Giovanna Vazquez met Christopher Anderson in May 2015 through an online dating app. Giovanna was attending Gallaudet University, the world’s only university in which all programs and services are designed to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
“I didn’t tell Chris I was deaf while we were chatting online,” says Giovanna. “When we met for our first date, Chris was surprised, but didn’t shy away from the challenges posed by language barriers and was committed to getting to know me.” Shortly thereafter, Giovanna left for a three-month internship in Minnesota, while Chris took the time to learn American Sign Language for her return, and their second date.
Giovanna and Chris were both in college, with Giovanna living in Washington, D.C. and Chris an hour away in Manassas, Virginia. “Chris and I thought it would be a good idea to develop some sort of a bucket list,” says Giovanna. “Things like movies, fishing, wineries, eating at a bed and breakfast, hiking the Battlefields in Bull Run, horseback riding, and drives through the Blue Ridge Mountains.”
Their weekend dates were full of love, but eventually Giovanna had to move back home to South Florida for work, and they were only able to see each other once a month. “As tough as that year was, I also believe it was the year I realized just how strong our relationship is,” says Giovanna. “Our love for each other grew each day, and that year proved to the both of us just how strong our bond was.”
A respectful young man with traditional values, Chris asked Giovanna’s family for their blessing before he asked her to marry him. Upon their approval, Chris and Giovanna went to Hollywood, Florida where he proposed to her on the beach before meeting her family for dinner.
“We had gone about our day, running errands, all the while Giovanna had no idea how nervous I was,” laughs Chris. “Once we got to the beach, I asked her if she wanted to walk on the beach and she insisted that she was hungry and didn’t have the right shoes on. But I insisted, and she relented. I was shaking all over, and she asked me if I was okay. I looked at her with so much love and excitement and got down on one knee and signed, ‘Will you marry me?’ Before I even got the chance to take the ring out of my pocket, she was signing, ‘YES!’”
For their wedding venue, the couple settle on Sugar Pointe Estate in Yulee, a private, secluded place of pristine natural beauty. “Sugar Pointe had the right aura, the vibe, and the view,” says Giovanna. “It represented both of us, me being from Florida and Chris growing up near the mountains. It was the perfect match.”
Their December destination wedding began with a Friday night rehearsal barbecue at Sugar Pointe, which has accommodations for overnight guests, in this case, the couple’s family and wedding party. “We wanted to be able to spend the weekend there so we could relax and enjoy our wedding weekend,” says Giovanna. The wedding was held outside on Saturday at 4 p.m., with the couple’s 100 guests enjoying appetizers and a buffet dinner outdoors before going into the barn for cake cutting, speeches, music, and dancing.
Chris and Giovanna found a pastor to preside over their wedding bilingually, using American Sign Language and spoken English. A special part of their wedding ceremony was a tri-cord that was braided and tied. “The three cords represent Chris, me, and God,” says Giovanna. “Our lives are intertwined with God, and the cord is a symbol of our strength.” Their reception had a Christmas theme, and Giovanna made special ornaments for all their guests.
The wedding reception went on all hours of the night, but Giovanna and Chris retired early, as they were setting out the next morning for their honeymoon at a small cabin in Georgia. Chris and Giovanna are happily together now, living in Gainesville, where she works as a science research assistant at the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, and he at an HVAC Company. “Now we have our first child together – a cat,” laughs Giovanna. “Chris wasn’t a big fan at first, but now he loves her. He jokes that her name, NOVA, means Northern Virginia, which is where he is from.” You can follow Giovanna on Instagram at @motherofpearls.