How two grooms made wedding traditions of their own.
Brian L. Forehand & R. Austin Blakeslee
Wardensville | 10.2.21
Photographed by Chris Jackson Photography
Written by Taylor Maple
The universe couldn’t have created a more perfect meet-cute for Brian Forehand and Austin Blakeslee. They were both single men in Washington, D.C., they both loved being on the water, and Austin had just joined the rowing team Brian was active with in his free time. The pieces of the first chapter of their story were all there and, after a few weeks, Brian plucked up the courage to ask Austin if he’d like to go out with him. But instead of the answer he hoped for, he got a kind “maybe,” seemingly grinding things to a halt.
“I refer to it as the poor man’s ‘no,’” Brian says with a laugh, seated comfortably with Austin by his side years later. “It sort of endeared me to him more, because he was really nice about saying no.” That same day, Brian’s purchase offer on a getaway cabin in West Virginia also fell through—his luck was faltering all around.
But as it turned out, it was just that Austin was a little shy and had been taken aback by Brian’s invitation. He called Brian a couple weeks later, and they made plans to go out. Brian also ultimately found another cabin to call a second home in West Virginia, and the rest is history—even if that “maybe” still lives in loving infamy.
The Road to the Ring
After four years together, Brian and Austin were at the home in West Virginia where they’d waited out most of the COVID-19 pandemic. They headed to Cranny Crow Overlook in Lost River State Park and took what they now refer to as “The Hike,” a nod to the episode of Schitt’s Creek in which Patrick proposes to David. Brian had a plan, but he struggled to find the spot where he wanted to execute it. And the longer the walk went on, the more Austin suspected something might be up.
“My suspicions were increasing as he got more and more ‘No, we have to get there!’” Austin remembers. Luckily, like something out of a storybook, Dottie—a dog who is a local legend in the park—helped lead them to the overlook, where Austin happily agreed to be Brian’s husband. No “maybe” this time.
A Day of Perfect Details
The day Brian and Austin tied the knot, it was clear that thought and care had gone into every detail, tweaking traditional wedding staples to make each moment feel wonderfully “them.”
Furniture used during the ceremony and reception was handmade by the couple, with Brian’s architecture skills coming in handy. They shared a mixed-gender bridal party. Two of the couple’s dearest friends—a couple themselves—performed the ceremony. Those friends, both academics and theology enthusiasts, helped Brian and Austin create a personalized ceremony that brought together traditional religious elements and readings the couple loved while also acknowledging the United States’ struggle for marriage equality in all aspects.
Guests heard readings of 1 Corinthians 13:1-8, Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou, and i carry your heart by e.e. cummings. Then, the ceremony paid heartfelt homage to the struggles that came before them and acknowledged the fact that the wedding was able to happen at all. Excerpts were read from Loving v. Virginia, which protected interracial marriage, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which, in 2015, ruled that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry.
“I’m an attorney, and I was in law school when Obergefell v. Hodges was working its way through the courts,” Austin says. “That was something I always had in my mind.” Brian says mixing the familiar with the new was essential. “It was sort of a way to take something that was structurally familiar to people who had been to a traditional wedding, but then update it to specifically work in the context of our wedding.”
The rest of the evening was scripted just as beautifully. One of the couple’s favorite bands, Bud’s Collective, played throughout the evening—and the frontman even owned the farm in Wardensville where it all took place. Brian surprised Austin by serenading him with a special love song on stage. Guests drank and celebrated. The two began their lives together as husbands exactly as they wanted to—surrounded by love, honoring the road that led them there, and looking toward the path ahead, all with a picture-perfect wedding day that could have been no one else’s but theirs.