There's the old cliché that when a loving couple decides to marry, they're "taking the plunge" into married life, embarking on a new adventure with the person they care about most.
For Deni Conkell and Deanna Mazzei, the start to their adventure was a little more literal: last November, they got engaged on the last leg of a zip-lining experience over Lake Travis in Austin, TX.
Deni had previously worked on building zip lines and ropes courses, and it had long been one of her favorite past times. When the women came to the end of the final run on the zip line on this fall day in Austin, Deanna took the opportunity to get down on one knee, with a big banner reading "Deni, will you marry me?" In the background, and proposed. Of course, Deni said yes.
"I was in shock," Deni explained. "People were taking pictures, the guides had known about it the whole time, and I was totally awestruck by the whole thing."
The women had spent the previous three years getting to know each other, falling in love, and experiencing tons of new adventures together.
They met through a mutual friend in January 2011 in Orlando, FL. Deni remembers approaching the coffee shop where they were to meet for their first date:
"She had arrived before me and was sitting just inside at a table along the window," Deni explained. "I was really hoping she was the girl I was about to meet because she just had a wonderful, charming glow about her. When we met, there was an instant connection - I felt a sense of peace and tranquility with her, as if I had known her my whole life. I still feel that to this day."
Now that they are engaged, Deni and Deanna are left in a tricky situation: Their state of Texas - where they moved in July 2012, the state where they are building a life together - does not extend the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Even in both women's home states - Deni was raised in Michigan and Deanna was raised in Florida - constitutional amendments ban same-sex couples from marrying and sharing in all of the legal protections and responsibilities available to different-sex married couples.
"Since neither of our home states - or the state we live - allow marriage for couples like me and Deanna, we have been trying to figure out where we would want to go," Deni said. "Ideally, we would like all states to recognize this so we could have just as many options to choose from as any straight couple."
Having both of their families there at the wedding would mean the world to Deni and Deanna - their parents and relatives have come so far toward understanding their love, celebrating their happiness, and supporting marriage for same-sex couples - that celebrating their commitment surrounded by all of their loved ones is extremely important.
"I was raised in a Christian household and went to private Christian school for much of my life," Deni said. "I'd hear repeatedly that being gay is bad or a sin, and it took me having more conversations with new friends to realize who I am and what i needed to do to be truly happy. When I told my mom and dad I was dating Deanna, it was a weight lifted off of my shoulders. Their response couldn't have been more incredible. They're so supportive, they love Deanna, and we couldn't be happier."
"Our families are so important to us," Deni continued, discussing why she and Deanna would not want to marry away from one of their home states. "It seems like we would be sacrificing the ability of our family and friends to join us on our wedding day if we were restricted to choosing a state that currently allows marriage for same-sex couples."
Deanna and Deni are hopeful that change will come soon - that they will truly be able to "take the plunge" and legally "embark on this journey" and take part in any of the other marriage cliches they can think of.
"In my mind, I am already fully married and committed to Deanna," Deni said. "But in our world, to be 'married' extends worldly benefits and responsibilities - it's seen as a milestone in one's life. Marrying another person is committing your love, sharing passions and dreams, creating a life together. And no person or government should deny that right to anyone."