Wedding Bells

Meet The Sykes! 

By, Kolandra Sykes

Photo courtesy of Kolandra and Sharonda Sykes

Photo courtesy of Kolandra and Sharonda Sykes

My wife, Sharonda, and I met in the summer of 2006. We worked together at a sneaker store called Finish Line. I was dating someone at the time and she had friends she was talking to, as well. Although we kind of flirted a little bit, I was actually trying to hook her up with an old friend of mine! Somehow, we ended up talking to each other. I went over to her house to do her hair and after that, as Sharonda often says, “I had my cherry overnight bag and was moving in!” We officially became a couple that October.

Ten years later, at 2pm on a rainy Sunday, July 3, 2016 we met up to have brunch at New York Deli in Carytown after church. After eating, she wanted to take pictures in the photo booth. I love a good picture, so I didn't think much about the request. After taking two sets of pictures, she said she wanted to take one more set. As we were taking the third set of photos, she kept moving and I couldn't figure out why she wouldn’t keep still. As the third picture snapped, she pulled out a box. As the last picture snapped, I finally realized what was happening and burst into tears. I immediately called my girlfriends to let them know what just happened. Needless to say, she did a really good job surprising me and we have the photos to show it.

We planned the wedding together and, boy, was it was a roller coaster! She chose the reception menu while I chose the floral arrangements. We also selected our own outfits with no input from the other. When we first started planning the wedding we simply went on Pinterest every day and pinned everything we liked. When you’re planning a wedding but don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, Pinterest can be a blessing and curse. Once we found a cake design we both loved, we build the rest of the wedding theme from there.

We opted to have our wedding at the Historic Mankin Mansion, a true hidden gem located in the east end of Richmond. The place simply screamed us—it was unique and classy with a touch of bling. The grounds are gorgeous, and the staff are very friendly and helpful. We couldn’t have picked a better venue to represent us as couple.

Our ceremony space didn't need much in terms of decorations because it was already so beautiful with chandeliers, floor-to-ceiling drapery, gold Chiavari chairs with black cushions and a black floor. We lined the aisles with pink and white rose petals and black lanterns with gold candles inside of them. The reception was decorated in gray, gold, blush and marble. The tables were draped with light gray table cloths and blush satin napkins. Each marble plate was topped with a twig of eucalyptus and a gold leaf tied together with a pink ribbon. We used the venue’s DJ and had our catering done by the same company that baked our beautiful cake. Instead of having typical wedding food, we served chicken and waffles, burger sliders and fish tacos. To this day, our guests tell us how great the food was and how much fun they had.

After being together for 11 years and now that we’re married, we are looking to start a family. We hope to have a baby and buy our first home this year. As we remain patient and let God work His magic, we will continue to surround ourselves with those who love and support us.

A Majestic Mountaintop Proposal!

By Will Rye 

Photo courtesy of Will and Geoffrey

Photo courtesy of Will and Geoffrey

I have often heard that you will find love when you aren't looking for it. After spending my twenties and most of my thirties experiencing failed relationships, I had given up on finding love. When I came out 21 years ago, two months shy of 18, the world was a very different place. Marriage wasn't on my radar back then because most of us were just trying to be accepted by our friends and families. Through the years, I have watch many of my LGBT friends in long term relationships have commitment ceremonies and eventually get married after it was legalized. When Obergefell vs Hodges made same-sex marriage legal, I became optimistic about the future and hoped that one day I would fall in love again and marry my soulmate.

I started chatting with Geoffrey Wilder online in the fall of 2016. At that time Geoffrey had just started his first semester at Virginia Tech and I was in the middle of a Volunteer Fire Academy program for Roanoke County Fire & Rescue. Geoffrey is a non-traditional college student who decided to pursue a Bachelor's Degree in Food Science after a few years in the restaurant business and attending culinary school. His passion for food brought him to Virginia Tech. Neither of us were looking for marriage or a long-term relationship at the time. We shared many common interests and our mutual attraction was palpable. Although it was hard to coordinate our schedules to meet up, we eventually met in person just after Thanksgiving.

Our first official date was just before Valentine's Day 2017. On an unusually warm evening, I took Geoffrey up to the Mill Mountain Star to watch the sunset behind the mountains. Since we both love Korean food, we then went to Wonju Restaurant, the only Korean restaurant in Roanoke. That magical evening led to many more dates. Over time, we discovered a natural chemistry between us. We share a love for food, nature and history, we’re both somewhat introverted and we both love puns. That summer and autumn, I took Geoffrey to a few of my favorite places in the region such as Richmond, Smith Mountain Lake and Grandfather Mountain. No matter where we went we enjoyed being with each other—whether we sat alone in silence or laughed out loud at ridiculous puns we created.

This past January Geoffrey proposed to me at the Mill Mountain Star. Before he popped the question, he showed me a pun on his phone that said, "Would you be my otter half?" Because we were in a public setting, I was nervous how people would react the Geoffrey’s proposal. Although Roanoke has dramatically changed since I came out 21 years ago, there is still part of me that worries about expressing my feelings in public. To my surprise, a group of teenagers who were also under the star applauded and cheered for the two of us. It was a great way to start a new chapter in our lives together.

