When I ask Yolanda Mahoney how she met her fiancé, she asks if I want the long version or the short one. I tell her to give me the version she tells at parties. The story begins with her previous relationship of four years, which ended on her birthday.
“Which was really bad timing,” says Mahoney. “But it needed to happen, we both knew it. So I was just taking some time to myself after that, and I’m out at this WNBA game, and I meet this softball player who invites me to go to her championship game, but it’s on a Sunday at seven in the morning…”
“Wait,” I interrupt. “This story involves the WNBA and lesbian softball players?”
“Yes,” she replies. “Why?”
“No, go on. This may be the most lesbian story ever told.”
She laughs, continuing with the events that led to this massage therapist meeting Bridget Harris, a public administrator. The attraction was instantaneous, and in keeping with the most lesbian story ever told, things moved quickly. Within six months, they’d bought a house.
“Bridget will tell you she was already looking to buy a house before we met,” Mahoney says. “She wasn’t. But you get to a point in your life where you know what you want, and when you find it, you just say yes.”
“Say yes” might quickly become the motto for the couple, who were selected to appear on TLC’s Atlanta-based spinoff series “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids.” While the flagship series focused on dressing the bride for her big day, the latest incarnation helps engaged couples outfit the bridal party with expert advice from the staff at Bridals by Lori.
The network has ordered six half-hour episodes of the new series, which debuts July 8. The episode featuring Mahoney and Harris is set to air in July; the exact date was not available at press time.
“Yolanda watches all the shows,” Harris reports. “She always wanted to get a room makeover or a yard upgrade, and once we started planning the wedding, she was watching all of those shows too. So she filled out an application online. We didn’t expect anything to come of it. They were not going to pick an African-American lesbian couple.”
TLC producers called them the next day.
Saying ‘yes’ to each other
The marriage proposal came from Mahoney last May. Harris is known as the planner in the household, and Mahoney was determined to surprise her. She had a custom-designed ring crafted. They took a picnic to the Starlight Drive-In. Mahoney brought her 18 year-old son along for support. When the movie ended, the perfect moment arose… and she froze.
“I couldn’t find the words! I’d known exactly what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t think of it right then. I couldn’t think of anything. My son’s looking at me, and Bridget’s just packing up the car. So we left. And I got all turned around because I was so nervous, and Bridget starts telling me I’m going the wrong way, and then we were fighting about me not knowing where I’m going, so I just peeled off into a parking lot and stopped,” Mahoney recalls.
“Bridget gets worried, asking what’s wrong with me. I just reached out and put the ring on her finger. She just kinda froze, her eyes welled up, and she screamed. And I said, ‘Wait, I haven’t said it yet!’ And that’s how it happened. In the parking lot. With my son in the back,” she says.
Four months later, Harris responded with her own proposal and ring during Atlanta Pride Weekend.
“I wanted her to experience the excitement I felt when she proposed to me,” Harris recalls.
“I always thought I’d never marry a woman, that’s never gonna happen,” Mahoney adds. “But then I met her, and she was so consistent, so sincere and faithful. And I realized I wanted the whole thing. I wanted the big wedding to celebrate finding this woman.”
‘Then it was a party’
That desire for a big wedding led to Mahoney and Harris, plus their seven attendants, facing the cameras at Bridals by Lori. There was another couple being filmed before them, so they socialized and waited for their turn. Then someone got the idea to go across the street to Kroger and pick up some wine.
“And then it was a party!” Mahoney exclaims. “I’m normally a little shy, but by the time they were ready to film us, I was feeling just fine.”
The couple reports that producers were wonderful and accommodating, and the crew got a kick out of working with “the brides.”
“That’s been true of the whole planning experience,” says Harris. “You go in, knowing where we live and who we are, and you don’t know what people’s reactions are going to be. But people have been so happy to do something a little different for them. Even the bakery doing our cake, they got excited about our cake topper.”
The staff at Bridals by Lori helped them select the eggplant taffeta gowns the bridesmaids will be wearing in the ceremony.
“My friend Jesse had a favorite before they tried anything on,” Mahoney shares with a laugh. “We looked at so many others, but Jesse kept saying that was the one. You’ll see on the show, I tell him to shut up about that dress. And then of course we went and picked Jesse’s dress.”
The couple is unfazed by the milestone of being the first lesbian couple featured on the show. If any sort of statement is being made by featuring a couple whose marriage is not legal in their home state, that was never their intention. They say they were just glad to have the help. Planning a wedding is hard work.
The ceremony will be held at an art gallery in Atlanta on Sept. 2, celebrated by about a hundred friends and family, four of whom will be wearing Jesse’s dress. After that day, they’ll be known as the Harrises.
To hear them speak of each other, and the life they share, it’s easy to understand why TLC would choose to feature their union: They’re just like any other engaged couple, planning one big day, and settling in for a quiet, happy life together.
Top photos: Yolanda Mahoney and Bridget Harris will appear on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids” in July (courtesy TLC)