When Austinites Tavanya Wright and Amber Gregg got engaged last year, the two women weren't expecting to be able to get legally married in Texas.
Now that the Supreme Court has legalized same-sex marriage, their ceremony in October will be recognized by the state. It will take place in Dripping Springs, which state lawmakers recently named the wedding capital of Texas.
"It was all meant to come together," said Wright, 26, who met Gregg, also 26, eight years ago.
Some of the lawmakers who designated the city as the state's wedding capital may not have had in mind weddings like the Wright-Gregg union. State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, the measure's author, was one of 62 state lawmakers, in addition to Gov. Greg Abbott, who signed a court brief in 2014 calling on a U.S. appellate court to uphold the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
But in the wake of the ruling that overturned Texas' ban, Isaac said it’s "certainly their right" for venues to host same-sex weddings. Isaac said he had not heard of any gay weddings happening in the area, but a half-dozen venues said they have scheduled a same-sex wedding in coming months.
“Dripping Springs is a welcoming community and I don’t expect that to change,” said Sherrie Parks, executive director of the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce.
Dripping Springs is partly defined by love. Located 40 miles west of Austin, the city with a population of 1,870 features rolling hills and wide fields punctuated with one wedding venue after another. Options for couples looking for a place to get married recently exploded — there are 36 venues within a 17-mile radius. This year, close to 3,000 couples will say “I do” in Dripping Springs.
And there are locations of all kinds. Couples have their pick to dine under stringed lights at Pecan Springs Ranch, taste local olive oil from The Orchard at Dripping Springs or kiss in front of the white chapel at Heritage House.
“People love coming to the Hill Country and that expanded in people’s minds that it would be a great place to get married,” Parks said. “It built from there. Now everybody wants that destination wedding.”
In the spring, the Legislature designated Dripping Springs as the state wedding capital and Abbott signed the resolution. The measure passed unanimously in the House, and, in the Senate, Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, was the only member to vote against it. Isaac proposed the official name after he was approached by the Dripping Springs Chamber of Commerce with the idea.
“It’s good for economic development in the region,” Issac said. “We can get out there and promote the Hill Country.”
One day eight years ago, Wright received an unexpected message online.
“Hey, ma!,” read the Myspace chat from Gregg, who had spotted Wright at a basketball tournament days before and tracked her down online.
Wright replied, jokingly, “Don’t call me ‘ma.’ Have some manners.”
A few months later, they began dating. One night at a friend's house last year, when Wright heard her favorite song come on and saw her father walking down the stairs, she knew what was coming.
“I cried before anything ever happened,” Wright said. “I cried and then she proposed.”
The couple booked the Terrace Club a month after getting engaged. They were drawn to Dripping Springs' beautiful scenery and the venue just felt right.
Everyone in Dripping Springs has been welcoming, from the photographer to florist to baker, they said. And with the union now legal, the wedding will be even sweeter to them.
“With us being, obviously, gay, when we started looking for wedding things, you have to wonder what are they going to say,” Wright said. “You have to be prepared for someone to say, ‘I don’t support this.’ Now that it’s been decided, we don’t have to tiptoe around people’s views anymore.”
And this fall, Wright, a Sprint store manager, and Gregg, a personal trainer, will get married in a Tiffany-blue ceremony surrounded by 100 of their closest friends and family.
They say they plan to become parents soon. Wright wants two children; Gregg, three.
“Just the title of being married is pretty good,” Gregg said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to the most.”