BY EVE KUCHARSKI
All day she had been debating on when to do it, and after a rainy Friday spent kayaking, Heather Thatcher, 43, was sure; she would do it that night. She and her girlfriend got back to their campsite, built a fire, and then, Thatcher excused herself for a moment into the camper.
“I had made a photobook with pictures of various points of all of our first year of dating,” Thatcher said. “I made this book and I wrapped it up and I had the ring and everything.”
When she reemerged with the wrapped gift, she took her girlfriend by surprise.
“I said, ‘Heather, why do you have to do shit like this,'” laughed Heather Casto-Thatcher, 38. “She’s always so giving and she’s so thoughtful.”
The proposal wasn’t outright, however. At first, Casto-Thatcher thought that the gift was just going to be a romantic photo album.
“She opened it and started looking through the pictures, and pretty early on in our relationship, we watched the movie, ‘Life is Beautiful’ together. The whole thing is in Italian with subtitles. I love the Italian language and a lot of times, I would send her text messages in Italian, and she would have to translate them to see what they meant,” Thatcher said. “On the very last page of the book, I wrote this long message in Italian, and, at the very end, I proposed.”
By that point, Casto-Thatcher had caught on, but she made sure to translate the message at the end–just to be certain.
“I had to get my phone out to translate it all and the last line was, ‘Will you marry me?’ It was very nice,” Casto-Thatcher said.
And this proposal was especially so, as it mirrored the couple’s first meeting.
“I was out with a couple of friends having a party and a bonfire. I was spending the night there, it was just the three of us,” Casto-Thatcher said. “I had been messaging her and then she asked, ‘Can I come over?’ I thought, ‘That’d be kind of nice.’ She came over for the bonfire and the second we met …”
“We were pretty much inseparable after that point,” Thatcher said. “We dated for almost a year and I proposed to her.”
Thatcher said she knew immediately after seeing Casto-Thatcher for the first time that she was attracted to her.
“I was on OkCupid, scrolling through pictures and her picture popped up,” Thatcher said. “Her smile stopped me in my tracks. I thought, ‘I have to meet this woman.'”
And the timing was perfect. Both Heathers were looking for a fulfilling relationship.
“We were both married to men previously. I was married for nine and a half years when my husband passed away,” Casto-Thatcher said. “I am bisexual, and my husband knew that I was attracted to women and it was never an issue. Then, when I was single and ready to date again, three and a half years ago, I thought, ‘Why am I not dating another woman?'”
Her coming out process was fairly straightforward.
“I had a little bit of fear telling my family and friends, but not one person gave me really negative feedback,” Casto-Thatcher said. “Most of them said, ‘Oh, OK.’ For me, it was pretty easy.”
For Thatcher, her path was more difficult. After coming out, she filed for divorce from her husband of 22 years and was forced to begin her life anew.
“Even my mom, and she’s since come around, she initially told me that she was disappointed which was really hurtful,” she said. “My niece is trans, and my sister and I have such a different perspective about this whole thing it’s crazy. My sister got really upset with my mom and called her, laid into her, and saw what she was doing and she’s been fantastic ever since.”
But she couldn’t win everyone over.
“All the people who said they were my ‘friends,’ none of them speak to me anymore. I was told I was going to hell, I was told the choices I was making were going to lead to death and that God would never bless me,” Thatcher said. “I had to start from scratch. I had a couple of friends through work and I’m much better for it.”
Fast forward through another happy year of dating to Aug. 4 of this year, and it was the couple’s wedding day.
“My mom and dad were visiting from Florida. We got up, we got some mimosas, and because we lived together prior to that, we actually picked out our dresses together,” Thatcher said. “We decided after we went to get our hair and makeup done, that we wouldn’t see each other after that point until later in the day.”
On the day, Thatcher made her way to downtown Detroit with her daughter Katherine separately, while Casto-Thatcher went with her daughter’s Alexis and Haley. The five got their hair and makeup done together. Then, the groups separated for more wedding preparations.
No strangers to sentimentality, the couple made sure to see each other for the first time at a pre-ceremony picture session that nodded to the couple’s first official date at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum. Hours later, the couple was married at the Waterview Loft at Port Detroit.
“They were fantastic. Our photographer was fantastic, Derek Cookson, he was awesome. I was a little concerned with how the different vendors would be with us being a same-sex couple, but everyone was fantastic,” Thatcher said.
The two had no trouble with other vendors either.
“At the venue, Emerald City Designs did all of the tablescaping and flowers,” Casto-Thatcher said. “We made sure to say up front, ‘If you have a problem with it, we don’t want to work with you.’
“We also worked with Sweet Heather Anne’s Bakery, and they were great too,” Thatcher said. “Everybody was fantastic.”
Thatcher said that the happiness she found with her wife taught her a lesson.
“Don’t attempt to change yourself for anybody else, no matter how hard it is,” Thatcher said. “Even though it was hard initially on the kids, they see the benefits now. It’s so much better for them to see a loving, happy marriage than to see anything else.”