Girlfriends, Forever! Re-imagining Engagement

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One of the best things about getting married as a non-straight person is that you get to reimagine wedding traditions. Obviously, straight people can reimagine traditions, too, but there is often more pressure from families on straight couples to do things the “regular way.” In the case of recently engaged lesbian LTR couple, Herbie Huff and Shannon Docherty, for example, both of their families are completely open when it comes to their wedding because none of them have experienced a “lesbian wedding” before. That openness can be a whole new way to look at engagements, weddings, kids, and pretty much everything. No one has to get down on one knee to “pop” a question, you don’t have to have five bridesmaids and five groomsmen in matching outfits; you are much freer to plan the traditions that you want to start together. For Herbie and Shannon, re-imagining traditions started with having an engagement that meant a lot to them, even if it didn’t look like a typical engagement to the rest of the world.

Herbie and Shannon have been together almost seven years and recently became fiancées in one of the most unique proposal stories you’ll ever hear. After meeting through lacrosse in 2008, the two never thought they would get married, even if it was clear they were going to end up together. “We have very different backgrounds and personalities, but we share similar values, vision and lifestyle,” said Shannon. “We enjoy the same things. We can talk to each other for a long time and still enjoy it. We both don’t drink, which also makes things easier, too.”

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Herbie and Shannon’s similar world view is strengthened by the fact that they work in related fields. Herbie works at UCLA has a Master’s in Urban Planning and Transportation Policy, while Shannon is finishing up her Master’s in Social Work at UCLA. “It’s great that we don’t work with the same people,” Shannon said. “But we look at society through a similar lens.”

Even though they are engaged, the idea of marriage continues to weird both of them out at times. “I never really thought I would get married,” said Herbie. “Doing this is still weird for me sometimes. But the part where our families recognize us and support us and we declare we are starting a new family is what we want. I don’t care about the legal part and not the ‘property’ part of it.”

“I proposed multiple times where she said no,” added Herbie. “But I would pick the worst times, like, ‘I need to go to the ER we need to get married right now.’”

“We agreed we wanted to have a proposal moment that was climactic or definitive,” said Shannon.

The two—who both share a love of the outdoors and have done everything from camping in the Grand Canyon to biking across Canada together—decided to get engaged at Griffith Park. They went on two different hikes, starting at different trailheads that would end up at the same point. They wanted to hike separately so they could each think about their relationship. They each brought a paper and pen so they could write a letter to each other explaining their thoughts. When they met up at the same point at the top of Griffith, they could exchange letters and decide whether or not they wanted to get engaged. Rather than surprising or spontaneous, they wanted to have an engagement that was intentional.

“We were resistant to marriage for a long time,” said Shannon. “So it was nice to have the alone time on that hike to think about our relationship.”

“There was time to contemplate it built in purposefully,” added Herbie. “I had space and time to think about what it meant to me.”

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When they reached the top of their hikes, Herbie and Shannon exchanged letters and decided to get engaged. Instead of a “popped question” story to retell for friends and family, they each have a thoughtful letter that they can look at twenty years from now, reminding them why they decided to get married in the first place. 

Next week, check back for part two, when I’ll be talking to Herbie and Shannon about how they are reinventing traditions in their upcoming wedding.

Have ideas for LTR topics you want to hear about? Know a great LTR couple we should interview? Send them to LTRadvice@gmail.com.

Caitlin Bergh (@caitlinebergh) is a stand-up comic. Visit www.caitlinbergh.com for more info.

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