There have been countless moments of historical importance that have occurred in the American capital of Washington, DC, over the last 200 or more years.
And some of those moments have occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial under the piercing gaze of the United States’ 16th President looking across the National Mall to Capitol Hill.
It’s a magical place.
So for Courtney Shane and Diego Ojeda, what better place than those steps to elope, get married, and make your own piece of historical magic on a New Years Eve afternoon?
“We have been planning our wedding to take place at the 1920s carousel built on a ballroom at the Santa Monica pier this coming August 2016,” said Courtney, an actress, dancer and clown from Los Angeles. “We came to Virginia for a Christmas visit with Diego’s family – where I got to meet them for the first time – and in a late night conversation on this vacation, we talked about his wishes to start working sooner than later so we can afford our wedding on the beach and then it hit us…would we like to get married at our nation’s capital?”
With Courtney’s best friend Angel Wootton Schoeck up from North Carolina to help shop for a last minute red dress and be ‘best woman’, and Diego’s nephew George Clarke as the best man, the four managed to steal away from Diego’s family to the Lincoln Memorial without anyone knowing the real reason for their visit to DC.
The site was important to Courtney since her father is buried near a Lincoln Memorial in Los Angeles.
A non-denominational ceremony officiant from dcelopements.com made the event official.
“Since my family isn’t here (in Washington), we decided that we would just tell his family that we were going to a photo shoot when we were getting dressed,” she says. “It’s funny because Diego’s sister was helping iron the clothes and had no idea she was helping her brother with his wedding!”
Courtney and Diego met 10 months ago while both recuperated from shoulder injuries while performing on separate pro salsa bachata Latin ballroom dance teams in Los Angeles. The two decided to ride together to a restaurant where the studio was having a meeting and that’s where the connection was made that would lead them to Washington last Thursday.
“We weren’t planning on going to the studio that day due to injuries but we did anyway. He asked if I wanted to ride with him over to the restaurant meet up from the studio and I effortlessly said yes. After the meet up we sat in the car and talked for 3 and a half hours.”
“I was fascinated by how intrigued by him I was considering that I was a lesbian,” she said. “I had never fallen in love with a man in my entire life. We hung out more and absolutely loved each others’ company.”
Another aspect of their relationship that surprised Courtney, 38, who has four degrees in Math, Dance, Theatre, and Film, was the age difference.
“I vowed to never date anyone under the age of 30, then found out he was 24. He was unique and different and surprisingly a man. I was 37 and nervous about the age difference. He assured me that he always liked older women.”
“So I had the double lesson that love is love,” said Courtney. “I had to learn that not only does age not matter, neither does gender. I still identify as a queer person and will continue to fight for LGBT rights. I helped build the first ever affordable Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing in the US by being involved in $22 million worth of fundraising. I swore that I would not get married unless gay people could too and that happened this year (2015)! I cried my eyes out when that happened.”
So that night Courtney and Diego celebrated their first night as husband and wife and their first ever New Years together.
“We knew even after only being together 10 months that this was it. Our love is so right for each other. And now at 25 and 38 years old, a baby is definitely coming soon! Never thought I would consider kids!”
Courtney and Diego are still planning to have a ceremony at the Santa Monica pier later in the year.