FREMONT -- When the two moms were planning their wedding, a travel theme seemed like a natural -- they had logged enough frequent-flier miles to circle the globe nine times as their bicoastal romance blossomed over the past three years.
Monique Manjarrez, of Fremont, and Megan McDerby, of Delaware, will tie the knot Saturday in St. James Episcopal Church in Fremont, the first same-sex marriage at the church since Proposition 8 was overturned.
"We thought a travel theme would be a fun way for guests to understand our world," Manjarrez said.
That world includes a cross-country trip each month by one of the two women, and their children travel with them on school holidays. "We have together accumulated 241,636 frequent-flier miles," she said.
Wedding invitations were designed as boarding passes, and the program lists the officiating minister, the Rev. Lori Walton, as the flight captain, Manjarrez and McDerby as co-pilots and their daughters as the flight attendants. Each woman has two daughters, and the four girls -- ages 7, 8, 9 and 14 -- will take an active role in the ceremony, Manjarrez said.
Guests will be given flight wing pins, and the gift table will be designated as baggage claim. The photo booth will be set up as a passport center.
Many of the decorating ideas came from flight attendants who have gotten to know the two women. "The flight crews recognize me, since I travel so much," Manjarrez said.
The mothers' wedding will be kid-friendly. "It's been very important for us to include children in this entire event," Manjarrez said.
Their daughters are excited about the wedding, and about a third of the 90 wedding guests will be children, she said. "Instead of a bouquet, we are tossing a flight captain's hat and a stuffed airplane toy to the kids."
Manjarrez, 41, who runs a home day care center, and McDerby, 37, a former Secret Service agent, met at a conference in Philadelphia for women coming out after marriage and children. In February, the couple had a civil union in Delaware, where McDerby lives. They had been planning a wedding in California where family and friends could celebrate with them for some time.
"We knew we wanted to have a big wedding, but we expected it to be a commitment ceremony," Manjarrez said. After Proposition 8 prohibiting same-sex marriages was overturned, "we were elated," she said.
Friends started calling immediately after the ruling allowing same-sex marriages to resume in California was issued on June 28, she said.
"We told them, yeah, it was going to be a real wedding before, but now it's going to be a legal wedding," Manjarrez said.
Though this will be the first same-sex wedding at the church since the court ruling, the Episcopal Diocese of California has been blessing same-sex unions for some time, Walton said.
"Megan and Monique's wedding publicly affirms the Episcopal Church's long-standing principle that there should be equality in marriage," she said. "All love that is sacred and life-affirming is ordained by God, and the sacrament of marriage should be available to all people who have a love that is grounded in God."
The two women have prepared for their wedding and marriage, completing the church's requirements, including premarital counseling, Walton said.
Because of child custody arrangements, the two women will remain in their respective states so that both fathers can continue to be involved in the children's upbringing, Manjarrez said. The cross-country trips will continue.
"This is not an ideal situation, and not many people would be able to do this. A long-distance relationship is very hard, but we'd rather have this than not have it all," Manjarrez said.
Faced with such challenges, she said Fremont has been a warm and accepting place to raise her daughters. She is encouraged by changes she has seen, such as the school district including Harvey Milk Day in honor of the gay rights activist on its calendar for next year.
"I'm hoping that our getting married in Fremont will allow people to recognize there are gay families here, and we look just like everybody else," Manjarrez said. "We're not any different from other families other than we have two moms in this household."