After talking for several months on Facebook, Gabrielle Gibson and Jaden Rogers had their first official date at Longwood Gardens in October 2014.
“We walked hand-in-hand on the tour enjoying the scene and it started raining,” said Rogers, 32. “So we hid out in a tree house. It became our special place.”
For several months, Rogers planned to gather several family and friends at Longwood Gardens to surprise Gibson on Oct. 25, 2015. A mutual friend took Gibson to the garden and pitched the occasion as a “girls’ tea party.” However, Gibson ended up experiencing more than that as she started to encounter family and friends.
“I look up in the treehouse and [Jaden is] standing on the balcony in a suit jacket and a purple shirt,” said Gibson, 33. “Everybody was wearing shades of purple and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is really happening,’ and I start crying hysterically. I go up to the balcony and he gets on one knee and he proposed. It was the most romantic gesture anybody has ever done for me. I couldn’t see anybody topping that for me and I couldn’t see myself doing that with anybody else but him.”
ROGERS AND GIBSON AFTER THEIR ENGAGEMENT AT LONGWOOD GARDENS
Gibson said she initially did not see marriage in her future.
“I thought I was just going to be the fab single one who just dated around but it was funny because even when we first got together, he even said to me that we’re going to keep this casual and we’re just going to see where it goes,” Gibson said. “He was the one who made the first moves as far as getting in the relationship, which was great.”
Rogers noted that he dated many people but Gibson’s family was the first to make him feel like “one of theirs.”
“I already knew I loved her but her family really was the turning point for me,” Rogers said. “From the minute I met them, I felt loved and welcomed and I knew that, right then, those were the kind of people I could see myself around for the rest of my life.”
In addition to celebrating their love, the couple is also making moves for transgender visibility. Gibson will appear on TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress” March 25 episode, becoming the second transgender bride-to-be featured on the franchise. The first was Precious Davis on “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” last year.
Gibson said the crew at Kleinfeld Bridal, where TLC films, was “awesome” and encouraged a more positive self-image.
“As soon as they put me in the dresses to make them look good on me, I had a new respect for my body,” Gibson said. “I felt so respected and I felt so beautiful in that moment that I can’t look at myself any other way now. I learned that I was a lot more than just a transgender woman. I am a woman. Period. I need to own every bit of who I am.”
Rogers said he worried he would never find love as a trans person. He hopes their romance being shown on “Say Yes to the Dress” allows the couple “to be role models and a shining light for those who have ever felt unwanted.”
“[I want to] let trans youth know that our hands are always extended to them, even if they just need to talk, to let the world know that trans women of color are deserving of love, acceptance and to be treated with dignity and respect,” Rogers said.
Since the episode airs months before their Nov. 5 wedding, Rogers ended up seeing the dress Gibson chose by accident in the show’s promos. However, Gibson isn’t concerned about the tradition of the groom not seeing the bride before the wedding.
“It’s fine if he sees me on the show because that’s not my dress. That’s just a sample dress that I tried on in the store. The day of the wedding, my hair is going to be so different. My makeup is going to be so different and the dress is not going to be held together with bungee cords and clips,” Gibson said with a laugh.
Both Gibson and Rogers are looking forward to the moment when they walk down the aisle.
“I can’t wait to walk down the aisle and see my knight in shining armor standing at the end of the aisle waiting for me to be his wife,” Gibson said. “I’m so excited to be that man’s wife.”
“[I’m excited to see] her beautiful smile coming down the aisle, to see her look me in the eyes because nothing compares,” Rogers added.
Gibson’s episode of “Say Yes to the Dress” will air 8 p.m. March 25 on TLC.