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12/07/2017

Some West Texas merchants donate wedding for Air Force groom

White linens, blue flowers and period piano music from the 1940s filled the Cactus Hotel on Saturday for a donated wedding to remember.

The San Angelo Standard-Times reports as bride Sarah Davenport walked down the historic aisle, lined with flickering candles and rose petals, groom Jeffrey Mercado, an active-duty military member stationed at Goodfellow Air Force Base, couldn't contain the wide smile on his face.

Although the Cactus Hotel holds countless weddings every year, this one was unique, because it was entirely cost-free for the bride and groom.

"Except for them buying their own personal items, like garters and toasting glasses, they haven't been out one penny," said Tinker Keeney, owner of local wedding-planning business Happily Ever After.

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Keeney, the organizer of the event, had been trying for several years to coordinate a donated wedding for a local military member, when the base put her in touch with Mercado and Davenport in November 2016.

"They had planned on getting married, but they couldn't afford much," Keeney explained. After hearing the couple's love story, and learning about Mercado's service in the military, Keeney selected the two as recipients for the free wedding.

"(Mercado) put his life totally on hold ... all he had was the service until he met her," Keeney said. "If they're going to put their life out there, risk their life for us ... why can't we do something for them?"

As Keeney began garnering support from local businesses, the community was more than willing to help.

Southwest Florist donated floral arrangements and bouquets, Eclipse Mobile DJ and Terry Mikeska supplied music, Kenny Blanek's Village Cafe catered the event, the Cactus Hotel donated space, and several other local businesses chipped in as well.

When Mercado and Davenport first heard they would receive the free wedding, they thought it was too good to be true.

"At first I thought, 'is this real?' I was very skeptical (because) it's a lot to do for someone. It's unheard of," Mercado said."Once I found out (it was real), I was very grateful that the community was able to do that for a military member."

When the bride saw the venue and decorations, which totaled about $20,000 in donations, she was "taken away. It was really beautiful. It was better than what I had imagined in my head."

At the wedding, guests were given toy soldiers, as tokens to remind them to "pray for our men and women."

The wedding also featured a Missing-In-Action ceremony, which included a table with five empty seats remaining untouched. The five hats resting on the table represented all branches of the military, and those members who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Various items also rested untouched at the table, including a lemon, representing the bitterness of the prisoners-of-war, salt, to honor of the tears cried by family members, a rose, in remembrance of those lost, and a yellow ribbon, to signify that the military has not given up on them.

Approximately 130 individuals attended the wedding, and although it was formal, guests also danced, laughed and ate cake, all while dressed in attire from the1940s .

"There was not a place I could call home until I met you," Mercado said to Davenport during the couple's wedding vows.

Mercado currently serves as a medic in the Air Force and has been stationed at Goodfellow AFB for three years. Mercado met Davenport while dancing with friends when he first moved to San Angelo.

"I'm a workaholic ... and Sarah was a single parent at the time ... We were out dancing and I saw Sarah's friend who I know. Long story short, Sarah and I danced a few times, sat down to exchange numbers ... and went out on a date," Mercado explained.

To propose, Mercado cooked Davenport one of their favorite meals. "After dinner, he ... dropped down on one knee and said 'I love you and I love your kids. Will you please marry me?' I started crying and said 'Yes,'" Davenport said, smiling.

Mercado joined the military at 19 years old while living in New Jersey, and has been active-duty for the last 16 years. Although he has many military stories, his most memorable occurred while stationed overseas in Afghanistan.

When an injured man needed an emergency blood transfusion and the medics ran out of donated blood, Mercado gave his own blood for the patient.

"(My blood) was given right back to me to put in my patient," Mercado said. "I was able to tell him at the end that we'll be connected for life because (he has) some of my blood ... and he was very grateful."

"That was my most memorable moment in my entire career," Mercado added.

While he's been stationed in a variety of locations during his time in the service, Mercado said San Angelo has been the most hospitable.

"(San Angelo) has been one of the best places that I've served. To be honest, when I first got here, I was a bit skeptical about this place because I'm from a big city ... but everybody is so nice here and so grateful for our military and our police," Mercado said. "Let me tell you, I fell in love with this place ... and I will retire here."

