This astronomer’s celestial-inspired wedding is literally out of this world
Kevin and Billy’s wedding had a celestial-inspired space theme that was held at the Dyer Observatory in Nashville, Tennessee, which is where Billy works as an astronomer for Vanderbilt University. The wedding featured a number of out of this world (excuse us for the pun, but we had to) space-related details from custom galaxy-lined suits to a Saturn viewing for the guests. We asked Kevin and Billy about the preparation behind their day, Billy’s work as an astronomer and their relationship.
Tell us about the two of you.
Kevin is a Licensed Master Social Worker, working as a Family Counselor for adoptive families. He received a B.A. in English from Florida International University in 2009 and a Master’s of Science in Social Work from the University of Tennessee in 2018. Billy was born and raised in Clarksville, Tennessee, received a B.S. in Physics from Austin Peay State University in 2004 and a Ph.D. in (astro) physics from Vanderbilt University in 2012. He is currently the Outreach Astronomer at Vanderbilt University’s Dyer Observatory. We have already built a home together over the past six years and have started to build our family (a dog, two birds, geckos, fish and even a tarantula). In the next few years, we do plan on expanding that family to include kid(s) of our own.
How did you meet?
We met through an online dating service.
Who proposed to who (or did you both propose)? Do you have a proposal story?
Billy proposed to Kevin during the total solar eclipse that was observed over much of the United States on August 21, 2017. There is a moment immediately before and after eclipse totality when all but the smallest fraction of sun is obscured by the moon, creating an intensely bright spot, and the ring of the solar corona is visible the moon. This forms an appropriately named “diamond ring” in the sky, and it was at this moment that Billy asked Kevin to marry him; it was an immediate yes!
Tell us more about the astronomy theme. Billy works as an astronomer, so was that what inspired these details at your wedding? We would also love details about what you included in your wedding for the astronomy theme and if it was challenging to pull off.
We are both lovers of the night sky, and it has been Billy’s fascination and study of the sky that has further fostered Kevin’s interest. The Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory, where Billy is the Outreach Astronomer, has been a focal point for our relationship—it was an obvious choice that such a meaningful location would be the place to host our wedding.
The overarching theme of our wedding was astronomy but we also included a nature theme as well since both are anchors of our relationship and are hard to separate. Most of our wedding details were already present on the nine-acre observatory property including the large historic telescope, one-of-a-kind Star Chamber installation and beautiful wooded grounds. We both really enjoyed thinking about all the small details and how they would fit, like the celestial-print lining of our suits, first dance song (“Fly Me to the Moon” sung by Willie Nelson), cake toppers (one was a man on a crescent moon, Kevin, and the other was an observer with a telescope, Billy). We also have the most incredible group of friends who filled in all of the other details, from the centerpieces and reception decor to the curation of the grounds, to create an unimaginable wedding and reception for us.
We’d love to hear any favorite memories you have from your relationship related to astronomy. Did you two ever go on an astronomy-related date?
The short answer to this is yes, lots. Whenever we go on a vacation or out-of-town, Billy is always very mindful of any astronomy-related locales. During our trip to the Grand Canyon, we made sure to stop by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, and Barringer Crater outside of Winslow, Arizona.
During a beach vacation to Fort Walton one year, we spent part of one night lying out on the beach watching the Perseid meteor shower. Many of our favorite astronomy-related memories are centered around Dyer Observatory. It was there from our beginning (we had an impromptu after-dinner visit there on our first date) and has continued as a focal point throughout our time together.
What makes your relationship special? What are some of your favorite memories together?
We think what makes our relationship special is that we’ve taken a lot of time to really get to know each other and take into account each other’s needs. Kevin remembers his mother telling him that the best relationships come out of good friendships and that is so true—we are each other’s best friends, greatest advocates and biggest cheerleaders. We both know that we don’t have to watch our back because the other is right there. We respect one another. Whatever decisions we make or actions we take, we are always very mindful about how the other would feel or be impacted. In short, we think about us and not just one of us.
What were you looking forward to most about your wedding day? Now that it’s happened, what was your favorite part?
Kevin: Family is a strong core value for both of us and what we wanted most of all was just a big party for our family and friends and having all of those we love the most all in one place. I honestly don’t know if I could single out a specific moment as a favorite—sharing our self-written vows, escorting our moms down the aisle, the reaction to our special first dance lighting and our surprise second mother-son dance.
Billy: I don’t think that I can pick out a single thing to list as my favorite part. In fact, I think every facet of the wedding, from the preparation that morning to all of the numerous details and things that occurred during the ceremony and reception, would be considered a favorite part. I would say, however, that seeing all of the family and friends (some of which I hadn’t seen in years) and getting to interact with them was incredibly special and would have to be considered my favorite part of the whole experience. It is really humbling to know that all of these people came together to celebrate with us because they love and care for us.
Do you have any advice for other couples about wedding planning, marriage or relationships?
One piece of advice that we have for wedding planning is to be very self-aware throughout the planning process and take extra time to reflect when you’re hitting difficult points or disagreement. We feel like there were several points where we fixated on a specific element and when we took the time to pull our head away from the tree enough to see the rest of the forest we seemed less emotionally charged, and a compromise was much more easily reached.
Another point would be that you can flip any anxiousness against itself, rebrand it as excitement and positive energy instead of a hindrance. The wedding has a date and it’s going to happen no matter the state of preparation or lack thereof, which truly is a gift—the product may not be as perfect as originally envisioned, but the process can be enjoyed and celebrated. Allowing yourself to reflect on the positives, and being grateful for the journey may help take some of the stress out of the situation. You may not have been able to take care of that one minor detail, but in the end, nobody, not even yourself, is going to really notice it. The whole wedding itself is a tremendous experience, and the things that really make it special are you, your spouse, and all of the friends and family that you share it with.
I’m not sure we have any advice on marriage yet, although as of now it doesn’t seem too different from living in the same house together for the past six years!
Billy: Don’t let other people try to rush you into something, especially this important. I remember several people continually asking when I was going to propose. I had my plan already figured out, and even though it wouldn’t come to fruition until a year later, I didn’t care—the plan was special, and I wasn’t going to rush it because of others. Also, I have had friends in the past that felt that they had to get married while they were very young. Don’t rush into anything, and don’t feel that just because you aren’t married yet or are not even on the marriage track that it will never happen to you. Mister or Miss Right is out there, you just have to wait for your paths to cross and there is really nothing you can do about that.
When you meet someone, take it slow. This can be very difficult to do, but in the end, that will give you time to really know the person and that is when you discover if they are the one for you.
Photographer: Leslie Rodriguez Photography
Venue: Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory
Planner: Weddings by Helen
Alaina Leary Lavoie
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