Geoffrey is planning on graduating from Virginia Tech in May and after that we will see where his career will take us. We had our engagement party at the end of February and are planning on getting married in the fall of 2018, hopefully here in Roanoke so that many of my friends and family may attend.

What’s fun about planning a same-sex wedding is that we don’t feel confined to traditions that other couples feel they must adhere to. We can do whatever we want with our wedding ceremony. However, we are simple people and aren’t looking to have an extravagant wedding. For us, getting married is about making our commitment to each other with the blessing of the state and sharing that moment with our friends and family. We would rather spend our money on long term investments such as a home, a garden, a car and travel.

As I reminisce about first meeting Geoffrey and our time together thus far, I have to laugh. When we first met, neither one of us was looking for love—love found us. If you’re wondering if you’ll ever find your soulmate, remember that love is patient and will find you when you least expect it.


Caroline and Jennifer's Rustic Wedding Fiesta

By Meghan Kennedy

Edited by Meredith Jenkins

Photo courtesy of Caroline and Jennifer  Photography by eKate Photography

Photo courtesy of Caroline and Jennifer

Photography by eKate Photography

Since rustic weddings have become all the rage, it’s hard to make yours stand out — however, newlyweds Caroline and Jennifer did just that. They put a punchy Mexican spin on the popular trend, with bright pops of color and even a mariachi band to make their party less like a barn dance and more like a fiesta! The Vintager Inn in New Kent County set the tone for a gorgeous celebration of love between Caroline, Jennifer and their family and friends, shot by eKate Photography.


Hailing from different states, North Carolina and Virginia, it seemed unlikely that the two would ever cross paths. A love of rugby led to playing for their own teams—Jennifer on Raleigh, Caroline on NOVA—and, eventually, a shared team in the Mid-Atlantic All Stars. The summer of 2007 found the future couple meeting once more at the annual Cape Fear 7s Rugby Tournament and the two have been together ever since. Six years later, as they were planning to go out to celebrate their anniversary, Caroline kept finding long-stemmed roses with love notes attached to them around their house; however, since that’s Jennifer’s normal M.O., Caroline thought nothing of it and even joked about a proposal coming that day. “Before we left for dinner, Jennifer called me back into the house and the rest was history,” Caroline reminisced. “It was very private and sweet just like Jennifer. So, it was perfect.”


Location was important to the couple when choosing a venue, as they were looking for a good halfway point between Raleigh, N.C. and northern Virginia, as their guests were split between both places. Also, of course, keeping with their rustic vision, the place had to have the country charm they were looking for. Their wedding planner happened to stumble upon The Vintager Inn—halfway between NOVA and Raleigh—which, provided the scenery the couple had been imagining since day one. “The main barn that we used for the reception opened up to this picture-perfect view at sunset,” the couple exclaimed. “Our guests are still raving about the venue.”


The wedding party featured the couple’s closest friends and Caroline’s nephew was their ring bearer. Creating a unique ceremony was important to Caroline and Jennifer, so they wrote the ceremony and had one of their best friends marry them. The ceremony focused on them sharing all the little things that made them fall in love with each other, with a traditional hand ceremony, vows and ring exchange. The couple put a fun twist on their rustic wedding with a fiesta spin on the day’s events. They event surprised everyone with a mariachi band serenading them as they walked down the aisle that continued to play into the cocktail hour. Of their rings, Caroline said, “Our wedding bands were extremely personal and unique, engraved with each of our fingerprints. Neither of us like big or flashy jewelry, so we went simple but meaningful.”


Both brides rocked stunning white gowns for their big day. Jennifer opted for a long, halter-style dress à la Marilyn Monroe from David’s Bridal. Caroline chose a more traditional strapless sheath with a sweetheart neckline from Global Bridal Gallery in Alexandria, VA. Their wedding party wore shades of dove gray in perfect alignment with their chosen colors of orange and gray. The brides carried handtied burlap bouquets with white hydrangeas and orange roses. The bridesmaids went simple with burlap bouquets of baby’s breath while the bridesmen and ring bearer wore a combination of orange roses and baby’s breath.


The reception, held in a classic red barn, featured one large table for the brides and their wedding parties. The tables, draped in gray tablecloths accented with orange napkins, featured old Coke bottles decorated with orange and gray paper hearts. The world-traveling couple named each table after a place they had visited together, and each table had a picture of Caroline and Jennifer at said location. Luggage tags with guests’ names on them doubled as escort cards and favors. Food and beverages were set up atop wine barrels throughout the room and an open-air barn next to the reception hall housed the full bar and buffet. An antique double-seated bike featured signs directing guests to the ceremony, party and reception. Capping off the rustic decor was a large fire pit surrounded by seats for guests to relax and converse right outside the main reception area. Each table boasted gorgeous arrangements of white hydrangeas, orange ranunculus and baby’s breath.


The combination rustic-fiesta theme the brides set up was a huge hit! The mariachi band played during the cocktail hour as guests competed against each other in cornhole, customized by Jennifer and her dad for the wedding. The reception featured a photo booth for guests to take pictures and a great DJ. The newlyweds shared their first dance to “She’s Got A Way” by Billy Joel.


“There are so many, but the moments that stuck out the most were our first look, our guests arriving as we secretly looked on and realizing later that evening that we were actually married!” -The Happy Couple

Special thanks to Love, Inc. magazine for making this story possible. 

Justin Ayars