Heather Johnson and Kelly Parker’s is a modern love story, from dating app to pandemic proposal. But, their love is just getting started. Their story began six years ago. “In February 2015, after being encouraged by some friends to join Tinder, Heather stumbled across Kelly’s profile,” the couple shares. “Immediately captivated by Kelly’s breathtaking smile and the photos showcasing her apparent obsession with theme parties, her dogs, and Texas A&M, Heather couldn’t help but swipe right.”
“Little did she know, in an apartment on the same street only a mile away, Kelly had also swiped right,” they continue. “Two right swipes make a match.” They arranged a first date for coffee in their hometown Houston. “After showing up driving the same car, we knew our future must be written in the stars,” the couple remembers. “We chatted for hours and both felt an instant connection. With a few more dates under our belts, we quickly became inseparable.”
The proposal came in July 2020 during a “much-needed getaway after the isolation experienced due to COVID-19,” the couple says. But, Kelly had been preparing for far longer. “Her mother had gifted Kelly a diamond that the women on her mother’s side had worn for generations,” Heather shares. “With it, she designed the most stunning engagement ring, which she had been carrying around for months, waiting for the right time.”
Finally, Kelly planned a weekend staycation at a hotel in Memorial City. “Heather expected a weekend of fun with Kelly and their two best friends, but didn’t expect the most beautiful proposal that awaited her,” the couple remembers. “Under the guise of taking a sunset photo before dinner one night, Kelly lured Heather to the rooftop. Heather immediately noticed drapes, candles, and roses that Kelly and their friends had set up. The most meaningful detail, however, was that Kelly had arranged for friends and family who could not join us due to the pandemic to be on a Zoom call to experience the moment with us.” There were tears, laughs, and many heartfelt words—all making it “an easy decision to say yes to forever,” Heather says.
When it came to wedding planning, their vision was modern, minimalistic, and elegant. They wanted neutral tones and lush greenery to enhance the vibe of their venue, The Grove. “We primarily chose this venue for its city-meets-garden feel,” the couple shares. “Located in Discovery Green right in the heart of downtown Houston, it has a beautiful second-floor deck overlooking a grove of live oak trees and looming city buildings in the background.”
They said “I do” in front of 85 guests on April 3, 2021, with a ceremony and reception planned by primarily themselves. “The planning process was a little stressful at first because we had never planned an event of this magnitude before and were not quite sure where to start,” they share. “However, we tried to remember that not every detail needed to be perfect. It was more about the experience and memories more than anything else.” They signed on with Heather Alana Johnson of Epoch Co+ for day-of coordination. “Heather was instrumental in helping us set up the venue space, coordinating our rehearsal on the day of the event, and ensuring that we kept to our timeline the entire night. Most importantly, she made sure we had fun and never felt overwhelmed by any hiccups in the day.”
Read on to see how Heather and Kelly celebrated their own way, in an elegant event planned by the couple and Epoch Co+ and photographed by We the Romantics.
They got ready and booked a hotel block at the Marriott Marquis Houston, a convenient five-minute walk from their venue and near enough to the airport to make it easy for out-of-town guests. The Presidential Suite—complete with its own stunning terrace overlooking the Texas-shaped pool—provided enough space for them to get ready each with their own wedding parties.
Kelly got emotional in the morning crafting her vows for the ceremony. As for beauty prep, she called in her go-to barber, Naz at The Barber Effect, to trim her hair and that of her “broomsmen” for the big day. She finished off with a spritz of her favorite scent, Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce.
She opted for a navy tuxedo coat with peak lapels, classic black tuxedo pants, black suede loafers, and a bow tie. “She had her initials embroidered on the inside of her coat with the wedding date on the underside of her collar,” Heather says. “Her broomsmen gifted her a pair of cufflinks, and her mother gave her a pair of her diamond earrings to wear that day.”
Bride Heather did her own makeup for the wedding. “I wanted a classic look that didn’t feel too made up,” she says. “I just wanted to accentuate my features, so I added eyelashes for a bolder look.”
“The deep V in the back of my dress was so beautiful, especially framed with the ethereal cape. So, I wanted a hairstyle that would complement, not hide, that,” Heather says. “I decided on a low, sleek pony to keep the look chic, and a pearl accent to add a little touch of elegance.” Her nails were polished light pink and her fragrance was Versace Bright Crystal. “This is the scent my wife bought me when we first started dating,” she says. “I have worn it ever since.”
We laughed, hugged, and cried as our family and friends looked on from inside the suite.
“Our first look was unforgettable,” Heather remembers. “As Kelly waited on the expansive balcony of the hotel suite, she played a song that means so much to us as a couple, ‘Grave’ by Thomas Rhett. I was so nervous when I walked out to meet her, but when I tapped her to turn around, she had the sweetest look on her face as she saw my dress for the first time. We laughed, hugged, and cried as our family and friends looked on from inside the suite.”
It was so great to feel the love and support from our friends and family before we were married.
The moments after the first look were just as special. “As both bridal parties were waiting to walk over to the venue from our hotel suite, we were crammed into one bedroom singing country songs that Heather’s brother-in-law strummed on the guitar,” they share. “We were enjoying cocktails, hugging each other, and laughing. It was so great to feel the love and support from our friends and family before we were married.”
“The easiest part of the planning process was selecting our venue,” the couple says. “We both were in love with The Grove, as the location was convenient, beautiful, and included food and beverage packages, which would make the rest of our planning a little bit easier.” The space played host to both ceremony and reception. For the former, a tented outdoor space was dressed in a modern minimalist palette of white, gray, taupe, and deep green.
“We kept our ceremony decor fairly minimal,” Heather says. “We had a beautiful white tent with two silver chandeliers hanging over the aisle, and a wooden triangle arch adorned with lush smilax as a backdrop for when we exchanged vows. Our neighbor Raymond built the six-foot triangle arch.”
