When Aly and Elroi Windsor first met at the Echo Lounge in Atlanta, they were both in relationships and decidedly not looking for love. It would take a chance meeting two years later in the very same room for the unexpected, overwhelming and completely incredible feeling that is attraction to wash over them when they were at the right place, at the right time, free as birds.

Aly was so nervous around Elroi that she left the bar, but Elroi, intrigued, followed. “When I saw Aly at the Echo, and then later saw her leave in the direction of Mary’s, a gay bar, I took note,” says Elroi. “After I dropped some friends off, I went back to Mary’s looking for Aly. I just felt something pulling me there, telling me I needed to go talk to her. Aly doesn’t believe I had this magical sensation, but I did. So I went and I found her, we talked, and the rest is history.”

Elroi proposed to Aly at a park during their favorite benefit for rescue dachshunds. Aly was surprised and cried—hesitant to look at the ring, afraid it would ruin their perfect moment if she didn’t like it. Luckily, Aly loved it.

The planning took only six months with lots of love and help from friends. The couple decided on May 12, 2007, at Paris on Ponce, a kitschy antique shop and event venue in Atlanta. The ceremony and the reception took place in the then-Le Moulin Rouge (now Le Maison Rouge) event room. The space inspires a carnival-esque environment that captures that magic that’s already in the air when two people love each other and want to share that with their family and friends.

Being blessed with a talented entourage makes the occasion personal, as your loved ones can get involved in your special day. Elroi advises on involving friends in the planning process: “Tap into the skills of your friends. I think friends really enjoy helping out and being a part of ceremonies.” Elroi and Aly’s cake, clothes, food, invitations and music were all done by friends.

The cake came from by Elroi’s best friend Macauley Devun, a pastry chef for Cakes by Macauley, who drove the cake to Atlanta from her Houston home and put the final touches on in Atlanta. Unique and adorable birds served as toppers; Aly’s was blue and fabulous, flaunting a feather and Elroi’s was decked out in pirate apparel. Their invitations kept with the pirate-bird inspiration, including a pirate ship with a banner reading “homeward-bound”.

Fashion suits the down-to-earth couple. Aly rocked it in a floor-length, flowing blue dress, and Elroi looked equally sharp, sporting a fitted suit with a tie and scarf of the same color and material as Aly’s dress. The gorgeous garb was crafted by their good friend and New York-based designer, Angela Lowe of Funky Lala.

Hair and makeup made the already head-turning couple shine. Elroi’s hair was tended to by Stephanie of Cabbagetown Coiffeurs. Aly’s voluminous extensions and styling by Colie from Three-13 Salon got a shout-out in the bride’s reception speech. “One of the comments she [Aly] made during her speech at the reception, through tears, was, ‘I’d like to thank my hairstylist.’ Everyone laughed,” says Elroi.

Precious, intimate moments were captured by Atlanta-based photographers Our Labor of Love. “I’m terrified of the camera because I’m usually not photogenic,” says Aly, “but Jesse and Whitney were so sweet, kind and talented.” The extremely gay-friendly husband-and-wife duo also set up a smile booth, which captured guests in fun, silly moments. Amid all the fun and revelry, the guests’ hunger was tended to by Ria Pell, the couple’s good friend and owner of Ria’s Bluebird, an Atlanta dining mainstay, who provided a Southern vegetarian buffet complete with heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, collard greens and jalapeno mac ’n’ cheese. “Even the die-hard carnivores couldn’t stop helping themselves to seconds and thirds,” says Aly.

Pell also played the music for the reception that had a “fabulous” dress code where Aly says, “drinks flowed, people danced and much joyful mayhem ensued.” Another huge plus of getting loved ones involved is being catered to by people who are close to you, know what you like and how you like it, making the night more perfect and special.

Weddings can get hectic; there’s so much excitement, happiness, friends and family, but these two stayed in the moment. “I felt excited and thrilled and like I had just taken this big step in my life that I always wanted and that I took it with a woman I truly loved and couldn’t wait to spend life with,” says Elroi.

Sharing that moment with friends and family in an atmosphere of love and support is what matters most. Elroi learned from the day saying, “I learned that people who are resistant to accepting queer love and marriage can really experience a change of heart by going through something like this. Being immersed in such a positive and loving atmosphere really helped folks understand that love is love. No matter how queer.”

Real Wedding Alum Update! Aly and Elroi Windsor now live in North Carolina with their two children.