Long Island same-sex couple's journey to a wedding

Patchogue couple Kate and Dee Smith celebrate their wedding together as one of the first same-sex couples on Long Island to wed. Videojournalist: Jessica Rotkiewicz (July 23, 2011)

When Dee Smith proposed to Kate Wrede in May, the Patchogue pair's plan was to marry out of state, possibly in a year or two. Then, on June 24, New York passed the Marriage Equality Act.

So Smith, 25, and Wrede, 21, fast-tracked the wedding planning in hopes of being among Long Island's first same-sex couples to legally tie the knot.

Newsday multimedia producer Jessica Rotkiewicz has been following Dee and Kate, from the planning stages to the wedding ceremony, and sharing the highlights in daily diary entries. 


Sunday, July 24: Married

At 12:14 a.m., Dee and Kate married at the Town of North Hempstead's clerk office - one of two couples there after midnight, and among the first same-sex couples in New York to officially tie the knot.

They then returned to the Viana Hotel and Spa, where the couple had a wedding ceremony with their family and friends.

Rabbi Lev Baesh believes that the couple was actually married three times: first during the Ketubah signing, then at the Town of North Hempstead and lastly during the ceremony at the hotel.

Both Dee and Kate Smith are extremely happy, no matter how many times it took to be married. They are just looking forward to their next chapter in life together -- as a married couple.

Saturday, July 23: Just hours to go

It's the final countdown to the big day, when Kate and Dee tie the knot at Viana Hotel & Spa in Westbury. Kate and Dee arrived at the hotel separately and got changed in their own rooms. Before leaving for formal portraits at Westbury Gardens, the couple revealed themselves to each other for the first time in the hotel lobby.

Kate looks amazing and so perfect. On her way down to meet Dee, she says, “I am very excited. I can't wait to see her face. I can't wait to see how she looks.”

Dee anxiously stands with her back turned as Kate is positioned in front of her. Then, Kate tells her she's here, and Dee turns around. Wearing a huge grin, she walks to Kate, and they embrace.

Dee whispers in Kate's ear, “You look so good. I love you.” Dee, overwhelmed, starts to tear up and someone hands her a tissue. The couple pause and take a good look at each other. They both agree they look good together. Dee wipes her eyes again and says they should go take pictures.

"I felt pretty whole," Dee says. "That's a good feeling.”

Thursday, July 21: Trying out hairstyle and makeup

Kate goes for a trial run for her hair and makeup at Colori Bella Hair Studio in East Rockaway. As she sits in the chair, Stephanie Cohen-Gay, the stylist/makeup artist, asks if she has any ideas.

Kate quickly reaches for her phone for a photo. The photo is of a up-do that she once wanted for her prom. Stephanie reassures her that she could recreate that exact look.

Once Stephanie gives her hair a finally spray, she reaches over for the veil and places it on Kate's head. Kate quickly covers her hands over her eyes as she sees the transformation for the first time. She takes a moment to take it all in, because for the first time, it hits her.

"It's almost here. It was only a month and now it's only two days away," says Kate.

She can barely believe how amazing she looks. Other stylists come over to admire her.

There aren't too many things left to do now. She isn't stressed about the little details, but more about it all falling into place.

In the end, it's about starting the next chapter in her life, with Dee.

“I am so happy. There's going to be people who do not agree with everything,” says Kate. " ... With me being gay, or with me marrying someone Jewish, or little things.”

Tuesday, July 19: A visit with the 'Cake Boss'

Kate and Dee wake up excited to travel to New Jersey. They are to meet with Buddy Valastro -- aka the "Cake Boss" -- at Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, N.J. Plans were quickly made and changed in a matter of seconds. Kate was supposed to have had a trial run with her hair and makeup today, but that will have to be postponed. The "Boss" is waiting.

Buddy is a master baker and cake designer who stars in the hit TLC show "Cake Boss" which is filmed at the bakery which is more than 100 years old. Buddy is a fourth-generation baker.