For local businesses, the wedding was an opportunity to give back to members of the military.

"(Military members) are good to us ... and we should be good to them," said Karla Stemple, owner of Southwest Florist. "I just think it's the right thing to do."

Keeney, whose father served in World War II, felt personally invested in putting on the wedding, and hopes to give one annually to members of the military or individuals who have experienced personal tragedies.

"I hope that it shows that everybody has something they can do. (The sponsors) didn't have a million dollars to donate, but they had something they could do," Keeney said.

In a few weeks, when Mercado is given leave, the bride and groom will travel to the Dominican Republic for their honeymoon.

"I am thankful for everybody's kindness and for taking care of our service members. I've never seen that anywhere else in my life, so I'm very grateful to be (in San Angelo)," Mercado said.

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12:17 Publié dans wedding | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

30/06/2017

More hemp-themed weddings hitting the aisle

Every bride-to-be wants her wedding to be special. And trying to incorporate cannabis into your festivities is about as unique as it gets.

With the increasing popularity – and legality – of hemp and cannabis products, trend watchers are predicting that we’ll start to see more of these elements in mainstream weddings.

From gowns crafted out of hemp to sprigs of marijuana plants in floral arrangements to offering adult guests not only alcohol, but also legal recreational marijuana products, brides are finding more ways to make cannabis a part of their special day.

One bride who went this direction last summer was Spokane native Teresa Foster, who started with the goal of wanting something environmentally friendly.

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“At first I didn’t even think about a hemp gown; it was more about doing away with the extra plates and cups that are used at receptions,” she said. “We were at the age where we were going to several weddings every summer, and the excess garbage really turned me off having a big wedding.”

So she searched for ways to make her event as eco-friendly as possible, including finding a gown made of natural hemp fibers, and designing a sustainable menu.

Foster and her husband Paul decided to get married in Colorado since that state was a little ahead in the overall acceptance of hemp and related products. They remain Colorado residents.

The couple used Teresa’s mother’s china instead of disposable tableware, which also added more of a personal touch, plus less waste.

“I think it made her very proud – if not a little more uptight that something might happen to it though,” she said.

The couple made the food simpler to cut down on leftovers. Instead of a formal sit-down dinner, they offered multiple appetizers.

“Whatever wasn’t eaten, which wasn’t much, my sisters packaged up in recyclable containers and gave to guests who wanted to bring food home,” she says. “After several hours of dancing and partaking, we had many takers.”

Along with providing alcohol, the Fosters also chose to have a hemp and cannabis bar, where guests could enjoy hemp-infused drinks such as Hemplify, a beverage flavored with essential oils, and other non-psychoactive hemp plant ingredients. They also served THC-infused foods and elixirs to guests who enjoy partaking.

“We told our friends to feel free to bring their vape pens, since a lot of them prefer to party with cannabis rather than drink,” she said. “We just wanted everyone to be as chilled and comfortable as possible.”

The first step, however, was the dress. Foster wanted to go with a material that was environmentally safe and also know where the fabric came from. She chose a hemp-silk blend fabric gown processed without chemicals from the Hempist, an eco-friendly online retailer. Her mom enhanced it with pieces from her grandmother’s wedding gown.

“I got married in August, so my comfort in the heat was essential,” she said. “Hemp gowns are just as uniquely beautiful, not to mention comfortable and cool.”

It’s not hard for cannabis enthusiasts to show their love of the herb – and their special someones — with hemp gowns, infused drinks, vaping stations and pot-leaf bouquets.

The Knot.com, an online resource for brides-to-be, recently asked members how they felt about cannabis at weddings.

More than 67 percent of the 1,000 survey-takers voted “Yeah! I’d love to go to that wedding,” whereas 22 percent voted “No! Drugs don’t belong at weddings.” The remaining 11 percent stated “I’m not for or against it.”

Proponents say that, in places where weed is legal, pot’s presence is no different than alcohol. Open bars are often a staple at weddings and some even have designated smoking sections.

However, before you invite your guests to smoke ‘em if they’ve got ‘em, make sure you’re abiding by state and local laws.

