I married her on a Saturday in June. My father who died 8 months before she and I said “I do” helped me to choose the day, the final Saturday in spring. It was balmy, I was sweaty, and I was feeling 900 things at once. Neither my mother or father would be there to witness my marriage, but my incredibly sweet brother walked with me down the aisle. He was in a gray suit and I was adorned in a blindingly white sweetheart gown, strapless, hair swept up and feeling regal.

My stepmother gave a touching toast about my father and marriage that cracked my heart in two, testifying to her near perfect marriage with my father of 17 years, after he endured two unhappy stints with women, one being my mother. I didn’t want to end up that way. I wanted the near perfect marriage where everyone thrives on bliss and finding more happiness, not wrecking the joy that already exists. My beloved looked deep into my eyes, blue on blue, and married me again every time she smiled at me. I wanted to be in her strong arms for always.

Equally Wed founders Kirsten and Maria Palladino

Our wedding was full of love, as most people’s are, and the reception was one huge bash. We partied the night away with our friends. Our families danced a little but I kept pushing the DJ to keep playing hard core dance music, a regret I’ll take to the grave. I wish I’d taken the time to have a slow dance with my grandmother, who has since passed away. It crushes me to think I could have swayed to a beat with my arms around my brother’s broad shoulders before he died. But he smiled his sweet smile from the sidelines, as he was wont to do, neither he nor I knowing he’d be gone at 36, five years later. Maria and I were used to the limelight on the dance floor along with our close group of friends who could have all played extras in Dirty Dancing. We all stayed out far too late for many years on end, pumping to the pulse of Atlanta’s queer nightlife. And here we were at the Mary Gay House (srsly, that’s the name) in Decatur, Georgia, reliving our club nights. Maria’s parents and most of her six siblings were there, celebrating us. We had cake, booze, peonies and overwhelming amount of love. It was a near perfect night.

We’re coming up on 10 years as a married couple, and it’s sweet to reflect back on that night, but my mind also goes back further to when we were planning our wedding in the south. Maria proposed to me on Leap Year in 2008, and the comments we heard rocked my world. Many came in the form of congratulations but the rest were shocking. Some vendors didn’t want anything to do with us while others offered to pray for us. A now-defunct wedding magazine told me they wouldn’t run my feature about our honeymoon because their readers weren’t ready for that yet. I felt like I had to come out to everyone before they had a chance to say yes and then switch it to a no upon finding out we were a gay couple. We were heartbroken that discrimination was a minefield we couldn’t seem to avoid when planning our wedding, something that’s supposed to be a happy time. We turned to the magazine racks and the internet for solutions but there weren’t any resources that we identified with. I’d already been a magazine writer and editor for 10 years leading up to this, and I was shocked to realize I’d been blind to the lack of visibilty of LGBTQ+ couples and their weddings.

Maria and I knew we had to do something to create change. We decided that as soon as we’d married, we’d devote ourselves to creating a wedding publication devoted to couples like ourselves, that lifted up a minority group and celebrated LGBTQ+ weddings. We worked all night for eight months, enduring long days with our current jobs, only to rush back to our fledgling publication to work on articles, sourcing images, interviewing vendors who wanted to work with LGBTQ+ couples, researching marriage equality around the globe, and shouting from the rooftops that a wedding is a wedding, no matter if the government or society hasn’t caught up to the reality that our love is equal and we deserve equal rights and protections under the law.

On March 22, 2010, Equally Wed was born. Only six states in the U.S. offered full marriage equality. For nine years since then, we’ve been covering the history of marriage equality in the United States and beyond. It’s been a wild ride. But at the heart of what we’re doing is celebrating LGBTQ+ love at its finest, at its most committed, at its most tender. It’s been an honor and a privilege, and we’re thrilled to be able to do this in our own community. Now we’re growing our educational platform, Equally Wed Pro, because so much of the wedding and event industry is in dire need of training in LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Pros can sign up to be notified about our certification course enrollment at equallywedpro.com.

To you who is reading this. I see you. Your spirit is so bright. If you’re ever feeling alone, like no one else gets all the additional hurdles you have to face in planning your wedding simply because of your sexual orientation or gender identity, reach out to us. We get it. We’ve been there, and we’re there with you now. Your love matters to us and is a beacon of hope to so many in the years ahead. Let’s keep lighting the way and celebrating love in all its resplendent colors.

Photo: Our Labor of Love