JoAnna and Madeline were determined to have a wedding celebration that not only made their long-time union legal, but also honored and celebrated all the family and friends who had supported them over the 17 years they had been together…but not able to get married in the eyes of the law. This was no long white gown, father gives away the young bride wedding. Instead, it was the joyous celebration of a long-standing same-gender couple’s commitment to one another, reveling in the fact that their relationship was now on equal legal footing to anyone else’s.
Madeline says the choice to get married at O.Henry was an easy one. She and JoAnna had heard that O.Henry and Proximity Hotels are open to same-gender weddings, and the O.Henry had enough space for their ceremony and reception, as well as luxurious and thoughtful genuine service for the folks whom traveled from out of town. The pair credit Jacob Bennett and the other staff at O.Henry with making the days leading up to their wedding – and of course, the wedding day itself – comfortable and special.
Guests enjoyed cocktails and dinner in O.Henry’s Caldwell Room after a brief, touching wedding ceremony.
Table decor included rose and aster centerpieces designed by O.Henry florist Brenda McLamb, candles, and fun wedding-related table names.
Pastor Ches Kennedy officiated the brief, emotional ceremony.
Emotions were deep and joyful at JoAnna and Madeline’s wedding. The couple’s granddaughter, Sophie (8) patted her Nana’s back during the exchange of vows, while “JoJo” wiped a tear from her Nana’s face.
UNIQUE, PERSONAL TOUCHES
Perfectly orchestrated and in keeping with the couples’ personalities, the wedding was casual and fun, with a simple, intimate ceremony performed on what became the dance floor after dinner. Just a few of the personal touches Madeline and JoAnna organized with the help of O.Henry staff:
- The brides entered the ceremony to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and their first dance was to the Rod Stewart version of “Time after Time.”
- The pair’s granddaughters, Sophia (8) and Tenley (5), were the ring bearers and an essential part of the festivities.
- Owing to the brides’ different taste in music, the reception playlist was filled with fun, energetic tunes from two different eras. Guests cut a rug to everything from “She Loves You,” by the Beatles to “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, by Frankie Valley and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” by Cyndi Lauper. They also made sure to play “Tarantella,” the classic Italian wedding song. And to keep things fun for all ages, the couple requested classics like the Hokey Pokey and The Twist.
- Santa Claus was in attendance! With their families spread far and wide, the couple rarely get to celebrate Christmas with everyone…so they made sure Santa came to deliver favors and gifts to their guests.
Extended family located across the US makes it hard to gather for the Christmas holiday, so Santa came to the wedding, bearing gifts and favors for all.
HOW THEY MET
Originally from New York City, Madeline was living in Virginia Beach; Joanna lived in the Albany area. In 1998, a mutual friend in New York state insisted that Joanna and Madeline should make a connection, and the pair began writing one another letters. (Madeline says that Joanna has the most beautiful handwriting.) Letters turned into phone calls, and phone calls turned into the first in-person weekend visit. The women arranged to meet at the airport, but unfortunately, neither was wearing the outfit she had said she’d wear. Families reunited, couples paired off, and eventually, they were the last two women left in the terminal! Joanna says, “I loved her right away.”
Joanna and Madeline moved to North Carolina to be near Madeline’s daughter (from a previous marriage) and their grandchildren. For 17 years, the pair never imagined they could get married in North Carolina. After serving as witnesses for friends’ wedding in Washington, DC, where same-gender marriage was legal, Joanna and Madeline discussed the idea of traveling to DC or New York to have their own wedding. However, it was important to them to stay in NC — a state where they wouldn’t have the legal rights accorded to married couples — so they resigned themselves to never being married and pursued the avenues they could to ensure their medical rights and legal connections to one another.
Then, the unexpected happened: On October 14, 2014, a federal court decision found North Carolina’s denial of marriage rights to same-gender couples unconstitutional. That day, Joanna was in New York, and she received a text with the news from Madeline, who was at home in Kernersville. As Joanna says, “Then, the pressure was on! They kind of proposed for us!
Madeline (“Nana”) dances with granddaughters Sophie (8) and Tenley (5); daughter-in-law Nikki and son John, Madeline, JoAnna, son-in-law Brad and daughter Jamie, along with Sophie and Tenley
Hors d’oeuvres from Green Valley Grill passed after the ceremony included:
- Smoked Salmon with Drill Cream Cheese on Cucumber
- Tart of Baby Spinach & Boursin Cheese
- Blue Crab & Spinach Tart
- Fig Preserves with Shaved Proscuitto & Parmesan Curls on Crostini Crisp
Chef designed buffet menu from Green Valley Grill:
- Mixed Baby Field Greens with an array of Julienne Garden Vegetables
- Parmesan Crusted Chicken with Herbed Goat Cheese, Lemon Garlic Sauce, and Crispy Capers
- Grilled and Sliced Sirloin with Portabella Mushrooms Bordelaise
- Pasta Salad
- Herb-Roasted Red Potatoes
- Green Beans
- Sliced Bread and Butter
- Ice Tea and Coffee
Also on display after dinner:
- Miniature Pastry and Cupcakes