BY STACY THOMAS | PHOTOS BY TONY BENNETT AND TIM GIRTON
“We wanted our wedding to be an event that everyone participated in because all of these people participate in every aspect of our lives. We wanted to reﬂect a spirit of love and fun; color and character…with people feeling good, looking amazing and reveling in life.” – JD Dotson
JD DOTSON AND JON FREELS have been together for 15 years. Surrounded by family and friends celebrating around them in a New Orleans-style parade, they wed on August 23, 2015. Costume-clad guests gathered at the corner of Washington and Campbell streets in Lousiville on a sunny Sunday afternoon to assemble a “love wins” wedding crew – or krewe, as it’s known in New Orleans.
“I wasn’t nervous at all,” Jon said. “I was definitely excited, but it was pretty much a normal day. … But then we got dressed up, got on our tandem bike (a gift from JD’s siblings) and rode a couple of blocks to our wedding.”
Jon and JD made their grand entrance alongside each other wearing white tailcoats labeled “2” and “3,” respectively, on the back. “The two and three, or 23, was a reoccurring number of significance in our relationship,” JD explained. In addition to their wedding date, the partners have birthdays on the 23rd – JD in December; Jon in June. During the wedding, they each vowed, “I’ll always be the 2 to your 3.”
Before the nuptials began, champagne and cupcakes (made by Deedee Diamond) were served by a group of close friends, including Regan Atkinson and Brad Titzer. A giant wedding cake stage/float created by artist Monica Mahoney led the parade down Washington Street complete with a Big Easy-inspired marching band, cocktail truck and a couple of jello-shot/ candy cigarette girls. The parade travelled two blocks to the ceremony destination, where JD and Jon climbed the giant wedding cake float to take their vows in front of the crowd. Their wedding song, “My Love is Your Love” by Whitney Houston, was performed by Janey Christine Faith, Karen Hamilton and Robert McFarland.
“I wanted to get married for the same reason as most married people,” JD said. “I wanted to officially proclaim my love and commitment to Jon. I want the same benefits as everyone else. I always hated filling in the box as ‘single’ when I wasn’t.”
The couple wrote their own vows. Jon decided to give a nod to Prince, while JD made reference to 10,000 Maniacs. The ceremony was officiated by Jessica Stavros. Two of the couple’s dogs – a Chihuahua named Junebug and Yorkie named Annie – served as flower girls and ring bearers with the couple’s rings attached to their collars. (Their third dog, Salvador, was in attendance, too.)
“I never thought we would see this day in the state of Kentucky, let alone the country,” JD said. “The day the Supreme Court ruling came down, we got on our bikes and got our license at the courthouse.”
Legendary entertainer Syimone led the ceremony finale, performing Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” complete with splits and cartwheels while in high heels, an impressive feat you had to witness. Food was provided by Black Rock Grille food truck; SnoWhat! served a New Orleans favorite – snowballs. Love was in the air with a kissing booth. Aerial entertainers from Suspend kept people in the air until dusk.
Jon officially asked JD to marry him while sitting in Cake Café in New Orleans. It was the Saturday morning of Mardi Gras week, which coincidentally was Valentine’s Day. “We were both wearing costumes to breakfast, so the idea (of a parade ceremony) came by way of giddiness of the occasion and maybe a few morning cocktails,” JD said. “Honestly, it was mostly our dear friend Kara Taylor. I think we were talking about just going to the courthouse and she said, ‘No, you need to have a parade!’ And that was the beginning. All of this was planned, organized and pulled off by Kara.”
“People are still telling me how much fun they had at our wedding,” said Jon. “When I think about it now, that day – surrounded with love and support from our community – I think about our city and our country: we made some history.”
ABOUT THE COUPLE:
JD Dotson grew up in Lanesville. In 1987, he graduated from Providence High School, where he later taught art for 12 years. Jon Freels was raised in Columbus, Ind. He graduated from Columbus East High School. The couple co-owns Regalo, a unique gift shop with locations in New Albany and Louisville. They were legally married on July 23, 2015, less than a month after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality on June 26, 2015.
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