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Meet Katharine and Laura! Here is their story!
Laura and I met in Knoxville, Tennessee, a few months after I returned to the U.S. from teaching English with the Peace Corps in rural Kazakhstan. Neither of us was looking for a serious relationship: I was making plans to move to New York City in January, only two months away, and Laura was applying to graduate-level refugee and forced migration studies programs in the United Kingdom for the coming fall.
We intended to keep things casual, but from our very first date, when we found out our December birthdays were three days apart, our mutual passions were world travel, social justice, and good brunch, and a passing flower-seller gave us a rose just because we seemed like a happy couple, we knew that promise would be hard to keep. Within a month, we were taking trips to bed-and-breakfasts in Asheville, meeting each other’s families, and admitting we had fallen in love, despite all the reasons we knew that we shouldn’t.
We decided we’d visit each other in the spring, and that Laura would come to live with me in New York for the summer before she left to study at Oxford. I didn’t know it at the time, but Laura already realized how strongly she felt: she wrote me an letter on the day I left Tennessee that she didn’t show me until a hot July night in our Brooklyn apartment, when I told her she was the woman I wanted to marry, afraid even as I spoke the words that I was moving too fast for her. “I’ve loved you since the day I met you,” it read, “and I’ve known I was going to marry you almost from the beginning of things. I can’t imagine my life without you.”
Though we couldn’t keep ourselves from joking about red velvet wedding cakes and white dress alternatives, we still weren’t officially engaged: it seemed too early, and we hadn’t yet had to deal with an international long-distance relationship, only a domestic one. But when we went to her friend Sarah Moran Nevarez’s wedding in South Carolina a few weeks before Laura left for England, I told her again how serious I was about spending my life with her, and how seeing their amazing ceremony had made me think again about our own.
The fall was tough for both of us, but it only made us more certain about the future and about how we felt. When Hurricane Sandy hit and I was in stranded in the city, with Laura unable to get to me even if she’d tried, it drove home to both of us how important it was to protect what we had, and to recognize in an official and profound way that we were each other’s family. So a week before Laura was due to come back for Christmas break, I picked out a ring at a downtown jeweler’s: a blue topaz, the birthstone for December, set in a hammered band by a jeweler from Turkey, a country I’d lived in and longed to take Laura to, among the many other countries on our future travel list.
We’d been apart for our anniversary, so as a present, I’d booked us a night at New York’s Library Hotel, where each room is numbered and themed according to the Dewey Decimal system (a perfect set-up for book geeks like us). Among the art and museum books stacked on our room’s shelves, I’d hidden a travel book with a hollowed-out heart in its center and the ring nestled inside. I’d had to do all the crafting and hiding with Laura always close by, and thought she might suspect my plans, but when she flipped the page that concealed the ring and revealed the question—“Will you go around the world with me?”—her eyes grew wide, and it took a few moments before could answer: “Yes!” So we celebrated, in true New York fashion, by ordering late-night delivery food, and enjoyed the free bottle of Prosecco the hotel had provided for our anniversary, with a card hilariously (and presciently) addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Duckett.”
In April, Laura took me to Paris, where, after a perfect day of café hopping, museum wandering, and gourmet food savoring, she gave me a sapphire ring of my own, and asked if I was still on board for that whole spending-our-lives-together thing (it’s always good to double-check, after all). We’re getting married in September 2014 in Western Massachusetts, where I attended college and where Laura and I took one of our first vacations together. The rolling hills and sleepy towns remind us both of the Appalachian landscape where we grew up, and while we’re still not able to have a legal ceremony in our home state of Tennessee, we’re thrilled that DOMA has been overturned in time for it to have a tangible, immense effect on our new life together. We want to celebrate with friends, family, a beautiful setting, and a day that reflects everything we are to one another, and promise to be long into the future.