Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Carla McKnight & LaVonda Walker

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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Early in their relationship, these two classmates knew they’d trade being study partners for being life partners.

It’s not often that a mutual love of Cajun-style boiled peanuts brings two people together in holy matrimony, but here we are. Carla and LaVonda met in the fall of 2008 while they were both graduate students in a Master’s program at the University of Central Florida. LaVonda (who also goes by Von) was in her last year, and Carla had just started. “Von had been where I wanted to go, so I’d often pick her brain for insights about the classes and professors,” says Carla. One night, the two women ended up talking in the parking garage for hours, trading “relationship war stories.”

LaVonda remembers those early days, “We were strictly platonic at first. After a while, though, we realized that everything we’d ever wanted in a relationship we already had in each other.” Carla says she’s not sure exactly when those romantic feelings started, but she was nervous about baring her soul to LaVonda. “I didn’t want to ruin our friendship. I went for it.” They are both so glad she did.

Carla loves LaVonda’s spontaneous excitement. It’s infectious and exciting in and of itself. “She’d literally yelp or squeal at a moment’s notice. It scares the crap out of me, but I love it,” she says. LaVonda adores Carla’s singing and her nerdy sense of humor. The two women were together through the late 2000s and up until the SCOTUS ruling, they never really considered marriage. “It wasn’t legal yet, so we figured our love would just have to suffice,” says Carla. “Once marriage became legal, we decided we didn’t want to rush it.” Carla would get excited and talk to her coworkers and friends about marriage any time Von mentioned a wedding or anything related to it. “When she started talking about rings, I knew she was ready.” LaVonda had never considered that one day she would be a married woman. “Carla is phenomenal. Being with her made me realize that I could not imagine life without her,” she says. “After a while, I realized I didn’t want to just be Carla’s partner. I wanted to be her wife.” On October
15, 2016, LaVonda said yes when Carla proposed.

The two women found wedding planning to be easy and fun. Carla is a great planner and money manager, and LaVonda is creative and loves to craft. “All of our vendors did an amazing job,” says Carla. “We made the day exactly the way we wanted it.” LaVonda agrees that getting to personalize the day to fit their personalities and unique relationship was the best part. “Our band and DJ were the most important. We met our planner, Taylor, at a wedding expo and we knew immediately that she was ‘the One’.” LaVonda took on some craft projects for the wedding, including calligraphy and wedding signage, and was thrilled with the result.

Their wedding took place on November 9, 2017. “It was quite possibly the best day of my life,” says Carla. “I wasn’t nervous, but I was ready.” At their first look, the last nine years flooded Carla’s mind, and it hit her that LaVonda was about to be her wife. For LaVonda, the day was “perfection.” She knew that she would exchange vows with her best friend. Before the wedding, Carla’s best friend came to LaVonda’s room with flowers, a letter from Carla, and a cup of boiled peanuts. “I felt like I had a piece of her with me as I prepared for the rest of the day,” she says.

The couple’s wedding song and theme song for their relationship is “Always and Forever” by Luther Vandross. They wove the song into the theme of their wedding from their vows to the cake topper. “We even put ‘always and forever’ on the stamp that went with our wedding invitations. Those words truly capture who we are as a couple,” says LaVonda.

LaVonda and Carla have only been married a few weeks, but the gravity of marriage isn’t lost on them, even in the haze of the newlywed glow. “We are still goofy and carefree,” says Carla. “But I feel more protective and protected.” LaVonda feels their bond is stronger than ever. “I didn’t know my love for her could grow any deeper, but it has. I admire Carla, and I am so honored to be her wife.”

ENGAGEMENT DATE: October 15, 2016

WEDDING DATE: November 9, 2017

VENUE: Maitland Art & History Museum

FLOWERS: Pixies and Petals

COLORS: Teal, gold, navy & ivory

WEDDING SONG and ARTIST: “Always and Forever” by Luther Vandross

DJ or BAND NAME: Real People Real Music

CATERER: Cocktails Catering

ATTIRE VENDORS: One & Only Bridal

CAKE BAKERY: Bickford Bakery

CUPCAKE FLAVORS: Vanilla with strawberry mouse, red velvet with cream cheese frosting, lemon, and carrot cake

Are you or someone you know getting married soon and need LGBTQ friendly services? Check out our third annual wedding guide below.

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