Kimberly Aileen Lao, 39, and Meghan Israel, 32, met 10 years ago while working for the same business process outsourcing company in Makati—Macquarie Group Offshore Services Pty. Ltd.
It wasn’t love at first sight. Meg was in a relationship back then and Kim, Meg said, “was straight as an arrow.” They started as friends, with a company outing being the catalyst for their closeness.
“Kim is such a good-hearted person,” Meg said. “She was one of the few people in my life who showed me that there are truly selfless and kind people in the world.”
Kim, meanwhile, enjoyed Meg’s sense of humor and intelligence.
The two started dating after Meg’s relationship ended. It was a surprise, Meg said. She didn’t expect Kim to fall in love with her. “As true blue lesbians, we shacked up immediately after our third official date. And from then on, we just took on the journey of life together.”
Family of four
The couple have been together since 2011, and in 2014, they moved to Australia “to create and live the life we’ve been told is not possible for two people in a same-sex relationship.”
They’re a family of four now—Meg and Kim have two kids: 4-year-old Franco and 3-month-old Adrien. They’re both IVF babies, said Meg. “I provided the eggs and Kim provided the womb. We call our generous, anonymous sperm donor Mr. CDO.”
Kim and Meg know they want to spend the rest of their lives together. They had been engaged since May 2016. “Whatever dreams I had in my mind of my life with her paled in comparison to the reality of being with her and achieving our goals together. Being together is literally the best thing that has happened in our lives, both as a couple, and as individuals. I don’t think I’d be the best version I could ever be in this life if I didn’t have Kim with me by my side,” said Meg.
Their next milestone was supposed to be their May 16 wedding which Meg and Kim had been planning for over eight months. It would be autumn, they said, the weather would be nice and cool and the colors pretty. Thirty-eight of their closest family and friends were flying to Australia from different parts of the world to celebrate their union. “The most exciting part was knowing that all of our loved ones and friends were so committed to coming over for our wedding,” Meg said.
They had planned a week of festivities. “We’d been looking forward to our wedding so much that we had set up a countdown timer on our phones and we had our wedding invitation plastered on our fridge to keep on reminding us how close we are to our dream wedding. Nothing was really more exciting than looking forward to the day after our wedding and waking up as wife and wife.”Postpone or push through?
Then, the pandemic happened. “When COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease) started making headlines in January, we were still optimistic that we were going to push through,” Meg said.
But when the situation kept getting worse, they soon had a big choice to make. Would they postpone or push through? “We flipped-flopped between those options for a few days. A lot of factors were considered, not the least of them being the financial impact of either postponing or pushing through. But ultimately, we decided that other than not having our family with us physically to celebrate, and not really getting our dream wedding, there should be nothing stopping us from tying the knot,” said Meg, adding that the marriage was for the betterment of their family. “For all the uncertainty and insecurity the world is going through right now, our wedding will provide our kids some form of security and stability. That is the most important thing to us in the world.”
Pandemic or no pandemic, they were going to tie the knot on May 16—they were just moving the ceremony online.
Two weeks before the big day, they created a Facebook event page, initially inviting 100 people. Headcount was no longer an issue as the wedding was happening over the internet. Meg and Kim’s plan for the celebration was simple: “We’d turn on Zoom 30 minutes before the ceremony is about to start, people will log in, and off we go. We’d wave goodbye to them at the end of the ceremony and shut the session down and enjoy our time together privately.”
But their best friends—Connie Ross Suarez, Margie Miciano, Roxanne Asuncion, Abigail Rata—refused to let that happen. “They decided that if we were to have an online wedding, it would be the best online wedding event there was. They told us that they will plan, coordinate and host our Zoom wedding.”
Connie, Margie, Roxanne and Abigail were Meg’s high school barkada. “Au came into the picture when Connie asked me if there was anyone else in my circle of friends who has event coordination experience that they can reel in for consult and assistance since the four of them had absolutely no idea how to begin to plan a wedding,” said Meg. “Au is like a big sister/motherly figure to me. We have known each other for 10 years and we would always make time for each other whenever we came home to visit the Philippines. So when I asked her, she immediately said yes.”
Only Au Ellen Perez, a life coach and events coordinator, had experience in managing big events but that didn’t stop the “Bride Tribe” (that’s what Meg calls them) from diving into the project, juggling their work commitments during the day and then working on the wedding at night. Au, Connie who’s a recruitment specialist, Margie who is a guidance counselor, Roxanne who is a business risk manager and Abigail who is a high school teacher based in Indonesia, would have nightly meetings, leaving Meg and Kim with no tasks but to relax and enjoy their special day. “We literally had nothing to do in our own wedding other than show up and turn on the computer,” said Meg. “Everything and anything that’s related to hosting our wedding for our virtual guests was being handled by our best friends.”
The Bride Tribe took over and took charge of the event page, posting almost daily updates about guidelines, gifts, the dress code (for men—“if not wearing pants, don’t show bottom half of body”), frequently asked questions and more. They asked guests to prepare a beverage of their choice for the toast, food so they can have merienda/breakfast/midnight snack depending on where they were while Kim and Meg enjoyed their dinner and placards for the “same day selfie.” “It got really crazy and I was worried for their health at some point because I knew that they weren’t sleeping during the last week . . . I don’t think that people who get paid to coordinate weddings would go as far as sacrificing their own wellbeing for the sake of a party. And that’s what makes my best friends the best people in the world. And they cost us nothing other than 18 years of love and friendship,” said Meg.
They even managed to throw a surprise bridal shower for Meg and Kim, with video greetings from family and friends. “I have no idea how they managed to do that.”
