Sentimental Elements Shine For These Two Brides’ Virginia Beach Wedding Featuring Bourbon, Rainbows and a Plethora of Family Support
Emily + Caroline
Pronouns: she/her | she/her
Wedding Colors: green, white, yellow
Wedding Ceremony Venue: Eastern Shore Chapel,
Virginia Beach, VA
Wedding Reception Venue: Princess Anne Country Club,
Virginia Beach, VA
Wedding Season: fall
Emily and Caroline wanted their wedding to be like a giant “thank you” to the people who had supported them over the years with personal elements that would make the day so unique and special to them as well. They did this by creating a phenomenal experience for their guests for the whole night after a gorgeous wedding ceremony at Eastern Shore Chapel (where their wedding was the first LGBTQ+ wedding ceremony ever at the chapel). The couple treated their guests to a curated bourbon bar during cocktail hour (one of the brides, Emily, is from Kentucky) and an ultra-interactive band that kept the dance floor packed all night. They sourced sentimental items like Emily’s favorite ginger ale from her small Kentucky hometown, had fried oysters as appetizers as an ode to Virginia Beach and then worked with the venue to create a custom spicy Asian noodle and dumpling station, which was the meal they had on their first date. And although they couldn’t include their adorable dog, Monte, onsite that day, they featured his naughty rambunctiousness in the design of their wedding cake. (See that cutie in the cake photos below!)
With a wardrobe change halfway through the evening for Emily, she traded her wedding gown for a white tuxedo and her favorite basketball kicks. (Rather, we should say, a second pair of fresh Nikes as she had on a pair with her wedding gown as well!) As the celebration concluded, the band and guests gathered in a circle to serenade Caroline (the granddaughter of the late Senator John McCain) with the obligatory crowd-pleaser, “Sweet Caroline.” Moments later, the couple exited into the night through a custom rainbow balloon gate and rainbow confetti cannons.
Q: Tell us about your wedding!
We wanted to create a day where people could bear witness to and celebrate the love that we have for each other! We believe the world needs more love like ours and we wanted to put that on display on our big day. We prioritized FUN for our wedding. So we focused on having a good band and an open bar. We opted for food stations over a seated dinner so the dance floor could be open all night! We knew that most of the people at our wedding would have never been to a same-sex couple wedding, so we were excited to give our friends and family that exposure and normalize our love!
Q: Let’s talk wedding decor.
We didn’t focus too much on decor because we know that’s not what people really remember. Our favorite decor was the rainbow balloon arch over the doors for our exit with the confetti cannons. We also had a golden retriever miniature on the wedding cake as a nod to our dog, Monte. Everyone asked if he was going to be in the wedding. Absolutely not. But we didn’t completely leave him out!
Q: What were the florals like in your wedding?
We loved our florist, Isha Foss. Even though florals weren’t a priority for us, she was willing to work with us to create a simple but beautiful look. Creating two bridal bouquets that look good together is no easy task, and she nailed it! We wanted organic with a little bit of whimsy that matched the fall season. She also created a beautiful waterfall of flowers off the corner of the bar.
Q: Did you personalize the day in any way (food trucks, guest entertainment etc.)? What were some of your favorite parts?
Emily is from Kentucky so we had a bourbon tasting bar at the cocktail hour. We heard that guests really enjoyed that! Then as an ode to Virginia Beach we had fried oysters as appetizers. We worked with the Country Club to create a custom spicy Asian noodle and dumpling station, which was the meal we had on our first date. Emily’s uncle surprised us by providing rainbow lapel pins for all our guests. It was so fun to walk into our reception and see everyone wearing one. A lot of people plan and anticipate their first dance song. Ours was “Simply the Best” by Tina Turner and we had so much fun. But we also planned our last dance song. The band played “Sweet Caroline” and you can’t NOT love singing that song when a bride is named Caroline!
Q: Let’s talk fashion.
Emily: When it was time to decide on my outfit for our wedding day, I was completely unsure. A wedding dress didn’t feel like the perfect choice. My parents can attest that I’ve put up valiant fights to not have to wear dresses throughout my life. But neither did a tux. I had never worn traditionally “men’s” clothing. So I decided to hit the extremes of the spectrum. A princess dress and a custom-made white jacket tux (with fresh Nikes worn with each outfit!). I would like to think I looked damn good in both.
Caroline: I’m not very decisive so I was nervous about the prospect of choosing a wedding dress. But I was hopeful that I would know the one when I found it. The team at Zoya’s listened to some of my initial thoughts and narrowed down the choices. As soon as I tried on the fifth dress, I knew it was the one! My mom knew too! They had me walk down the hall and imagine walking down the aisle to Emily. The dress made me feel like a bride and I knew Emily would love it!
