Certain moments in life are remembered forever, whether they happen to you or are witnessed happening to someone else. I have always been proud to say I'm from Buffalo, New York. But I was never more proud of my city than on November 11, when I experienced one of those moments.
That Friday afternoon, I attended a legal wedding ceremony between two women from Ann Arbor, Michigan. As I sat in The Star Theater at the Buffalo Niagara Visitor Center with the other guests and attendees while the brides exchanged their vows, I remember thinking to myself, how could a love like this ever not be legally recognized?
Kelly Weger, 31, and Bethany Schultz, 42, have been together since December 2009. They met at a small club in Ann Arbor and connected instantly.
"I felt like we had known each other for centuries," said Weger, an architect. "I never imagined that two souls could have a connection that strong."
Their relationship endured the normal challenges that most do, and after two years, marriage was the logical next step. Getting engaged in the middle of a Lowe's Home Improvement Store seemed fitting for this lesbian couple. "We joke about how classic it was that we got engaged at Lowe's," laughed Schultz.
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state of New York, Weger and Schultz made Buffalo their wedding destination because of affordability, close proximity, and the option of a classic honeymoon in Niagara Falls. While exploring everything the city has to offer, they soon discovered what so many other visitors already know. Buffalo is more than just affordable. It's also full of good-natured and friendly people.
"The people are by far the friendliest, kindest urban denizens I have ever met," said Weger. "I wasn't sure how we would be received as a lesbian couple coming to get married, especially considering how recently the law was passed, but we were greeted with smiles and congratulations everywhere we went."
"We were genuinely taken aback over and over by how friendly and truly embracing the people of Buffalo were," added Schultz. "My favorite quote may have been, 'A wedding, is a wedding, but you two made me cry, and I was really happy you decided to do it here.'"
The wedding ceremony took place inside the Market Arcade Building on Main Street, which was built in 1892 to resemble London's Burlington Arcade. Weger and Schultz had wandered into the building after noticing its striking architectural design and happened upon the perfect wedding spot.
Visit Buffalo Niagara, the local tourism department, "really opened their doors and their hearts to us," said Weger. "When we walked into the room where our wedding was going to be held and saw how much they had done to help make it special, we were truly touched." Their wedding cake, for example, which came from a local Buffalo bakery, Zilly's, had two gingerbread women on top: "One with long brown hair and one with short silver hair, to match us."
The Star Theater is a room that is designed to look like a miniature Broadway theater, complete with two small rows of theater seats and a small stage at the front. Their friend Komani, 26, lives in Buffalo and conducted the ceremony while friends of the brides, employees of Visit Buffalo Niagara, and myself looked on. Dressed in a long white gown with flowing sleeves, Weger stood on the left. Schultz, wearing a sleeveless green dress, stood on the right. In less than 15 minutes, they were legally married.
During the ceremony, I could easily see this was the kind of love that knows no boundaries, and one that can't be boxed in between a man and a woman. This was the kind of love that every human being searches for. Why on earth, when two people find it, would anyone want to deny their right to make it legal?
I'm proud to say that Buffalo lived up to its reputation as the "City of Good Neighbors" on that fateful Friday afternoon. It's a moment that Weger and Schultz will remember for the rest of their lives -- and one that I won't soon forget, either.
For more information about same-sex weddings in the Buffalo area, visit LGBTBuffalo.com.
LYNDSEY D'ARCANGELO is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. The author of The Trouble With Emily Dickinson, she can be found at lyndseydarcangelo.com.