After the bridal party entered—to “Yours” by Russell Dickerson—Kelly’s mom escorted her down the aisle first, while Old Dominion’s “One Man Band” played. Finally, Heather entered with her father to the acoustic tune of “Latch” by Sam Smith.
Accompanying them on the altar were their best people and Kelly’s stepfather, Glenn Levy, who officiated. “The bridesmaids choose whatever silhouette chiffon gown they wanted in an assigned color from Dessy, either gray, taupe, or oyster,” Heather says. “I wanted the gowns to be neutral to go along with the minimal aesthetic of the night.” Meanwhile, Kelly’s broomsmen were also able to select their own black suits and tuxedo shirts. “Kelly provided them with socks, bow ties, and cufflinks. She chose this to reflect the classic and clean look we were trying to achieve, and one that was flattering for each body style.”
“To personalize our wedding day, we tossed out wedding traditions that didn’t feel authentic to us as a couple,” the brides share. “We got ready in the same hotel suite on the day of our wedding, ordered a small carrot cake in place of a traditional wedding cake, and took tequila shots at the end of the aisle during our ceremony!”
Heather’s twin sister and brother-in-law, Allison and Zach Laughlin, performed live acoustic music for the ceremony. A favorite was their cover of “I Do” by Aloe Blacc and LeAnne Rimes.
“We wrote our own vows in custom books ordered from Etsy,” the couple shares. Kelly’s included two lines from the song Allison and Zach had performed: “You are my home and I know I can stay forever” and “never understood why/ people always say, love chooses you/ now I do.”
They recessed out to Beyoncé’s “Love on Top,” dancing their way up the aisle to get the party started.
“The hardest part of planning was selecting a photographer,” the couple shares. “Since our engagement was only nine months, we were worried that we would not be able to secure a photographer with the style we were looking for and who also had experience working with LGBTQ+ couples, which was very important to us. However, once we found We the Romantics, we knew we had found the perfect team to capture our day.” Beautiful portraits like these proved they were right.
Heather wore the light ivory crepe Giovanna gown by Sarah Seven and an organza cape by the same designer. “The dress had a simple yet chic design,” she says. “When I put it on, I immediately felt like myself but elevated. I wanted to feel comfortable but chic, and the minimalist silhouette of the dress paired with the deep V front and back accomplished just that.”
She completed the look with something new—gold hoops and pearl earrings by Ana Luisa—and something old, a garter and bouquet wrap made from her mother’s wedding dress.
She didn’t find it right away, though. “I went to two bridal boutiques in Houston with my maid of honor to search for a dress, but didn’t quite find what I was looking for,” Heather remembers. “One weekend, on a whim when no one was available to go dress shopping with me, I decided to make an appointment at Lovely Bride and went into the store alone, ‘just to look.’ I ended up finding my dress that day! My wife had driven me to the appointment, and when she picked me up, I was beaming. She insisted on taking me to celebrate finding the dress at a bar down the street, which has been one of the happiest moments I look back on from the wedding planning process. Lovely Bride even went out of their way to allow me to come back in the store to try on the dress for friends and family as they served us Champagne.”
Both Kelly and Heather accessorized their looks with stunning green and white florals designed by Petal Society.
While guests enjoyed cocktail hour, noshing on tuna tartare tacos and mac and cheese fritters, the newlyweds took a moment alone. “After the ceremony, Kelly and I snuck away to a private dinner in the restaurant downstairs while our guests were on the upstairs patio,” Heather says. “We shared Champagne and took some time to just appreciate each other in the moment as newlyweds. A funny—or not so funny—story: As we were eating, I knocked an entire chicken breast on my lap! The waiter and Kelly helped me ice the stain and soak it with soda water before our grand entrance. It was barely noticeable!”
Dinner tables were covered with gray cloths, and white chair covers gave the whole space a cohesive look. “There were medium centerpieces on every other table, with candles and smilax on the others, and a long head table with taper candles, floral centerpieces, and smilax,” Heather says. She DIYed place settings for the head table with cardstock and organza ribbon.
Dinner was served buffet-style and included local and Southern favorites like Gulf Coast seafood, Texas toast, Jefferson County dirty rice, crab boiled potatoes, and cajun chicken.
The newlyweds first danced to “Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)” by Brothers Osborne, and had their DJ play two other special songs: the “Aggie War Hymn” for Kelly’s alma mater and the University of Georgia Fight Song for Heather’s.
Next, Heather danced with her father to “Always, in All Ways” by Kenny Loggins and Kelly and her mother swung to Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
“We achieved the party aspect of the wedding by hosting an open bar, hiring an amazing DJ, and providing a buffet-style meal so that our guests—who we know love to dance—could drink, eat, and immediately hop on the dance floor with us,” the couple says.
They nixed the traditional wedding cake and instead went with their favorite, an iced carrot bundt from Nothing Bundt Cakes, complete with a custom topper of their dogs. The cake cutting was another moment just for them. “We had an unannounced cake-cutting ceremony so that we could take photos for our memories but not take away from the party as a whole,” they share.
It really flies by so quickly!
The couple repurposed the ceremony arch for the reception, hanging it with a neon sign announcing their newlywed last name, The Parkers.
It was the perfect celebration to kick off a lifetime of love—but they kept things in perspective throughout the process. “Remember that this is one day of your life,” Heather advises other couples. “While it’s an important day, it isn’t worth stressing over details that no one will notice. Kelly had to remind me of this constantly! Your friends and family are there to celebrate your marriage, not your event. Let the little things go, and remember to make time to talk to and love on your significant other throughout the day. It’s true what they say: It really flies by so quickly!”