"The night she came home, we were both reading," Amy says. "And I said, Look, I found a picture of our ring online.' I started showing her the pictures on her phone [as if] I had found them online. The second to the last one was of the ring on my car. She said, 'That looks like your car.' Then I showed her the one with me holding it and I asked her to marry me and I pulled out the ring. She said yes."
Now, it would be Claire's turn.
"I thought, 'Great, how am I going to surprise her?' " says Claire.
She ordered Amy's ring to be sent to her parents' house. It was back ordered. But, on November 15, 2011, it arrived. It was a random Wednesday night, when each of them had jobs, but Claire's was canceled last minute. So, she drove to her parents to join them for dinner and get the ring. Now, the problem for Claire was how to surprise Amy.
"I was trying to think of somewhere to put it where she would find it," says Claire. " But I didn't want it to get lost. So, I thought, 'What if I put it where I put mine every night?' I put her ring next to mine in the medicine cabinet, kind of overlapping. She got home. I said, 'Hi!' And she said, 'Hi, what's wrong with you?' It took her 30 seconds and she knew something was up."
Claire proceeded to dig herself deeper into a hole with her less-than-adept lying skills.
"Amy asked me how my job went that evening. I said fine. Then, I said, 'Well, actually, I lied. It was canceled and I went to my parents' house.' Now, she's asking me why I would lie about going to my parents' house for dinner! So, then I just asked her to get my ring. And she's like, 'You want it now?' I was listening to her footsteps going upstairs. I heard her walk into our room and a cabinet drawer open. Then I heard it close. Then I heard her go in the bathroom. And — finally — I heard the medicine door open, and I heard this little giggle. So, I ran up the stairs and got down on one knee and said, 'Will you marry me?' "
The wedding: It will take place at Gallaudet University, in Washington D.C., where same sex marriage is legal. The ceremony will be outside, in Homestead Field, and the reception in the building where they first met, the Peikoff Alumni Center. About 130 people will attend.
The officiant is a friend who is also an interpreter, Juniper Sussman.
"She's married a couple of friends of ours, but we're her first gay wedding," says Amy. For some of the vendors, it is also a first, like the on-campus caterer, Bon Appétit.
"This is the caterer's first time doing a same sex marriage, but they're excited about it," says Claire.
"It can still be a little awkward when we say this is a same-sex wedding," says Claire. "There is just a moment when they say, 'Okay, what's your husband's name?' It's like a moment of coming out to them. There is this assumption. They have to have this moment of explanation...Gay marriage is like saying 'female doctor' or 'male nurse.' There's still a level of something not normal...I'm just happy that my mom is treating this like a real wedding. I wasn't sure what my family would do. But, I think they're really great."
The couple is keeping the ceremony simple, with no additional wedding party.
"We're both writing our own vows and keeping them secret from each other," says Amy. "I think I'm going to sign my vows — it's a beautiful visual language — and she will say hers."
Each time those vows will be interpreted, either in sign language or spoken.
"With deaf friends coming, it's a nice way to do it," Amy says.
Amy is hoping to find a white pantsuit to wear. And Claire is looking for a dress that isn't a wedding gown.
"It feels a little too traditional for me to wear a wedding dress," says Claire. "It's not been long that we've been allowed to marry legally. My mom's going crazy because I haven't gotten it yet. It'll probably be a shorter dress; probably some kind of light color. I don't need to have an all-white dress."
Claire will carry a lavender bouquet, while Amy will have a lavender boutonniere.
"My mom and my aunt, Joan Gonsoulin, are going to do all the flowers," says Claire. "They just did all the flowers for my cousin's wedding."
The couple is going for a more rustic theme that will go nicely with the Ole Jim's interior of exposed beams, hardwood floors and some stained-glass windows. Tables will have white cloths with burlap runners, on top of which will be centerpieces that will probably be Mason jars filled with lavender and other herbs. The wedding favors have both a rustic and personal touch. The couple has been taking beekeeping classes, and is now hosting someone else's honeybee hive in their backyard while they save up for their own. So, they found a website of a honeybee keeper in Ohio — eBeeHoney.com — where they ordered 140 little jars of all natural honey with labels that have "Amy & Claire" and the wedding date printed on them with yellow and black striped hearts and the saying, "Life is Sweet."