Tarin and April's Double Proposal in Banner Elk

Goodness, where do I even begin with these two. If ever a couple were more meant to be, I haven’t met them. 

April contacted me a few weeks back asking if I’d be available for a surprise proposal on 2-22-22 on Beech Mountain while she and her girlfriend were in town for skiing. I knew I’d be traveling until the 20th but could make it work so we started all the furious planning. She sent me a playlist to have playing on a small speaker when they arrived, mailed a special sign to my house, and I agreed to pick up some flowers from a local florist and have it all set up before sunrise so she could walk up with her blindfolded bride-to-be and wow her. It was going to be perfect. 

Fast forward a week, I get another message from Tarin asking if I’d be available on 2-22-22 for a surprise proposal on Grandfather Mountain…. 

Ummm…yes? Hmmm, how am I going to pull this off without either of them knowing? I just said yes and knew it would all work out one way or another. It was going ok, the plans for Tarin were a little simpler, I just had to be set up as a nature photographer in a particular location just before sunset when they walked up and then just redirect to them at the right moment. No problem.

And then the weather happened. It was going to be cold and rainy on the 22nd so both of them started texting me to see if we could reschedule a day early to sunset on the 21st… both were texting at the same time and both wanted the same thing. So after going back and forth and trying not to mistake who I was texting what, we finally worked it out to do Tarin’s proposal first and follow it an hour later with April’s. 

The dilemma was that the two mountains were about 35 min away from each other and the second shoot required a small hike plus major set up on my part. I was determined to make this epic day happen for them though and agreed. 

I got home from my travels at midnight the night before but got up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with excitement. I gathered the sign, the speaker, the flowers - all scattered over the high country, made dinner reservations for them since they were skiing and couldn’t get away from each other to do so. April texted me a couple hours before the first proposal saying she had a sneaky suspicion Tarin was about to propose…I of course said that that would be crazy, and what are the odds… *wink wink… and after texting them both back and forth as the day progressed I got into place, possibly more excited than either of them. 


As they approached, I tried not to make eye contact with either of them as I knew April would recognize me, which she did of course anyway because of my bright purple hair, but once she realized what was going on, she just played it cool like we had never met. The moment was magical of course anyway, people were cheering around us and we were all teary-eyed. 

We walked around the mountain trying not to freeze as we captured a few “just engaged” photos and April and I shook hands as if meeting each other for the first time and then I said something about needing to get to another shoot and best of luck etc, and off I raced up to Beech to set up for the next moment. 

April and I had spoken with Overlook Barn about using their Boulder View location because it had the best sunrise and was out of the way in case anyone else was using the property that day. Of course at sunset it’s not quite the same, but it was overcast anyway so it still worked out perfectly! 

I had hoped to set everything up on top of the boulder but the wind was racing around furiously making it impossible. After setting it as best I could on the ground, I started scattering the rose petals as April had hoped for into a heart, but the wind had other plans. If I had known in advance what a struggle it would be I would have set up a timelapse on my phone to document the shenanigans. It must have been absolutely hysterical to the on-looking birds and squirrels to seeing me diving on the ground trying to wrangle featherweight roses with those high winds. 

Nevertheless I persisted and five minutes later I heard their car roll into the parking lot, I dived for my camera and ran down to meet April to snag her phone (Tarin was still blindfolded in the car) and then I raced back up to the site, set up her video and stepped back in awe as the magic unfolded. 

When Tarin took off the blindfold and saw me, she burst out laughing and exclaiming, “How?!?!” I told her not to worry about it, we’d discuss all the details later…


She read the sweet words April had pre-written for her in a letter while listening to James Arthur sing “Medicine” in the background, and I swear we couldn’t have timed it better if we tried…the moment she finished the letter and turned around to see April there waiting for her, the next pre-chosen song began. “Marry Me” by Train. *que all the tears.*

Lots of happy tears later, all three of us just died laughing at the insanity of the day. I was so relieved the secret was finally out as it was about to burst out of me otherwise, and they were both elated to find they were so in sync and in love. 

