Jonathan Van Ness Virtually Officiates Local Wedding

Samantha and Stephanie Seeger

Courtesy The Seegers

It was April 1 when Stephanie Seeger told her then-fiancee that a cast member of Netflix’s Queer Eye and host of the popular podcast Getting Curious would be officiating their wedding. Although skeptical at first—this was April Fool’s Day, after all—Samantha Seeger soon saw for herself the Instagram message confirming that Jonathan Van Ness would be helping the couple tie the knot the following day. 

Video-chatting with arguably one of the most fabulous people in current pop culture from the county clerk’s office wasn’t the original plan for their nuptials, but it was a good fit. As a minister and teacher, Stephanie identifies with Van Ness’s approach to activism and his unabashed vulnerability onstage. His presence and drive also hits home with Samantha, a social worker.

“He’s willing to use his platform to advocate for not just social justice, but also human justice and for the fullness of human life, especially where that’s denied or challenged,” says Stephanie. “He really shows his heart, sharing from his own personal experience and standing up for not just LGBTQ rights—if you’ve seen Queer Eye, it’s all about helping everyone see their story and find their fullness.”

That “fullness” is something the couple felt on their very first date. 

The First Date

Samantha Seeger with Jonathan Van Ness in Indianapolis

Pride Week 2019 was in full swing when the couple agreed to meet up for the first time. They’d gotten acquainted through online dating and were ready to meet IRL, a hefty, nerve-racking  plunge only those who have experienced Tinder or Hinge will understand. 

Samantha and Stephanie met at the Rathskeller and walked over to the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre to see none other than, you guessed it: Jonathan Van Ness for a special stop during his Road to Beijing tour. 

The two remember cracking up through the whole set. They even waited to get a photo with him after the show. Stephanie got her phone out and snapped a photo of Samantha grinning next to Van Ness and his glorious swirled mustache. Having captured the photo, the two left. 

“Oh no!” Samantha exclaimed later. “We never got a photo of you with Jonathan!” 

Stephanie laughed, shrugging it off and delivering possibly the smoothest segue to securing another date: “We’ll get one next time.” 

“Oh, right, the next time we’re with Jonathan Van Ness?” Samantha asked. Stephanie nodded jokingly, completely oblivious to the fact that what she’d said would become true in the next few months, at her own wedding. 

The Proposal

Although both Samantha and Stephanie proposed to one another, Stephanie proposed first, in November of last year. It was a Monday night, the night they always reserved for trivia at Chatham Tap in Fishers.

The host, in cahoots with Stephanie, delivered a question from his card, but instead of a multiple choice or true/false, the question was “will you marry me?” As Samantha looked on, Stephanie got down on one knee and popped the question.

“Um, yeah. It was precious.” says Samantha.

The Best Laid Plans …

The couple had initially planned for a ceremony this summer in Brown County. A soft summer breeze would stir the trees towering around them and they would celebrate their love in custom ivory gowns from Indianapolis queer designer Curvy Custom Brides among family in the historic Lower Shelter building. When news came banning gatherings of 10 or more people in light of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as limitations on when they may be able to secure a marriage license, Samantha and Stephanie knew their dream wedding might not be possible. 

While they might be unable to have the wedding they planned, they still wanted to honor their love in a special and unique way. 

The Wedding

On April 2, Stephanie received confirmation (“I’m so excited, getting ready queens!”)  from Van Ness that he would officiate their wedding via a Zoom video call. The two sprang into action. Their dresses weren’t ready yet, and Tan from Queer Eye wasn’t available to dress them impeccably as he does with each guest on the show, so they scoured their closets for suitable outfits. Stephanie found a white blazer while Samantha selected a white crew neck sweater. 

Adhering to COVID-19 precautions, Stephanie’s mom drove by and dropped off bouquets she and Stephanie’s sister made. The bouquets matched the wedding colors the couple had selected previously and had even been wrapped in lace cut from her mom’s wedding dress. (Insert “aw”s or uncontrollable sobbing here, whichever is more your style—we won’t judge.)

With their outfits on and bouquets ready, the pair arrived at the Marion County Clerk’s office in masks and black nylon gloves. 

“We went through this security thing and they had us do hand sanitizer. Then, because it was just us in the vestibule, we could take the masks and gloves off and just use the hand sanitizer, which was nice because, you know, I got to look at my wife,” shares Stephanie.

The two got close, both of their faces in the frame as they video called Van Ness. 

“I now pronounce you wife and wife, Mrs. and Mrs. Samantha and Stephanie Seeger,” he is heard saying in a video he posted to Instagram, “You did it!”

Happily Ever After

After the vows, the newlyweds told Van Ness they had come up with a unique way to thank him for making their day so special. 

Stephanie came out a little over a year ago, and describes it as “a freeing feeling.” She says both she and Samantha are incredibly lucky to have a community where they feel very safe being out and being themselves, but through their jobs and volunteering, they see the obstacles kids must overcome in the Midwest, and the challenges they can face through the coming out process.

The virtual wedding ceremony.

In light of this, they decided to make a donation to HIV/AIDS service organization The Damien Center in Indianapolis as a way of sharing the love and support they felt from Van Ness. 

“The Damien Center came to mind because he’s just so vocal about his status as being HIV-positive. I have friends who have used the Damien Center services and it makes a huge difference, not just medically or educationally, but also offers life-saving services that make a difference for people,” says Stephanie.

In the video, Van Ness tells Stephanie and Samantha he felt honored to be a part of their wedding. 

“I thought it was so meant to be, and I’m just so happy that you included me in your special day,” he tells them. 

He’s not the only one that believes the day was meant to be. Now, snuggled up on the couch with their wedding makeup fading and their hair a little disheveled (solidarity, sisters) their connection is undeniable. 

Stephanie smiles warmly, then turns to look at her wife. 

“I feel like I can be myself with her and that’s who she sees and loves, and it’s the best gift in the world.”