C3 (she/they) and Maya (she/her)
Meet C3 (Cecilia) and Maya of The Ariel Series - The Ariel Series is a contemporary love story about a deaf, queer, interfaith couple learning, growing, and creating the meaning of family together. This couple is Cecilia and Maya Ariel. Cecilia is the primary writer of the content while Maya is what they like to call the backstage manager!
C3 (she/they) - Deaf, queer, non-binary
Maya (she/her) - Deaf and I just go by “Maya” who happens to be married to C3, a queer, non-binary individual
Question 1: We first connected through ASL videos that you both were producing for Instagram. Since then we have talked about your wedding and marriage. Tell us the story of how you met.
We met in 2016 at a summer wedding held in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. C3 was a plus-one date for one of the groom’s guests. Maya is a good friend of the bride. The wedding included a weekend of festivities at a lakeside lodge. C3’s plus-one date met Maya at the bar in the lodge the first night, while picking up some drinks to bring back to C3 who was waiting by the lakeside dock. After meeting, C3’s plus-one date brought Maya out to meet C3. A fast connection formed after introductions between us. We were both eager for the next moment to talk some more that evening. Throughout the wedding weekend, we engaged in deep conversation and exchanged phone numbers. We dare say, weddings create opportunities for eternal love, even amongst guests!
Question 2: Since getting engaged and the pandemic hit you really have had to have the tough conversations around marriage and weddings. What does marriage mean to you especially as a same-sex couple?
Marriage is a privilege. It is a social-construct that creates the opportunity for people to declare their love, joy, and commitment to someone else (or more!) publicly. Until recent years, this privilege was not permitted as a safe, welcoming, and legal practice for queer couples. After making a difficult decision to postpone our July wedding, we saw it as an opportunity to marry on a significant day in history. We married on June 26, 2020 which marks the 5-year anniversary since a landmark civil rights case, Hodges v. Obergefell, ruled marriage to be a fundamental right amongst same-sex couples. This day also marked our 4-year anniversary since meeting one another. We are humbled by our fortune: to live in a time and age with which we can declare our love, joy, and commitment to one another publicly for a lifetime.
Question 3: This past summer you did get married but postponed your big wedding. Did you run into any issues when postponing your wedding? What advice would you give to others who are deciding whether or not to cancel or downsize their wedding right now?
We were unable to get refunds for any of the contracts we signed and made deposits with. Additionally, our venue costs were already paid in full by the time we needed to determine whether to postpone the wedding. If we could have obtained refunds, we may have gone back to the drawing board to devise a new plan that works better at this point in our relationship. As an already-married couple, making significant decisions to building a family and moving into a permanent home this year, a big wedding this upcoming summer isn’t as ideal for us at this point. Nevertheless, since we are choosing to honor our contracts with small businesses we hired, we’ve chosen to adjust. We are figuring out how we can utilize our hired services by alternatively celebrating the big changes happening in our young marriage. It is also very likely that we will downsize from our original 200+ guest list. As for advice for others, we recognize each engaged couple has different factors and wishes to balance, so our approach may not be the best approach for others. So with that being said, do what works best for you but ensure that includes what will make you most happy as you adjust your plans.
Question 4: During your planning process was it important for you to work with LGBTQ+ Wedding Vendors and Ally’s? What did you do to ensure they were accepting?
Since we chose to marry in central Pennsylvania where C3 grew up, we already predicted that the local wedding vendors and allies probably wouldn’t be publicly advertising as LGBTQ+ affirming businesses. Since we were already prepared for that, we just hoped that whoever we chose, wouldn’t turn us down. Each time we approached a business to inquire about their services for our consideration, we were nervous. If we were met with no resistance and liked what their service had to offer, we signed with them, hoping for the best! So far, we only have one disappointing experience with one of the vendors: catering. They’re difficult to get a hold of and we’re concerned about their reliability when wedding day approaches! We’re not sure why they’re difficult to get ahold of but fortunately our venue’s staff has been incredibly helpful. They’ve been willing to call that particular vendor (with whom the venue’s staff has worked with before) to help get the communication we need. Fingers crossed that they’ll be easier to arrange details with as the postponed wedding date approaches!
Question 5: Let’s dig a little deeper into your planning process because you have an added layer of working sign language into everything. Tell us more about all the details you had to think of when planning a wedding as a Deaf couple.
