Banner photographs courtesy of J & J Photography (left) and Emily G Photography.
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New York lesbian wedding: Emily Rotella and Sheila Hicks

Birds of a feather

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Photo gallery

1/29
Sheila gives her wife, Emily, a sweet smooch. Emily got Sheila’s engagement ring from Brilliant Earth — a store that sells conflict-free diamonds — an issue that is very important to both of the brides (www.brilliantearth.com).
2/29
The ladies get affectionate in the garden of the Long Island venue, The Sand Castle (www.sandcastlecaterers.com).
3/29
Emily wore a silver, feathered corset by Karen Patwa at Dangerous Mathematicians (dangerousmathematicians.com).
4/29
Patwa used peacock colors for the back laces of Emily’s corset (dangerousmathematicians.com).
5/29
Emily collaborated with New York tattoo artist Betty Rose for a special piece for her wedding. They decided to incorporate the wedding’s peacock theme with a brightly colored feather and Emily’s nickname for Sheila, which is “Shell,” with the nautilus shell (www.bettyrosetattoos.com).
6/29
Makeup and hair by Sharon Becker of SB Beauty NYC (sb-beauty.net).
7/29
Gorgeous detailing on Sheila’s gown from Kleinfeld Bridal (kleinfeldbridal.com).
8/29
Sheila stunned in her sexy frock. “It’s the kind of dress that looks amazing on someone with curves,” she says of her strapless Maggie Sottero gown. “And I have some serious curves to bring to this party.”
9/29
Sheila and her bridesmaids show off their beautiful blooms designed by Kelly at Distinctive Wedding Floral Design (www.distinctivefloraldesign.com).
10/29
The ceremony and reception took place — and was decorated and catered by — The Sand Castle in Long Island.
11/29
This peacock-inspired arrangement that adorned the ceremony was by Distinctive Wedding Floral Design.
12/29
Sheila got Emily’s engagement ring from Blue Nile. The women got both their wedding rings there as well and inscribed “meant to be” on the inside of each (www.bluenile.com).
13/29
Kim Kirkley, a nondenominational officiant, married the women (www.ourelegantceremony.com).
14/29
Emily kisses her lady’s hand.
15/29
Sheila’s blinged-out bouquet holder is from Distinctive Wedding Floral Design.
16/29
The women embrace a wedding tradition from Sheila’s African-American heritage by “jumping the broom.”
17/29
A friend crafted a peacock-color jumping broom that the women now display in their home.
18/29
Even the wedding party embraced the peacock theme.
19/29
Post-marital bliss!
20/29
Emily steals a kiss. Sheila blushes.
21/29
The Sand Castle also took care of the reception — they handled decor and catered the happy event.
22/29
The couple used a wall of Post-its to plan this beautiful event. Each note would have a different task that needed to be done. “So we knew every day, when we got home, ‘okay, we have to call the photographer and figure out the playlist.’” Sheila explains. “And then you took it down! That made us feel really good!”
23/29
The Sand Castle jumped on board with the peacock theme and created an ice sculpture.
24/29
They even carved a peacock into a watermelon.
25/29
The peacock-inspired cake was provided by The Sand Castle.
26/29
The brides get the party started with help from DJ Traction from Scratch Wedding DJs (www.scratchweddings.com).
27/29
This happy scene was captured fully by videographer, Marty Hubert of Epic Media.
28/29
Not a flat bill, but still a hat.
29/29
An important moment for Sheila was her parents’ acceptance. “Leading up to and at our wedding,” says Sheila, “they saw that not just my lesbian friends, but all these people — our florist, venue, and all of our friends — were happy for us. That made my parents say ‘okay, if everyone else can get behind it, maybe we can too.’”

Emily Rotella and Sheila Hicks met on OKCupid. Sparks quickly flew online, so the woman met offline and ended up talking for five hours straight.

The ladies soon began to date and were smitten by one another. For instance, one Halloween, Emily fell hard for Sheila’s imagination, tenacity, and savvy when she created an elaborate get-up.

“She made this amazing peacock costume that had long feathers that went straight down,” says Emily. “But she had a pulley system, so she could pull them up and they would fan out.”

The women spent that Halloween walking into random bars that were hosting costume contests and winning them all. Emily was awe-struck.

“I was like, ‘this is the woman I love. She’s so adventurous, so creative, so exciting,’ ” says Emily.

Sheila felt the same way, and after two and a half years of dating, she flaunted it colorfully — on Emily’s 28th birthday.

The only thing Emily wanted was to watch a Redskins game at The Australian — a bar for Washington DC football fans. It was a laid back request, so Sheila obliged, and invited all of Emily’s friends to join.

Yet, early in the day, way before the game, Sheila took Emily on a surprise sunrise detour to Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

“There was a few tourists there, just chilling,” says Emily. “And I was like, ‘whatever, that makes sense. Belvedere Castle. Sunrise. Tourists. Of course!’ Then, all of a sudden, I hear two [of the tourists] start to sing a song that I remembered telling Sheila I thought was romantic.’ ”

The song was “You Are the New Day,” made popular by British a cappella group The King Singers. Excited, the couple walked over to watch the singers when suddenly, Sheila let go of Emily’s hand, walked over to the duet, and started singing with them, which Emily thought “was awesome.”

Another tourist, who just happened to be a photographer, started snapping pictures and filming the women. Sheila stopped singing and Emily proudly hugged her. Then Sheila got down on one knee and proposed.