People come to this shop because of Buddy's award-winning designs, unique one-of-a-kind cakes and an experience that will last a lifetime. Kate and Dee knew they wanted to get their cake from this shop, but never dreamed about being on the TLC show.

The inside of the shop is quite tiny and there is a four-hour wait for customers to purchase baked goods. This seems crazy to Kate and Dee as they approach the counter to inquire about how the show will work.

“We are about to meet Buddy, the 'Cake Boss,' ” says Kate. “I am a little nervous. Look, I'm shaking."

The cameras start rolling and the women are given directions. They are led to the back where they finally get to meet Buddy and his sister, Mary Sciarrone. Buddy asks the couple why they decided to tie the knot.

“He really just cared about us, so that was nice,” says Dee. “ He just wants to make us the perfect cake. That's all we're looking for!”

“That's why we went to Buddy,” adds Kate with a big smile.

The couple is putting their faith in Buddy to determine what their wedding cake will look like on Sunday. The only conditions they had: no chocolate cake (Dee is allergic), and they would like the topper to represent the two of them, and their dog, Moose.

“We hope it's delicious. Of course. I'm sure it's going to be,” says Kate. “It's Buddy, so he probably will do something pretty extravagant, pretty awesome. I don't think anyone could top it!”

Monday, July 18: Reception details come together

Today, Kate meets with caterers and hotel management to discuss last-minute details about her upcoming wedding at Viana Hotel & Spa in Westbury.

Unfortunately, Dee was too busy at work to join Kate. Usually, Dee has been the one making decisions and facilitating the business end of things. She felt Kate would be fine making the decisions alone because she trusts her.

Kate knows Dee has been stressed at work and wanted to help by taking care of things at the hotel. "Obviously she trusts me or else we probably wouldn't be getting married," says Kate.

Dee and Kate picked food options last week, but the caterers talked with the hotel management to finalize plans. There will be no formal sit-down meal; instead, it will be finger food throughout the night. Kate doesn't care what they decide in the end as long as they have her favorite dish.

“The food is a small piece. As long as it's good, I don't care what we have,” says Kate. “ As long as we have penne a la vodka -- that's really important.”

There are still several more things to plan in the next few days, such as wedding favors, rings and several other "small" details. Kate is feeling calm at the moment because everything at the hotel is falling into place. “There are not a lot of questions anymore,” Kate says.

Saturday, July 16: Surprise shower and the moms meet

“Surprise,” shouts Samantha Veccia, Kate’s maid of honor, along with the rest of the guests in the backyard of Samantha’s Medford home. Kate believed she was picking up Samantha for lunch, but it was a trick to just get her there.

As she opens the fence to the backyard she sees her friends and family smiling and waiting to give her big hugs. Kate gives a little laugh and tells everyone she had a feeling because why would she need the entire day off to go to lunch.

“It’s so beautiful. Sam did such a good job. Everything looks so perfect,” says Kate.

Since Kate is considered the bride, Dee didn’t come to the bridal shower. Instead, she spent the day golfing with her dad. But she’s happy Kate had time alone with her friends, especially her mother.

“I know she is a bride too, but again going along with the whole masculine/ feminine thing we are very traditional in that sense, as far as her doing the more manly thing,” Kate says of Dee not being at the shower.

Kate had no idea her family would gather to support her marriage. Her mother, Beth Wrede, has mixed feelings about her daughter marrying another woman. Dee’s family is extremely supportive. Dee’s mother met Kate’s mother, Randee Smith, for the first time during the shower. Kate felt it was good for people to meet and mingle a bit before the wedding.

“I didn’t expect this party, I didn’t expect my family to be here,” says Kate. “It’s really nice everything is working out the way I really want it to be.”

Friday, July 15: Shopping for post-wedding brunch attire

After Kate gets home from work, she and Dee head to Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. The two need to get a few items for their wedding brunch the morning after they get married. Kate is on the hunt for a pair of shoes to match her pencil skirt and tank top while Dee needs a complete outfit: pants and a shirt.

