When Cecil Dearborne was considering how to propose to his boyfriend of three years, Ramon Gardenhire, he decided to do it on the most unexpected of days: his own birthday party. “I thought it would be the only time I could trick him and he wouldn’t expect it,” says Dearborne, the North American associate consultant program lead for software development consulting firm ThoughtWorks. So as he opened his gifts, Dearborne surprised Gardenhire, VP of policy and advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, by getting down on one knee in their Hyde Park home.
A year later on the Fourth of July, Dearborne and Gardenhire recited their vows under a lantern-lit canopy at the Hilton Orrington (1710 Orrington, Evanston). Their close friend Khadine Bennett, a lawyer for the ACLU of Illinois and a lobbyist for marriage equality, officiated the nuptials. “[Ramon and Bennett] both worked really hard on passing marriage equality in the state,” Dearborne says. “We thought it was full-circle to have somebody who was so integral to making sure that we could have this day and have it be recognized by Illinois.”
At the end of the ceremony, the couple’s close friend and cabaret singer Melissa Young sang “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” by Beyoncé as they processed out. “All our guests had sparklers, so we walked underneath them [on our way out],” Gardenhire says.
To pull off their Moroccan-inspired reception, the couple tapped Joshua Jones of Kehoe Designs and Karriem Watson of Stix and Stemz Events, who decked out the space with orange and gold linens, draped tapestries, plus specialty cocktails (themed after Gardenhire’s love of reality television) dubbed the Love Lemonade and the Hip-hop Martini.
Capping off the evening, the newlyweds and their 55 guests watched fireworks go off, illuminating the night sky.
Photos by John Gress Photography
Dearborne’s attire: The Black Tux; Theblacktux.com
Grooming: Aaron Williams, Lincoln Square Barbershop, 2415 W. Lawrence; Lincolnsquarebarbershop.com
Wedding planners: Karriem Watson and Judes Fleurimont, Stix and Stemz Events; Stixandstemz.net
Hotel catering manager: Lisa Lauren; Lisa.firstname.lastname@example.org
Cake: Fabiana’s Bakery, 5655 S. University; F@fabianasbakery.com
Décor: Joshua Jones, Kehoe Designs, 2555 S. Leavitt; Kehoedesigns.com