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  • Karla Villar

Amanda and Jessica's Perfect Book-Loving Feminist Wedding

Updated: May 11, 2020

Event Planner: Modern Rebel & Co. • Photographer: Light & Found Photography • Videographer: Mae B. Films • Officiant: Karla, Once Upon A Vow

Venue: Housing Works Bookstore • Hair and Makeup: MG Hair and Makeup

Catering: Comparti New York • Photo Booth: Hipstr, Inc. • Florals: Doe + Jay Studio

“The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.” *

Two brides kissing in front of Downtown glass and stone building with blue doors; one is wearing a white dress; the other is more of a champagne color; picture taken before ceremony officiated by lgbtq+ officiant at Once Upon A Vow.

From the moment I met them, Jessica & Amanda were very clear about why they choose each other and why they choose marriage. It didn't take long to understand that to them, love is as much a verb as it is a noun; not just a singular feeling or abstract emotions. Love is also a choice - the decision to take action. Love is a practice; as bell hooks states, “a practice of freedom.”

Like many modern partnerships, Amanda & Jessica are actively redefining, reworking, and releasing stifling concepts of matrimony, commitment, relationships.

For some, society’s more progressive attitude changes feel too sudden and threatening and exhausting to keep up with while to others, it feels like “it’s about fucking time; so, let’s hurry up and use this momentum to propel us [more of us] forward!”

Now, Amanda & Jessica consider themselves feminists, part of some and allies to other marginalized communities. They never claimed this but from my perspective they want to contribute to the shift in consciousness in the age of Aquarius.

They reject the antiquated notions attached to our western traditions and belief systems AND, like the rest of us, they appreciate aspects of certain symbolic structures and will easily indulge romantic gestures.

They’re not buying into the ridiculous fairy-tales that they, we, us are never in; instead, they want to own their narratives - write their own stories.

Of course, this requires a disruption of the status quo. And that’s exactly what Amanda & Jessica set out to do with their special day. They created a wedding experience that was in every way authentic to them - a ceremony that reflects who they are and what they value.

To these two “bearers of light,” LOVE is a catalyst for personal and collective liberation!!

"We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and our fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet." *

Amanda, a teacher, and Jessica, a lawyer, are both philosophical and empathic humans driven by the core values of fairness, compassion, community and social responsibility.

Their wedding, which took place at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, a funding source for the non-profit organization that seeks to end the AIDS and homelessness epidemics, offered the right ambience and causes they very much support.

They are readers and research a lot both for work and for fun. They like to stay informed and love exploring other realms and dimensions. Books and words are their thing so to be surrounded by them was perfect.

They’re big Harry Potter fans, which was weaved into their ceremony and drink menu! After getting to know them, I realized how appropriate it was that I was officiating a wedding for members of Dumbledore’s Army.

I’m a fan of the books, for sure, but mostly I’m grateful for the lessons in all those pages [9 Things We Can Learn from Harry Potter]. You see, to me, Amanda & Jessica are part of the army of light I see growing in our world - people who understand that they can defeat darkness by radiating their own brilliance.

Like so many others, Jessica & Amanda recognize the transformative power of love. The love they share has been an uplifting element in their lives; an energy that nurtures self love and expands the heart toward a more altruistic expression of love.

They wanted their wedding day to be filled with that energy of love and were very intentional about using this space - this event - to plant the seeds and help spread their message of love.

I felt a subtle but powerful kinship with Amanda and Jessica. Their story resonated with me and the fact that they wanted to honor and support community through their union was inspiring to me.

"In our society, we make much of love and say little of fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination – it promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies in sameness, then difference of any kind will appear as a threat." *

Jessica & Amanda are among the fortunate ones and they know it. They’ve struggled and faced life challenges, like the rest of us, but they’re in a stable place - in a position of privilege - willing and able to share.

They wanted to celebrate their good fortune in love and life by having their wedding serve as a platform to advocate for and put into practice what they believe to be true - that we are part of a larger whole - WE are one with ALL.

They chose to work with companies that were women and/or queer/POC owned and operated. They also set up donation sites on their registry for non-profits like The Trevor Project, GLSEN, and Housing Works for the work they do to help care for and shelter our siblings.

