As is common today, Bri Houk and Lindsey Leaverton met on the dating app HER. They exchanged a few messages and then, within 12 hours, went on their first date, taking wine and a blanket down to Austin, Texas's free concert series Blues on the Green. The date happened to also be Leaverton's birthday. Three days later they were officially girlfriends and five days later Houk was professing her love. Now, this week, the pair conjoined their families at a drive-in movie theater-hosted wedding, where they wore cowboy boots under their gowns to walk down the dirt-road of an aisle as about 80 cars of friends and family looked on. But it all started from that first date.
"It sounds crazy but it's true," Houk tells Out. "That night, when we got home, we both deleted our app. Three days after our first date I asked her to be my girlfriend and five days after that I told her I loved her. It was just in true lesbian fashion, you know you become girlfriends, fall in love, and get married." But what was it, exactly, on that summer of 2018 date that stood out?
For Leaverton, who is a wealth manager, it was Houk's ability to not only keep up with the conversation but keep her on her toes. But for Houk, who works in dentistry, it was a specific comment that Leaverton says she never planned on making.
"I was a single mom so I had spent about a year doing some really good self-work and not dating anyone," Houk explains. She brought a son into the relationship while Leaverton brought twin daughters."When I finally met Lindsey, I was in a place where I was really ready to invest in someone because I knew that the next person that I invested in was going to be my forever person. When we were sitting on that blanket in the middle of a park on our first date, she looked at me in the middle of a conversation she said 'Hey I just want you to know that I see you, I honor you, and I believe that you are so worthy of this.' And it just stunned me for a minute because no one in my entire life has ever told me that they see me." And it was at that moment that they both knew this was different.
In short order, they began to meet each other's families; Leaverton met Houk's mom when she came to pick her up for a date that first month, and Houk met Leaverton's parents at the church she leads worship at once a month not long after. After the six-month mark, Houk was introduced to the twins, and after a year they had already booked a venue for the wedding — the booking came before the proposal even happened.
"We knew if we wanted to get married in the spring of 2020 we kind of had to act fast," Leaverton explains. So they contacted a wedding planner and started viewing venues in July 2019. A visit to the Hotel Ella with all three children proved fateful and a week later they had put down a $7,000 deposit.
There were two proposals in fact. For the first, Houk proposed to Leaverton during Austin Pride in August. For that event, she invited all of their friends and family to a rooftop bar downtown to witness her popping the question. Two months later, Leaverton pulled off her master plan, telling Houk that the two had won a free hot-air balloon ride at the Alberquerque International Balloon Fiesta — Houk had always wanted to ride in one. Though fog foiled the plan of having the proposal happen in-air, a local news station captured the exchange on the ground.
There was about a year of planning for the wedding, which was slated to happen on Good Friday 2020 because "nothing says 'He Is Risen' like a good ol' lesbian wedding." The pair went through wine tastings, figured out the dinner menus, hashed out appetizers, organized a cocktail hour, and pored over the music.
"We had this beautiful wedding planned at this historic mansion in Austin and as [the virus] started expanding more rapidly and we were having these orders put into place, we quickly realized we weren’t going to be able to have the wedding we planned," Houk says. There was an early idea to pivot to a drive-in movie theater wedding but Austin's shelter-in-place order seemingly dashed the hope.
The day before the original wedding was planned for, the pair received news that a family member had tested positive for the virus.
"In that moment we realized no one is promised tomorrow, and we didn't want to wait a year," Leaverton says. "And so that's what made us want to move up the timeline." In a bit of kismet, two days later, in what would have been the day after the wedding, Houk saw a local friend's Instagram post from a drive-in movie that was still in operation. A few calls revealed that Doc's Drive-In in Buda, Texas had been deemed an "essential business" as it housed a full-scratch kitchen. The news gave the pair 17 days to plan an entirely new ceremony as Leaverton continued work remotely and Houk, who had been laid off in the pandemic, attempted to homeschool their three children. But they were determined.
When presented with closed courts in their local county, they started calling around.
"We found Williamson county which is about the most conservative county in Texas," Leaverton says. "We were like 'well, they can't turn us away!'" So, they hauled all three kids wearing masks and gloves, with Purell in tow, up to get the official paperwork for the marriage done.
For the event itself, they were able to keep Jen Hatmaker, the bestselling author, as officiant as well as their photographer and videographers. But, they were forced to swap out the the heels they had planned to wear for cowboy boots to walk down a gravel road to ILOVEMAKONNEN's "Tuesday" — they were married, you guessed it, this Tuesday. While around 80 cars lined the makeshift aisle, an untold number of friends and family watched online as the wedding streamed live on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.
On the well-lit stage that served as the altar, the two exchanged their vows. Houk surprised Leaverton, at one point turning and reading off a set of vows specifically for her twin daughters. But that surprise was returned in-kind: Leaverton, who had been fulltime internationally known Christian singer until she came out in 2009, had a friend bring her guitar onstage to sing a song she had been writing for a year just for the occasion. The family departed the wedding, no doubt a sight for tractors or anyone else passing them in the middle of rural Texas, in a 1972 Jeepster Commando from Madre Event Rental and Design.
With lockdown still in order, Bri and Lindsey Leaverton are doing a "mini-moon" at a local AirBnB Airstream on the lake. They plan to do some sailing and relax, eventually going to Tulum, Mexico when they are able to travel again. And they also plan to still do their reception.
"We still very much want to have a reception," Lindsey says. "We don't know when that will be but when this is all lifted we can't wait to hug everybody."