By KJ Philp, August 2015 Issue.
This love story starts in the late ‘90s in El Paso, Texas, where two students of Magoffin Middle School lived about a mile from each other.
That’s not actually a chapter in the love story of Desi Rubio and Vanessa Montes, more like a prequel, but who doesn’t appreciate a little dose of fate or sense of humor from the universe?
Their love story actually began nine years ago in Arizona. Rubio moved to Tempe to attend Arizona State University and, just months later, Montes moved to Phoenix to live with her sister and enroll in community college.
“We were both homesick so we met up because we shared that familiarity of ‘home,’” Rubio recalled of their first interaction on MySpace. “We fell madly in love.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
In October 2013, Montes proposed to Rubio in Hawaii. She said yes, and the couple started planning their wedding the following summer, which included a trip to the second annual Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expo last fall.
Still, there were significant legal roadblocks between them and the marriage they were preparing for.
“When we chose our date for July 2015 we didn’t think [our marriage] would be legal in Arizona,” Rubio said. “We kept our fingers crossed … but we had a backup plan to marry, legally, out of state.”
When Arizona’s ban on same-sex marriages was overturned Oct. 17, 2014, Rubio said, the couple was ecstatic.
“It took everything in us to not run to the court house to ‘just do it,’” Rubio said. “But we learned that in Arizona a marriage license is good for a year, so we went to get our marriage license to celebrate the moment.”
They decided to have a ceremony and reception here in Arizona, with their closest family and friends.
“Vanessa made such an important point about how supportive both of our families are and how other same-sex couples may not have that,” Rubio said. “It was important to her to celebrate our love with everyone.”
Next came the task of choosing what traditions to incorporate in their big day, and which to omit. Having only been to two same-sex weddings previously, the couple let their culture and their family guide them.
“A lot of the Mexican traditions were important [for us] to keep,” Montes said. “I wanted our wedding to reflect exactly who we are.”
They opted to skip the garter in favor of tossing two bouquets; they substituted the father/daughter dance with the traditional dollar dance; and hired an all-female mariachi ensemble and DJ with Latin roots to keep the celebration going.
Instead of explaining that this was a same-sex wedding to each vendor Montes contacted, she turned to Pride Guide as a resource (gayarizona.com).
The couple skipped hiring a wedding planner, but credits word of mouth, Pinterest and their well-networked photographer Cristina DePoy with most of the their vendor decisions and creative inspiration.
“This year of wedding planning and preparing for marriage has been entirely blissful,” Rubio said, an important distinction considering the couple had to select two dresses, two bouquets and so on. “We ended up with an amazing wedding team.”
In preparation for their big day, the brides welcomed the majority of their guests into town from Texas. And, especially for those who couldn’t attend, they launched the hashtag #VanesiWedding, allowing anyone to view all the photos and posts with just one click.
“I wanted to leave a lasting impression … so having a hashtag was very important to me,” Rubio said, adding that this also served as a way for the brides to review all the posts and photos after their big day concluded.
Then, exactly one week before the #VanesiWedding took place, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality nationwide.
“That day was so emotional,” Rubio said. “It just kicked off our wedding week to perfection. “We’ve been waiting a long time for this day … everyone deserves that feeling.”
The couple agreed that full equality was the only thing than could have made their special day any more perfect, and consider the timing a wedding gift from the Supreme Court.
“We always wondered when marriage equality would happen and I’m so thankful for how it all played out,” Montes said. “We [got] to commit to one another on such a monumental year in American history.”
The couple hopes their relationship, love and commitment serve as an example of why same-sex couples are deserving of all the rights that accompany full and equal marriage.
“Marriage is about love and the commitment and not giving up on one another,” Montes said. “We need to prove to society why this fight mattered. And perhaps our community can help re-establish the fundamentals of marriage in this country again.”
Big Day, Big Decisions
From creative inspiration to budgeting for the guest list, Desi Rubio and Vanessa Montes share the best and the worst of their wedding planning experiences.
Echo: #VanesiWedding was pretty trendy, where did you get the ideas and inspiration?
Montes: I browsed Pinterest constantly. The last wedding in our family was years ago; I just needed a refresher on what elements were necessary when planning. We couldn’t afford a wedding planner, and there are so many pieces to a wedding that can be easily overlooked, but we managed to add everything to ours from Pinterest (and similar websites).
Echo: How many same-sex weddings or ceremonies have you attended ahead of yours? Were you taking notes on you did or did not want to carry over to your own wedding?
Rubio: We have been to a lot more straight weddings, but we attended two same-sex weddings before ours. We started noticing different elements that would be different or difficult because we were both women. For example, I didn’t want one of us waiting at the alter like the groom typically does. Initially, I wanted both of us to walk down together but Vanessa decided she would walk first, and then wait, because she was the one who proposed.
Echo: Any really old or “straight” traditions that did not appeal to you, and that you chose to skip?
Montes: We chose to skip something like the bachelorette party for several reasons. Besides the time and finances, a lot of our friends and family are out of town. Secondly, we have many mutual friends in the Valley so we didn’t want them to have to attend two separate events – or three (including the wedding.) Besides, we host so many parties at our home anyways that we just saw it as unnecessary. We’d rather save the money for the open bar at the wedding!
Echo: You attended the Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expo last year; was it valuable to you? How so?
Rubio: The Pride Guide Wedding & Honeymoon Expo was definitely valuable and we were lucky enough to book two vendors who were at last year’s expo. It just made us feel better about our choices. However, that event came a little late in our wedding planning process, but it was still fun to attend!
We attended two “straight” expos. Vendors would ask us what our grooms names were and it was stuffy and awkward for us. You could just tell they didn’t want to discriminate, but weren’t exactly warm or sincere to us.
Echo: If you had it to do all over again, is there anything you would change?
Rubio: I always heard wedding planning was such a stressful time for a couple, but honestly it through us into another “honeymoon phase.” We were so excited the entire time and overwhelmed with how much support and excitement there was among our friends, family and vendors. It’s sounds funny to say, but I’m going to miss chatting with our vendors!
Montes: The guest list was the most stressful part because, in a perfect world where we had the financial ability to do so, we would have invited every person that has ever positively impacted our lives. Our budget really confined our choices because most venues require you to pay per guest – the bar and the food is all based on the head count.
Echo: What’s the best advice you would give to a newly engaged same-sex couple that has yet to give any thought their wedding plans/budget/date?
Rubio: Stick to your budget and make sure there is chemistry between you and your wedding vendors. If there is no chemistry and it is all business, don’t book. This is the most important day of your lives and you deserve 100 percent attention from each person you are working with. And stay organized!
Montes: Being a teacher, we had no choice but to book our wedding date in the summertime. The summer in Phoenix is probably the worst time for a wedding; however, we discovered right away that many vendors offer discounts because it is considered their slow season. We also discovered that the day of the week your wedding falls on can also impact your costs. We saved money by booking our day on a Friday – a couple thousand dollars difference than if we would have booked on a Saturday. So that is something to consider.
Echo: What was your biggest lesson throughout this process?
Vanessa: I learned a lot of lessons about money. It was difficult to stick to the budget because we had so many ideas. I also didn’t realize the things that I’d be particular about, such as seating arrangements, types of plating, décor, little things that may sound ridiculous, but when so much money is involved, every detail is important. Again, money impacts everything and that was our biggest lesson.
Rubio: You do get what you pay for. Our greatest decision was our venue. We live two miles from downtown Chandler … and when we walked in to SoHo 63 Vanessa cried! It was beyond gorgeous. And it was our personality, our style, and … from the very start, the staff made us feel so special.