Dallas Arboretum Wedding

Dallas Gay Wedding: Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Joe Hernandez & Jeffrey Sandate, Dallas, April 16, 2016

Photography by Shannon Skloss Photography

NAMES Joe Hernandez & Jeffrey Sandate

LIVE IN Dallas

OCCUPATIONS Jeff is an OB-GYN; Joe is a corporate recruiter.

HOW THEY MET Through the now-defunct Yahoo Personals website, nearly seven years prior to their wedding day.

HOW THEY GOT ENGAGED Joe organized a birthday mystery trek for Jeff, leading him to several of their favorite hangouts, including the Dragonfly restaurant inside Hotel ZaZa for dinner. The final clue directed Jeff back to their home, where Joe proposed by candlelight. Jeff said, “yes” but felt strongly that they shouldn’t marry until marriage equality came to Texas. After the SCOTUS decision, they began planning.

BACHELOR PARTY One of Jeff’s best friends planned a joint party for the couple in Jeff’s home state, New Mexico.

HOW THE PLANNING PROCESS WENT During the early stages, the couple was concerned they might be turned away by vendors who oppose same-sex marriage, but their fears were never realized. Jeff: “Much to our surprise, the opposite came true—not one time did we experience any issues.” They did, however, find overall event coordination challenging. Though they had intended to handle the wedding plans themselves, they later settled on hiring a professional. Jeff: “We eventually decided it was too daunting a task for us to complete on our own.”

REHEARSAL DINNER They hosted family and friends at Desperados Mexican Restaurant, which is where they had their first date.

WEDDING DAY WEATHER Despite a gloomy forecast, it turned out to be a cool, beautiful day.


WEDDING COLORS Teal and navy blue.

THEME Masculine, organic, and rustic.

FLOWERS Arrangements included a base of succulents with accents of purple and green hydrangeas, orange-red ranunculus, roses, anemones, purple bullet allium, lotus pods, poppies, plumed coxcomb, green amaranth, and driftwood.

DIY HIGHLIGHTS Joe made the wedding favors—small succulents in clay pots. He also learned calligraphy in order to address the invitations, and honed his wood-burning skills to make table number signs for the assigned seating.

THE MENU The reception kicked off with passed canapés and champagne. Entrées included herb-roasted chicken breast in a garlic–white wine cream sauce, and slow-roasted, herb-crusted sirloin with whipped horseradish cream, whipped potatoes, and grilled vegetables.

DESSERT Buttercream-frosted cake, with three tiers of white cake and one of raspberries.

MUSIC A mariachi band serenaded guests during the cocktail reception. A DJ provided music for the rest of the reception. The couple walked down the aisle to Joshua Radin’s “Today.” Their first dance was to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years.”

IF THEY HAD TO DO IT OVER They would have hired a wedding planner from the very start. Also, they’re still not completely certain they’d pick the same song for their first dance—there were so many to choose from.

IF THEY COULD HAVE SPENT THEIR MONEY DIFFERENTLY Looking back, the couple might have added more florals to the reception space.

FAVORITE DETAIL The venue. Jeff: “It was absolutely beautiful.”

UNIQUE ELEMENTS OF THE DAY Joe’s son, Elijah, walked both grooms down the aisle.

UNEXPECTED EVENT Jeff: “We were finally able to legally exchange our vows in front of our loving family and friends.”

ADVICE FOR OTHERS Be willing to make compromises, but make it fun, and
enjoy the time throughout your wedding. Jeff: “Everything goes by so quickly.”

THE DAY IN THREE WORDS Joyful, beautiful, supportive.

Vendor List


Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden


Gil’s Elegant Catering


BBJ Linen/Freesia


Simply Music


Rev. Dr. Neil Casares-Thomas


Lauren Schmidt, The Creative Touch Events


Shannon Skloss Photography


David Yurman


Delicious Cakes




Tony Guzman


Simply Music/Ernesto’s Music

You can find more resources for planning an LGBTQ wedding in this part of Texas in our Dallas-Fort Worth Wedding Vendor Guide.