Growing up, I was always deemed a wild child. A loose cannon. A free-spirit who fell into dangerous lust incessantly but never fell into the stable arms of love.
“I’ll never get married, I get bored too easily,” I would smugly purr to my family when pressed with the age-old question: “When are you going to find a wife?”
Not only was I a proud, untethered lesbian, I also had despicable, horrendous, positively-dreadful taste in women. I was magnetically drawn to emotionally-unavailable narcissists who treated me like a Shetland pony to be preened about at parties until the novelty wore off and I was forced to sleep alone in the barn.
When I tried to date “nice” girls, there always seemed to be a sense of adventure missing. Plus, the sex tended to be subpar (what is it about tempestuous dynamics that makes for great sex?).
I was living my best single life in Manhattan when a leggy creative from the Bronx came twirling into my life. Her name was Meghan, and I couldn’t believe she was real. She was a slew of incredible contradictions: She was emotionally available, yet wildly adventurous. She was nice, but not a pushover. She was selfless, yet the sex was not subpar (at all). A year and a half into our courtship, she proposed to me on my weekly Facebook Live show “Love Is The Drug.” I was so shocked that I wailed on live video, which later garnered 20,000 views. The girl who was too distracted to settle down was suddenly laser focused on a wedding.
At first, we were dead set on a wedding in my hometown of East Hampton, Long Island that would take place six months after our proposal. However, that idea went flying out the window the moment I began researching venues. I have a reputation for being bougie, but even I think it’s ludicrous to blow your budget on a tiny patio of a farmhouse where they charge you an extra $10,000 if it rains and they have to pitch a tent. So instead, we decided to get married at my parent’s house in Sarasota, Florida. Their house is the perfect tropical Beverly Hills 1970s aesthetic we love, but its most enticing quality was the complete and total creative freedom that came from getting married at my parent’s house! It meant I wouldn’t have to deal with spiritless vendors squashing my fantasy of having a real mermaid and unicorn for the big day. If you have a big creative vision of what you want your wedding to look like, definitely be sure to find a venue that will allow your dreams to come into fruition. Traditional venues tend to be uptight; I strongly suggest finding a private residence so you can take full control of the situation.
While Meghan and I were in complete agreement about the venue, the rest of the planning process was no walk in the park; it was more like a deep dive in a tumultuous ocean. Riptides kept pulling us apart the whole time. After all, we’re both two ADHD-diagnosed lesbians with big opinions and full-time jobs. We’re both creative, and we both think we’re the one blessed with the more superior, artful eye. No one tells you this, but I, Zara Barrie, your lesbian big, sister will: The truth is that you will fight like hell before your wedding. The wedding planning process is intense. All of a sudden, you become co-workers organizing a giant production, except neither of you work in production. Weddings are similar to getting a facial with painful extractions.; they pull any issues that have been secretly festering beneath your skin right up to the surface. Whatever issues you as a couple have yet to unearth will spring out from the soil and scream “Deal with this. NOW!”
But it’s also a beautiful bonding process. It’s healthy to get all those petty little fights out of the way before you get married. It’s like going on the master cleanse before you pig out on Christmas.
After months upon months upon months of prepping, and primping, and priming, and anticipating, and arguing over the most minute of details, my wife and I got married under a bright pink sky on a beautiful day in late October, nine months to the day of our engagement (This was kismet. We are far too disorganized to pull that sort of thing off on purpose). And, despite a few hiccups in the planning process, it was the greatest day of my life. What’s the secret sauce, you ask? Authenticity. Everything from the outfits to the bride’s-bitches (my friends are many things, but “maids” is not one of them), to the music, to the food, to the MC perfectly represented who we are as a couple. Here’s some golden pre-matrimony advice: Get all the bullshit of what a wedding is supposed to “look like” out of your head and be true to who you are. Because when you’re being true to yourself, you won’t be stressed out. We get all bent out of shape when we’re trying to twist our bodies into a box we don’t fit inside.
And authenticity, for yours truly, started with fashion.
Before I thought about decor, before I thought about my hair, or makeup, or any of that hullabaloo, I knew I had to figure out what I was going to be wearing. As a fashion-crazed person, I knew that the wedding theme, flowers, and everything else would emerge from the dress. The dress was the base of which to work on. Now this is just me. If you’re more of a foodie, let your ideas be inspired from cuisine. It’s important to know thyself and to honor your natural tendencies when getting married. It makes the planning process a lot less painful.
I met with a lovely woman named Daisy at the Wedding Atelier on Madison Avenue. Daisy was wonderful and super gay-friendly, which, truthfully, I had been worried about. I feared the wedding world might be a tad conservative, but Daisy got me. And get this: The first dress she pulled for me was the one I chose.
I fell in love with the Hayley Paige “Reagan Gown” the moment I put it on my body. The powers that be at Hayley Paige describe it as a “sand-washed orchid caviar bridal ball gown” complete with an “illusion jewel neckline,” a “sweetheart lining,” and a “full floral skirt with layered ivory organza.” All I know is that it GLITTERED, and it felt like me. Oh, and it was pink. I was adamant from the jump about not wearing white on my wedding. When you’ve been writing about your sex life on the internet for five years, it feels a little silly to be adorned in a color that represents virginity, you know? The whole “innocent bride” ship had sailed.
