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After dating her partner, Kim Johnston, for more than three years, Santa Barbara resident Paige Harvey wasn’t about to just pop the question any old way. She wanted to make the moment memorable for the two women—and took six months to put her proposal together.

Knowing Kim had always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon, Paige planned for them to take a ride for Kim’s birthday in July 2009. They were visiting Kim’s parents in Vermont, and Paige wanted to propose while the two were flying over the countryside in the hot air balloon. Of course, not everything goes as planned.

“Paige realized it would be a little awkward, given that we were in a 4-foot-by-2-foot wicker basket with the pilot who was a stranger,” Kim says. And then things got worse. “The ride was fantastic, but we had a rough landing in the rain—the balloon and basket were dragged uphill with all three of us in it!” Kim says. “Paige was more worried about losing the ring that was in her pocket.”

Luckily everyone on board—including the ring—survived and Paige later proposed while they were safely on the ground. And then the wedding planning began. The couple decided to have a small legal ceremony in New Canaan, Conn., on August 4, 2010, with an intimate celebration with 50 close friends and family for cocktails, dinner and dancing at Gramercy Park Hotel in New York City on August 7.

“It was important for us to get married in a state where marriage is legal,” Paige says. “We didn’t want to have a ceremony in California simply because it wouldn’t be recognized.”

It took about seven months to plan the wedding, and both women agree it was a challenge to put together from the other side of the country. However, doing things like selecting the Gramercy Park Hotel made the process a little smoother.

“We ended up choosing a venue that was beautiful on its own and didn’t need much decorating,” Paige says. “Everything at the Gramercy was built into the venue, including the lighting, the bar, catering and ambiance.”

Even though, the distance still made it a challenge. “The most difficult part was incorporating all of our personal touches into the venue and having those set up on the day of the wedding,” Kim says. “We were lucky to have some great friends who took the lead so that we could focus on getting ourselves dressed and ready for the day.”

Venue: New Canaan, Conn., City Hall
Venue: Gramercy Park Hotel, New York City
Caterer: Gramercy Park Hotel, New York City
Photographer: Erinn J. Hale
Hair and makeup: ARROJO Studio, New York City
Mini Cupcakes: Crumbs Bake Shop
Paige’s Dress: BCBG Max Azria
Kim’s Dress: Ever

And as if cued by the karma that seemed to, well, rain down on Paige’s perfect proposal, the couple lucked out with a 75-degree New York City day in August. “We were nervous about the hot and humid weather New York is known for in the summer, but there was no humidity and not a cloud in the sky,” Paige says. “Things all fell into place and everything felt right.”

The day’s festive atmosphere carried right on through to the ceremony, which was especially intimate and non-traditional. Neither girl walked down an aisle or in through a special entrance; they actually exchanged vows with their guests gathered around them.

“We wanted everyone to feel involved, so we had the ceremony during the cocktail hour,” Paige says. “Everyone gathered around us and we had a close friend officiate. It was very personal and intimate.”

Even the one customary portion of the ceremony became lighthearted and endearing when Paige’s 9-year-old brother Wyatt, who was the ring boy, acted like he lost the rings.

“Everyone was laughing and it lightened the mood,” Paige says. “It brought a great energy to the moment.” But what Paige and Kim say was best part of the ceremony was how connected they felt to each person that attended.

“When we looked around us and saw the faces of our absolute closest friends and family, it made the ceremony extra special,” Paige says.

 — Sarah Gleim