Carol and Kesha tie the knot in the Deep South, overcoming challenges along the way
By L.A. Jones
There is no Gaslight Banquet Hall in Atlanta, but it sounded plausible enough to Carol Russell when her girlfriend of two years called and asked her to meet up with her there for a banquet. Not quite dressed for it, she rushed over anyway to support the love of her life. The address turned out to be The Gaslight Inn Historic Bed & Breakfast, not a banquet hall, so Carol knew for sure that Kesha was up to something.
Soon Carol realized that in fact their destination was a room sprinkled with rose petals and romantic touches, but thought it was a simply a beautiful, romantic Valentine’s Day weekend surprise. Then Kesha read Carol a love poem, got down on one knee and proposed. Carol was caught completely off-guard but knew her answer right away. She accepted enthusiastically. In April 2010, Carol and Kesha tied the knot in an outdoor affair at the Greystone event space of the Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta.
Choosing Greystone was the easiest decision in the planning process, says Kesha. Besides the elegant but relaxed setting, Piedmont Park offered a sentimental value for the two, who found it a safe haven when they were dating.
Most importantly, Carol always wanted an outdoor wedding,” Kesha says, “The terrace level where our ceremony took place was an outdoor oasis overlooking Lake Clara Meer and the pool on the grounds,” she says. “An amazing 9,000-square-foot granite plaza with windows that stretch the length of the room was an amazing display as we entered and were introduced as the newly married couple Carol and Kesha McKnight!”
For Carol, the simplest part was picking her gown, “It was the quickest and least stressful part of the process and lots of fun. “We actually decided on Kesha’s dress first,” she says. “I spotted it and knew without a doubt this was the dress for her. This gown was classy, bold and stylish: just like my wife.”
Both were heavily involved in the creative process and decision making that went into their wedding.
“Carol was very detailed in what she wanted and in her dealings with the vendors,” Kesha says. “I wanted her to be as involved as she felt she needed to be: It’s her wedding … I used to tease her a lot that I was just going to show up and wait for her at the altar.”
Carol was not just detailed, she was dedicated. Making it her main priority for six months, she credits her teammate for being her muse and cheering her on when her energy waned. “My baby had my back and she picked up right where I left off. Though at times it became stressful, we always laughed and had fun, even in those times.”
Sometimes the stressful times involved harsh confrontations. At a bridal show they attended together, the DJ called for the first engaged couple to win a prize. Their wedding planner, however, didn’t think two women should be qualified to win a prize.
“She said, ‘It’s not fair, you two are girls.’ Carol got very emotional,” says Kesha, who found herself trying to reconcile the issue. Having already invested significant time and money in the wedding planner, it wasn’t practical to walk away, although the thought certainly crossed their minds. “She gave us a good excuse why she said that and we forgave her and moved on.”
That kind of graciousness comes in handy for gay and lesbian couples taking the plunge. Encouraging those around them and among their friends and family to broaden their minds was part of the appeal of having a wedding, even in Georgia, a state where same-sex marriage is not yet officially recognized.
Afraid of inciting anger in anti-gay groups, one entertainer they approached declined to perform at their wedding. Instead of being discouraged, they became more aware of the vacancies in the community and pervasiveness of discrimination, even in a city like Atlanta, which has a thriving LGBT culture by many measures.
When dealing with vendors who shied away from their marriage because of the unconventional nature, Kesha says simply, “It’s their loss. I told Carol don’t let them off the hook! Ask them why they are being judgmental so that they can hear aloud how ridiculous it is. Most of them would hide behind their religious beliefs as a platform for prejudice. Carol responded with ‘I choose to serve a loving God, not a condemning God’ and left it at that.”
Photos: Aragon Photography
Carol adds, “You can’t control people’s views so when you feel any apprehension about a vendor, move on to the next one. Be very upfront with your vendors. Express to them who you are and determine if they can work with you as you are before you hire them for the job. You want to feel comfortable and you want your vendor to feel comfortable working with you.” Carol even offered some vendors advice about how to make their services more gay-friendly, for example suggesting a DJ allow the customers to label their own playlists instead of offering only “bride” or “groom” slots by default.
The McKnights’ experiences and excitement while planning their own wedding inspired them to start their own wedding planning business, Euphoria Affairs. “Our service to our community, regardless of your sexual orientation, is our focus,” Carol says.
We had so much fun in the planning process, met a lot of great people, and the industry is full of people that are excited and in love, which makes for a great environment for a career,” Carol says. “This is a way we can give back. We love all people and feel we now have adequate experience to provide a key service such as wedding planning. We chose ‘euphoria’ because of the meaning: a state of happiness and well-being is what we all desire and each deserve.” Their new business is scheduled to launch in Atlanta January 1, 2011.
OLD & NEW
The couple incorporated both traditional and modern touches into their day, such as sand blessings, foot washing and a photo slideshow, along with the standards: a cocktail hour, food and drinks and the cake.
“The foot washing represented a fresh start and washing each other’s feet symbolized the vow to remain humble and serve each other equally in marriage,” Carol says. “This is a tradition from our church that we experienced together when we became members, and it was so moving for us that we knew immediately after that we wanted to one day incorporate this into our wedding ceremony.”
To involve friends and family, they added another special touch. In a unity sand ceremony, guests brought vials of sand with blessings like joy, abundance and harmony written on them and poured them in vases for the couple, symbolizing an enriched foundation. The brides then added their own and took their places at a central altar. To further emphasize the union and unity they were celebrating, the seating formed a circular arrangement around the couple.
“We wanted the setting to be intimate and all-inclusive, which is what we also desire for the world,” Carol says.
Even the intimate setting wasn’t quite enough to quell all the butterflies weddings bring. Each bride was escorted by her brother down the aisle. Kesha went first, followed by Carol and her brother who met them at the altar.
“I was extremely nervous and anxious. I felt proud to be marrying the girl of my dreams. It couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived!” Kesha says about walking down the aisle.
“I was so emotional trying so hard to hold back the tears,” Carol says. “I remember thinking, ‘Here we are baby, we made it.’ It was the best day of my life, without a doubt.”
Their affinity for weddings and planning only made the entire day more spectacular.
“To see the vendors we had worked so hard with to plan, to see the details of the décor, the cake, it was overwhelming and became emotional as soon as I walked in,” Carol says, still awed by the way the event blossomed into more than either of them had ever hoped for. “It was a day full of love, a sense of ahhh and admiration from our guests, and a feeling I never wanted to end.”
After the festivities, the new wives left in style: riding away in a silver Rolls-Royce while balloons were released around them. The newlyweds then headed for Mexico.
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