I tried on a few dresses to appease my friend who had accompanied me (and to get a few cute Instagram “wedding dress try-on” stories out of the trip), but I knew in my heart that first dress was the “yes” dress. With fashion, one must always go with their instincts. If it feels right, it’s right. If you have doubts and keep wondering if there’s something better out there, it’s not for you. It’s a lot like love; it’s visceral. It lives deep in the gut, not in the brain.
Meghan (also a fashion-oriented lesbian), on the other hand, had such a clear vision in her head of how she wanted to look that she knew it could only be custom-made to her liking. Luckily for her, we happen to be close friends with incredible fashion designer Courtney Adams, who designed and made her an exclusive couture pant-suit from thick french lace with a flowy, ethereal cape. She wanted to look like a Greek God, and she did.
We both kept our looks a secret from each other because we can be bizarrely old-school, but we were assured by my mother that they would compliment one another. Since we were both going for a whimsical vibe, it’s no surprise that we settled on a fantasy theme for our wedding.
I didn’t want my wedding to be overly-traditional, but I still wanted it to be stunningly, jaw-droppingly beautiful. Meghan and I decided we wanted the wedding to look like a party in a fabulous Beverly Hills bungalow in the 1970s with a bit of magic tossed into the mix. I told all the vendors to “imagine you went to a chic, mid-summer party in Hollywood in 1974 with acid-laced champagne.” We went for seafoam and coral colors and hired a professional mermaid (they exist!) to enchant the guests by the pool. I was adamant about NOT screwing around with the typical soft wedding blush tones, because there is nothing demure about Meghan or me.
But I wasn’t more adamant about anything than I was about having a unicorn present. My sister and brother-in-law own an incredible service in Sarasota called Epic Equine Experiences. They organize beautiful horse experiences (they’re horse-obsessed) and were able to arrange for me to have my ~own~ unicorn. After all, it’s not a trippy tropical party without a magical equine moment, am I right? So, ladies, if there is something that triggers the most romantic, special feelings inside of you, get creative and make it happen. You only really have your wedding day to let your freak flag to this degree, so take advantage of it!
I’m also a massive believer in using details to express yourself. Example: Our tables were not numbered but named, using all female musicians that have influenced us! There was Gaga, Lana, Mariah, Whitney, Stevie, Florence, and more. Getting creative with the little things is what stops a wedding from feeling generic.
I feel it absolutely necessary to add that I was wildly hungover the morning of my wedding. I wasn’t feeling bridal virgin fresh—that’s for sure. Let’s just say I truly enjoyed my champagne at my rehearsal dinner (a sunset cruise on the gulf), and, honestly, I’m grateful for it. I say enjoy the f*ck out your rehearsal dinner. So what if you wake up a little bleary-eyed? That’s why you hire makeup people, girl. Plus, the dehydrating torture won’t last long, for nothing will rid your body of a hangover like a big, fat rush of bridal adrenalin! Within thirty minutes of waking up, I was bouncing off the walls with excitement.
Do not underestimate the importance of your beauty team on your wedding day. Your glam squad plays in an Oscar-worthy role in your overall mental health. They’re touching you. They’re breathing on you. If their energy is calm, you will be calm. Do not hire a makeup artist or hair stylist that has manic, high-strung, stressed-out energy. I don’t care how great their work is—you need someone loving and nurturing. Go with a talented friend over a cold-hearted pro if you have to.
I’m the luckiest lesbian in the world, because my best friend Owen Gould is a gifted celebrity hair stylist. He’s been helping me style my mop of frizzy hair into fashion since high school. We spent many an evening in his Williamsburg studio apartment rehearsing the look (which is essential! Ladies: do a trial of both hair and makeup so there are no surprises when your nerves are shot on your wedding day). The look I went for was a mixture between higher-power Lana Del Rey and Veronica Lake with the volume of Brigitte Bardot.
For makeup (which had been rehearsed months before—again, essential!), my makeup artist Vanessa Silvano (an actual angel!) executed exactly what I requested: an old Hollywood, heavy-glam look with lots of lashes and my signature winged liquid liner.
I had so much fun getting ready with my friends that, by the time we got to the ceremony, I was oddly serene. If anyone is making you feel anxious, have your bitch of honor kick ‘em out—even if they’re a blood relative. Again, this is the one day you can truly do whatever the hell you want to do.
Our ceremony was raw, flawed, and wildly-emotional. Stacy Lentz, the co-owner of “The Stonewall Inn,” officiated our wedding. We chose Stacy because, if the Stonewall Inn in is the mecca of the gays, Stacy is our ultimate spiritual leader (she also set us up!). After heartfelt, blazingly honest vows that we had written ourselves, WE KISSED and it was OFFICIAL. It felt out-of-body in a good way. I was so high up in the sky I would never land into the stone-cold pavement of reality.
The rest of the night we proceeded to drink champagne, make loving speeches, eat glorious food, dance, and weep. And, in true Zara and Meghan fashion, we traipsed out to a nightclub in full wedding attire and shook our bodies on the dance floor until 4 a.m.
My wedding wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t overly traditional. It was tough to execute, messy, and stunning. But I wouldn’t change a damn thing. I hear so many brides say they don’t enjoy their weddings; I most definitely enjoyed mine. My biggest golden nugget of advice is this: Have fun. Love is fun! Love is wild! Love is one of the only pure, blissful, honest things we have left in this cruel, cold world. But love isn’t perfect or manicured. So, your wedding shouldn’t be either, babe. Just let go of the idea of “perfection” and instead fall into your wedding. Just like you fell in love.
Zara Barrie is the esteemed Senior Writer at GO Magazine.