Frances and Rachel Tariga-Weshnak have Henrietta Hudson to thank for getting them together.
She’s not a person, of course, but a bar – one of the most famous and longest-running lesbian venues around.
It was at the Manhattan bar, about two years ago, that the two women met each other on the dance floor and immediately hit it off.
It’s a cliche to say opposites attract, but that was the case with these two lovebirds. Rachel, a New Jersey native who works in real estate investment, is sarcastic and self-deprecating and relaxes with yoga. Filipino native Frances, who works as a personal chef at the U.N., plays pool and is the romantic of the two —the one who cries and remembers every important date in their relationship.
“I look so tough, but I’m not,” says Frances, who has colorful tattoos running up and down her arms. “She’s the one wearing the pants in the relationship.”
“We balance each other out,” adds Rachel.
Soon after they met, they were seeing each other every day. Rachel wasn’t looking for a relationship, but Frances felt an instant connection. In fact, she brought up marriage after only a month of dating.
“I just felt it,” says Frances. “You know when it’s the right person, I believe in that.”
It took another two months of asking before Rachel couldn’t deny it herself, and the two started planning a wedding neither of them thought they would ever get to have in the first place.
“I didn’t necessarily think it would actually be legal in my time,” says Rachel. “Even if it wasn’t legal, I figured I’d set up everything, estate planning-wise, as close as possible to being married.”
Marriage seemed even less of a possibility to Frances coming from the Philippines.
“In the Philippines, there is no gay marriage,” says Frances. “All my life I’m only thinking of having a partner – no wedding, just to have a partner.”
At first, the two thought they would have two weddings – one in Manhattan, where they both live, and another in the Philippines, where much of Frances’ family still lives, including her mom. But they ultimately decided to have one big celebration in New York.
“As over the top as I could get away with,” says Rachel.
They set the date for Oct. 19, 2013, at Gotham Hall in Midtown. And while their courtship was a breeze, putting together the wedding seemed anything but.
“The most stressful part of being together was the planning of the wedding,” says Frances. “We decided a month before the wedding we’d hire a wedding planner. It was getting crazy.”
The couple was able to finalize details such as writing a welcome letter, choosing a color scheme, making appointments, and finding an affordable florist with the help of Amy Winters Events.
“We were getting these crazy quotes [from vendors like florists] like $20,000, and I don’t even like flowers,” says Rachel. “We obviously needed help. I don’t know what we would have done without her.”
Another concern leading up to the big day was making sure all the guests would be able get to New York. Among the 170 friends and family that attended, about 60 of them were coming from the Philippines. They were all maybes until they secured their visas. Frances knew how difficult this process could be – in the past, her mom had been denied visas to visit her – but in the end, everyone got approved and was able to make it.
The two planned a glamorous, classy, and traditional affair. Rachel wore a princess gown she bought at Kleinfeld while Frances wore a white tux from MySuit. The “bride and broom’s” first dance together was to “1,000 Years,” which they took several dance lessons together to prepare for. They danced with their parents and cut the cake; Rachel threw the bouquet.
“It was your typical wedding,” says Rachel. “It was way more traditional than my sister’s straight wedding will be.”
The two also threw in some fun rainbow accents in their outfits, from Frances’ rainbow socks to Rachel’s rainbow-jeweled Christian Louboutin high heels.
“I couldn’t walk, but who cares,” says Rachel. “I didn’t want plain white sparkly shoes. I wanted something really special.”
The two’s relationship nearly came full-circle, too, as their friend, Lisa Cannistraci, the owner of Henrietta Hudson, where it all began, officiated the ceremony.
“Most of our courtship took place in her bar,” says Rachel. “It was really perfect.”
All photos by Brett Matthews Photography.
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