Q: What was the most anticipated or special moment of your wedding day?
The most anticipated was our first look. Spending the day getting ready separately was the longest we had been apart in over a year. Because of the pandemic… no joke. We also had no idea what one another’s dresses looked like. We both were completely overcome with emotion when we finally got to see each other! We took a moment at our reception to thank the many friends and family who were there to celebrate with us. We also wanted to acknowledge the support in the room. It’s not often a gay couple can stand up at their wedding with all of their parents and grandparents present and supportive. Plus 200 others. We recognize how special that is. We wanted to bottle up all the love felt in that room and pass it off to every kid who is scared to come out. To every teen who is abandoned by their family. To every trans person who fears for their safety. To every church kid who is told they don’t belong.
Q: Do you have any wedding planning or marriage advice that you’d like to share with other couples planning their day?
Decide what matters to you from the start and let that dictate where you spend money and what you stress over. Set aside some date nights in the weeks leading up to the wedding with one rule: no talking about the wedding. Be present. Don’t stress so much. Have fun!
Q: How did you meet? Tell us your proposal story!
Caroline and I met each other several years ago. At the time, neither of us were consciously aware of our sexuality. We met up for brunch and coffee a couple of times over the course of a few years. Looking back, we would both say that there was just “something about our connection.” Her version of the story is that she tried to be friends and I didn’t have time. Which might not be all that wrong. Unbeknownst to one another, we were both coming out to friends and family in 2019. When I text Caroline to tell her “by the way, I’m gay”, she texts back “I’m not exactly straight myself!” SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE. Our first date lasted 7 hours and the next night I scored last-minute tickets to see Lizzo in concert. We would both say we knew right away that we were going to fall in love. And that we did!
The proposal! I had ZERO chills the day I was planning to propose. Caroline knew I was going to do it before the holidays and to be fair she is really hard to surprise. But I dropped a few obvious hints that clued her into what was going on. I insisted my nails were painted despite the fact I had stitches in my fingers, I was frantically cleaning the house to do something with my nervous energy and I put on makeup – a dead giveaway. Caroline asked me no less than 15x why I was acting so weird. But even though she had a hunch it was coming, she was a great sport and played along. And I did have a few surprises up my sleeve. I reserved the US National Arboretum after-hours for the evening and having the place all to ourselves was so surreal. I told Caroline we were going out on a date and once we were in the car I said we were headed to the arboretum because they were open for extended hours during the peak fall season. When we arrived, the security guards did not participate in my surprise plan. The guard said, “Are you here for the surprise wedding?” He escorted us (not necessary) up to the Capitol Columns where I had a friend playing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” on the violin. As soon as we got out of the car the guard yelled, “Okay! Cue Violin!!” With the beautiful sound in the background and the perfection of a fall evening at dusk, I shared some special words with Caroline then got down on one knee and asked her to marry me! Through lots of tears, she said “YES”! I’m glad she made her “yes” clear before she walked away from me and over to her purse. She then came back and said, “you aren’t the only one with a ring!!!” And then she asked me to marry her! Leading up to Sunday night, I apparently dropped just enough clues for her to have a hunch to stick the ring in her purse before we left just in case. It couldn’t have been more perfect! After going to dinner at our favorite cocktail bar in DC and where we had our first date, we headed home. While we were out I had tapped a few friends to come over and fill our house with beautiful flower arrangements. They set out a chilled bottle of champagne and put a record on the record player. Then I told Caroline we should jump on the computer to video call our families. She had no idea I had invited dozens of our friends and family to jump on a Zoom call for a celebratory toast! It was perfect! (And meant we got all of the phone calls/texts over at once – I highly recommend!)
I hope this story and these pictures give you a glimpse into the love we have for each other. Coming out is a unique journey for each person in the LGBTQ community and our journeys were hard in different ways. But to be here now has made it more than totally worth the cost. We can’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together!
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Event Planner: The Happy Hour Hostess
Photographer: Justin Hankins Photography
Ceremony Location: Eastern Shore Chapel
Floral Designer: Isha Foss Events
Makeup Artist: Dhalia Edwards
Hair Stylist: Flawless On Site
Bakery: Incredible Edibles Bakery
Apparel: Bindle & Keep
Dress Store: Serendipity Bridal & Events
Apparel: Zoya’s Atelier
Musicians: East Coast Entertainment
Invitation Designer: Just Paper and Tea
Equipment Rentals: Distinctive Events
Lighting: Blue Steel Lighting Design
Officiant: Kate Bobbitt
Jewelry: L. Priori Jewelry
Design and Decor: Pop VB
Transportation: Horseless Carriage Limousine
Transportation: James River Transportation
Band: The Party Rockers
Event Venue: Princess Anne Country Club
Maria (Mo) Palladino
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