If they weren’t already aligned in so many ways, they both also chose to engrave their rings. Tarin with “Forever Always”, their favorite memo to each other, also tattooed on their arms, and April with the date they had both said, “I love you.” It was truly a proposal for the books and will not ever be a day any of us could forget. We were all freezing from the double mountain top winds so they opted not to do any further photos, and we all grabbed a seat at Sorrento’s in Banner Elk to talk about everything and really take it all in. They told me more of their story and we made plans to hang in Atlanta soon and start making the next plans for the Big Day!

Babes, I am so honored to have been chosen to capture this moment in time for you. Thank you for trusting me with your memories and I cannot wait to celebrate with you in Georgia in 2023! 

Photographer: Cynthia Viola

First Location: Grandfather Mountain

Second Location: Overlook Barn, Boulder View

Flowers: Shady Grove Gardens

The Rings: Cumberland Diamond Exchange

Handmade Sign: Etsy - Sterling Shore Co

Celebration Dinner: Stonewalls


Images courtesy Cynthia Viola Photography

Kyle & Jeremy

Like most modern-day love stories, Kyle and Jeremy found each other the way most couples in the 21st century do – through a dating app. After several years of dating, Jeremy decided to pop the question while on vacation in The Bahamas with friends; an excellent start to a beautiful life together. The couple tied the knot in St. Augustine, Florida at The Treasury on the Plaza, a popular wedding venue converted from a historic bank. With a grand entrance that included both fog and cold sparks, a mouthwatering three-tiered cake made up of chocolate, pistachio, and dulce de leche, and even a crowd-surfing session, this destination wedding located in the heart of the Ancient City was the best party the couple has ever thrown!

Kyle is originally from Jacksonville, Florida and Jeremy is from Griffin, Georgia. They chose St. Augustine, Florida because they knew it was the perfect place for family and friends to come together, while also providing them with all they wanted from their dream venue. "St. Augustine was the most beautiful location without being too far for those traveling," explained Kyle. "We chose The Treasury because of its beautifully modern and elegant design."

Kyle and Jeremy knew they wanted their big day to be as family and friend-focused as possible. "We really wanted our loved ones to be a part of it,” said Kyle. "We had large wedding parties made up of friends from all walks of life, and we each had our sibling as our best person. Our aunts sang during the ceremony, and my dad even officiated the wedding."

Choosing Kyle's dad, Raoul, as the one who would wed the two was a decision that came easy. "We both wanted someone we knew personally to officiate us," Kyle said. "My dad has been a role model throughout our entire relationship, and he knows us better than anyone, so he was able to make the ceremony personal in a way that no one else would've been able to do." Raul, who officiated, walked down the aisle with his own husband holding hands before marrying Kyle and Jeremy.

Kyle and Jeremy wanted to ensure that their wedding day included specially-crafted details that the couple would remember forever. "We wanted a moment to commemorate the LGBTQ aspect of our wedding,” Kyle explained. “So, we stood in front of the Castillo de San Marcos [National Monument] during the photoshoot and set off vibrantly-colored smoke bombs to create a Pride rainbow. The result was everything we could have wanted."

Kyle and Jeremy also partook in new traditions such as the pouring of Unity Glass. The couple ordered glass pieces in various colors representing their birthstones and combined them during the ceremony. Afterwards, they melted them down and molded them into one piece of glass as a symbol of their union.

"Everyone at The Treasury was so incredible and helpful to work with," said Kyle. "Everything was executed exactly to our vision and felt incredibly natural. It almost didn't feel like we were throwing a wedding because it all flowed so smoothly. Overall, the day was a combination of overwhelming beauty and emotion. People were crying, but it was also the best party we had ever been to. I don't think we could have achieved the perfect balance at any other venue in St. Augustine."

Now, the couple bids farewell to the Sunshine State as they embark to Boston, Massachusetts, where Kyle recently started as an Anesthesiology Resident Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, the largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. However, they’ll always look back on the Ancient City and The Treasury as where their life together truly began.