Kate first stops at Aldo, a shoe store, to take a look around. She brought her outfit along with her and decides to change in the fitting room so she can tell if the shoes are a match. Dee tells her to keep the outfit on so she doesn't have to change again in another store. Dee says she is impatient when it comes to shopping.

“I love to go shopping with Dee, but only when Dee wants to be in a particular store. Then she is happy,” Kate says.

Dee agrees with Kate's analysis. “She takes a long time,” says Dee. “She will, like, find some clothes, but she's got to try them on.”
Kate responds, “Of course you have to try them on before you leave the store! Are you nuts?”

Dee shops in men's departments, preferring the reliable cut of a man's T-shirt. “If you know the style you like, it's all pretty much the same,” says Dee. “I never shop in the women's section. I just don't.”

Dee doesn't like the way women's clothing fits her. “I feel more comfortable in guy's clothes,” she says. “I mean, I don't think I am a boy. I wear small guy's clothes, I don't wear big baggy clothes that completely cover my whole body.”

Kate likes the way Dee dresses, including the ever-present baseball cap chosen from a growing collection.

Since the pair had just two hours to shop, they didn't get everything on their list. Dee ended up buying two pant options while Kate got what she deemed the perfect pair of shoes. 

Thursday, July 14: Talking about vows with rabbi

Dee prepares dinner for Kate because she comes home from work at 8:30 p.m. feeling exhausted. They will be speaking with Rabbi Lev Baesh via Skype at 9, giving them only a brief time to eat.

Kate says Dee is the cook of the household, and she doesn't mind that at all. She lays down for a few minutes on the sofa and then goes into the kitchen to help with final preparations.

Kate asks Dee what the rabbi might ask the two of them tonight. Dee's not sure, but thinks he might ask about how they are doing with writing their vows and final plans for the ceremony. Dee says she is almost done with her vows and has been emailing them to the rabbi for help. Kate quickly says, with a panicked look on her face, “I don't know what the perfect thing is to say.” Dee replies: “Then just say it from your heart, dude!”

Ten minutes before the rabbi's call, Dee and Kate quickly sit to eat their meal. They discuss how their days went and Dee notices it is time for them to Skype and quickly takes a few more bites before running to get the computer.

Dee's mother Randee Smith, of Smithtown, is also joining the talk with the rabbi via iPhone video chat. As they greet the rabbi, Dee holds her iPhone up so he can meet her mother.

As Kate feared, the rabbi's fist questions are about their wedding vows. She told him she doesn't know what to write and might be overthinking the whole process. The rabbi agrees to help her write them over the next week.

Dee tells the rabbi how the rest of the plans are going and says there are so many details that go into a wedding. Her mother tries to explain it is because they are doing everything all at once and its hard for them to enjoy the process.

“I am kind of glad that we did it in a short time, though, because I couldn't imagine this to be drawn out for a year or so,” says Dee.
Kate agrees. “I would rather not have this amount of stress for a whole entire year,” she says.

The four continue talking about plans for the ceremony, and the rabbi asks if Kate will be wearing high heels. He is concerned about the traditional breaking of the glass because they both have decided to take part in this tradition.

As Kate describes her shoes, Dee pipes in, “The best part of not being a girly girl is that I don't have to wear high heels.”

Wednesday, July 13: Quiet time with Moose -- and picking music

After running around for a week planning their wedding, Kate and Dee, along with their dog, Moose, enjoy a nice quiet evening in their home in Patchogue. They’ve raised her since she was a young pup. Moose is just over a year old now.

"She's like our child. We always bring her everywhere,” says Kate, and she feels it's like the beginning of their family.

Someday they hope to have children of their own. Kate would like to be the one who becomes pregnant. Dee would like to give Kate her egg, with the sperm possibly coming from a sperm bank. Both say this would be the closest way for them to produce their own biological baby.

