Sometimes when life comes at you, it comes at you hard—and happy. Within weeks of getting married, Joni Ogle, 54, and Maggie Howard, 33, gleefully welcomed three foster children into their home. “Three children!” Joni exclaimed. “It was truly a shock!” And a complete surprise, Maggie says. The pair both happened to earn promotions at their jobs just a few months prior, as well. Change was seriously afoot at the Ogle/Howard household—including their upcoming wedding.
Maggie, who grew up in Tyler, Texas, had just become the director of business development at Summit Behavioral Health/Great Oaks Recovery. And Joni, a licensed clinical social worker and a certified sex-addiction therapist from Nevada, Missouri, had just become the chief executive officer of Transcend Recovery Community.
The couple met at a lunch meeting, during which Joni spent most of the time on her phone. “I kept telling Maggie I wasn’t typically this unavailable during a lunch. I’m glad she believed me.” It’s clear that Maggie didn’t have any doubt.
Maggie says she knew very early on that she wanted to marry Joni. “We shared a deep connection, and our personalities meshed so well. Not to mention that she’s an incredibly talented clinician, and she knows how to ride a unicycle!” Maggie adds. The feeling was mutual, to be sure. Maggie reminded Joni of her mom. “Her humor, her goofy side, and her hard work and loyalty.” It didn’t hurt when Joni found out that Maggie liked the same music, and even the same bed time. “It was a connection,” Joni joked.
It was Joni who did the proposing, but they both were in the know since they designed their own rings. Although Maggie was under the weather that day—and in her pajamas—Joni convinced her to go along for a ride to get frozen yogurt. Maggie, of course, insisted on bringing all three dogs.
At one point, Joni pretended there was a tire issue and pulled over. “She then lured me over to the gazebo on Heights Boulevard,” Maggie explains. “There were candles, flowers, and photos of us. She got down on one knee and asked, ‘Will you marry me?’” Maggie was equal parts surprised, happy, and less than thrilled to still be in her house shoes at that moment.
Joni wanted the date of their ceremony to fall as close to her mother’s October 7 birthday as possible, and they were able to book the Houston Heights Fire Station for October 19. The couple’s rehearsal dinner was held the night before at the Last Concert Café, and both the wedding ceremony and reception took place at the fire station. “We love the laid-back yet history-rich feel of the Last Concert Café, and the history and rustic feel of the Heights Fire Station,” Joni explained.
Their close friend Rabbi Asher Gottesman officiated. “We chose Asher because he is a rabbi and trusted friend, and Joni’s business partner.” The couple says that they both resonate with Jewish traditions, so they wanted to incorporate those into their ceremony and reception, which included the Hora and the lifting of the brides in chairs.
Maggie explains that for her, exchanging vows was one of the most touching and memorable moments of the ceremony. “We both had loving, sincere, yet humorous and authentic exchanges for the other. We could feel the energy in the room. It was so full of love, acceptance, and levity, especially during the vows.” For Joni, it was having an empty seat next to her dad as a remembrance of her mother, who had passed away. “She is a huge missing piece of our family.”
The two chose to leave out any traditional wedding music and vows. “We felt choosing a few more alternative choices and customs was affirming and exciting, as being able to legally marry is still very new for the LGBT community. We didn’t feel the need to conform to more traditional, longtime traditions [from an era] when the LGBT community was not allowed the right to marry.”
They did incorporate a few standard wedding traditions, however, including having a flower girl, junior bridesmaids, ring bearers, and tiny junior ring bearers, as well as breaking a glass at the end of the ceremony. “We made the ceremony as we wanted, keeping in some traditions and leaving out some of what I thought wasn’t a fit for us,” Joni explained.
Although they didn’t specifically seek out LGBTQ vendors, the two say they certainly wanted to use vendors they felt comfortable with and who shared in their wedding-day joy. “Our makeup artist, Will Holmes, chefs Shannon Carol and Marlies Westerval, and the rental liaison at the Houston Heights Fire Station, Dewayne Ross, are LGBTQ vendors. Our other vendors—Cakes By Gina, DJ BJ, wedding planner Sarah Bolton, Cami Grimland Photography, Bering’s Fine Stationery, and the hair stylists from the 3930 Ego salon were all affirming allies.”
The two chose Aruba for their honeymoon, but that Caribbean trip is on hold due to the new demands of Mommyhood. The happy brides, who now live in the Heights, don’t care one bit about the postponement, though. They’re too happy being newlyweds and new foster moms. Sometimes, change is just want you need—even when that change couldn’t be any more of a surprise. Kind of like meeting the love of your life in a lunch meeting.
This article appears in the December 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.