In February of 2011, Charlotte and Valerie Garafolo were having dinner at Coquito, their favorite restaurant in their hometown of Warwick, NY, and Charlotte was struggling to contain her frustration.
“It was the day of our 10-year-anniversary, and Valerie hadn’t gotten me anything,” Charlotte recalls. “I need gifts. I was kind of pissed.”
The couple finished eating and just as they were about to order dessert, the door to the kitchen opened, and out walked Bill Leech — a friend and the owner of the restaurant. Leech presented Charlotte with a brownie with a candle in it and when she looked down to blow out the candle, she noticed the words: “Will you marry me?” Valerie smiled at her.
“She even bought me a necklace,” Charlotte says. “I felt like a jerk.”
Both women, who have known each other for 14 years, are originally from New York City, but that’s where the similarities end. The couple is proof that opposites really do attract. Charlotte is an 18-year veteran police officer in the NYPD, while Valerie is a 19-year veteran hairdresser at Space Salon in Soho. Valerie “loves the nightlife” while Charlotte, who’s more straight and narrow, prefers to spend her free time at home in the country.
Lifestyles aside, the couple has learned to compromise over the years. Valerie initially didn’t want to have kids, but today they are the proud parents of twin, 5-year-old daughters, Eva and Etta. They even own a home together.
“When we first met, she didn’t want any part of me,” former wild-child Valerie says. “Look at us now.”
Shortly after their anniversary dinner, the couple exchanged vows in a private civil marriage in Connecticut. They were thrilled to be married, but something lingered within both of them — they wanted to share their love with family and friends from New York City.
A year later, they got the chance. The Friday that New York State legalized same-sex marriage, Charlotte and Valerie marched in the NYPD-sponsored Gay Officers Action League parade alongside nearly 200 other police officers and their families. Charlotte remembered that the experience was overwhelming.
That same weekend, Charlotte and Valerie attended their very first same-sex wedding.
“It was on a beach on Long Island and the bride’s parents walked her down the aisle,” Charlotte says. “It was the real thing. That’s when we started planning our wedding in New York.”
Their dream of getting married in New York finally came true on May 19, 2013. The couple gathered 150 of their closest friends and family members in a mansion in Washingtonville for the wedding that they always wanted.
“We wanted to feel close to our guests,” Valerie said. “We didn’t want a banquet hall-type feel.”
Despite their distaste for a banquet-hall wedding tradition, the couple opted to maintain many aspects of a conventional wedding. Charlotte refused to see Valerie prior to the ceremony. Valerie wore a white Vera Wang dress and Charlotte wore a custom suit. Their daughters, Eva and Etta, both wore dresses in colors matching those of Valerie and Charlotte, respectively.
“When I walked in the room, I felt like someone had pushed me over,” Valerie says. “I cried the whole time.”
The officiant, Kevin Bain, interviewed Charlotte and Valerie separately and put their love story together. At the end of the service, Bain tied a ribbon around both of their hands and had them light a candle symbolizing the unity of their families. Both Valerie and Charlotte agree that it was a magical moment.
“People are still talking about our wedding,” Valerie says. “They said that the love in the room was intoxicating.”
But the big surprise came later, when the couple went to inspect the marriage certificate. For weeks leading up to the wedding, Charlotte had been pressing Valerie, whose given name is Orlando, to change her last name. The couple had already legally changed their daughters’ last names to “Orlando-Garafolo,” but Valerie had resisted, citing her business connections in the hairdressing world.
But when Charlotte went to look at the certificate, she discovered that Valerie had changed her last name to “Garafolo” without telling Charlotte.
“I was shocked,” Charlotte says. “If you love someone and want to hold onto the person, do it. It’s a different feeling. It’s not just a piece of paper.”
All photos were taken by Kathy Valentine.
©2013 Community News Group
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not WeddingPrideNY.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to WeddingPrideNY.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.