The Road Less Traveled
With creativity and endless spreadsheets, Gen and Brooke planned the ideal oceanside wedding. Two years and a pregnancy later, they’re just stepping off of the beach.
Happily married moms-to-be Gen and Brooke Levy can hardly remember their respective single lives way back before they first crossed paths. Gen, a dark haired and tattooed photographer, and Brooke, a fair haired lawyer raised in a “stereotypical Jewish family,” met about five years ago in their mutual hometown of Chicago and, when they did, sparks flew for both women. More than two years and a whirlwind courtship later, Gen and Brooke tied the knot. Here they kindly recount to GO the ups and downs (mostly ups) of their storybook romance and their trip to the altar.
“I wish I would have found her much sooner in life…it would have saved me a lot of money on fake blonde hair and tube tops!” says Brooke, who claims she spent most of her adult life before Gen “pretending to be straight,” a condition that was rectified almost immediately after meeting her other half. On her part, Gen is equally rhapsodic: “I sometimes imagined my wedding. Before Brooke, the end of the aisle was always empty, and I never saw the kiss and first dance,” Gen confesses. “Brooke was the first and only person who made me hear myself reciting my vows. I remember closing my eyes and imagining what it would feel like to walk down the aisle to her.”
Though they sound like newlyweds, the two have actually been married for over two years. As of this writing, they are taking the traditional “next step” and are awaiting the birth of their first child (carried by Gen).
“I waited a year and a half to propose,” Brooke recounts, “and then another year to actually marry her.” Despite the pre-proposal jitters, Brooke knew with absolute certainty that their marriage was a question of when, not a question of if. “I decided the night we met that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Go ahead and insert whatever lesbian U-Haul joke you prefer, but I truly believe you know when you know, and the night I met her I just knew,” muses the attorney and mom-to-be.
Brooke sprung the proposal on an unsuspecting Gen in 2006. It was Halloween, Gen’s favorite holiday. “After a terrible day at work, I called Brooke on my way home, and she claimed she couldn’t talk to me because she was in meetings, which made everything twenty times worse,” Gen recounts. When Gen arrived at their Chicago home she was greeted by a somewhat puzzling site: a huge pumpkin balloon hovered over the door, and their hallway was filled with streamers, balloons, and other festive regalia as far as the eye could see.
Gen, still distracted by her bad mood, walked in the house and proceeded to complain about her lousy day at work, largely ignoring her overly decorated surroundings. “We sat on the couch and I chastised Brooke for being rude and lying to me about being in meetings,” Gen says. Finally, a nervous Brooke took the still clueless Gen by the hand and into the bedroom, where a pumpkin carved with “Will you marry me?” and another with their intertwined monograms greeted the duo. “While I stood there crying hysterically, Brooke turned on ‘Book of Love’ by Peter Gabriel and got down on one knee. It took me a few minutes to even notice that part,” Gen says. “At first I couldn’t event stop crying long enough to say “Yes.”
Later that same night Brooke surprised Gen with a dinner party and an evening of karaoke with friends, complete with “Engaged to Her” and “Congratulations!” t-shirts bearing a diamond ring decal. “Everyone at the karaoke bar thought that we had the most creative Halloween costumes. I kept hearing people say ‘Look! They dressed up like a lesbian couple with their bridal party!’” Brooke laughs.
Right off the bat, most of their family and friends were incredibly supportive of their engagement, the couple says. “I would say 95 percent. The remaining 5 percent were people who either couldn't handle the fact that we were two women or couldn't handle that we were doing it before them,” Gen remembers, as Brooke chips in, “We are very fortunate to have such amazing people in our lives. Even my law firm threw us a huge surprise wedding shower!”
The Levys say the proposal taught them a few treasured life lessons. “No matter how rehearsed you are for the proposal and how confident you are that she will say ‘yes,’ you will still feel like you are going to crap your pants when the time actually comes,” Brooke helpfully tells us. Oh, and, just in case you were wondering, “Flooding an entire house with balloons requires more helium tanks than you might expect.”
The closeness, playfulness and sense of humor the couple share and that their proposal exemplifies so well came in handy over the next year and half, as the couple embarked on their hectic wedding planning journey. They were lucky enough to be two of those really organized people everyone envies, spreadsheets always at the ready. “When you want something so badly and you're dealing with two Type-A personalities and their families, I'm not going to lie, it can be really stressful. All I have to say is thank god for lists,” Brooke confesses. Lists, and the duo’s strikingly similar tastes, turned what could have been a chaotic year and half into a valuable learning experience. “We both learned exactly how obsessive the other was during the planning of our wedding. Brooke learned that I'm a spreadsheet type of girl and I learned that Brooke is a research type of girl,” Gen muses, adding “we actually agreed on all of our decisions right off of the bat, which made things so much easier for us as a couple.”
The proposal done, they decided to marry in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and immediately started planning the details of the wedding. They did 90 percent of the planning on their own from the U.S. and left the remaining ten percent up to their wedding coordinators who were working out of Mexico. Gen describes the working relationship this way: “We basically told them what we wanted on the day of and they made it happen.”
WALKING DOWN THE AISLE
After months of planning, Gen, Brooke and 85 of their closest friends flew to Puerto Vallarta and their dreams finally became a reality. Since their friends and families were flying thousands of miles, Gen and Brooke wanted to make sure they would throw an especially unforgettable ceremony. They didn’t disappoint. The brides tied the knot on a deck overlooking the ocean, in a private cove that was only accessible by sea. “I remember waking up very early on the day of our wedding to catch the boat to the island and running around the hotel room shrieking ‘we're getting married today! we're getting married today!’” Brooke gushes. Because Brooke was raised Jewish and Gen was raised Catholic, they had a non-denominational wedding, written by both. “That said,” the brides tell us, “we were married under a chuppah. We skipped the glass breaking part because we were married on sand and barefoot!”
