volunteer opportunities and came across HYPE: Horizons Young Professionals for Equality. HYPE is a community of queer young professionals that aims to make philanthropy fun, accessible and easy. HYPE donors give 25 dollars per month to a pooled fund, and at the end of the year, the group works together to grant funds to local, grassroots LGBTQ+ organizations.
Nico and Marissa both gravitated to HYPE as a way to contribute to their community and make friends. At the time, Marissa was chairing HYPE, and they met for coffee to talk about Nico getting involved. Nico instantly fell in love with Marissa’s brilliance and dedication to social justice. They became close friends and leaned on one another during the difficult times of the 2016 election. Soon after, Nico asked Marissa on a date to the theater to see the Lion King. That night, they talked for hours about their goals and aspirations. Since then, they have been pursuing those goals together as a couple.
The couple got engaged in New Orleans at Funding Forward, an annual conference of funders for LGBTQ+ issues. In New Orleans, there is a bar called Vaughan’s that’s a NOLA music institution and one of Marissa’s favorite places in the world. In fact, Marissa says it changed her life and completely deepened her love for music. While in New Orleans, they went to Vaughan’s together, and Nico got on the microphone in front of everyone and asked Marissa if she would let Vaughan’s change her life once again. And she said yes!
Neither Nico nor Marissa wanted a long engagement, so they began planning their wedding within a week of getting engaged. They both hate planning events and have very different approaches to planning in general. Nico is detail-oriented and was determined to get things done as soon as possible. Marissa is more interested and wanted to think about the overall feel of the event and marinate on the details. Neither is particularly enamored with weddings, but both wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone.
After a couple of months of struggle, they came up with the perfect plan and figured out how to work together to realize it. They held a weekly “wedding workstation,” a few hours in which they worked on the wedding together. They also made the process more fun by working with people in their community to carry it out. Zoe Larkin, a local wedding photographer and friend, did engagement photos with them in and around their Oakland home. Their friend Sarah Germany, who is doing amazing work in Oakland to bring healthy food and wellness to East Oakland, catered a picnic the day after their ceremony. Jamie Thrower, an LGBTQ+ wedding photographer, social justice activist and friend, photographed the festivities.
Nico and Marissa got married in an intimate ceremony in late October in a dear friend’s backyard. Their friends gave Nico and Marissa the incredible gift of planning and hosting the ceremony event. Another close friend who actually helped bring Nico and Marissa together officiated the ceremony, which incorporated Jewish traditions. After the ceremony, the group had dinner at a nearby restaurant in Berkeley.
Since the ceremony was very small (approximately 40 people, including their immediate families), Nico and Marissa found ways to celebrate with their larger community. In September, Marissa’s parents hosted a celebration in Southern California for her local family. The week before they got married, they had a community blessing (“aufruf”) at their synagogue, Sha’ar Zahav, which is the first LGBTQ+ synagogue in the world.
The day after the ceremony, they held a big picnic for their larger community. In November, Nico’s parents hosted a reception for them in Minneapolis for their own local community. Nico and Marissa also plan to travel to Spain in 2019 to celebrate with Nico’s European family. This plan allows them to celebrate with many people they love while keeping wedding costs low and minimizing travel for those who aren’t local.
Through their wedding planning, they have learned a lot about one another and how their different approaches complement each other. By doing a small, intimate wedding followed by by a picnic and multiple small receptions, they were able to accomplish the intimate feel they were going for while including their broader community.
Alaina Leary Lavoie
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