The Washington Liquor and Cannabis Board said consumption is illegal if it’s at a public venue, like a park. It’s also illegal if it’s at a private venue but can be seen by the public, like a patio.

Banquet permits allow temporary liquor sales, but cannabis is prohibited. Caterers also aren’t allowed to provide cannabis-infused menus since this could be considered selling marijuana without a license, and event hosts/guests who want to provide marijuana to guests may quickly exceed their individual possession limits.

But even with the restrictions, which vary from state to state, the wedding industry is trying to offer more services and products.

“Every year there are more and more weddings where cannabis is incorporated,” said Philip Wolf, CEO and co-founder of the Cannabis Wedding Expo, which holds annual bridal shows in San Francisco, Denver and Portland.

At Denver’s first expo last year, Wolf said 35 companies offered hemp gowns and “420”-themed bouquets, plus infused catering and bud-tending services and plenty of other elements. It was so successful that 1,500 attendees and 75 companies participated at expos in the other cities last year, and twice that many at the 2017 expos.

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05:18 Publié dans wedding | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)

27/06/2017

What it’s like to plan a wedding as a queer woman

When you find the kind of love where you want to spend forever together, it can also be a moment when you feel unconditional acceptance. Especially when you’re queer, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and it’s exponentially harder to find love and acceptance in society and even in your own family.

But social acceptance of LGBTQ individuals is moving at a snail’s pace: steady yet slow. It’s more like we’re tolerated by the majority of the country, and accepted by a much smaller segment. In a 2001 Pew Research Center survey, Americans opposed same-sex marriage by a margin of 57 percent to 35 percent. It wasn’t until 2012 that more Americans (48 percent) favored than opposed it (43 percent). In a 2017 Gallup poll, support reached a new high: Sixty-four percent. Still, about a third of Americans remain opposed.

We have two mottoes in the marriage-equality movement: “love is love” and “love wins.” Love might have won two years ago, on June 26, 2015, when five out of nine Supreme Court justices ruled in favor of federal marriage equality.

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But I see a different story, which doesn’t always feel like winning. Our love is not treated the same as heterosexual love. As the editorial director and co-founder of EquallyWed.com, a wedding resource for LGBTQ couples, and author of the new book, “Equally Wed: The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your LGBTQ+ Wedding,” my team and I routinely bear witness to painful experiences of LGBTQ people all over the world who are treated with disdain and ignorance while planning what should be one of the most wonderful moments of their lives.

It’s not just Equally Wed noticing the problems in the wedding industry. According to a 2017 study of LGBTQ weddings by the Knot and Q.Digital, 30 percent of female couples and 11 percent of male couples reported being “turned away from vendors or left feeling uncomfortable due to their LGBTQ identity.”

Happiness and joy do prevail over most of the weddings, but discrimination adds emotional challenges to what’s already an arduous task. Recently, I reached out to female-identifying women around the country to ask about their wedding planning experience. I asked about their challenges and their surprises. Here are a few examples.

Melissa Amstutz, a queer woman living in Portland, Ore., married Lindsay Trapnell last November on the coast of their state. “Many might be surprised to learn that homophobia is alive and well, even in Portland,” Amstutz says. “Our first obstacle was having to sell our first house the summer before [the wedding] due to constant homophobic harassment by our next-door neighbor.”

Tired of enduring eggs thrown at their car and physical threats, the couple moved away from the aggressive neighbor — and their first home — less than a year after they’d moved in and only a few months before their wedding. Amstutz and Trapnell’s wedding came together mostly through the creativity and generosity of their friends and family. But Amstutz says the vendors they did work with gave a feeling of just “putting up with” them.

LGBTQ couples not only have to endure homophobia and transphobia from the wedding industry, but often in their own families as well. While Trapnell’s family and Amstutz’s father “were loving and supportive,” Amstutz encountered problems with her sister, whom she’d grown closer to after their mom, another ally, died in 2014. “My sister is a conservative evangelical Christian but had said she would come to the wedding. But apparently our save-the-dates ‘made it real’ for her, and she decided she wasn’t coming. We’ve rarely spoken since, and honestly, after losing my mom, losing her has been the second biggest heartbreak of my life.”

