Though Rachel and Sara met in a crowded space, what they each remember is looking past their fellow seminary students at the Pacific School of Religion and setting eyes on each other.

Sara, a priest at the Episcopal Church, and Rachel, a minister at the United Church of Christ, didn’t start dating right away. Though they struck up a friendship, it wasn’t until they both had similar emotional realizations that they knew there was something more there. Sara recalls that the hours spent in long conversation with Rachel made her realize “I wanted to be around her for a long time.” And for Rachel, the feeling was similar when she realized Sara was the person she went to when she was stressed and needed to feel at home.

Though their first date was unusual—a walk in a hillside cemetery—the proposal was even more unique. Sara asked Rachel if she wanted to go for a walk in the same cemetery and told herself that if Rachel said yes, she’d propose. Rachel did say yes to the walk, but when they got to the location where Sara planned to pop the question, she noticed their fellow companions in the cemetery were mostly high school students taking advantage of the Bay Area’s laid-back marijuana laws. Sara didn’t want to make a scene in front of them, so she simply showed the ring to Rachel and asked “Would you like to wear this?” Rachel had a surprising response: “Do you want to ask something else?” Sara did ask something else, and Rachel said yes for a second time that day, as the stoned high-schoolers came over with congratulations and offers to take their photo.

The wedding was held at a vineyard owned by Rachel’s family. The ceremony was under an oak tree and incorporated elements of their shared Christian faith, guided by a United Church of Christ minister who was also the admissions officer at their seminary. “She literally brought us together,” says Sara. 

As their reception was held in a barn about a quarter mile from the ceremony site, the duo set up a station halfway between the locations with rosé, beer, sparkling wine and a light snack to make sure everyone had enough fuel for the walk. “We decided that our values around this day would be grounded in community and hospitality,” says Sara. “So we wanted our people who travelled from near and far to feel celebrated, appreciated and well fed.”

Rachel and Sara loved every part of the ceremony, despite a “burping” septic tank that left a less-than-enjoyable odor on the dance floor. When the newlyweds were ready to leave, they looked back at the celebration from a distance.  “We could see all our friends and family under the lights, still dancing and engaging in revelry,” Rachel says. “The candles were still flickering on the tables. I was overcome with joy and burst into tears.” But that wasn’t a problem for Sara. “I loved watching Rachel burst into happy tears,” she says. “That was probably my favorite moment!”

—Suzie Dundas