Watermark’s Wedding Bells: Maria and Andrea Ruiz-Hays

By : Holly V. Kapherr
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The universe brought together these two women who share a passion for social justice, travel and their dogs.

When Maria saw Andrea, a tall, striking blonde, from across the ballroom at the MBA Gala, she says, “it felt like I had been hit by lightning.” The two women ended up sitting together at the gala dinner and chatted throughout the night. After the gala, they exchanged business cards.

A few weeks later, Andrea asked Maria if she would be interested in participating in an executive panel hosted by Out and Equal. Maria agreed and the pair met for dinner at the Greek Corner to discuss the details. “It was as if the universe was conspiring to bring us into each other’s orbit,” says Maria. After dinner, they walked across the street to the Lucky Lure and continued connecting. “I was mesmerized by her and found myself wanting to know everything about her,” says Andrea. “We talked all night long and shared stories, just laughing and flirting.”

The two women found they had much in common, from shared friends to having similar names for their two dogs: Hope and Grace. Maria says, “I instantly loved how authentically joyful Andrea is.” At first, she wondered if it was just a “Disney thing,” since that’s where Andrea works. “But it truly is her default mode. She is unfailingly thoughtful and kind to everyone.” Says Maria.

When it came time to talk about getting engaged and married, they couple was truly simpatico. Both women worked with advocacy groups to help win the right to marry. Andrea helped organize the mass wedding at City Hall after the ruling. After their third year, and once it was their right to proclaim their vows, they started talking about it. Andrea recalls, “We both had been talking about getting married, we agreed that we knew each other was the one and that we wanted to propose to each other.”

When the women started planning the wedding, they knew they needed to find LGBTQ-friendly vendors, and they wanted the venue to be surrounded by natural beauty. Cypress Grove Estate House was their pick. Maria says, “we really wanted the wedding to be flower-focused, so who better than Lee James to do our floral arrangements?” They had Trina Gregory-Propst, owner and head baker of Se7en Bites, and a good friend, do the dessert table. Andrea says, “We stayed pretty calm throughout the planning process and when things would seem to get crazy we just centered ourselves. We tried to remember that this was our wedding and we were doing this to share our love and wedding night with family and friends.”

“Our wedding day was perfect,” says Maria. “No. Really. It was.” The weather was just right on October 27, 2017, and they had promised themselves that they were going to just let go and enjoy the day. That’s what they did.

“I didn’t think being married would feel different,” says Maria. “We’d been together for four and a half years and were already living together. But it definitely does feel different. I feel like our union has been blessed, acknowledged, recognized and celebrated.” Andrea feels similarly, “Each day I wake up and look at Maria knowing that we have a special love. We cherish each other. We are so blessed to have the kind of love we have found with each other.”

ENGAGEMENT DATE: June 3, 2016

WEDDING DATE: October 27, 2017

VENUE: Cypress Grove Estate House

FLOWERS: Lee James Floral Design

COLORS: Marsala, Wine, Blush, Rose, Gold, Black

Hair and Makeup: M3 Beauty

DJ or BAND NAME: Ceremony and Cocktail Hour: Classern Quartet, Reception: Our DJ Rocks!

CATERER: Big City Catering

OFFICIANT: Judge Robert LeBlanc

CAKE BAKERY: Sprinkles of Winter Park

WEDDING PLANNER: Allison Watkins, Blush by Brandee Garr

PHOTOGRAPHER/VIDEOGRAPHER: Photographer: Jordan Wieland Photography, Videographer: Love and Luster

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