LGBTQ Engagement Tales

LGBTQ Engagement Tales: Brittini and Kayleigh, Los Angeles, CA

Game On! In the spirit of love—and friendly rivalry—two adventuresome brides-to-be plan dueling surprise engagement proposals.

There was no reason for Brittini Salmon to think an engagement proposal was in the works when her girlfriend, Kayleigh McCarthy, took her to Portland, Oregon, for her birthday last October. The Torrance-based pair, each in their mid-20s, were clearly serious—they’d been practically inseparable since meeting on Tinder in January 2016, kissing during a screening of The Hateful Eight, and moving in together shortly thereafter (“We’re real textbook U-Haul lesbians,” jokes Brittini). But Kayleigh had established a clear and deliberate timeline for marriage. “I told her that I definitely wanted to wait until we were together for at least a year—that it would be crazy to get engaged before that,” she recalls.

Kayleigh’s stated policy may have been less about establishing expectations than laying the groundwork for being first to ask her girlfriend to marry her. Brittini had previously told her that she was going to be first to propose, and a pronounced, friendly, competitive streak had already developed between the two.

Kayleigh planned her proposal on the down-low: she purchased a rose gold halo ring with diamonds on the band, hid it in their sock drawer, sweated it out any time Brittini searched for a certain pair of socks, and waited until just before their plane took off to reveal her plan to family and friends. Following their 11 a.m. arrival in Portland, the pair went for a stroll in Cathedral Park—where Kayleigh had arranged for a photographer to secretly capture the precise moment of betrothal.

All that planning paid off—Brittini was completely surprised, but she was also determined not to be outdone. She decided that if one engagement was special, two would be even more so. And although the wedding planning began almost immediately, Brittini began plotting her own covert counter engagement proposal.

One Friday evening a month later, she picked Kayleigh up at work. “She told me we were going to a Harry Potter movie opening in Long Beach,” recalls Kayleigh. Brittini, a native Los Angeleno, took advantage of the fact that Kayleigh, an upstate New York transplant, didn’t know the local geography too well. “She kept asking, ‘are we still in Long Beach?’ and I kept saying, ‘Yeah’—but we were in Anaheim.” Brittini had planned a magical weekend at Disneyland, where she would present Kayleigh with a video about their relationship and a number of special gifts: a camera, Mickey Mouse ears custom-made with a veil, a “Feyoncé” (as in Beyoncé) sweatshirt, and the seventh Harry Potter book, with a hole cut into the middle of “The Unbreakable Vow” chapter—into which she’d placed a white gold double halo engagement ring with a split band. “I wanted her to feel special,” says Brittini.

The wedding is set for next January 19, with an expected guest list of around 200. “I have major OCD, so it’s been fast planning everything,” says Brittini. “In Portland, we were engaged by 1 p.m, and by the time we went to a bar to celebrate at 3 p.m., she was already looking at venues,” says Kayleigh, who appreciates her fiancée’s organizational skills.

Early on, they decided to hold their ceremony and reception at the same venue, and they sought an older building to convey a vintage, relaxed ambience. Although Brittini spoke by phone with more than 40 venues, the couple visited only one in person: Smoky Hollow Studios, which they chose. This handsome El Segundo photography studio has a brick exterior, exposed rafters, and an industrial-chic vibe.

Besides fitting the couple’s aesthetic, Smoky Hollow offers reasonable rates—an important plus for the couple, and it welcomes outside caterers. “We didn’t want the usual steak, chicken, and fish—and the Smoky Hollow also allows for us not to be super fancy,” says Brittini. They’re working with Lisa’s Bon Appetit, a Torrance caterer, on a casual spread of appetizers that will include mini hot dogs, bacon-wrapped dates, spinach-artichoke cups, Chinese chicken salad (Brittini’s favorite), a wedge salad (Kayleigh’s favorite), and a poutine bar. The main course features three types of sliders: bison burger, fried chicken, and veggie (eggplant) burger. Everything will be served on carved wooden boards to match the venue’s dark-wood tables. “No silver plating, no linens,” says Brittini. They’ll also offer beer from the couple’s favorite craft brewery, the Dudes’ Brewing Company, and wine from St. Helena’s Sabina Vineyards, which donates a percentage of proceeds to support LGBTQ equality.

The day itself is going to fly by once
it’s here.

The couple enthusiastically recommends Instagram for researching vendors. When Kayleigh was looking for an engagement photographer in Portland, for example, “I searched hashtags like ‘LGBT engagement’ and found Quintessential Photography tagged in a photo,” she says. They also found Smoky Hollow through a hashtag search. Instagram has been so useful, they even created a joint account—
@ofishallythesalmons—specifically for the wedding. Potential vendors “at” them, which has been helpful, especially because the process leads businesses that support LGBTQ marriage to find them. “We never wanted to hire someone with even the tiniest hint of discomfort with us,” says Kayleigh. Their joint Instagram account has also kept friends and family apprised of wedding plans until they set up their official website.

As they work through the final planning, they’re currently focused on their bridal dresses. They both say that this process is teaching them how well they work together—just as their two engagements demonstrated how well they could plan surprises for one another. “We keep reminding ourselves that 90 percent of the wedding is planning—the day itself is going to fly by once it’s here,” says Brittini. “We want to enjoy every step of this,” Kayleigh adds. “It’s going to be such a special day, and the best part is we’re planning it all together.”

Be sure to see other Engagement Tales and personal LGBTQ wedding stories at Love Wins California.