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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