Sallie and Carol Wyatt-Woodell

“Let [love] find you when the time is right and you’re out doing what you love to do. Only then will you find it in its truest form.” A.J. Darkholme, Rise of the Morningstar

Sallie and Carol Wyatt-Woodell

Declaration of Love
And Love, After All, Is What It’s All About

By Laura Biddle

Sallie and Carol met when the timing was precisely right.

It makes no logical sense they’d never met before, because both women are active in the Houston-area gay/lesbian community; both are philanthropists with irrepressible spirits and infectious laughter. Beautiful women inside and out, neither had been in a committed relationship in quite a while, and both were ready to find “the one,” and not willing to settle.

Oddly enough, while it seems nearly impossible their paths had never crossed, not only had they not met, they hadn’t even heard of each other!

Carol was growing restless. In an effort to change the course of her life, she adopted the philosophy: if you want something different, you need to do something different.

So, when she was approached to join the board of the Kindred Spirit Permanent Endowment Foundation, she decided to embrace her newly adopted philosophy and give it a go. Maybe this would set her life on a new path.

When Carol arrived at the board meeting, her heart sank. The fellow board members were either people with whom she was already familiar, were outside her age range, or both.

And to make it even more painful, the meeting began with a thorough review of financial data. Carol relates, “As I was getting ready to poke my eyes out with pencils, in walked an attractive, green-eyed redhead.”

The Meeting Takes A Turn

And with that, the meeting became much more interesting!

Carol wrote on a page in her notebook, “Who is the redhead that just entered the room!?”

She slipped it to the person next to her. (She might have even shoved it.)

Carol readily admits she flirted shamelessly throughout the meeting, yet when she left, she left alone.

As she got into her car, she chided herself for not seizing the moment… for not following her newly adopted philosophy of “doing something different.” She’d been wanting to meet someone; she was wildly attracted to Sallie, yet, she hadn’t asked her out or even gotten a phone number!

In an epic move, Carol decided to rewrite the end of the evening.

Sallie’s car was a couple of cars behind her. Carol threw her car into park, left it running, and literally ran to flag Sallie down. Breathlessly, Carol invited Sallie to stop and have a drink.

Wryly, Sallie said she agreed to the drink, afraid if she didn’t, Carol’s car was likely to be stolen.

“I was just protecting her,” she laughs.

They went to a bar and Sallie quickly mentioned one stipulation. She was dog-sitting, so her limit was one margarita.

Besides, Sallie had a lingering concern in the back of her mind. She was attracted to Carol, but noticed that Carol had a ring that looked like a band on her left hand. Still, Sallie reasoned, Carol seemed nice and making a new friend wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. (Sallie would later learn it was Carol’s college ring … the top of the ring had slipped to the back, giving the appearance of a band.)

And for those who like counting drinks, after their third margarita, they shared their first kiss. And later, the dog was eager to see Sallie.

From that night on, they were Sallie and Carol.

Legal Changes Create a New Future

When they decided to make an official commitment to each other, they eschewed a traditional commitment ceremony, because, well, those hadn’t worked out so well for Carol. But was getting married legally going to be a reality? Of course same sex marriage was legal in some states, but they weren’t sure Texas was going to get on board any time soon. They were serious about each other and they wanted to publicly acknowledge their love and solidify their commitment by getting married.

They started wearing “placeholder” rings. And then, perhaps it was kismet, in early October, same sex marriage was legalized in Colorado. Suddenly, their dreams and plans went from “theoretical” to possible. Aspen held precious memories for them, and they wanted to get married at a location that honored their love and had special significance. They’d taken their first trip together to Aspen for Carol’s birthday … and while the trip had its share of hiccups, they learned together they handled the inconveniences and with an abundance of poise and minus any angst. They laughed about the travails and devised solutions together. From room reservations made on the wrong night to a minor traffic accident, Sallie and Carol realized they handled the challenges with aplomb.

As the festivities and traditions of the Christmas holidays began, something important occurred to Carol. She hadn’t officially proposed! Both women love ceremony. Both are planners. Both relish creating memories and commemorating events in memorable and thoughtful ways.

In what will always be an unforgettable evening, Carol surprised Sallie with a carriage ride in downtown Houston; during the ride, she proposed. As they talked about their wedding, they envisioned four dear friends joining them at their favorite secluded restaurant in Aspen, nestled in the wilderness.

Make no mistake, both their families were supportive of them being together … but would they embrace an actual marriage? Just how far would their families go?

As it turned out, just like Sallie and Carol, they were all in.

They were leaving Sallie’s house during the holidays, and as they walked to their car, they were joined by Sallie’s father. A tall, distinguished, white-haired man, his piercing green eyes welled with tears as he looked at Carol and spoke sincerely and solemnly, “I want to walk my daughter down the aisle.”
And of course both Sallie and Carol wanted him to have his wish, so in the blink of an eye, as quickly as their love had grown, so did the guest list for the wedding.

They’d still get married in Aspen, but now they would be surrounded by about 60 people and the wedding weekend would be a bit more lavish and lively. They started planning around the beginning of January and were married on August 2, 2015. They enjoyed every step in the process. They mused that the ineptness of their wedding planner was, ironically, the sole source of any anxiety during the whole event!

Equality for All – Love Wins

And then, on June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling struck down the remaining state bans preventing gay couples from getting married.

The air that morning was electric, they both agree. Facebook blew up. They would still marry in Colorado, but now, without question, their marriage would be legally recognized everywhere. Even, and especially, in their home state of Texas.

What followed was an enchanting wedding. To help some of the straight guests understand the concept of a gay union, the officiant read (in part) the following statement:

“…We stand before you today with both joy and amazement – and perhaps some perspective will help you understand those emotions.

As little girls, watching our friends play “brides” with their Barbie dolls, we somehow knew that we were meant to love differently, and that marriage wouldn’t be in the cards for us. Even as young adults, we never thought that marriage equality would be a part of the national conversation, much less that it would be the law of the land.

…How lucky for us that we found each other at this time in our nation’s history. To be able to proudly lay claim to all the rights and obligations that marriage bestows. And we are so blessed to be able to stand in front of supportive family and friends, to declare our love for and commitment to each other. And at the end of the day, that is what marriage is all about.”

And the final wedding pronouncement recognized the significant time in history. The officiant announced them married with the following statement:

“By the powers vested in me by the state of Colorado, and as affirmed by the Supreme Court of the United States of America, I now pronounce you legally married in all 50 states. You may kiss your bride.”

Before they married, they were perusing handcrafted items at an art festival and found a wooden box inlaid with turquoise; they fell in love with it. As women of ceremony, this special piece became their RememberAll.

The first item they placed in the RememberAll was the now-laminated piece of paper Carol had slipped to her neighbor at her first board meeting of the Kindred Spirit Permanent Endowment Foundation when she’d first laid eyes on Sallie, bearing the words, “Who is the redhead that just entered the room!?”

The future is theirs for the taking. Their parents have both had long marriages, and Sallie and Carol plan to follow suit. And if the beginning is any indication, I’d place my bet they’ll carry on the tradition of commitment.

 

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