By Liz Massey, August 2017 Issue.
Sher and Deanna Hatch had a problem: they were in Sedona, a place that both women loved, but every location they visited in their quest to find their ideal wedding venue had left them underwhelmed.
“None of the places we had visited we had even liked,” Deanna said. “But while we were with some friends on a kayaking trip, one of them suggested a lodge on top of Airport Mesa. The moment we saw the spectacular views, we knew this was the place where we would be getting married.”
Once they made that decision, a number of other things seemed to fit into place: The lodge offered them what they called the “perfect cottage,” right next to the outdoor ceremony site, and the property could accommodate their wedding date of Oct. 1, 2016 – the only date it had open for five months.
“It’s like the stars aligned for us,” Deanna enthused.
“Once we got the date we wanted, we knew this was totally meant to be,” said Sher, mirroring her wife’s astonishment.
Sher and Deanna were able to plan their wedding day in a style that reflected their relationship, a connection that both describe as natural and easy. Their story as a couple is not without its plot twists and complications, but by staying true to themselves and their bond, the chapter that includes their wedding has definitely had a happy ending.
Bump, Set, Spike, Love
Shar and Deanna first met as students at Dobson High School and knew each other through mutual friends. They were both school athletes, but their affinity for sports didn’t play a crucial role in their connection until they were reintroduced to each other in 2010.
By that point, Deanna had become a middle school teacher in Tempe and Sher supplemented her income from the financial services industry by working for the City of Tempe as a coach. Both women were recruited to coach seventh and eighth grade volleyball at Deanna’s school.
“We were in a professional setting, so we weren’t thinking of dating at first,” Sher said.
Over time, professional conversations between the new pals gave way to more personal revelations, including the fact that both women had dated women since leaving high school. As they discovered more mutual interests and continued to enjoy their time together, the two began a romantic relationship, but it was a romance focused more on shared activities and less on a specific relationship structure, according to both women.
“We realized how natural it was to be together and how well everything fit,” Deanna said.
Sher added, “We knew we were exclusive, but we didn’t have labels for what we were doing. We just enjoyed each other’s company and whatever adventure came next for us.”
Before either of them knew it, several years had passed and they had acquired all the trappings of a typical same-sex couple: a house, a car, and several beloved pets. The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2015 cleared the way for the Hatches to label what they had together a “marriage” and plan to make it official by having a legally sanctioned wedding.
The couple described their conversation about getting married as a “consultation” around their backyard fire pit, and not a proposal.
“It was listening to music around the fire pit and really talking about how much we love our life together,” Sher recalled. “We love everything we have done on our house … our dogs, families, each other. That’s when we were like, ‘let’s get married. Life doesn’t get any better than this.’”
Amid their newly engaged excitement, the pair realized there was one big challenge for them to resolve as they made wedding decisions: how to handle their families.
Both women come from very traditional families – one Mormon and the other Catholic – that had accepted them as a couple, but were uncomfortable with the thought of participating in their wedding ceremony.
“We had some honest discussions with [our families] on how to involve them,” Sher said. “Finally, we decided to take the pressure off everyone and just let our wedding day be about us.”
Small Wedding, Big Honeymoon
In Sher and Deanna’s case, having the wedding just be about them meant limiting their guest list to themselves, their officiant, their photographer, and their two best friends. The small scale of the wedding meant overseeing all the details was manageable, even fun.
“We did the entire ceremony ourselves,” Sher said. “We wrote our own vows and kept in touch with our officiant about what we wanted. I’m so glad we did it that way, because I remember every moment of that day.”
The brides spent the morning of their big day getting ready and sharing champagne toasts with their best friends before the ceremony, and ended it with dinner at an upscale Sedona restaurant, followed by drinks at a swanky mixology-style bar.
One of the biggest wedding “gifts” for the Hatches has been the European vacation from which they just returned July 10. Taking advantage of both women’s lighter summer schedules, the couple toured London, Paris and Rome as part of what they consider an epic honeymoon – one they say would not have been possible had they insisted on having a bigger wedding.
“Traveling is paramount among the things we like to do,” Deanna said. “I spent time in college backpacking across Europe and told Sher we had to go there together. [Our goal was to] see the sights, enjoy the food and drink, and have fun hanging out with the locals.”
Happily Ever After
After more than six years together, Sher and Deanna have passed a major relationship milestone by getting married. However, one of the secrets to the longevity of their union, they assert, is focusing on what worked for them at the very beginning.
“It’s easy to get into ruts,” Sher said. “It’s important to keep doing those things you love doing together.”
Deanna said, “When we first started dating, we would put the names of activities in a hat, and whatever we drew, that’s what we did. We still do that!”
The couple agreed that they really didn’t feel a major impact from the legal aspect of their marriage, perhaps because their lives were already so entwined. But, according to Deanna, the social recognition that comes with marriage has definitely made them both very happy.
“I love being able to call Sher my wife,” she said. “I’m proud to be married, and proud to be married to a woman.”