Twice as Nice
After a backyard ceremony in Connecticut, Alison and Irene take Manhattan
By Sarah Gleim
If you think celebrating your marriage with one wedding is joyful, imagine being able to experience the wonders of two ceremonies. Well that’s exactly what New Yorkers Alison Zack and Irene La Grasta got when they decided to tie the knot in the fall of 2010.
But the reason these two decided to have two weddings wasn’t all about cakes and flowers. It was because New York State where the women live still doesn’t recognize same-sex marriages as legal, and Zack and La Grasta were determined to have a legal marriage. Luckily for them, cousins in New Caanan, Conn.—where same-sex marriage is legally recognized—offered to have a ceremony at their home for the women, and arranged the entire affair. All Zack and La Grasta had to do was show up.
“They decorated the backyard so beautifully and handled all the arrangements,” La Grasta says. “It was their wedding gift to us and it was so incredibly sweet.” The ceremony was small and intimate, with only their immediate families present. Everyone shared a dinner after the I dos, and while both women agree it was perfect, they still wanted a New York City wedding to celebrate with their extended family and friends.
Wedding Venue: Studio 450, New York City
Caterer: Real Food Catering
Photographer: Jesse and Whitney, Our Labor of Love
Engagement Photos: Erica Beckman of Clean Plate Pictures
Photo Booth: StudioBooth
Hair and Makeup: Michiko Boorberg
Buffet Cakes: Billy’s Bakery
That’s where wedding No. 2 came into play, and it was as New York City as you can get. The October 10, 2010, ceremony and reception were both held at Studio 450, an all-white, two-story urban loft in Chelsea. The space’s wraparound, floor-to-ceiling windows provided incredible natural light for the afternoon event, and 360-degree views of the Hudson River, the Empire State Building and all of Manhattan after sunset.
The rooftop deck was the stunning backdrop for the ceremony, and in a break from tradition, the women decided to walk down the aisle hand in hand. They made their grand entrance together out of the loft’s freight elevator—Zack wearing a tea-length dress by Melissa Sweet and La Grasta in a custom suit by Mr. Ned in New York City.
“When we appeared to walk down the aisle, I took a moment, turned and looked at Alison,” La Grasta says. “Words can’t express just how good it felt to walk down the aisle with the girl of my dreams!”
They did incorporate several time-honored traditions, however, like a chuppah to honor Zack’s Jewish heritage, and the customary breaking of the glass. “I was very excited about breaking the glass at the end of the ceremony,” La Grasta says. “I smashed it!”
The two also had their siblings for their best man and maid of honor, and shared the customary father/daughter dance. “We did the father/daughter dance together, which was the most amazing and surreal experience,” Zack says.
Photography by Our Labor of Love
But the one thing the women agree really touched them were the words spoken by the cantor who was marrying them. She didn’t shy away from the fact that two women weren’t able to legally marry in New York State, or how thrilled she was when she first learned that she would get to marry a gay couple. “But then she said after she got to know us, she became excited about marrying Alison and Irene,” La Grasta says. “Most of our guests had never been to a gay wedding before. We got married twice, not just to make it legal, but also because we wanted to get married in the city we call home in front of our friends and family.”
And those friends and family had a ball, mostly taking photos in the full-scale StudioBooth photo booth, and sampling one of the six—yes six—cakes on the cake buffet. “They were one of our favorite parts of our wedding,” says La Grasta. Of course, that doesn’t even include the wedding cake. It was a two-tiered amaretto cake complete with bows designed to look like Zack’s dress.
With the entire celebration now such a blur, Zack says she was extremely grateful that they incorporated the Jewish ritual of yichud into their ceremony in which a newly married couple spends a period of time secluded in a room by themselves. “I didn’t really think too much about it beforehand,” Zack says, “but I’m really grateful that we chose to do it because it was one of the few moments of the weekend that we were actually alone together.”
So after a five-year relationship, a two-year engagement, two weddings and a honeymoon to Hawaii, what’s next for these two? Perhaps wedding No. 3? “Its just plain embarrassing that New York doesn’t allow gay marriage,” Zack says. “I always said I would wait and in retrospect that was just stubbornness. The message I want to send is, ‘you can’t stop us!’ and nothing says that like hauling it to Connecticut to swap vows.”