Score one for online dating. Andrew Nichols and Latress London met two years ago on Match.com. Now they're planning a wedding. It will be the first same-sex ceremony to take place in the historic Fort Street Presbyterian Church in Detroit. But that's skipping ahead.
Nichols and London started dating about two years ago. Their first date wasn't really one. "He helped me move out of where I was living and into a new house," recalled Nichols. "So our first date was eating a Little Caesar's Hot'n'Ready with a bottle of wine at my coffee table sitting on the floor."
"It was super classy," added London with a laugh.
Soon enough, the two went on their first real date to visit the Detroit Zoo's Wild Lights. From there the relationship moved quickly.
"I was so impressed and taken back because I'd never met somebody who was so different from me yet at the same time so alike," said London. "He was a gentlemen. I remember one time I went out for a friend's birthday and he met up with us after. I'd had a few drinks and he walked in. My friend said 'who is that?' and I said 'this is the man I'm going to marry.' And this was like a couple weeks in."
London knew it was serious when Nichols presented him with a key to his house.
"It was a Detroit Tigers key because that's my favorite sports team," London said. "He was like 'I want you to have this' and I think that was the moment that I realized it was a
serious relationship. I was like he really wants to do this with me."
As for Nichols, he said he knew London was the one after coming down with meningitis.
"I was hospitalized for over a month and we had only been together six months," Nichols said. "He stuck around. He never left my side. Most people would have felt that too much to handle. But he helped me through everything and I knew I had found someone I would love for the rest of my life."
Last December, Nichols took London and a group of about 15 friends back to the Detroit Zoo's Wild Lights, a display of more than five million LED lights that illuminate the trees, buildings and more than 200 animal sculptures throughout the front half of the Zoo. When they reached the boardwalk, London found a message waiting for him in lights. It said simply "Marry me?"
Suddenly, Nichols' mother stepped forward and took off her ring.
"My father passed last year in March after a very long medical battle," said Nichols. "My parents met and married in like four or five months and they were married for 38 years. So I figured if I used my mom's ring I'd have some luck with it."
When London realized what was happening his knees buckled beneath him.
"I was so nervous and my mind was kind of blown," London said. "It was such a great feeling. I just remember sobbing. Just crying so hard. Like really ugly crying. … It definitely rocked my world."
London said yes, and soon the couple started attending wedding expos to get ideas for their big day. It was at one of these that they met Loretta Stanton, the wedding coordinator for Fort Street Presbyterian. They were so impressed they visited the church and soon started the process of joining. Nichols had always been a Presbyterian but London, raised Catholic, was at first hesitant.
"I'm going to stay a confirmed Catholic," London explained. "I've been in the Catholic church since preschool. My religion is a very big part of me. … It was kind of weird at first because I wasn't sure if I wanted to become a member of the church because I kind of felt it was like converting and turning my back on my own religion. But I talked to my mom and she said Presbyterian is sort of like Catholic-like. There are a lot of similarities.
"They are great people to us both," London continued. "They are so welcoming and I think once I looked at that that's what sold me on it."
A fine example of Gothic Revival architecture, Nichols and London will wed in the 162-year old church that is both a state and national historic site next September.
"It means the world to us to be married in the church," said Nichols. "We both feel that being able to be married as a same sex couple is amazing in itself. But to have a church accept you…there are so many religious conflicts that come with it. It's almost like a warm hug. Like they're saying 'God loves you no matter what.'"
The historic Detroit church was constructed in 1855, and completely rebuilt in 1876.
"The theme for our wedding is Love Is," he said. "Yes, the day is going to be about Andrew and I making our vows and spending our lives together. But we see the day as a celebration. Everyone we're inviting is not only people we love but people who love us unconditionally. It's like a big, humungous celebration of people loving."
For their part, the Fort Street Presbyterian Church is just as excited about the wedding. The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in favor of allowing churches to perform same-sex weddings at their General Assembly, which took place at Detroit's Cobo Hall in 2014. And now with marriage equality being the law of the land there is nothing to hold them back.
"This is something the church has been wanting to do for quite a few years, even before it came up for a vote," said Stanton. "We allow gay and lesbian people to be on the board of directors, we allow them to be deacons, we allow them to be as involved in the church as possible. We don't have any separation. We want to be known as a very accepting church.
"Andrew and I bonded immediately," Stanton continued. "Whatever I can do to make his wonderful venture awesome is what I want to do. I feel honored to be a part of Andrew and Latress's wedding."