"It happened organically," Sheila and Jennifer Patel say of their love story. "We were both at a point in our lives where we were not looking for love."
Two years after meeting in a coffee shop, Sheila and Jennifer began planning their own wedding in Coronado, California. Planning a same-sex wedding through an industry focused around heterosexual traditions can be tricky. Add in the fact that Sheila is part of the first generation of her Indian family born in the U.S., while Jennifer comes from an Irish/Scottish background — the planning became even more complicated.
BuzzFeed spoke with the couple about how they managed to take their own traditions and create a unique ceremony:
Planning Tip #1: Find compromise. "We talked about the must haves for each of us, and ways to incorporate both cultures and traditions."
"Many of Sheila's family members had never been to a wedding outside of their culture, and many of Jennifer's family members had never been to an Indian wedding. So, it was nice to be able to share those cultural traditions with each other. We had a rehearsal dinner combined with a Mendhi party," Jennifer and Sheila explained.
"The ceremony included an Indian mantra/offering to Ganesh, an Indian floral lei ceremony, a sand ceremony, and an Irish blessing."
Planning Tip #2: Find wedding vendors who will help you create your vision.
"The hardest part was sifting through potential vendors to make sure the energy was right. Not all vendors are open to same-sex marriage."
Planning Tip #3: Do what feels right.
"Sheila only wore the traditional clothing during the ceremony. She wanted to have Indian aspects included in the ceremony and reception that reflected her culture and traditions."
Planning Tip #4: Know the status of same-sex marriage laws in your state and plan accordingly.
"Same-sex marriage wasn't legal at the time, so we went to the courthouse in August after it was legalized to make it official. Even though it wasn't legal at the time, we still felt like it was a wedding and not a commitment ceremony."
"Just simple things like terminology became difficult. For example, while planning, when it came to our wedding day we couldn't be announced as wives, we had to be 'partners in life.'"
The most important planning tip? Be yourself.
"Compromise with one another, and not with the world. Disagreements are okay. Work through them, they will make you stronger. Be open and honest."
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Corbin Photography.