Intimate garden wedding and “booze cruise” boat dance party in Salem, Massachusetts
Ryan + Joe
Pronouns: he/him/his (both)
Sexual Orientation: gay (both)
Wedding Titles: groom/groom
Wedding Colors: dark green, cream, gold
Wedding Location: Salem, Massachusetts
Wedding Month: August
Ryan and Joe’s love story, as told to Equally Wed
We actually knew of each other for a few years before we actually “met.” We went to the same college and Joe worked at the library, where Ryan was a regular (insert nerdy emoji). It wasn’t until a few years later that we actually met through one of our best friends. Specifically, we were all seeing the 3D Katy Perry movie at the Boston Common movie theater (insert second nerdy emoji). Shortly after, Joe asked Ryan out and we went on a first date in the South End of Boston. At the time, Joe was living in the North End of Boston and Ryan was living in Somerville. Joe thought Somerville was “so far away” that he may have considered the relationship long distance, but we made it work. ;). (For your reference, if you’re not from Boston: These places are only a few miles apart…lol—but with public transportation in the city it can sometimes take a while to get between these areas.)
A memorable moment in our early relationship was going on our first trip to NYC—we arrived in the early hours of a Saturday morning and Joe, a huge SNL fan, persuaded Ryan to go wait in the standby line for tickets to the show that night. After a few hours in line, we got our tickets (we were something like #150 in line, so hopes were slim that we’d actually see the show), and returned later in the day to wait once again, crossing our fingers that 150 people wouldn’t show up. All of a sudden, a woman walked up to Ryan and said “I like your jacket, would you two like to come see the show?” before ushering us into a side elevator and up to studio 8H. On a high after the show, Joe said the first “I love you” and that’s held true since that moment.
We always have had so much fun with each other. We started exploring new restaurants and cooking together, going on trips and adventures, and slowly meeting each other’s inner circles and eventually became one big family. After dating for a while, we moved in together in Somerville and it became our home for the next 3 years. We lived in a fun loft apartment in an old church and continued building a life together.
The things we loved doing together then are still the most important parts of our lives. We both love food; we cook fun and elaborate meals together just for fun. We have a blast with our friends and are grateful to have so much love in our lives. We do our best to bring out the best in one another and stay connected to our zest for a fulfilling life!
We live in Salem now—we bought a house here after Ryan started working in the area and loved the hip yet historic vibe. We have been together now for almost 10 years. It feels like we have reached a level of cooperation and teamwork that neither of us really knew how to do when we were in our early years of dating. We have learned how to celebrate each other’s strengths and how to best support each other when things get tough. We have supported each other through so many life changes, through all of the ups and downs. And we’ve added our little pup, Otto, to the family! We feel hopeful and excited for our life together!
Ryan and Joe’s wedding story and what it’s like to plan a wedding as an LGBTQ+ couple
LGBTQ+ couples who are planning a wedding are met with both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing that, as an LGBTQ+ couple, we were already set on a path to break with a lot of wedding traditions (for example: no one was surprised we weren’t getting married in a church!). But on the other side of that, we found that a lot of the traditional resources were designed for straight-presenting couples with a bride and a groom. For us, we had actually never been to a wedding for an LGBTQ+ couple. On one hand, we felt totally free to do whatever we wanted; on the other hand, it would have been comforting to be able to look to another couple who we relate to for inspiration and advice.
We were able to find some inspiration online, particularly for our outfits, and it was helpful to find ideas and also to feel seen and supported by our family and chosen vendors, but we do wish there was more out there! Which is one big reason we’re writing this article now: we really hope that other LGBTQ+ couples will see our wedding and feel inspired (and excited!) to plan their own celebration!
We wanted our wedding to be a combination of personal, intimate moments with our closest family and friends AND a bash with all of the people who are most important to us. So in order to blend our visions for both a “small ceremony” and a “BIG party,” we went from an intimate garden ceremony, with just our closest friends and family, to a sunset cruise dance party (or “booze cruise,” depending on who we’re talking to!) with lots of family and friends. The wedding was entirely in the city we live in—Salem, MA, which made it feel even more meaningful to us.
Besides getting married in our own town, we added in a bunch of other elements to make the day feel even more like us. We got ready at our house as well as a friend’s place close by and gave all our guests a taste of what a night out in Salem looks like. We chose a close friend to marry us and came up with the entire ceremony script together. We had another friend (who, conveniently, recently started a flower business) do the flowers, and got to work closely with her to incorporate the look and flowers meaningful to us. We found Automic Gold (a queer-owned jewlery business) to make our rings, and a queer-identifying photographer, Lensy Michelle, to document our day.
Our ceremony was outdoors in a small public garden behind the Derby House in Salem. Since we got married in the middle of a garden, there wasn’t exactly an aisle. Instead, there were two paths (natural “aisles” of sorts) leading to the arbor where we had our ceremony. Ryan had the vision of literally being surrounded by our loved ones during our ceremony, so everyone stood in a horseshoe waiting for us to join them. We each walked down one of the two paths with our parents, who each gave us their blessing before sending us toward one another. We joined hands and entered the circle that our wedding party had formed, and then our parents walked in to complete the circle.
We were lucky enough to have a close friend marry us, and she spent hours supporting us with reflecting on our relationship and marriage, on our intentions for the ceremony, and vows that expressed exactly what we wanted to convey at the ceremony. We came up with the entire ceremony together over an afternoon in the garden where we had the ceremony, among the flowers and falling apples (which we learned symbolize both ecstasy and abundance—how awesome is that!) by taking parts we liked from traditional ceremonies and incorporating elements meaningful to us. This support and prep time ended up being the best gift we could have asked for—it added a depth and an intimacy to our wedding that made it feel uniquely ours. It was powerful to be surrounded by loved ones while also having a quiet intimacy that really allowed us to sink into the moment. We will never forget that feeling.
