By Shelby Clark Petkus
With the advent of same-sex marriage in Michigan, couples are looking for relevant inspiration for both local and destination weddings. These Michigan couples shared their wedding stories, vendors and advice with BTL.
Michael Odom and Bruce Van Dyke
REDFORD – Michael Odom and Van Dyke celebrated their 20th anniversary on Nov. 16, 2012 by getting married in Windsor, Ontario where same-sex marriage is legally recognized. “This allowed our immediate family and close friends to join us for the occasion. Windsor is just across the river.”
Their small ceremony was held at Metropolitan Community Church of Windsor. The couple had a “ring blessing” as part of their wedding. According to Odom, “Before we placed the rings on each other’s hands, the minister passed the rings to the guests in the church. As each person held them together… they said a prayer or wish for me and Bruce. Because the ceremony was small (just close friends and immediate family), this was an incredible moment for Bruce and me to see the love that was filling the room just for us.”
The intimate ceremony was followed by a family dinner at La Dolce Vita. The restaurant, formerly Salute, was the site of the couple’s first date.
A reception with over 200 guests was held the next evening at Motor City Casino’s Club Amnesia. Guests were greeted with champagne, and Odom and Van Dyke, who stood at the entryway for nearly an hour, personally welcomed guests.
Throughout the night, Motor City Casino provided top-shelf alcohol, multiple waves of food and more. Some food highlights included sliders and pizza as midnight snacks. Entertainment included dancing and a drag queen performance by Big Ambition. Odom’s best man – his sister – gave a toast that the couple considers a fond memory as well.
Challenges the couple faced when planning the wedding included getting the guest list to fit within their budget, starting with 300 guests before whittling it down to 200. Coordinating the multiple details of two days worth of events, especially between two countries, also left the couple with extra hurdles to hop.
Despite the stress in getting the events planned, Odom and Van Dyke had a fantastic event. Odom advises LGBT couples getting married to “take multiple moments to take everything in – it goes very fast!” He also recommends photography be a focus, particularly for “fly on the wall” shots that will be surprising later on. Ultimately, he says, “Make your night fit your personalities and the style of event you want to have.”
Rings: Kramar Jewelry
Keepsake Watch (Couple Gift): Miner’s Den,
Decor, Coordination, Beverages and Food: Motor City Casino, Detroit.
Wedding Favors: Godiva Chocolates, Multiple Locations.
Betsy and Julie McKeeman
Julie and Betsy McKeeman were married on July 15, 2013 in San Francisco, Calif. Julie, of Eastpointe, and Betsy, Livonia, had been engaged for over 10 years. The couple wanted to wait until either Michigan or the federal government officially recognized same-sex marriage; hoping to have only one ceremony, the couple decided to marry with the overturning of DOMA.
Betsy and Julie had a quickly arranged civil ceremony in California after Betsy’s sister and her sister’s then-fiancee announced they would be “tying the knot” in Lake Tahoe. Deciding to wed in San Francisco, “the heart of the LGBT rights movement,” Betsy and Julie had a civil ceremony in a downtown rotunda, just feet away from statues of Harvey Milk, Sen. Diane Feinstein and Mayor George Moscone.
Betsy’s sister and her sister’s wife were witnesses, along with Betsy and Julie’s two children. The group drove through Castro Street following the downtown ceremony and took pictures near the Golden Gate Bridge. Betsy and Julie joke, “If you need to have a civil ceremony, why not have one in the ‘gayest’ place on earth? Go big or go home, right?”
With the recent changes in same-sex marriage in Michigan, the couple has planned a full religious ceremony for July 17, 2015. Some challenges for their upcoming wedding include finding vendors and services that are LGBT-friendly. “This is why the BTL Wedding Expo is so important to us and families like ours!” says Betsy.
The couple plans to bring unique twists to their wedding, such as a soft-serve ice cream bar instead of a cake, food trucks or a burger bar instead of a banquet, etc. Betsy’s hoping for a “flash mob,” but Julie isn’t quite on board yet.