As for my own wedding, as a queer femme living in Atlanta, I’ve encountered multiple forms of discrimination when planning it, in a state where anyone can be fired or kicked out of housing just for being gay or trans. (This could change after the Georgia General Assembly reconvenes next January and considers state Senate Bill 119, a comprehensive civil rights bill.) When my partner and I were planning our 2009 wedding (which we knew wouldn’t be recognized by our state), some vendors hung up on us or made proclamations about Jesus in their email responses. (We got legally married in Manhattan in 2011 but considered ourselves married after our June 13, 2009, ceremony in Decatur, Ga.) Some of my family members made ridiculous statements and skipped the celebration altogether. Still, my spouse and I were able to enjoy a love-filled event with our most cherished family and friends.

Even when we think we’re encountering people whom we hope will understand us, discrimination still happens. Van Barnes, a trans woman who married a cisgender man in St. Louis, tells me how, when she applied for her and her soon-to-be husband’s marriage license in 2014, the city hall clerk refused to issue the couple a marriage license that’s given to heterosexual couples, which features the words “bride” and “groom.”

“She saw my middle name on my driver’s license, which is Alan, even though everything legally says ‘female’ under gender on my birth certificate and driver’s license,” Barnes says. “She insisted that we be listed in the license, which said Party 1 and Party 2, and clearly identifies us as ‘other’ or LGBTQ. I challenged it, but she refused. The woman next to her wouldn’t even wait on us as she grasped her cross necklace and referred us to her co-worker who got her shady jab in and said ‘Girl, you look good. You almost fooled me!’ I didn’t let that ruin our special moment, as getting legally wed has been a goal of my life since childhood.”

Barnes and her husband found their minister online, a woman who claimed through her marketing to be LGBT-friendly. But friendly to gays and lesbians does not equal friendly to transgender people, which Barnes experienced firsthand. “She misgendered me the whole ceremony,” says Barnes, who had a small wedding on the steps of city hall. “[We] laughed it off, but still it shows how even ignorant an ‘LGBT-friendly pay me $180 bucks to meet you at city hall and marry you’ officiant can be. I’m so used to the ignorance. I try to let it roll off my back, but still they linger in my memory. Most of all, we didn’t let anyone steal our happy day.”

Ebony Mullins, a lesbian who’s African American, and her wife, Kym, who’s white, enjoyed their wedding-planning experience with their San Diego vendors. What surprised Mullins the most was when she experienced discrimination within the gay community, when, at her bachelorette party in Palm Springs, she was harassed at a gay bar when the staff and other clientele believed she was straight. Their photographer, hired because of her diverse portfolio, sent an associate in her place on the wedding day. Mullins said that the stand-in photographer told the couple that she hadn’t photographed a lesbian or interracial couple; Mullins said this comment seemed to imply that the differences in a lesbian or interracial wedding didn’t fit her ability to deliver a professional product. “It made us uneasy and we hated our photos,” Mullins said.

But she’s quick to add that none of this ruined her wedding. “Luckily our families all showed up and our dads walked us halfway down the aisle to join one another. People are not educated and just say stuff they think is right.”

In Concord, Mass., where Texans Addie Tsai and Brandon Hernsberger, who identify as queer and gender nonconforming, got married, it was logistics that caused the most challenges, not the people. “We were very fortunate that the people we did choose to have at the ceremony — less than 20 people — fully understood us and all our complexities. However, I did find that we largely limited the number of people we had at the ceremony — and who we included — because I wanted to feel that we could be most ourselves and be fully ourselves.”

Tsai and Hernberger decided not to get married in Texas because the state doesn’t represent their ideologies and political leanings. They thought the area’s heteronormative leanings might make their wedding less accepted. “We both walked down the aisle separately,” Tsai says. “Our music in the ceremony and in the reception, as well as what was quoted in the vows, was also chosen specifically to create a world outside of patriarchal weddings.”

Although every LGBTQ couple faces challenges when planning their wedding, the messages of resilience and celebration are what stand out. We may have won the freedom to marry, but the battle for social acceptance and understanding wages on.

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08:05 Publié dans wedding | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0)