Marie and Elysa connect with family and friends in a traditional Jewish ceremony
By Nicole Walsh
From the time they met through friends in 2004, Marie had a crush on Elysa but never thought that they’d actually get together. However, four years later, Elysa proposed, and Marie got what she wanted all along.
For their engagement, Marie and Elysa took a weekend trip together. “We went to the beach and had a nice dinner and stayed at a bed and breakfast,” says Elysa. After dinner, the pair sat on the beach drinking wine. The proposal wasn’t a huge surprise, we had been talking about it and Marie knew what her ring looked like already. But I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me and gave her a traditional engagement ring.”
Both career-minded ambitious women, Marie and Elysa knew that they both wanted to start a family. The couple lives in Florida, a state where gay marriage is not legally recognized, and where adoption for gay couples has been something of an impossibility, though the law was recently overturned in September.
But these hardships didn’t and won’t stop the couple from achieving their dreams. Marie and Elysa legally changed their last names and pledged vows of love and commitment to one another on January 9, 2009, in front of 65 of their closet friends and family.
It took the couple eight months to plan the wedding with the help of Elysa’s parents, her mother in particular.
“She designed our centerpieces,” Elysa says. “She helped us out a lot with the planning.”
Planning the wedding was easy for Marie and Elysa, who are both extremely organized and detail-oriented women. It was something that the two of them shared.
“We were definitely both involved,” says Marie. “My friends always remarked on how when they were planning their weddings that their husbands didn’t have anything to say. When Elysa and I were planning our wedding, it was two women very invested in the process; definitely a different experience.”
But in preparing for the wedding, there was one more obstacle to overcome: coming out to the rest of their family.
“One positive issue that came out of our wedding, because we were finally getting married and having a ceremony was that we came out to some of our extended family members that didn’t know,” says Marie. “That was a neat thing that came out of the wedding. Some of those family members came and some didn’t. It was just one more way of leaving the closet within our family circle. After all, if you’re going to go as far as having a wedding ceremony, you might as well tell the rest of the family.”
Marie and Elysa were married at the Lake Mary Events Center located just outside of Orlando. They were the first to have a gay wedding there.
“It was nice to be the first gay couple,” says Elysa. “They were very open with us. One of the groundskeepers approached me and said his daughter was gay and he was excited to see us.”
“He showed us a picture of his daughter and got teary-eyed,” says Marie. “He told us that it made him feel good that we were having a wedding and that it meant she could get married, too.”
Photos: Dixie Lee Photography
The wedding ceremony and reception was classic and full of Jewish customs, with a sit-down buffet-style meal, open bar and DJ. “We tried to go very traditional, yet at the same time we didn’t feel bound by tradition,” says Marie. “We created some of our own traditions and injected a lot of our personality into what we did.”
The couple wrote their own vows and made their own marriage certificate that they and their parents both signed. “It was nice,” says Elysa. “It was for us.”
“We did the first dance, we did the bouquet toss and we did the hora,” says Marie.
“We broke the glass and my grandmother gave us a wine glass from Israel to drink from,” says Elysa. “When we did the hora, Marie was afraid she was going to fall out of the chair.”
Planning and executing the wedding was something that brought the couple and their family closer together.
“In a way, planning the wedding and having the wedding was therapeutic for our family members,” says Marie. “It’s their dream for the heterosexual children that they never had; seeing that realized and knowing that that’s possible. We’re in the process of planning a family and we knew down the line we were going to have kids and most families and most kids want to talk about or look at their parents’ wedding photos. That was something important to us, too.”
The bouquet toss was probably the most memorable part of the evening. “Marie threw the first toss backwards, and it flew into the chandelier and got caught,” Elysa says. “Everyone was anticipating it and looking until someone finally pointed out that it was hanging from the chandelier. For round two, Marie threw one of the centerpieces. The girl that caught it ended up getting the bouquet at the end of the night.”
After the ceremony was over, Marie and Elysa were happy and pleased that their friends and family were there to watch them publicly pledge their love and commitment to one another.
“For me, it was very gratifying,” says Marie. “I felt fulfilled. When I first came out when I was 18. I thought, ‘Aw, shucks. There goes marriage and children. That will never happen.’ Thirteen years later, I’ve realized it actually can happen and I can have children. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I can’t do those things.”
The couple resides in Orlando, Fla., and plans on starting a family this year.
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