Aside from recommending BTL’s Same-Sex Wedding Expo, the couple suggests LGBT couples be patient, ask lots of questions and stay open and honest with each other about plans and ideas. “Don’t worry if you disagree with each other – hire a wedding planner if you need to!” notes Betsy. “Most of all, have fun – we finally get to marry!”
Vendors Used or Will Be Used:
Ceremony: Renaissance Unity Church, Warren
Reception: The Rust Belt Market, Ferndale
Food: Food Truck, Local
Cake: Friends, Local
Tom Hitchman and Keith Hewitt
Tom Hitchmann, of Beverly Hills, and Hewitt, of Lapeer, were one of the 300-plus couples married on Saturday, March 22 after Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional. However, the two had married earlier last year in Windsor, influenced by the U.S. vs. Windsor case and the IRS announcement that same-sex marriages would be granted federal benefits.
Together for 24 years, the two decided to marry in Windsor after seeing the Windsor exhibit at BTL’s Same-Sex Wedding Expo in 2013.
With two witnesses, Hewitt’s cousin and Hitchman’s friend from high school, the men married with a simple civil ceremony at Windsor City Hall. The four members of the “wedding party” celebrated the wedding with dinner at Coach Insignia at the Renaissance Center. A dinner with family was later held at Eddie Merlot’s in Bloomfield Hills.
The couple luckily experienced no challenges in their small event, recommending the City Clerk’s office in Windsor as being “friendly, inclusive and efficient.” Hitchman recalls a memorable highlight of their day: “Driving back through the Windsor tunnel, the U.S. Homeland Security agent was emotionless until he asked us the purpose of our visit to Windsor. When we told him we just got married, he smiled warmly and said congratulations. We think we were the highlight of his day!”
Hitchman and Hewitt plan to have a ceremony and reception in the future utilizing Michigan vendors, especially local Michigan-made products, vendors and more.
Food: Coach Insignia, Detroit and Eddie Merlot’s, Bloomfield Hills
Flowers and Corsages: Ashley’s Flowers, Detroit
Clothing: Macy’s at The Somerset Collection, Troy
Nancy Katz and Margo Dichtelmiller
Katz, originally from Indianapolis, Ind., and Dichtelmiller, from Cleveland, Ohio, met at Oberlin College and moved to Michigan in 1977 when Katz began law school.
Together for over 30 years, Nancy proposed to Margo following a fundraiser for Affirmations at their home. Columnist Deb Price was a featured guest who encouraged people to get married even if it wasn’t recognized, because “‘I’m married, but I don’t have equal rights’ is a stronger statement than ‘I’m gay and I can’t get married.'” The message moved the couple to begin planning a wedding following Nancy’s proposal.
The women got legally married in July in Provincetown, Mass., renting a home for other couples to join them. The couple faced the challenges of a destination wedding, including renting and using vendors without meeting with them or even seeing things before the wedding date. Furthering complications, Nancy sprained her ankle the first day in Massachusetts. Despite all this, the couple had a wonderful wedding, including a personalized ceremony with their own vows, as well as poems ready by friends and family in attendance. A major highlight included a “pedicab” decorated with “Just Married,” leading to cheers from people as they drove through Provincetown.
In September, Margo and Nancy held a local wedding at Affirmations. With over 100 people, it was the first time the LGBT Center had held such an event. The couple used Michigan vendors, including gay vendor Jeff Zak Catering, who they highly recommend. To include everyone they cared about in their special day, Nancy and Margo played a video of their wedding in Massachusetts.
The couple advises LGBT looking to marry out of state to start planning as soon as possible and to check for different waiting periods and marriage requirements. They definitely recommend having a celebration here in Michigan, though: “Celebrating here in Michigan made us feel like it was a ‘real’ wedding when we were able to share it with everyone.”
Reception: Affirmations, Ferndale
Food: Jeff Zak Catering, Plymouth Township
Design, Lighting, Flowers and Table Settings: Mary Toriglia, Recommended Vendor through Jeff Zak
Photography: Emily Locklear, Metro-Detroit