As Gen walked towards Brooke down the aisle, Peter Gabriel’s “Book of Love” once more played in the background. “I knew that I was going to cry at some point during our wedding but I was shocked when I started crying even before the song ended,“ says Gen. “Brooke looked absolutely, positively incredible and the second I saw her it was instant waterfalls.” Brooke was equally taken aback by the sight of Gen in her wedding gown: “I know that everyone says that they married the most beautiful bride, but seriously, I did,” Brooke tells us.
The evening ended as idyllically as it began: after the ceremony and a formal dinner, the brides and their guests enjoyed a sunset reception under the Mexican skyline. For the wedding reception, the wedding coordinators built a dance floor on the sand and surrounded it by torches and bonfires, and the brides danced the night away to the sensual sounds of crashing waves. In the end, the Levys’ three-day wedding party was all they could have asked for, and more. Says Brooke, “We even had fireworks on the beach at our welcome dinner and fire dancers at our wedding!”
As the party wrapped up, the newlyweds made their way back to their nuptial suite, to applause and some bewilderment, but an overall positive reaction from onlookers at the hotel. “I remember the reaction of the other guests at the hotel when they realized that there were two brides in full bridal gear getting off of the charter buses. When Brooke walked off of the bus first everyone standing nearby started clapping and congratulating her…Then I walked through the hotel lobby, to cries of ‘You go girls! from our fellow hotel guests,’” Gen laughs.
According to Gen and Brooke, perhaps the most lasting part of their ultimate fairytale lesbian wedding (complete with a honeymoon in Nuevo Vallarta with Olivia Lesbian Travel) is in the impact that it has had on others. Both women say that their proudest accomplishment came right at the end: as their guests were being driven back to the resort from the marina, they discussed the novelty and the eye-opening aspects of attending a lesbian wedding. “While all of our friends and family respected us as a couple before we got married, I’m not confident that they viewed our relationship in the same way that they viewed other heterosexual couples before the ceremony,” Brooke tells GO. “They left our wedding changed. Each one of those people has told us that seeing the love we have for one another, in combination with how much effort we put into our wedding, made them realize that we're just like everyone else and we deserve what everyone else has.”
NUPTIALS TO NURSERY
At press time, Gen is eight months pregnant with a son the couple is tentatively calling “Sugar Lips,” until his approaching birth. Both Brooke and Gen knew they wanted children at the start. Shortly after their wedding they began searching for a donor and nearly a year after that, they were ready to be pregnant. “When I met Gen, one of the reasons I knew immediately that I wanted to marry her is because I knew she would be an amazing mother. She is a children's photographer, and I get to see her interact with her clients regularly,” says Brooke. Ideally, they say, they will have two children, with Gen carrying the first and Brooke carrying the second. “We've gone from picking out wedding dresses to picking out baby clothes, from designing wedding invitations to designing birth announcements and from making place cards to painting letters for the nursery,” Brooke says.
On a typical evening, for example, Gen and Brooke watch TV and lay in bed, where Gen guilts Brooke into rubbing her back by telling her that she's the vessel carrying her child. Brooke falls asleep while rubbing Gen's back and Gen obsessively watches baby shows on the DVR for the remainder of the night. In their “spare” time, they meet with lawyers to discuss their baby’s second parent adoption.
The Levys recognize that lesbian parenthood comes with a set of its own challenges: “Getting pregnant is about decisions,” they say. “Do you use a known donor or an anonymous donor? Who goes first? And then, of course, you have all of the legal challenges including co-parent adoption. And then you have the general social stigma attached to being a pregnant lesbian, including walking into a baby boutique and having people refer to your husband even when your wife is standing right next to you!” They stress that a decision to have a baby should be taken after long, and very careful, consideration.
A LOVE TO CHANGE THE WORLD
From the people in their wedding party to every one of their daily contacts, Brooke and Gen believe that simply by being openly in love lesbian and gay couples can help change the way LGBT people are perceived and treated. “We took a childbirth class which was quite the experience seeing as how we were the only gay couple there (and probably in the history of the class itself), ”Brooke muses “I think that we began to change the way that people viewed our relationship. Now that we are about to have a baby, I think that we are pushing the perception envelope again. And once people are forced to see us as a family, they will likely change their perceptions yet again. I think part of the fight for equality is forcing people to understand that just because we're gay does not mean that we have given up the dream for the perfect wedding, the adorable children and the white picket fence. It's much easier for people to understand this concept when it's tangible.”
And what better way to take on the world than with your lover at your side? “We've been married for nearly two and a half years and
in a really good way, it feels like life has always been like this. I seriously have at least one moment every single day where I look at Brooke and think to myself, ‘And this is my purpose...This is why I was put here.’” Gen tells us.
Brooke ads, “I love waking up to Gen every morning and knowing that we'll grow old together. I love feeling the baby kick and knowing that we will have a family soon. I love strolling the aisles of Target on a Friday night and spending New Years Eve cooking dinner at home and not feeling like we need to be doing anything else. I love getting dressed-to-impress for date-night every now and then like we did when we first met. I love re-falling in love every day and laughing until our insides hurt.”