To Have and to HOLDEN is our series where we interview real couples about their romance, weddings, and whatever else comes up along the way. Enjoy!
What happens when you invite your friends to a show...but it's actually your wedding? Jha D (she/her) and Kelli (she/her) found out when they planned an event featuring a trapeze artist, Boston's poet laureate, and - surprise! - their wedding. The two partners both chose The Octagon for their matching wedding bands. Read on to learn about how they pulled off their surprise wedding!
How did you two meet and start dating?
We first met at a fundraiser in 2014, but Jha D doesn’t remember Kellie being there! We didn’t see each other again until a mutual friend hosted a travel party in 2016. From there, we traveled together amongst a group of friends and Jha D introduced Kellie to the QTPOC scene in Boston. One could say our first date was during a trip to Jamaica in 2017!
As mentioned, we often traveled with a group of friends, and in August of 2017 we all went to Montego Bay, Jamaica for 5 days! While there, we did group excursions and shared meals. One night, several of us went for dinner on the resort, and slowly folks started to break off - leaving us two to walk back alone to the room we were sharing with a third friend. Neither of us can remember what we were talking about during the walk, but the whole time Kellie was thinking that THIS was her moment and admits to planning to blame it on the alcohol if her move wasn’t well received (Jha D later told her all she had to do was ask, because that’s what grown folks do!). Back at the room, Kellie paused on the stairs to lean in and kiss Jha D, and to both of our surprise that was the first of many beautiful moments we’d share!
How did you get engaged?
Kellie proposed first on New Year’s Eve in 2018. A bunch of friends got together to go see Bumblebee (Jha D is a huge Transformers fan!). Kellie had the theater install a movie poster that Jha D would see on the way out. At first, Jha D walked right past it because she was so hungry and determined to get to brunch, but Kellie caught her attention by saying “hey babe, doesn’t this movie look good?” Once Jha stopped and started to realize what the poster was, Kellie got down on one knee and asked if Jha D would “walk like water” with her.
Jha D proposed to Kellie on Christmas Eve in 2019. Several loved ones were asked to submit a one minute video explaining when they knew that Kellie was the one for Jha D. The compilation was then shared as part of our Christmas stocking opening, and at the end Jha D popped the question!
We’re still deciding who had the worst-best ugly cry.
Tell us a bit about your wedding!
We decided in 2019 that our wedding would be produced as a show. Jha D has been producing events catered to the LGBTQ+ communities of color for almost 15 years, and one of those events was an annual show called “EN-ER-GY” which brought together a cast of eclectic Boston-based artists to celebrate the end of Pride Month. The final installment - EX - was produced the summer of 2019 and Kellie was upset to have only caught the last 3 productions. While she processed her feelings, lol, the idea to produce our wedding as a show arose. The more we tossed the idea around, the more it made sense; neither of us felt compelled to get married in a church, at the time we weren’t sure that Kellie’s parents would participate and we wanted to do something different than anything we’d ever seen before. Also, we didn’t want folks to come just because it was “Jha and Kellie’s wedding.” So, we promoted it as Kellie’s first show and insisted/harassed/begged people to get their tickets. Unfortunately, we had to keep that up for TWO years because COVID prevented us from having the show in August 2020, but it was well worth it!
Kellie’s show was called “elements” and was centered on a theme of love and abundance, which no one thought twice about because it fits her personality SO well. A trapeze artist represented Air, a vocalist/guitarist represented Earth, Boston’s poet laureate represented Fire and a percussionist represented Water. What the audience didn’t know was that we were actually Water, and that the percussionist would be leading our procession.
Before our friends knew we were dating (it took us a few months to tell them), one of them commented that we “move like water” with each other while we were in her kitchen. So, when we “came out” so to speak about our relationship, the #LikeWater reference stuck and it only made sense that we’d be the element of water for the show/wedding.
Kellie’s parents walked her down the aisle, and Jha D’s mother and younger brother walked her. No one else in the 80 person audience, aside from the performers, knew that the final act was going to be our wedding vows.
What’s a moment from your wedding that you’ll remember forever?
Jha D: being too excited to read my vows - there’s a moment in the video where I squeal “I’m soooo happy right now!”
Kellie: Seeing Jha D fully dressed and walking with her mom and brother. She’s breathtaking…
What’s some advice you have for couples planning a wedding?
MAKE IT YOURS!! Deciding to produce a surprise wedding staged as a show is definitely not traditional and certainly resulted in some folks not being in the room, but we don’t regret a thing because we were able to make the day/moment exactly what we wanted it to be, and that’s what weddings should be about; the people getting married.
What was important to you in choosing a ring?
The ring needed to be special and designed in a way that was simple yet eye catching. I didn’t want us to have rings that everyone had. Our rings needed to be able to be uniquely us and stand above the rest.
It was also important to us that the jewelry was ethically sourced and as sustainable as possible.
What made you choose HOLDEN?
I had been looking for a company that was pro LGBTQIA2+ Community. That is incredibly important to us to be able to be in a space and be 100% authentic. From the very beginning, HOLDEN presented itself as a company that cares about who you are and is willing to make sure you are completely satisfied with their work and the product. I am so glad I went with HOLDEN! The process was effortless and these rings are just what we wanted.
What does love mean to you?
Love means the self-awareness, transparency, and strength to choose each other every day. To love someone is to trust them with your joy, growth, and vulnerabilities.
Shop Jha D and Kellie's rings: The Octagon
Wedding photos courtesy of: Dante Luna Photography & Carolina Kammel