After the proposal, the women swung by the Bethesda fountain to make some coin-fueled wishes about the future of their relationship. Sheila then walked Emily to the Central Park Boathouse. The iconic restaurant was filled with Emily’s friends and family for a surprise birthday brunch where the women announced, to their surprised guests, that they were engaged.

Finally, to top it all off, instead of merely going to a bar to watch a Redskins’ game, the women drove to Washington DC to see the actual game.

“It was the best day of my life,” Emily says with that big smile on her face.

A week later, at the Grand Canyon, Emily proposed to Sheila right back.

“It was sunset at the edge of one of the canyons,” says Sheila. “Emily’s college friends are taking a picture. And they’re like ‘Okay, let’s do an over the shoulder shot, back to the camera.’ They all turn around and they’re holding signs that say: ‘Say yes.’ I’m sweaty, my hair’s in pig tails, and she’s like, ‘Ta-da! I call it ‘the proposal and the counterpro­posal.’ ”

The ladies’ wedding was a mix of personal and conventional traditions. For instance, Emily always wears a baseball cap to weddings, and this was everyone’s chance to give her a taste of her own medicine.

“I wear flat-bills. That’s my thing. I’ve worn one to every wedding I’ve gone to,” says Emily. “And my family friends who don’t appreciate that threatened to wear hats to my wedding. And I was like, ‘Yes! That’s what I want!’ ”

So Emily told everyone that the reception was flat-bill friendly, and her sister and brother-in-law customized a white, New York Yankees hat for her to wear to her own reception.

The women also decided to incorporate a peacock theme, resonate of Emily’s ardent appreciation for all things Sheila.

The flowers, outfits, decor, and programs were shades of blue, green, teal, and purple. Even the guests wore the colors.

Emily is Jewish, so Hebrew traditions were included in the ceremony as well such as both brides walking down the aisle with both their parents. Yet they gave the Jewish convention of seven blessings a personal twist, by turning it into seven wishes — which alluded to the women’s engagement that included a trip to the Bethesda fountain.

“We had seven of our friends come up and write these wishes [for us],” says Emily. “Which almost felt like mission statements for how they wanted us to be as a couple, family, and individuals together.”

Sheila paid homage to her African-American background by embracing the tradition of jumping the broom.

“The broom is like a home and hearth thing, and during slavery, slaves were not able to enter into any legal contract, including marriage. So jumping the broom became important,” says Sheila, alluding to a tradition that can also serve as a metaphor for marriage equality.

A friend crafted a peacock-color jumping broom that now adorns the couple’s home and everyone at the wedding yelled mazel tov after they jumped — proving that the two women, when combined together, create something as unique and beautiful as a peacock’s plumage.

They truly are birds of a feather.

All photos by Diana P. Lang Photography.

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Reader feedback

Katherine from Yorktown says:
I think that the two women are both wonderful people and I wish them all the best.
Nov. 8, 2013, 11:08 pm
Marie from Boston, MA says:
A wonderful romantic love story; we should all be so lucky to find such love
Jan. 17, 2014, 11:39 pm
Marie from Boston, MA says:
I don't normally banter but I can't help myself o_O This goes out to "Child of God from Heaven"... YOU do not speak for God, you can only speak for yourself and your own closed mindedness. LOVE between two consenting adults is NEVER wrong.
Jan. 17, 2014, 11:43 pm
Kate from Paris, France says:
My love and support to these women, who seem like committed spouses and thoughtful people. Those who would condemn this peaceful union should turn their gaze back toward their own lifestyle and behavior, for in the end this is all one's property and the limit to what one can claim to control. Christ called for a love that knew no bounds, least of all a stranger's petty judgments. Christ still calls for this love. Blessings be upon those that follow it with courage and joy.
Jan. 21, 2014, 7:10 pm
Lea from Huh? says:
This is so lovely!!
Feb. 3, 2014, 3:55 am
Sunny from Dallas says:
This had me in tears. Just beautiful.
Feb. 21, 2014, 2:31 pm
Angel from Dallas, TX says:
This is absolutely beautiful!! Their story is precious and they are so in love. Makes my heart smile. As a bisexual woman who married the love of her life (who happened to be a man), it means so very much when two people, regardless of gender, fall in love. It truly makes life worthwhile.
Feb. 22, 2014, 12:07 pm
Caitlin from Vermont says:
I have to say, being the kind of person who thinks they get to speak on behalf of God (based on selective readings from the Bible, which is in itself a human (and thus flawed) interpretation of the word of God) because they entered a holy-sounding username into the "Name" field of an internet comment sections sounds like exactly the kind of Christianity homophobes practice.

Here's to you, Emily and Shelia! You are both beautiful and your story restores my faith in love.
March 9, 2014, 12:10 am
Thomas W Maguire from Calhoun,GA says:
I used to live in the apartment complex as sheila and we hung out....wondered how she has been...much love to you sheila...congrats also....Thomas from bldg...1202...message me on Facebook....
Sept. 2, 2014, 12:56 am
stephanie from winston says:
gee, anything goes nowadays
Oct. 14, 2014, 1:09 am
Lawernce from marietta, ga says:
it's seems like a waste that pretty sheila girl being a lesbian.. at least be involved with an attractive dyke..geez
March 23, 2015, 2:25 pm

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