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WEDDINGS: Allison Zaragoza and Stephanie Herrera Met as Brand-New Students at UH

Couple married at the Houston Club in September.

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Allison Zaragoza and Stephanie Herrera met in 2005, when they sat next to each other in a Spanish class on their first day at the University of Houston.

Herrera vividly recalls the details of that fateful encounter. As she walked in to class, she spotted Zaragoza sitting near the back of the room. 

“She was wearing Converse shoes, jeans, a T-shirt, and she had a really cool haircut,” Herrera says. “I thought Allison was super quiet, and I liked her sense of style. I also assumed that since she was quiet, she was probably really smart and could help me pass the class.”

“I grew up in a small town and didn’t really come into Houston very often. When I moved here for school I was introduced to so many things, and Allison continued that trend, feeding my passion for art, culture, and music.”

Stephanie Herrera

When the professor asked students to  introduce themselves to their neighbors and exchange phone numbers in case they missed class, Herrera says Zaragoza looked at her like she was crazy. 

“I wasn’t really interested in making friends,” Zaragoza recalls. “I thought Stephanie was very outgoing and talkative—my complete opposite. She would practically carry the entire conversation, and I would just sit back and listen to her talk.”

Zaragoza reluctantly gave Herrera her number. “Before the end of that semester, we were more than friends,” Herrera says. 

Zaragoza, a 36-year-old CAD drafter, grew up in Sugar Land. Herrera, a 35-year-old retail manager, grew up in Needville, Texas.

Neither can remember their first date.

“We started hanging out and studying together,” Zaragoza says, “and then it kind of transformed into this relationship.

“Stephanie was fun and always wanted to try new things, and I enjoyed showing her stuff that she had never seen before,” Zaragoza adds. 

They visited museums, tried restaurants, and attended concerts.

“Allison was super cultured, and that fascinated me,” Herrera says. “I grew up in a small town and didn’t really come into Houston very often. When I moved here for school I was introduced to so many things, and Allison continued that trend, feeding my passion for art, culture, and music.”

Despite their blossoming romance, Zaragoza says they both “still had a lot of growing up to do. 

“I think for us, we had to be comfortable with ourselves, and be happy with who we were before we could have a healthy relationship,” she says.  

That moment didn’t arrive until they had been together for about a year and a half. 

“I hadn’t come out to my family,” Herrera recalls, “and our relationship was beginning to get serious. It was at that point that I realized I needed to accept myself before we could be happy together.

“I had to learn how to share my thoughts, and to be honest about my feelings, and Allison had to learn how to listen,” Herrera adds. “And we both had to learn not to assume that the other person knew what they were thinking, or how what the other person said, or did, made them feel.”

“It was very hard for me to listen—to really hear what Stephanie was telling me and not get defensive,” Zaragoza says. “I also had to be patient with what she was going through. I was already out to my family, and I had to keep reminding myself that coming out is a scary process.” 

Herrera recalls that she had been working long hours when Zaragoza surprised her with a weekend getaway to the Texas Hill Country. 

“She scheduled a wonderful massage for me, and rented us this beautiful cottage,” Herrera says. “After dinner and a wonderful wine tasting, we went back to the cottage where she had lit candles throughout the room. It was just breathtaking. She then gave me a book she had made listing all the things she loved about me. On the last page, she wrote, ‘Will you marry me?’” 

Herrera recalls that she had never thought too much about marriage as she was growing up. 

“I didn’t dream about my wedding day or anything like that,” she says. “I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Allison because she loved me just the way I was. It wasn’t until recently that marriage became something that I really wanted. Allison hates change with a passion, so I had to drop massive hints or our wedding would have never happened.”

They were married on September 29, 2018, at the Houston Club. Their officiant was family friend Angi Boudreaux. They chose the Houston Club because the skyline view reminded them of the many times they went downtown after dinner to see the lights.

Their favorite moment during the wedding was when they first saw each other—Zaragoza in her suit, and Herrera in her gown and custom-made bolero. They had kept the details of their ensembles secret, despite teasing each other with small details.

Herrera says it wasn’t until their wedding that she was fully open about their relationship. 

“It isn’t like my extended family didn’t know, but we had never addressed it,” she says. “Family is very important to me, and I feared not being accepted. There were the usual bumps in the road that really tested our strength and love for each other, so to be in that room and see the love and support of those closest to us was invaluable.”

The brides used LGBTQ-friendly vendors to help them plan their dream wedding, including Balani Custom Clothiers for Zaragoza’s suit, Olivia’s Bridal House for Herrera’s gown, Jeana Auger at the Houston Club, and photographer Steve Lee.

They chose a Greek honeymoon and visited Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos, which allowed them to go sightseeing and lounge by the water while reading great books.

Their advice for other couples planning to marry is to hire a wedding planner. “They not only have great insight into the many vendors that you will need to hire, they will also keep you sane,” Herrera says. 

The brides currently reside near downtown in EaDo. 

This article appears in the January 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Henry Thiel

Henry V. Thiel is a principal with The Epicurean Publicist, a boutique public relations company which works exclusively with chefs and restauranteurs. He loves weddings.

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