“Getting married is not a political statement; it’s a lifelong commitment that I hope people will take seriously.” Kay Shelton should know. She and her wife Amanda took the plunge on July 22, 2000.
The Beverly Hills, Mich. couple put a lot of planning both into their life together and into their big day. Their 100-person fairy-tale-themed wedding is an inspiration for couples in the planning stages of a unified life.
Amanda was going to law school and working at a nail salon and handing out business cards at The Rainbow Room. Kay was working as a mechanic. Though not really the hair-and-nails type of gal, Kay made an appointment the next day – and once a week for a while thereafter.
“I saw her and I just knew,” Kay says. “She just does something for me.”
Amanda resisted at first, but she got to know Kay better through her visits to the salon. “She wore me down,” teases Amanda. The young law student wasn’t in a hurry to date. She had recently moved all the way from the farm country of Idaho to Cass Avenue in Detroit to be in a relationship that didn’t work.
“I just didn’t want any more drama in my life,” she says. “But she was persistent, and patient. She told me that she knew we were supposed to be together and that she’d wait as long as it took. Finally I let her take me out to dinner. We went on our first date to get Thai food in Ferndale and it just sort of went from there.”
Amanada went on to complete law school at Wayne State. She is now a practicing attorney and partner at Shelton Deon Law Group in Royal Oak. She practices family law, employment law, commercial litigation and LGBT law. Kay stays home with their two children, 21-month-old Myles and 4-year-old Maya. (The family was recently the center of a New York Times article about adoption law in Michigan.)
While it’s been nearly a dozen years since the day the Shelton’s exchanged vows, their wedding is still a point of pride. “In another life I’d be a wedding planner,” Shelton says, gushing over her giant photo album celebrating the event. “I wanted a fairy tale, and that’s what we got.”
The wedding was unique, and even more challenging to pull off than any typical gay wedding. “There was no wedding expo back then. There was the PrideSource directory but they only had a few places that might help. We went in blind to these businesses, no way of knowing if they’d help,” Kay says.
Amanda recalled the struggle: “We did have a problem finding a venue. We’d tell people we were getting married and they’d say we couldn’t do that,” she says. “The photo company had a hard time understanding. We kept saying ‘the brides,’ and they didn’t get it. They kept saying, ‘So… it’s a double wedding?’ and we kept saying, ‘No, one wedding, two brides,’ and finally they caught on.”
It’s partly because of these frustrations that Amanda is going to be participating in the 2012 Wedding Expo on April 29. Her law firm will have a booth and she’ll be there to answer people’s questions about planning their legal future with their partner. She’ll also tell you about her fairy-tale wedding if you let her.
Her advice to engaged couples: be clear about what you want, and write the guest list out first. “If you get the list done first it’s easier to plan everything else. You need to know the quantity of things to get, how big of a space you need, that type of thing.”
For their fairy-tale wedding, the Sheltons rented The Castle in Detroit, a beautiful building which came with overnight accommodations for the wedding party as part of the rental package. Unfortunately, The Castle is closed, but as an interesting side note the couple went to an auction as the place was closing and were able to buy the dressing table that they took some of their most precious wedding day pictures in front of.
To go along with the castle theme, they had a large castle cake and their friend hand-made the invitations to look like a little castle opening up in the reader’s hands.
Because it was a beautiful day, they were able to have their wedding outside. One way they added a more personal touch was by having each guest bring a flower from home of their choosing. The mismatched flowers were stuck into the trellis they took their vows under. “That way everybody had a part in honoring our commitment to each other,” Kay says.
Other special touches included an ice carving in the shape of a Native American Totem that the couple had designed to represent their love. The same symbolism was on the castle cards. Kay’s suit was custom-made for the event.
“We used a lot of symbolism and tried to make it very personal. One thing was that everybody had a candle and we passed the light from one to the next, up the rows of people and through the moms on to us,” Amanda says.
“It’s important to make sure you enjoy every step of it. On the day of it, it goes by so fast that you should just take a moment to find a corner and just step back and take it all in. It’s not legal, so some people may not do it as fully as they want. Don’t let it bother you that it’s not legal. Your wedding is as special as any wedding. It doesn’t matter that there’s not a piece of paper from the state. It’s a unification process. It’s something you do with the people in your life to say publicly, “I pick this person for life, I pick this person for real.”
Stop by the Wedding Expo on April 29 for more wedding tips, LGBT friendly vendors, or to meet Shelton for yourself and talk about legal issues.