The Bride Tribe’s hard work paid off. Most of the guests followed the dress code and they had fun participating in the games and activities that the group had planned.
“What we initially thought was going to be a very basic and simple ceremony, became the dream wedding of 2020 in the midst of Covid-19,” said Meg. “Because this Zoom event was so masterfully coordinated by our best friends, we were able to celebrate and conduct all the usual wedding traditions in front of our guests, such as the first dance, cake-cutting and speeches by our nearest and dearest.”
Over 100 friends and family members
Meg and Kim tied the knot in Sydney as over 100 friends and family members watched from all over the world—the Philippines, United States, Canada, Dubai, Singapore and United Kingdom. Victoria Eustace officiated.
“We had the ceremony in the backyard of our home. It was fitting because we had worn-down wooden fences, so it gave off a really nice, authentic, rustic look,” said Meg. “Our florist and caterer came over that day to set up our ceremony area and our reception area in our dining room. It was a beautiful ceremony. Victoria talked a lot about our love story and how fundamentally different we are from each other based on our answers to her love questionnaire. She read off testimonials from our friends as well about how and what they thought of us.”
Meg and Kim had written their own vows which they read at the ceremony.
“You still amaze me each day . . . To say I love you seems inadequate because I cannot imagine my life without you. When I’m in doubt, you ease my worries. In times when I thought I’ve been losing my way, you’ve been my guide post… I promise to be a nurturing wife, a compassionate companion and to be by your side, always . . . Today, I marry you with no hesitation or doubt and my promises to you are absolute. You truly are my life and my one and only,” Kim had written.
Meg wrote, “Thank you for taking a chance on me all those years ago. Thank you for risking your hopes and perceived future at that time because you were already so sure of your love for me. Thank you for making all the dreams I never thought I had come true. Thank you for our two beautiful children, the light of our lives. They are the daily reminder of the power and persistence of our partnership. They may have my eyes and my blood, but everything else about them will be imprinted by their Mummy Kim’s love, influence and protection . . . Thank you for the honor of being your wife . . . As your wife, I will promise to be better for you every day. That for every waking moment, for the rest of our lives, I will strive to inch closer to becoming the person you deserve.”
They also had a “love letter ceremony”: Tthey wrote a letter to each other that they could open only on their first anniversary. Then, on their first anniversary, they’d deposit new love letters to be read on their second anniversary. “And the cycle goes on until hopefully our 100th wedding anniversary,” said Meg.
Their son Franco was their ring bearer. “He quite enjoyed walking from the side of our house to the backyard while the music was playing. But as any 4-year-old, he got bored midway and we could hear his loud sighs and grunts as he was forced to sit through the wedding quietly. He had lots of fun throughout the day and into the evening though as he is best friends with the flower girl.”
Also at the wedding were Meg’s sister Astrid who lives with them and is Meg’s best woman, two friends who were their witnesses. One of them is the mom of the flower girl. “Wedding restrictions limited us to only have 10 people at most, including children,” said Meg.
Meg wore the suit she was supposed to wear for their welcome dinner while Kim wore a white lacy dress that she wears to work. Franco wore what was really going to be his wedding suit—they had purchased it in Landmark Makati last September. Adrien wore a white baby gown with a white baby coat.
Their guests got nicely dressed, too, even if the invite originally said “formal on top, informal at the bottom” for Zoom attendees. Meg said, “All of our guests went the extra mile. They all dressed up and even prepared celebratory food and drinks. In fact, one of my cousins got drunk. Hahaha!”
Their recessional song was “Make My Dreams Come True” by Hall & Oates and of course, they had a wedding hashtag, too: #MEGmydreamsKIMtrue. “It’s really fitting,” Meg said.
They had their first dance under string lights to the song “I Choose You.” “It was supposed to be really romantic and serene, if not for the fact that Franco and the flower girl were running around us and playing together screaming ‘Let’s go here! Or how about here!’” While it wasn’t the ideal setting for a first dance, it was still perfect because we were dancing while our son was having the time of his life. That was the best.”
Meg and Kim have so many favorite moments from the wedding. “It’s hard to choose. But top three would be our wedding vows, the pronouncement of wife and wife, and listening to the toasts from our friends during our reception. There were three surprise video greetings from three quite prominent lesbian public figures—Rita Martinez, Riki Davao, and Lee Grane—organized by Au. It was really nice and touching. Lee Grane even sang a song for us.”
Originally, Meg and Kim were still thinking of having a big celebration in the Philippines post-pandemic but their Zoom wedding was so perfect that they woke up the next day realizing they didn’t need a do-over. “Our wedding was as it was meant to be.”
“Brides are often advised to pick their bridesmaids wisely, to make sure that they will be the kind of people who will help you plan and execute your dream wedding. But for us, our Bride Tribe didn’t just help. They created and delivered the dream wedding we never thought was possible in the midst of this pandemic,” Meg said.
They have a lot of things to look forward to in the post-pandemic world like wearing their wedding rings in public, referring to each other as “wife” and changing their legal names to Meghan Lao-Israel and Kimberly Aileen Lao-Israel.
And they continue to hold memories of their beautiful wedding—the best Zoom wedding ever.
“Our online wedding represents us as a couple. We were resilient in the face of adversity. We would never take “no” for an answer. When they say you can’t get married and have a family because you are lesbians, we went and did it. When the world said you can’t have a wedding event because it’s all locked down, we had the best wedding event anyway,” said Meg. “We are proud, stubborn, and brave because of the love and support of the closest people in our lives. Both sides of our families and relatives have been 100% supportive of our relationship from the start. And for my best friends, there just aren’t enough words of gratitude in the world to describe how thankful I am for having chosen the best people in the world to walk with us in our life’s journey.”