From the beginning, we knew we were going to have American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters present at the wedding. About one-third of their guest list includes Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing guests. Additionally, we wanted to ensure that we’d have a positive and accessible experience while interacting with hearing guests on our wedding day. We decided to hire three qualified and certified ASL interpreters from the Washington, D.C. area. We hired this particular bunch due to representation (two of the interpreters are in a queer relationship). Also, the third interpreter is a family friend as well as a good friend of the other two interpreters. With a team of interpreters, it is essential that they work well together, especially on an important day like a wedding! Since we haven’t had the chance to iron down some details due to postponing the wedding, there are several crucial details we will still need to put together. Because we may be communicating in sign language at our own wedding ceremony, we need our language to be accessible to the hearing audience too. This goes to show that accessibility needs to be considered for both the hearing and Deaf audience. That quickly implicates things since this involves consideration of not just one group, but every person that is present. We also need to consider how the interpreters will “float around” throughout the wedding day to ensure both the wedded couple (us) and all guests have maximal access when interacting with one another. Of course, three interpreters isn’t nearly enough. Since it is a personal expense and is included in our limited wedding budget, it’ll have to do. A couple other examples of things we need to think about is how to make the music accessible (have a team of interpreters sign the whole evening that music is being played?) and where to seat the interpreters at the tables (which tables have a mix of hearing non-signers and Deaf folks). We’ll tell you, it is a lot. It is daunting. And it is an added layer of stress to the already stressful process of planning a large wedding.
Question 6: In a recent interview I heard you discussing your vows and how to make them personal, but also include your guests. Tell us more about what you both were thinking when it came to the vows and how to present them.
If we choose to renew our vows, we plan to sign them to one another since sign language is our primary form of communication with one another. Since we plan to communicate this way, we will need to coordinate and position the interpreters so they can see us as well as the audience can see them. With the ability to see us as we sign, the interpreters will voice what we’re signing to the non-signing members of the audience. Since the guests seats will be on a level, flat ground in a garden, we also will need to ensure that the interpreters are positioned on a step stool or something of that nature so everyone can see them throughout the interpretation. Also, since there will be about one-third of the guests who are Deaf at the wedding, we need to place them in seating that is close to us and the interpreters for visual accessibility. This can be a challenge since it is traditionally done that the families of the wedded couple have the honor of sitting in the front. We’ll need to discuss that further to figure out how to find a balance.
Question 7: Let’s talk about coming out as I think this has been an important part of your journey in life and in finding true love. How old were you when you had your first thought about being gay? When did you finally come out? How did your family react?
C3: I came out as lesbian at 16 years old after I learned another girl had a crush on me. That’s the first time I felt infatuated with someone else. Ever since, my identity and sexual orientation has evolved. Today, I identify as queer and non-binary. My family was very loving when I told them at 16, even when it was hard on my mother. She was panic-stricken for my safety and happiness when I told her, but she loved me through it all, as much as any mother could. Today, I believe her to be one of my fiercest advocates. The hardest part of my coming out was eventually finding courage to share with my maternal grandparents who are devout Catholics. After 8 years of hiding and lying to them, I finally went to their home by myself to tell them who I am. We cried and held hands and took shots (yes, liquor!). Three months later, I told them I was engaged and asked them to be at my wedding. They said “yes” and sandwiched me with hugs. I’m fortunate.
Maya: When I was 17 years old, I was outed by a peer. It didn’t feel good and I wasn’t so sure that was true about myself. When I entered college, I was outed a few more times. Eventually, I figured I had nothing to lose and became bi-curious. When graduating from college, I shared with some close family members that I was attracted to other women. They didn’t take me very seriously. They had that “Oh, okay” attitude, thinking it wasn’t permanent. After college, I fell in love with another woman for the first time. After a number of years and that relationship not working out, I focused on myself for a while. Eventually, I met C3. We became fast friends and eventual partners. I shared with my family again but this time saying I was in a serious relationship. My relationship with C3 is the first time I went public about myself. That’s when my family knew it was serious this time. And here we are, married! My family is nothing but completely supportive to C3 and I.
Question 8: On Instagram you have a great presence - what are your goals as influencers on social media?
Last August, we decided to start @thearielseries with two dreams. One being that C3 creates a base to tap into that brings more traffic to their blog: www.thearielseries.com. The second dream is to eventually share about our parenting journey as a Deaf, queer couple since we weren’t finding that representation and support online, especially by way of American Sign Language. With this gap, we wanted to seize the opportunity to fill the gap as one of the pioneers in providing information via ASL about having children via artificial insemination (adoption and foster care later), parenting children who have Deaf and queer parents, and raising children in an ASL household. We have yet to do this because we are waiting until we’re ready to share and when it becomes relevant for us to share. While that is the ultimate goal for us with utilizing @thearielseries, other opportunities have arisen organically. We garnered great interest in followers wanting to learn ASL. Every Sunday, we share a short video, teaching three words and then applying them in an interactive context. We intend to make learning a language a fun experience for others. We thoroughly enjoy doing this. Also, we use our platform to lift up members of both the Deaf and queer community. One way that we are doing this for the Deaf community is by way of curating Guides that feature folks in the Deaf community for others to access as a “one-stop” shop. We look forward to growing and being open to other opportunities to connect, share and create meaningful content.
Question 9: What does Pride mean to you?
Pride means celebrating yourself as you are.
Question 10: What does it mean to be a part of the Dash of Pride Champions Community?
C3’s mother once said, “When you rise, lift others up with you.” Being part of the Dash of Pride Champions Community means that we will lift others up with us as we champion our sense of pride and love for others as they are.
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