Cake: Sweet Weddings (Arlene Fores)
Wedding Coordinator: Katy Hurtig of Coastal Coordinating
DJ: Y? Entertainment (David Hanscom)
Groom's Suits: Men's Wearhouse
Flowers: Jade Violet Wedding and Event Floral Boutique
Photography: Photos by Rob Futrell
Videography: Y? Entertainment (Nicholas Sangiamo)
Catering: Purple Olive

Grand Entrance at The Treasury
Photography by Rob Futrell

John & Clayton

Our thanks to newlyweds John & Clayton, for sharing their heartfelt & beautiful story with us here at RainbowWeddingNetwork!  Please enjoy this sweet & insightful Q&A with the grooms, from their first meeting online through to their honeymoon highlights in Amsterdam.  Best of Luck, John & Clayton!
(Photos courtesy: Douglas Benedict, www.douglasbenedict.com)

RainbowWeddingNetwork (RWN): 
Tell us the story of how you met... Was it love at first sight?  What were some of the qualities that attracted you to each other, and made you realize that 'he was the one'?

John:  Clayton and I met online.   It initially started as friendly chat, but as time went on we realized how much we had in common and how much was lacking in our lives.   It was not love at first sight, but rather something that grew over time.

The qualities that initially attracted me to Clayton (and still do) are how outgoing and personable he is.  I am much more shy and guarded – especially around new people – so in that way he complemented me.  Additionally, Clayton is a very kind, generous and giving person.  All these qualities were missing in my previous relationship and something I didn’t realize I could get from a partner until I met him.  That is when I knew he was the one.

RWN:  How did you propose to each other?  Did one of you surprise the other?

John:  Clayton had actually discussed marriage a few times before he proposed to me.  I had never thought of getting married when I was with my previous partner and since it was such a long relationship I pushed the idea of ever getting married so far in the back of my mind so that when he did bring up the topic I did not take him seriously at first…. That is until one night when we were out with friends.  It was an icy cold night and Clayton asked me to marry him.  For some reason this time I realized he was serious.  Being a very analytical person and one to consider both sides of any decision, my initial response was “let me think about it”.  I know, not very romantic but that is my reaction to just about any decision.  It took all of about 20 minutes to realize that Clayton is the best thing to ever happen to me and that he truly completes me and makes me a better person, so I went back to him and said “Yes!”
RWN:  How did your family and friends react to the engagement?  Any insights, thoughts or feelings you'd like to share?

John:  Nearly everyone was very supportive.  The only real negative reaction was from my father when I asked him to walk me down the aisle.  His initial response was “Are you the woman?”  Now at first that may seem harsh and my initial reaction was of surprise and a bit of anger.  But I quickly realized he was reacting to me asking him to do something that is traditionally done by the father for his daughter.  At the time my father was 85 years old and old school in many ways, yet he was always supportive of our relationship.  So I explained to him that Clayton’s mother was walking him down the aisle and if my mother was still alive I would have asked her. Once he understood that, he was completely on board and did walk me down the aisle.  Clayton’s family was completely supportive and excited about the two of us sharing our lives together.

RWN:  What was the initial ceremony planning like?  Any particular issues with non-accepting wedding vendors?  Any wonderful moments with extremely supportive wedding vendors?

John:  Neither of us ever dreamed about our ideal wedding or really ever thought of even getting married so when it came time for wedding planning details we were like two fish out of water.  After we were asked by the florist what the color of the flower girl’s hair band was going to be, we knew we were screwed.  The thought of that never even entered our minds.  After that, we made it a point to let every vendor know to not assume we thought of anything before we came in to talk with them and really ask about ALL the details.

We did not experience any issues with any vendors – all were extremely supportive and most seemed quite happy to be dealing with a same-sex couple because it is not the norm.
RWN:  What type of wedding did you have?  Ceremony colors?  Any themes?  Did you include particular rituals or traditions?

Clayton:  We actually had two ceremonies.  The first one was in Connecticut on May 15, 2009 and was a very small ceremony by a lake with a Justice of the Peace and John’s one brother and his family.  It was a very bucolic ceremony in the country and we all had a nice lunch afterward in a very typical New England waterfront Inn.  We live in Pennsylvania which does not recognize gay marriage but thankfully does not have a constitutional amendment against it and we wanted our marriage to be “legal” somewhere, hence the decision to get married in Connecticut.  We chose Connecticut because 1) John’s bother lives there and 2) there is no waiting period in order to get married.

But we also wanted a traditional wedding ceremony with close friends and family, which we did on June 21, 2009.  We chose that date because 1) it is the first day of summer and 2) it is the longest day of the year – allowing maximum daylight for our outdoor wedding.  We had a rehearsal dinner the night before.

