"Straight Arm" To The Face Serves as Couple's First Meeting
Stephanie & Melissa's Love Story.
By Susan Hart Hellman
Melissa and Stephanie at their engagement photo shoot at Avila Beach in Central California.
"Spring of 2001 was the first season of the Ladies Tackle Football league," explains Stephanie Candela of Santa Maria, California. "Melissa and I were on different teams, and the story below is no exaggeration." The "story" to which Stephanie refers is the fact that she, playing Running Back, made first contact with the stranger who was to eventually become her wife, Corner Back Melissa Page, by punching her. "It was a nice forceful straight arm right in the face," Stephanie recalls.
"Over the next seven years we both knew of each other," Stephanie continues, "but had never spent time together outside of seeing each other at games or in the community." In fact, Stephanie thought Melissa's first name was "Page" because that's what everyone in the league called her. There were other misconceptions too. Melissa thought Stephanie was "drama," and Stephanie thought Melissa was "cocky."
But in March 2008, the women's paths crossed again at Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo. Each was with her own group of friends, but Stephanie's friend Erin encouraged her to talk to Melissa. "It was to both of our surprises that we had each other pegged so incorrectly," Stephanie recalls, "and that we hit it off quite quickly."
At that time, neither Melissa nor Stephanie was looking for anything more than friendship, but three weeks later after Melissa returned from a week in Europe, she made a beeline from her home in Cambria, an hour away, to Stephanie's home in Santa Maria.
"The first two years of our relationship were pretty much long distance," Stephanie explains. With the lengthy commute between Cambria and Santa Maria, Melissa would often stay for two or three days. But when she decided to relocate to Santa Maria, she rented a room from someone else. "Due to previous relationships gone bad," Stephanie explains, "both of us wanted to take things slow." But it was only four months before they realized that this was a relationship "gone good," and Melissa moved in with Stephanie. With her came seven year old boxer, Daizee, whom the couple now admits they consider their "child."
Five years later, with the new same-sex marriage legislation in place, in addition to busy work schedules, Stephanie, Complex Case Management Coordinator for Federal Bureau of Prisons in Lompoc, and Melissa, Supervisor for a privately owned petroleum business, added planning their wedding to their agendas, scheduled for August 24, 2013, with an "infinity" theme.
For their rehearsal dinner, the couple chose Novo, where they had first talked in 2008, and the event included a humorous moment. Stephanie had been advised by someone that smashing cake in Melissa's face at the wedding would be inappropriate. "After I finished giving out the gifts to the bridal party," Melissa recalls, "Stephanie stood up and said "I was told that it would be completely inappropriate to do this tomorrow, so I am going to do it today." But when she reached down for a handful of cake, Melissa did too, and they covered each other without holding back.
For the ceremony, they chose Dinosaur Caves Park in Shell Beach as a great local spot for their 86 guests, and the word they use to describe their wedding is "surreal." Stephanie prepared at the couple's home with her attendants; Melissa got ready at the hotel with her family. They took separate limos, and when they arrived simultaneously at the venue, Taylor Swift's song, "It Was a Fairytale," began and family members and attendants were escorted down the aisle. Then, Melissa walked down the aisle to Hunter Hayes' "Wanted," and Stephanie followed, to Martina McBride's "Mine." They carried bouquets of royal blue roses and white calla lilies.
The brides wrote their own vows, and Melissa recalls a touching moment when it came time to recite them in front of their officiant, Reverend Marlene Morris... in spite of the couple's agreement to not cry. "When Stephanie said hers, she actually got choked up. Stephanie swore she would be 'cool as a cucumber' but she definitely got a bit positively overwhelmed when she too saw all the people there to support us."
After the ceremony, with Reverend Marlene's words, "the brides may kiss," Stephanie and Melissa did so, and exited to Natalie Cole's "Everlasting Love."
Their reception was at the Jack House Gardens in San Luis Obispo, with dance music provided by The Central Coast DJ, Ronnie Simons. Photographers A & G Studio Photography & Videography provided a slide show with pictures of the brides.
The honeymoon they planned, at Sigatoka, Fiji Islands, was ideal for the active couple, which included skydiving, whitewater rafting, and of course, tackle football. In Sigatoka, they stayed in a private bungalow just footsteps from the beach, and enjoyed more whitewater rafting and scuba diving. "And just being unplugged," Melissa says, "enjoying our type of R&R, which is described as being as adventurous as possible."
Stephanie's Wedding Speech:
"I have a dream." Fifty years ago, a truly great man uttered these words: Martin Luther King. Like him, I too had a dream, and two months ago, this dream became a reality. A dream of EQUALITY. As all of you know, the Federal government passed the law to allow gays and
lesbians the right to marry. And this day, that law allowed my dream to come true. The dream for me to be able to marry my lover, my friend, my wife . . . For those of you who have gathered here today to share with us this special moment it displays to me a sign of acceptance of our marriage; you will never know how much it means to me. . . really, you will never know . . . . So, without further ado, thank you for sharing this moment of equality. I love you all just for who you are. Thank you."
Our paths crossed at a time when I wasn't looking for love – and yet, despite my efforts to keep you out, you made your way into my heart, and there you have stayed.
Stephanie, I love you. You are my best friend. Today I give myself to you in marriage. I promise to encourage and inspire you, to laugh with you, and to comfort you in times of sorrow and struggle.
I promise to love you in good times and in bad, when life seems easy and when it seems hard, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort.
I promise to cherish you, and to always hold you in highest regard. I promise to always drive you crazy in turn making you roll your eyes and shake your head.
Together we will face all of life's experiences and share one another's dreams and goals.
I promise I will be your equal partner in a loving, honest relationship, to accept you unconditionally and to share life with you throughout the years.
These things I give to you today, and all the days of our life.
I promise to be your lover, companion and friend, your ally in conflict, your greatest fan, and your toughest adversary. Your comrade in adventure, your student and your teacher, your consolation in disappointment, your accomplice in mischief. You are my inspiration and my
soul's fire. You are the magic of my days, you help me laugh, you teach me love, you provide a safe place for me unlike I've ever known. You free me to sing my own song, you're more of an amazement to me as I rediscover you each day. You are my greatest boon, this is my sacred vow to you, all I need from you is to say "I do."
RainbowWeddingNetwork.com has been the trusted wedding resource for the LGBT community since 1999. Along with the diverse services through their website, the company produces an ongoing national tour of LGBT Wedding Expos. Additional wedding & parenting related articles are available through the site: www.RainbowWedddingNetwork.com
Susan Hart Hellman is a California-based freelance magazine writer, and author of the first in her series of murder mysteries, Catch ‘n Release: The Game. To contact Susan and for more information please visit: www.susanharthellman.com