Tonight, the couple listens to songs on the computer while trying to design a playlist for their wedding. They are trying to be respectful of their invited guests, who represent a wide range of ages, so they are trying to pick music for all to enjoy.

Kate goes over the suggested list given to them by the DJ and sings a little bit of the songs she knows to Dee. Dee just laughs. While trying to decide which song to play for the bridal party to walk down the aisle, Dee says they should do something fun. She asks Kate if she has ever seen the YouTube video of “Wedding Entrance,” as she pulls it up on her computer. This video shows a bridal party dancing down the aisle to Chris Brown's song "Forever."

With a shocked look on her face, Kate says, “I am sorry, but that's not happening. Walking down the aisle like that? No way!”

Dee responds with a big laugh. “It was worth a shot. It's funny, but we don't have the time to choreograph something like this.”

They decide on "Pachelbel's Canon" for their processional song. After a little debate, they decide on Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" as their first dance. Kate says this song stirs up feelings for her whenever she hears it. "It makes my heart beat faster. I kind of get nervous. I get the butterfly feeling."

The women give each other a big high five as they finish deciding on all their music. Kate asks Dee to play a quick round of Scrabble before heading to bed.

Tuesday, July 12: Jewelry shopping and the 'Cake Boss'

Kate meets her maid of honor, Samantha Veccia, at the home of April Sprigman, a stylist for Stella & Dot in Stony Brook, to look at jewelry for the big day. Kate has known Sam since elementary school. They grew up around the corner from each other. Kate considers her one of her closest friends and asked her to be her maid of honor because she couldn't imagine the day without her.

"She is a best friend, definitely. I love Sam; she would do anything for me and me, for her," says Kate. "But Dee is No. 1."

Kate asked two others to be in her bridal party: a friend she has known since kindergarten; and her roommate from college. Looking through the Stella & Dot collection, Kate picks a La Coco silver, pearl-strand necklace to try on. Sam looks for ideas in a catalog. April hands the women a pair of 3-inch-long earrings and insists Sam try them on.

"These earrings fall on your neckline and that can make a women feel so sexy in them," says April. "That's all you need, babe -- your jewels!"

Both women light up as the earrings are handed to Sam. Kate helps Sam with the jewelry and both agree the earrings are sexy. Sam has to have them! Kate decides to take the pearl necklace.

"I'm not sure how's its going to look with my dress, but hopefully it will all pull together," says Kate. "Otherwise, April said I can change it."

After picking out the jewelry, Kate joins Dee at Three Village Inn in Stony Brook for a meeting with the caterers to discuss food options. Dee greets Kate with a big kiss and tells her some exciting news. Apparently, Dee received a call asking them to be on the "Cake Boss" show. The two women knew they were getting their cake from Carlo's Bake Shop in Hoboken, N.J. But they never imagined they would be asked to appear on the TLC show.

"It's pretty cool!" says Dee.

"It's very exciting," responds Kate.

Getting really excited, Dee exclaims, "It's going to be outrageous." Both women have big smiles on their faces. Now they just have to hear back about the details.

Monday, July 11: Kicking the tires on a Rolls-Royce 

Dee and Kate escape from work on their lunch break to pick out transportation for their wedding at Camelot Specialty Limos in New Hyde Park. They weren't sure what to expect at first because they didn't see any limos outside. Instead, they talk about their day with Joesph Palumbo, vice president of Camelot Specialty Limos, and as he tries to understand their needs Joseph says, "One is the star and the other is the co-star." Both women look at each other and giggle. Then Palumbo says, "The one in the dress has to be the star and you are the co-star for the day."

"Obviously," Kate adds, as she glances at Dee.

Then Palumbo explains how they will plan an arrival with Kate and then a mock getaway with the two of them after the ceremony is finished. Since they both agree on this, there was only one thing left to do and that is to actual see the cars.

