It was the spring of 2014, and Jill Tighe was feeling grumpy and tired—she was performing a 24-hour “play-in-a-day” fundraiser for a local DC theater company and she hadn’t had enough coffee that morning. Jill had been cast in the whirlwind production alongside Melissa Hmelnicky, and though the two had just met, they were now playing sisters. Neither Melissa nor Jill were professional actresses—Melissa worked as a marketing manager at NPR while Jill was a grassroots specialist at the American Occupational Therapy Association—however, both liked to moonlight on the stage as their busy schedules allowed. When the play wrapped, the two parted as exhausted acquaintances. There was chemistry but, because both were dating other people, they shrugged it off, and that was that. Besides friending each other on Facebook, neither of them made a moves.
Eighteen months later, fate intervened to give them a nudge. Capital Fringe Festival was in full swing and it was a warm, beautiful night at the Logan Fringe Arts Space. The venue was packed, and Melissa and Jill were both performing. At that point Melissa was single, so when she bumped into Jill she was thrilled. They chatted for a while, but Jill had come with someone she was casually dating. Gradually, they began to mix and mingle with other friends.
Later that evening, in the midst of the festivities and after the prosecco had long-since started flowing, Jill approached Melissa out of the blue. She leaned in and pulled Melissa’s face close to hers.
“Okay,” thought Melissa, “She’s going to kiss me… I’m good with that!”
The kiss never came. Instead, Jill stunned Melissa by blowing a big raspberry on her cheek. She finished the stunt cackling and said “You thought I was going to kiss you, didn’t you?” And with that, Jill disappeared back into the party.
“She was glowing. The whole world seemed to revolve around her. The only thing I could do was resort to schoolyard flirting tactics” says Jill. “So I drank a bit too much, and blew a giant raspberry on her face. Her shocked silence is something that I will never forget.”
But the gag had worked. For her part, Melissa was smitten.
“Something in me kept saying ‘pay attention to her, she is important’” says Melissa. “I like to think that my soul simply recognized hers.”
The rest of the summer they continued bumping into one another at various theater groups, becoming more and more friendly. When Melissa realized Jill was using online apps to date, she invited her to a small joke-y support group she had made on Facebook, the “Ladies App Dating Support” or LADS where friends exchanged dating advice and swapped stories. Soon enough, Jill and Melissa were having their own private conversations on the side in addition to the group chat. Still, they had never been on a date.
Finally, on Columbus Day of 2015 Melissa invited Jill over to make cupcakes and watch a movie. Once the two were finally alone together, the conversation flowed nonstop and they found themselves confessing feelings for one another. Melissa had to run to a rehearsal, but before she left they set up a second date. Their first date had fallen on a Monday. By the end of the week Melissa and Jill were dating exclusively.
“Jill lights up a room. You can’t help but notice her because she radiates joy and playfulness and possesses a kind of liberated bravery that draws you to her,” says Melissa, “She’s almost always the person who is having the most fun.. and wants you to have the most fun, too. ”
A little over a year later Melissa and Jill simultaneously planned a surprise proposal for one another—on the very same day. It was New Year’s Eve and the pair planned a trip to go ice skating. As Melissa was driving, she told Jill to put on a sleep mask as a blindfold because she had a surprise ahead. Instead of driving to the skating rink, she took Jill back to the Logan Fringe Arts Space bar where the head of Capital Fringe, Julianne Brienza, had reopened the space just for them. When Melissa finally proposed to Jill, Jill not only responded with a yes, but went back to the car and brought out a ring for Melissa—she had intended to propose later that day.
For their wedding, the two brides decided to throw an all-out celebration… on New Years Eve. The bash at Ceresville Mansion was rife with cocktails and confetti, as well as laughter from the brides’ closest friends and family. Melissa wore an Oleg Cassini gown while Jill wore a custom suit from Bindle & Keep.
Take a peek at the images below, courtesy of Bee Two Sweet Photography.