Amanda & Jessica are self-identified introverts who are not into being the center of attention and may not be leading in the frontlines of activism, but they represent the everyday people who make choices and considerations that have a very direct human impact.

They chose to use their consumer power to benefit more people - more of our communities. They apply the love ethic to their daily lives, a practice bell hooks advocates.

When they chose a bell hooks reading for their wedding, I was exponentially more excited to write their ceremony and eager to share Amanda & Jessica's vision with their audience. They want to co-create a more just and loving reality for more people - a place where everyone is free to be who they are and love who they want. I knew bell hooks' words would perfectly frame their message of interconnectedness and the choice to love beyond boundaries and barriers - beyond circumstances and conditions and old paradigms - beyond fear!

"When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other." *

You see, Jessica and Amanda may have not known what was coming after that first date, but they were open to learning about each other; sharing each other.

They were open to love and that’s always the key to moving toward the kinds of connections we all crave.

In spite of any trepidations they may have had, (and they're both known to worry spiral from time to time), they took a chance. They made a choice!

They allowed themselves to explore each other and quickly realized that space and time was infinitely more fun, sweeter, nicer, better when spent together. They soon discovered they had a lot in common in spite of their different approaches and perspectives. And they acknowledge the blessings that come from learning to navigate those differences.

"To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic – showing care, respect knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate – we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way." *

During their ceremony, we held a ‘moment of silence for presence’ to relish in the love of community that surrounded them. We invoked the memories of their dearly departed and paid homage to their elders in acknowledgement that Amanda & Jessica are one of many love stories in their family tree - a new branch embracing the principles of a love ethic - a new family ready to live life courageously.

When I think about the varied experiences of queer people, queer children, queer couples in largely cis-hetero families, I am immensely grateful to see growing familial support. Although it’s still not the norm across the board, I get giddy when I hear of ways our relationships with our parents, our siblings, our extended family are not only healing from the trauma of being different or loving differently or loving someone who is different or loves differently, they’re stronger than ever because we, as individuals, refuse to let fear get in the way of loving ourselves or those most dear to us.

Close up of 6 guests smiling and looking down to view the ceremony officiated by queer officiant at Once Upon A Vow taking place in the main floor; they're standing at the top floor of the Housingworks Bookstore.

"Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic – allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act – know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light. We are not alone!" *

I believe I connected with Amanda and Jessica when I did for a reason. It was at a moment when I was struggling to figure out what my niche is in this wedding industry.

Sure, I’m queer and I love my queer community to know I’m an option for them. Yes, I’m an immigrant and a proud Peruana Americana who wants to perform bilingual and Spanish-only ceremonies. I absolutely want my divorced peeps and those in intercultural and intergenerational relationships to know that I understand what it's like to have to face and navigate the stigma attached to certain labels or concepts of what and who belongs together.

But, ultimately, I’m looking to work with folx like Amanda & Jessica who want to shine their light on the divinity of our humanity - the core of who we all are - LOVE!

Two brides walking in the park with their wedding crew holding the backs of their dresses to prevent them from dragging on their way to taking some pictures before the sun sets.

* Excerpts from Love as the Practice of Freedom, Outlaw Culture (1994) and All About Love: New Visions (2000)

Kind Words from Amanda and Jessica:

"It was really important to us that our ceremony fully reflect us and our personalities. We reached out to various people trying to get names. We thought and thought about whether we have a friend who knows us both really well and does well in the spotlight. In the end, we met Karla and Daniela, which was one of the best things to happen to our day!

Karla really took the time to find out about our relationship, communicated well with us about our ceremony, and walked us through more than one marriage license SNAFU. She was always there to be a support as we went through the process and was kind enough to meet us two days AFTER the wedding to get our license signed—when she was leaving town the next day—seriously going above and beyond. Not to mention, our guests were shocked to learn Karla wasn’t a longtime friend because of how well she seemed to know us in our ceremony ... about one of the best compliments for an officiant I can imagine!

In short, we HIGHLY recommend Once Upon a Vow, especially if you’re the kind of couple who wants to include bell hooks readings in your ceremony and/or appreciates Taylor Swift mashups specially made for you."


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