The women were led to a warehouse around the corner from the office and immediately spotted their dream ride for the day: a Phantom Rolls-Royce worth $400,000, according to Palumbo. He also says an oil change is about $500 and the signature hood ornament is worth $6,000.

Dee asks Palumbo to come back with the keys to show them. Dee gave a laugh as they watched the hood ornament retract back inside the car. Apparently, when it's inside it means the car is locked. Kate's eyes light up and she gives a little giggle and then she says: "It will be a nice two-minute ride."

Dee knows her cars. As the two of them test the backseat of a Bentley Flying Spur Continental, she says, "This is the type of car you don't drive. You are driven." Palumbo says the car is about half the value of the Phantom Rolls-Royce. He then asks them which one they like better. They both agree the Phantom Rolls-Royce without a doubt is their choice.

Kate says, "We might as well go big or go home." This seems to be the couple's wedding theme. Kate jokes about saying this a few other times when decisions needed to be made.

Sunday, July 10: Planning the big day

Today is a busy day. Kate and Dee visit United Floral in Great Neck for flower arrangements, The Wedding Company for invitations and designer Christie Lauren for a veil, both in Manhasset, and Unique Judaica in Syosset for a same-sex ketubah, a type of Jewish prenuptial agreement that's considered an integral part of a traditional Jewish marriage, and outlines the rights and responsibilities of the groom, in relation to the bride, or, in this case, the responsibilities of the couple.

Charles Andonelos, owner of United Floral, helps them select an artsy arrangement. Kate decides on eggplant-hued calla lilies to carry down the aisle.Ralph Lauren's style provides the inspiration for the design of the reception room at the Viana Hotel & Spa in Westbury. Decorations will include big antique clocks, candlesticks and elaborate centerpieces on the tables. Normally, selecting flowers and their use for a wedding takes three appointments, but with the wedding approaching so quickly, the pair gets it done in just one appointment.

"I get more excited every day as one more piece is added," Kate says as she walks out the door of United Floral.

Wanting to be surprised on the wedding day, Dee gets extremely nervous seeing a bit of white on Kate's cellphone screen while trying to share a photo of the wedding dress with a friend. Kate tells her to relax because the image wasn't even her dress. Kate covers the screen and walks toward Christie Lauren, the designer of the veil, to show the photo of the dress so they can pick the right accessory.

Kate transforms into a bride as she places a veil on her head. Dee quietly observes, smiling broadly.

While Dee thinks Kate looks beautiful in all of the veils she tries on, Kate herself gets a little overwhelmed by all of the choices. Just for fun, she even tries on one piece that looks like a crown made of crystals. Kate can't believe how she looks in it, and covers her eyes with her hands while looking in the mirror. She gives a little shriek, "There are just so many choices!"

In the end, she picks a headpiece from a collection called Spring Bouquet, made with of Swarovski crystals and handmade porcelain.

Saturday, July 9: A tuxedo for one of the brides

Kate accompanies Dee as she gets fitted for her tuxedo at Rogers Tuxedos in Smithtown. Dee wants to wear a tux because she isn't comfortable wearing dresses.

Being all "girly-girl" isn't who she is as a person and she feels more comfortable wearing pants, Dee says. Even though Dee has been told in the past she looks beautiful in dresses, she hasn't worn one for at least five years. She jokes, saying they both wear "the pants" in the relationship because they both are decision makers.

"But I definitely take on society's more 'masculine' role in our relationship," Dee says.

She plans on adding a fun twist to her outfit, possibly by wearing her Converse sneakers or something else to put her own spin on the typical male tuxedo.

Kate agrees that it would be weird to see Dee in a dress and wants her to wear the tuxedo.

If Kate, in her dress, is the bride, what do they call Dee, in her tuxedo? According to Dee, Kate calls her "huffy," combining the words "wife" and "hubby." They aren't sure what the official term would be, but like this made-up description.

