Samantha Giusti and Amy Scarano
March 10, 2017 in Philadelphia
After every dud of a first date she went on, Samantha called Amy to talk about it.
“I'm in your neighborhood,” Samantha would say. “Do you want to meet up?”
Amy, who is now 40 and an employee assistance program coordinator for the Cpl. Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, had recently left a long-term relationship and was so very not into dating then. But if Samantha, now 31, wanted to hang out after her dates, that was more than fine with Amy. “I enjoyed her company,” she said. “I did not think about what was happening.”
Samantha didn't think about it, either. All she knew is she had a lot more fun at those post-date get-togethers than she ever did on the dates themselves.
The two had met in late 2010, shortly after both started volunteering at the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund. Their friendship blossomed after Samantha was hired as the fund's executive director in 2012, and she and Amy worked on some fund projects together.
“She's so kind, so warm, and so gentle, which is why she's such a great friend, and also really good with her job,” Samantha said of Amy, who, in addition to her VA job, now does online therapy with start-up Talkspace and is an advocate for mental health care access. “She has a really unique way of connecting with people, and I was drawn to that.”
Amy values Samantha's wisdom and was astonished that such a young woman had so much of it. “People who are 60 years old will ask her for advice,” said Amy, who grew up in Fairfield, N.J. “She has an amazing way of thinking through things and also verbally expressing herself. She's incredibly accomplished, and incredibly smart.” In addition to her fund work, Samantha, who grew up in Gloucester Township, is an adjunct professor at West Chester University in the master's of social work program.
Although Samantha and Amy weren't pondering the metamorphosis of their friendship, other people were. “Oh, my gosh, will you just date already?” was not an uncommon sentiment.
Things progressed, unrushed and largely unnamed, for about a year. The couple had just started to acknowledge they were a couple when Samantha's birthday arrived in November 2013. A friend with a house in Lambertville lent it for a weekend of “cake, gift-sharing, and walking around New Hope and Lambertville,” Amy said. On the bridge between the two towns, Birthday Girl Samantha had a question for Amy: Will you be my girlfriend?
On Samantha's birthday in 2014, Amy asked her to move from her condo in the Marine Club to Amy's house in Passyunk Square, where they now live with dog Sullie.
How does forever sound?
In September 2016, Amy invoked birthday privileges to get Samantha out of her comfort zone and into a fancy tent on a Finger Lakes glamping trip.
“I had worked with the staff [at Firelight Camps] to help me execute my plan,” Amy said. She and Samantha hiked down into a gorge, then sat at a picnic table in sight of a waterfall to eat the bounty they'd foraged at Wegmans.
In between bites of cheese, crackers, and fruit, Samantha honored Amy's birthday by telling her all that she found wonderful about her. “One of the things I love best about you is that you encourage me to go to new places and try new things,” she said. “I would have never come glamping! But this is so beautiful. You bring out the best side of me.”
Amy couldn't have written a better segue.
She swung one leg over the bench to face Samantha and said some sweet things right back. “I knocked the ring off the bench and had to bend down to pick it up, so it wasn't a super-graceful proposal. But I gave her the ring, and I started to cry a bit, and I said how much I loved her, and that I wanted to spend my life with her.”
Samantha's brain, on joy-overload, missed some of the details but shouted at her to wait for the question. Then Amy was looking at her expectantly. “You have to ask me so I can say yes,” Samantha prompted.
Once the question was asked and answered affirmatively, Amy texted the camp staff, who decorated the couple's tent with flowers and a banner that read, “She put a ring on it,” and set out the champagne. Amy had shipped the goodies ahead of the trip, thus surprising the nearly impossible-to-surprise Samantha twice within an hour.
It was so them
Samantha's Roman Catholic faith is very important to her. Because the Catholic Church doesn't marry same-sex couples, they chose Christ Church in Old City and a traditional Episcopalian wedding liturgy.
Amy loved the history and beautiful simplicity of the old church. After they made the arrangements, Amy discovered that her great-great-great grandparents had married there in August 1773.
“It was really cool that we had the chandelier that Ben Franklin had installed for his daughter's wedding lit for our wedding as well,” Amy said. And, according to church lore, the bells that rang were the same ones rung after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Woven into Samantha's bouquet were the rosary beads of her late aunt and godmother, Joanne. The couple's friends Vince and Megan were cantors.
Samantha's mom, Carolanne, said words of welcome to the couples' 180 guests at the Down Town Club reception. Samantha danced with her dad, Camillo, and Amy with her mom, Jane, to “Isn't She Lovely” -- a tribute to Amy's late father, Anthony, who used to sing it to her.
Seeing the reception space just before everyone else arrived, Samantha was flooded with joy and relief. She had planned the wedding in five months because the political rhetoric during the presidential election made her worry that gay people might lose the legal right to marry. “People had said that I was so calm while I was planning the wedding -- but that was a show,” she said. “I wasn't worried about the logistics; I was nervous I was not going to get to marry this person. But the ceremony was beautiful, and there I was in the first quiet moment of the day, in this beautiful room, with my wife.”
As the couple began their first dance, a flower cannon was fired. Amy looked around the room through the snowfall of petals. “To see how people love and support us was really, really profound and amazing,” she said. “Being a gay person, and growing up in a world where there is so much homophobia still, you internalize it. To walk in and see the love, see people standing up with cameras and cheering and yelling, it was so validating to me as a human being and as part of this new union.”
The budget crunch
A bargain: Samantha bought her dress right off the rack, and it was part of a sample sale.
The splurge: Amy's midnight-blue tux was custom-made to fit her perfectly by Bindle & Keep, the tailor featured in HBO's Suited documentary.
Four days at the Lodge at Woodloch, in Hawley, Pa.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Officiant: The Rev. Susan Richardson, Christ Church, Philadelphia.
Ceremony Venue: Christ Church, Philadelphia.
Reception venue : Down Town Club, Philadelphia.
Food: Cescaphe Event Group/Down Town Club.
Music: DJ Qlassick, Scratch Weddings, Philadelphia.
Photography: Tara Beth Robertson, Tara Beth Photography, Philadelphia.
Videography: Nathaniel Brady, Nathaniel David Weddings, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Flowers: Eric Schellack, Beautiful Blooms Events, Philadelphia.
Amy's Attire: Bindle & Keep, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Samantha's attire: James Clifford Collection for Mon Cheri Bridals. Purchased at Bridal Garden, Marlton.