Ciara and Melinda are documenting their journey to the altar on the blog, wusbandandwife.com. The two live in Charlotte, North Carolina. After being together for five years, Ciara went all out and staged an elaborate, surprise proposal for her beloved and captured it all on video. This beautiful couple shares their story with us:
Black Lesbian Love Lab (BL3): How did you two meet?
Ciara and Melinda: We met at a gay-friendly irish pub in mid-December 2008. And here’s the funny part, neither of us were supposed to be there! At the time Ciara was driving a car that turned off randomly. She and her friend, wanted to go out but kept debating the pros and cons. Was it really worth going all the way to uptown Charlotte? They decided it was. Melinda, on the other hand, was just planning to stay home that night. But her friends drove four hours from Fayetteville, N.C. to surprise her and take her to their favorite hangout spot.
Ciara: I remember the moment I saw Melinda. She was dancing with her friends and I was immediately drawn to her. For a few minutes I built up the courage to approach her. I gave her my number and asked her to make sure she called me. Melinda says I asked her several times and that’s probably true. I just knew that she needed to be in my life.
BL3: When did you know you loved each other?
Ciara: Great question! When I first met Melinda there was something that was truly magnetic about her. I immediately felt like she needed to be in my life. I would say that I knew that I loved her within our first few weeks of dating. But I didn’t want to scare her away by saying “I love you” so soon. That fear dissolved within the first month of our relationship. In fact, the first gift I bought Melinda was a promise ring. We had only been dating for a month, but I knew I didn’t want a day to go by where she wasn’t in my life.
Melinda: Hmm, this is hard. I can’t think of the first distinct moment, I think I am in a perpetual state of learning and re-learning why I love Ciara. It is kind of like a painting that speaks to you. When you first see it, you love it and you know you love it, but you don’t really know why, you just know you have to have it. Then as it hangs on your wall and you pass it day in and day out, you realize things that you love—some parts of it because they make sense for your personality. You start to see and love things you’ve never noticed before and as things in your life change, you begin to love things you didn’t like before. That’s how I’ve loved Ciara so far–perpetually and at the same time, kind of randomly.
BL3: Why did you decide to get married now?
Ciara: Melinda and I had been dating for five years before I proposed. Honestly, I could have proposed earlier into our relationship, but I wanted to be in a position to do it right. I didn’t want her to settle for anything less than what she envisioned for her dream proposal. In addition, it was important that I earned her family’s trust. I wanted to show them that Melinda was safe with me; that I was committed to making her happy for the rest of my life. I knew it was time when I spoke with Melinda’s parents and asked for permission to marry Melinda; and without a moment of hesitation, both eagerly granted me their blessing.
Melinda: I knew that I wanted to get married since I first learned that Ciara’s last name is Lilly. I knew I wanted that last name. So I’ve been waiting a long time! But I think the timing is right for where we are in our lives and what we’ve had to go through to get here. In retrospect, it was also important for me to earn her family’s trust and show them how I love Ciara. The stability that we’ve created, both fiscally and emotionally helps to keep us sane during tough or busy times.
BL3: The proposal was really amazing. Did you both plan it or did Ciara plan it alone?
Ciara: It was a complete surprise to Melinda. For six months, I planned our surprise engagement party. I compiled a list of Melinda’s favorite things, stuff like: her favorite color, her favorite songs, her favorite foods, etc. Then, I established a game plan, which required the help of a lot of people, including Melinda’s brother and sister.
The plan, as Melinda understood it, was that on December 28, Melinda’s family (mom, brother, sister, step-dad and aunt) would join us for a family dinner at my uncle’s house. This would be the first time our families would meet.
But on December 28, with her family riding along, we made a stop at a local wine shop called Vin Master, to pick up a bottle of wine for our “family dinner”. When Melinda walked in, she was greeted by 30 of our closest family and friends. See, I had reached out to all her friends via Facebook inviting them to join us on December 28. I had even flown her dad down from New York to surprise her. He was the first person she saw walking in.
As she walked around the venue, greeting friends and family, she soon realized that there was a family dinner after all. I had hired a personal chef to prepare all of her favorite foods. On each table, she saw decorations that I found on her Pinterest page. All the flowers were her favorite flowers. The wines, provided by Vin Master, were all sweet wines, which are her favorites.
So imagine trying to process this all. And then, out of nowhere, one of your favorite songs comes on and random people get up and start dancing. She’s looking around, she’s looking at me, and then it clicks, this is a flash mob. The exact thing she said she wanted when we discussed her dream proposal.
After the flash mob concludes, out walks an Emmy-nominated poet, Bluz, who I had worked with to write a personalized poem about us. Inside his poem, she’s hearing things that only we would know about our relationship. Like the time we were both unemployed and we only had $10 leftover in our budget to last us a month. Or how I once asked her if she would live with me in a cardboard box, because times were so rough and I didn’t know how we were going to fix it; but I knew that if we stayed together, even in a cardboard box, that we could make it through anything.
As Bluz concluded his poem, and Melinda and our guests are wiping tears, the last line goes, “If I ask you…” He hands me the ring box, I take Melinda by her hand and bring her in front of all our guests to ask her, “Will you marry me?”
She says, “Yes,” and, well, the rest is history.