As a special detail, after we exchanged vows with one another, we then invited our circle of friends and family to participate in a community vow and blessing of the rings, during which we passed them around the circle so that each person could offer a one word wish for our marriage. We are grateful to have done it this way as we will carry the wishes of our friends and family with us every day. After the ceremony, we even had a little time alone to savor the moment before heading out to our reception and had a memorable moment with a passerby. A woman saw us and asked if we were going to a wedding. We replied that we had quite literally just gotten married. She congratulated us and told us that she’d been married to her wife for 20 years. She started to walk away before turning back and shouting “have a great life!” The timing, her delivery, and sentiment were spot on—and we’ve been telling each other “have a great life” ever since.
On the day of our wedding, we were a little surprised at how comfortable we felt being the center of attention! We have always felt pretty comfortable being ourselves and have been out and proud with our friends and family for our entire relationship—but putting our romance in the spotlight was a new experience! We felt completely comfortable and loved. We generally don’t do PDAs in daily life, so it was fun to have the feeling that “we’re going to kiss and all of you are going to clap!”
After our ceremony, we took a trolley to meet a much larger group of friends at our reception and dinner venue, Root, a local venue and restaurant with a social mission (which you can read about here. Keeping with just a few traditional elements for our reception, we set up a table with photos to relive special memories from our childhood and with our friends and family over the years. After a delicious meal, cake cutting, and some beautiful toasts from our loved ones, it was TIME TO SET SAIL! We had our first dance with each other (and dances with our moms!) on board a party boat as the sun was setting over the Salem harbor. And finally, DJ Stenzel Washington played us well into the evening with a playlist so bumpin’ that even our most “reserved” guests (and our photographers!) were dancing in the August heat by the end of the night!
We had a lot of different scenes throughout our wedding day (from the trolley ride to the ceremony, to the garden where we got married, to the wharf where we took formal photos, to the reception venue to the boat cruise), which might not be for everyone—but for us, the variety allowed each moment to have a unique vibe and (we think) to help us have specific memories of each part of such a whirlwind day. The wedding was all over Salem, which is our hometown and is a special place for us.
There’s no one-size-fits-all way to plan a wedding, but the best thing you can do at your wedding is to surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable. We felt so at home with not only our friends and family, but also with all of the new friends we met in the form of wedding vendors! It really mattered that we worked with people who took the time to get to know us and learn exactly what we were looking for. When the day arrived, we felt supported and loved by every person in the room!
Our general color scheme for the reception was dark green, cream, and gold accents. The tables were simple with some gold accents so that the flowers would be the center of the attention. Our suits played off each other and were an off white color and dark blue. Our wedding party wore soft ‘dusty’ shades of blue, purple and gray. We ended up coordinating well with the colors of sunset!
Joe in particular is a flower lover, so the flowers were really important. We worked with Whimsy by Lindsey (not to be confused with our photographer who is also “Lindsey” haha) who was incredible! We wanted to have lots of greens and foliage to coordinate with our green/gold color scheme. Lindsey added in a huge variety of seasonal flowers, like dahlias, garden roses and strawflowers. They were soft yet dramatic (and whimsical!) presentation. Lindsey also added anemones to our boutonnières, which was a really special touch as they are Joe’s favorite!
Any advice for vendors and venues working with LGBTQ+ couples?
I would advise vendors to use language (verbally and on forms) that are inclusive of all persons. For example, we met with a couple of potential vendors that had spots on their forms for the “groom” and for the “bride.” As a gay couple, that immediately made us feel like that professional had not worked outside the lines of a traditional, heterosexual marriage.
What challenges did you face as an LGBTQ+ couple planning your wedding?
There aren’t as many resources online as we thought there might be. The big websites are definitely aimed at heterosexual couples, and felt a little gimmicky to be honest. Another challenge is that some of the more traditional aspects of a wedding are designed around a heterosexual couple, such as who gets “walked in” to the ceremony. Even though we weren’t too concerned with tradition, it’s nice to include some sense of tradition in a wedding and it can be hard to do that when most traditions are designed for a man and a woman. Luckily we found these all pretty easy to work around and are really happy with what we chose!
To each of our surprises, we proposed to each other at the same time after dating for about 7 years! We were on vacation in Madrid when it all went down. Joe had lived in Madrid previously, and suggested a park he liked for sunset. While the sun was working its magic, Ryan made a little speech before revealing a ring to propose! Joe graciously accepted, and quickly had to restrategize, since he also had a ring for Ryan in his pocket. After relishing in the moment for a while, Joe revealed the ring to propose to Ryan! With a double proposal and double yes, it was the best vacation we’ve had to date! It is still a miracle to each of us that we somehow planned this without speaking to one another about it.
Search our directory of LGBTQ+ inclusive vendors.
Photographer: Lensy Michelle Photography
Florist: Whimsy by Lindsey
Invitations: Paper Source
Grooms’ attire: Suit by J.Crew; Tie by Frank & Buck
Jewelry: Wedding rings: Automic Gold
Attendant attire: Azazie
Cake: Flourish Bake Shoppe
Transportation: Salem Trolly
Wedding party makeup: @jocelynherrera__
Wedding party hair: @melhairmakeup
filed under: LGBTQ+ wedding, LGBTQ+ love, Salem wedding, green, gold, cream, boat, LGBTQ+ proposal, double proposal, Madrid
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