Passion for Equality
On their wedding day, Cuc and Gwen committed themselves to spending their lives together—and renewed their vow to make marriage possible for all.
When Gwen Migita, 40, and Cuc Vu, 41, met three years ago through their work at the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C, marriage wasn’t a priority for either of them.
“Marriage still seemed a bit too conventional for me,” says Cuc, the organization’s Chief Diversity Officer.
Gwen, the Corporate Director of Sustainability & Community Engagement at Caesars Entertainment Inc., in Las Vegas, had her own reasons: “I think I had denied myself this right when I first came out 17 years ago.”
It was over their shared passion for advancing equality that Gwen and Cuc fell in love. They admit it was attraction at first sight, and their love grew during their work with the campaign.
“[Gwen] is smart, kind, generous, beautiful, sexy, confident and family-oriented…She has an inner drive that I have only seen in a few people,” Cuc says, while Gwen adds, “I knew pretty early on that Cuc was an exceptional woman.”
After falling in love, the pair began to view marriage in a different light. Cuc began to see the commitment it represents. “Gwen helped me to understand that marriage is fundamentally about two people who love each other.”
For Gwen, it was letting go of cultural expectations to love under the radar that allowed her to re-examine her thoughts on marriage.
Although they lived in different cities for much of their relationship, distance didn’t prove to be the insurmountable challenge it is for some couples, and they credit their independence for that. “We love spending time together and are also equally capable of being apart for extended periods,” Cuc says. While cultivating their relationship, they were able to visit each other every two to three weeks, and spoke every day.
When the time came to propose, it was their puggle Bailey who played an important role, presenting Cuc with a ring Gwen had attached to his collar.
“I was totally surprised,” Cuc says. “I realized in that split second that Gwen was my past, present and future.” Before that day came, the couple had sat down and Cuc designed a spreadsheet outlining the pros and cons of marriage, but, despite her efforts to rationalize her emotions, “it was my heart that made the decision for me. “
Their first wedding, a small civil ceremony in Washington D.C., reflected their shared passion for social justice. Theirs was the first same-sex wedding held in the Sewall-Belmont House, the historic site where the suffragists once organized. “We chose this site because Martin Luther King, Jr. was right—the arc of history is long, but it bends towards justice.” They exchanged vows underneath the gaze of civil rights leaders like Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, whose portraits hang there.
Cuc and Gwen planned a second wedding in Las Vegas over Labor Day weekend where their friends and family gathered to celebrate for three days. Las Vegas proved the perfect location for the gathering: Gwen lived and worked there at the time, and with her family coming in from Hawaii, and Cuc’s friends coming in from Washington D.C. and family from Seattle, it served as an ideal halfway point for both.
With the help of close friend Laurie Travis, who is also an event planner in Las Vegas, they put together a weekend for 100 friends and family.
“The three-day celebration was a perfect way to spend time with people who love us and to create memories that will last a lifetime,” remembers Cuc. All 30 of Cuc’s immediate family were in attendance, and the wedding was dedicated to the memory of her father, who died attempting to escape Vietnam after the war.
Gwen had family from both Hawaii and Seattle attend, and just before walking Gwen down the aisle her uncle provided Cuc with one of her favorite moments of the day, saying to Gwen: “If not for this occasion, I would never have had the chance to walk a daughter down the aisle.” Most of Gwen’s family did not attend, primarily because of conservative beliefs on marriage.
On the day of the wedding in Las Vegas, Cuc and Gwen held two ceremonies. To reflect Cuc’s Vietnamese heritage, a family ceremony was held in the morning where only family members and the wedding party attended. This gathering honors the family ancestors, and includes a tea ceremony where the brides serve tea to their parents, who in turn offer marital advice.
In the evening, surrounded by their friends and family, the couple exchanged their vows.
“I was waiting to walk down the aisle, and my mouth was so dry that I could barely speak. I do a lot of public speaking and this had never happened to me before!” Gwen recalls. Their puggle, Bailey, again appeared with the ring, and he took his job very seriously.
“Bailey was so obedient that when he and our nephew Alex arrived at the end of the processional and Alex instructed him to sit, Bailey did exactly as he was told. The problem was that he sat with his back to the wedding guests!” Gwen remembers. One of Cuc’s favorite memories of her wedding is seeing her 84-year-old mother beam with pride and say “that her job as a parent was done now that I was the last of her six children to marry.”
The ceremonies intertwined the couple’s respective cultural backgrounds. Both brides wore handmade Vietnamese wedding dresses honoring Cuc’s Vietnamese heritage, and they wore leis to represent Gwen’s home state of Hawaii. “Our guests were seated in an organic garden of indigenous desert flora under the stars and soft lighting at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. Hula dancers performed and sang as our guests walked in. It was truly a beautiful evening,” Gwen says. During the dinner, following Vietnamese tradition as the oldest male in the family, Cuc’s oldest brother toasted the brides.
The rest of the evening included an after-party overlooking the Strip on the rooftop at the Rio, and Sunday after the wedding everyone gathered for a barbeque and games—including a memorable round of “dizzy bat,” a race in which guests spin around with their forehead resting on a baseball bat then run—dizzily—to the finish line. “It was laugh-out-loud, stomach-clutch, pee-in-your-pants funny. We are so sad that we didn’t get the action on video!” Gwen says. The brides also made sure their friends and family experienced all Las Vegas had to offer and treated their guests to spa passes and shows.
Since the wedding, Gwen has moved to Washington, D.C. and set up house with Cuc and Bailey, who loves having both his owners around in the same place. “Being under one roof has simplified our lives immeasurably.” While settling into their new life, and figuring out what to do with two of everything, their work for equality has only been fueled by the experience of getting married themselves.
The act of getting married was a truly transformative experience for them both, and gave them a renewed sense of purpose in working to make it possible for all.
“Now that we’re married, we feel an even greater urgency about passing marriage equality,” Cuc says. “Now we want that joy to be available to everyone.”
Both are committed to doing everything they can to ensuring that right becomes a reality for couples in every state.
Cuc’s home state of Washington recently passed legislation to legalize marriage equality, a victory the couple welcomed. Opponents of marriage equality, however, may launch an effort to force a voter referendum on the new law by gathering the required number of signatures to place the issue on November’s ballot. Cuc will be working there thoughout the year to make sure the law stands. They do not have plans to renew their vows in Washington, though.
Cuc says: “Getting marriage equality passed and signed into law [for all] will be all the renewal of vows that we want!”