The wedding ceremony took place outdoors at Morgan Hill Country Club in Easton, PA which is on top of a hill which provides picturesque views of the land below.  The reception was held in a tent adjacent to the ceremony area.  Our theme was “black and white”.  Being an interracial couple we thought it would be fun to play on the fact that John is white and Clayton is black.  The colors were black, ivory and red.  The men and ring bearer wore black tuxes with ivory ties and red roses on their lapels.  The women wore black dresses with ivory corset-like lacing on the back.  The flower girl wore an ivory dress with a black bow.  The bouquets consisted of white hydrangeas and red roses.

We wanted to be as traditional as possible for our “non-traditional” wedding.  We had a wedding party of 12 – 5 groomsmen, 5 bridesmaids, a ring bearer and a flower girl.  We were married by a Catholic priest who is a very good friend and also happens to be gay.

The ceremony started with a string quartet that played prior to and during the wedding ceremony and during the cocktail reception. We performed a sand ceremony during the wedding.  This is where each participant mixes sand of different colors into a container to symbolize two becoming one.  The sand colors were of course black and white.

The ceremony was immediately followed by the traditional receiving line and the cocktail hour. We took the wedding party pictures during the cocktail hour which was followed by the reception. 

We switched to a DJ for the reception who did the traditional announcement of the wedding party followed by the traditional first dance of the wedding couple.

RWN:  How did you feel on your Wedding Day?  What was the range of emotions?  Was it different than you'd expected?

Clayton:  We felt extreme happiness with perhaps a tinge of anxiety at being the center of attention.  Having family and friends witness our marriage to each other felt like we were finally recognized as being “official” and being on par with other married couples… a feeling we never thought we would experience.

Our attitudes toward other couples’ weddings also changed after that day.  Prior to the wedding, we both were a bit disinterested in the whole process knowing that we could never be part of it.  After the wedding, we now approach weddings with an entirely new attitude of celebrating the love and partnership that a marriage is.

RWN:  Describe some of your Ceremony & Reception Highlights.

Clayton:   One of the funniest moments during the ceremony occurred right after John’s father and Clayton’s mother walked them down the aisle.  The priest asked who gives Clayton away and his mother and father stood up and said “we do”.  Then the priest asked who gives John away and his father stood up and said “I do”.  After he said “I do”, there was total silence.  Out of nowhere he yells out, “Good luck fellas” which got a huge chuckle from everyone.

As mentioned, we tried to keep the wedding as traditional as possible.  We both had rainbow garters on before the wedding started which we were going to use in lieu of the traditional bouquet/garter toss.  The song ‘The Stripper’ came on and the activities began.  We each seductively removed the garters from one another, getting tremendous roars from the crowd.  We had the men and women lined up to catch the garters.  Ironically enough we had one straight male friend and one gay male friend catch the garters.  Now everything got real interesting.  Both guys were great sports about what was just about to happen.  Slow and steady in a very playful manner both men put the garters on one another.  All of our guests loved what was playfully going on.  We still laugh and joke about this today.
RWN:  Did you choose to go on a honeymoon?  Where?

John:  Just as we had two ceremonies, we also had two honeymoons.  The first one was right after the second ceremony and we escaped to Fort Lauderdale for five days.    The second honeymoon was that following September and we went to Amsterdam and Germany for 10 days.

We have a friend who lives in Amsterdam that we stayed with which was great because we got to experience the “real” Amsterdam – including riding bikes all through town.  We also took the ICE train (very fast train) to Cologne, Germany for one overnight.  We stayed adjacent to the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral) which began construction in 1248.  The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires and largest facade of any church in the world.
RWN:  Why are marriage rights important to you?  What is your advice to other committed couples, as they consider whether or not to have a wedding of their own?

John:   Marriage rights are important because we would like all same-sex couple to experience the official acceptance.
RWN:  Favorite Quote from our Happy Couple?

 John:  “When you are in a healthy relationship it should be effortless”.  We all have to work at maintaining our relationships, but a relationship should not feel like a job.


Photos courtesy: Douglas Benedict, www.douglasbenedict.com
"I have never been to - or photographed - a more moving, beautiful or loving wedding than theirs. Their supportive families and tight-knit friends made for the perfect wedding."


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