Richie Pizza, owner of Rogers Tuxedos, notes that a wedding day is usually all about the bride, asking, "So whose day is it?"

Kate quickly responds. "It's her day, too," she says of Dee.

"It's both of our days," Dee adds with a smile.

Dee tries on a tuxedo and walks out of the fitting room for Kate to see.

"Aw," Kate says. "You look so cute, babe."

Friday, July 8: 'Bride 1' and 'bride 2'

Eager to get their marriage license, Kate and Dee go to Brookhaven's town hall, where they wait in line to talk to the clerk. They were handed a form. The first thing Dee noticed was it had "groom" and "bride" on it. She immediately took out her pen and drew a line through "groom" and created her own titles: "bride 1" and "bride 2." The two chat briefly about how the forms would need to be changed in the future for same-sex couples.

When the clerk calls them into her office, they soon realize that they won't be walking away with a license. The smiles on their faces quickly disappear, replaced by looks of confusion, as they try to understand the matter at hand.

The same-sex marriage law goes into effect July 24, 30 days after the state legislature passed the legislation. But most clerk's offices on Long Island will not open on the 24th -- a Sunday. Only North Hempstead has indicated it might open the clerk's office to issue license on the first day they're legal. Once a couple obtains a marriage license, they must wait 24 hours before getting married in New York.

Kate and Dee quickly make a flurry of phone calls and a send a few emails to people in the hopes of finding a way to make their plans to marry at 12:01 a.m. possible.

Whatever happens, Dee and Kate believe that if they think enough positive thoughts the wedding will go on as scheduled. As Dee gets in her car, she says, "I am not going to worry about anything, because I know it will happen!"

Thursday, July 7: Bringing together two faiths and traditions

Kate and Dee are definitely no ordinary couple, not only are they planning a same-sex marriage, they are blending faiths and traditions.

Dee, who was raised in the Jewish faith, says it's important to her to be married by a rabbi. Kate was raised in a Christian family and considers herself spiritual.

Kate agreed to have a Jewish ceremony, but said she would like a few Christian traditions incorporated into their wedding day, such as lighting the unity candle.

Kate wasn't sure what to expect when Dee hit the connect button to Skype with Rabbi Lev Ba'esh of Boston. The dial tones were loud and then they had their introductions.

The first thing the rabbi said, with a laugh, is: "The short, dark curly haired Jewish girl and the long blonde-haired [Christian] girl!"They laugh as Dee responds, "Typical, right?"

As unusual as the first meeting with the rabbi may seem, it was a challenge for the pair to find one who would agree to marry a same-sex couple and perform an interfaith marriage.

Ba'esh agrees to meet the couple and plans to talk to them a few times over the next two weeks.

Dee explains that if a rabbi doesn't think a couple is a good match, he could refuse to marry them. However, Dee is relieved that they like the rabbi and feel as though they both are a good fit for each other.

"You can definitely tell that's he's welcoming us and wants us to do this," Dee says. "He cared about us. I mean we are very fortunate to have found him."

Wednesday, July 6: Trying on the dress

"I feel like a princess," Kate says. "This one has the 'wow' factor."

As Kate glances in the mirror at Village Bridal & Boutique in Babylon, admiring her beautiful dress, she says she feels as if she's going to a prom. Instead, she'll be finally tying the knot with her partner, Dee, whom she's known for four years and dated for three. Their wedding date: July 24 at 12:01 a.m.

With a little more than two weeks before the big day, the couple has lots of things to finalize and plan. Nevertheless, they are still trying to keep the wedding very traditional, with elements of surprise. For example, Dee will be wearing a tux, and she doesn't want to see her future wife in her dress before walking down the aisle.

Though planning a wedding and getting married in two weeks is a daunting task and extremely stressful, Kate seems cool and calm as she stands in her elegant gown and talks about Dee and the wedding.

"That's been the great thing about this whole thing: I am ready to be with Dee," Kate says. "I want to marry her! The little details are something we just have to get through."

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