Love And Marriage: Two local women get to have the wedding of their dreams.
On June 26, 2015, same-sex marriage became legal in Michigan.
Minutes after hearing the news, Annette Kanar called her girlfriend, Leslee Kanar. She knew Leslee was working, but left her a message: “I hope you still want to marry me.”
The couple had already planned to have a party on Aug. 21, before their kids dispersed back to college and various jobs, so they got to work making that date — just short of two months later — their wedding date.
“It was so overwhelming,” Leslee says. “Everybody wanted to be a part of it. So many people reached out to us, offering to hold the wedding at their venues and their homes. Everyone took care of us. It was amazing. We could not wait to get married.” Adds Annette, “We felt like royalty.”
Annette and Leslee, who each have two children from previous marriages, had been in a committed relationship for years, creating a life together in West Bloomfield. “We didn’t want to go out of state to get married because we wanted our friends and family with us,” Annette says. “Besides, we love Michigan. We had
been very disappointed we couldn’t get married here. We are lifelong residents, taxpayers, business owners — we’ve built a life together, built a house together, but we were just ‘girlfriends.’ We just wanted to get married, like every other couple that loves each other and wants to spend their lives together.”
Leslee agrees. “We are very involved in the community,” she says. “Whether you’re gay or not, the world doesn’t come to an end if you live a gay lifestyle. We work really hard; we are self-made people. It just shouldn’t matter. We wanted what everybody else had.”
So, in the meantime, Annette, who has had her own math-tutoring business for 28 years, and Leslee, who co-owns PureRyde Cycling Studio in Beverly Hills with Dan Barish, decided they could share a last
name. Because Annette has a brother with children to carry on the family name and there are no other
members of the Kanar family to continue the name, they decided to share Leslee’s last name. “It sort of solidified our relationship that much more,” Annette says. “It made us feel
more like a family.”
It also cost a lot more money — Annette had to be fingerprinted and stand in front of a judge at court. “It made
us feel like second-class citizens,” Annette says. “Had we just gotten married, it would have been much easier to
change my name.
“Our kids tell us we’re role models,” Annette says. “That’s the most awesome feeling. I honestly don’t care what people think about me, but it’s an amazing feeling knowing that the community you live in respects you. People come up to us in restaurants a lot. I don’t know if they have a gay child or not, but it’s just nice to be supported.”
With the help of friends and family, the couple became an official family on Aug. 21, as planned. Their children — Randi and Emily Rubinstein and Leah and Jamie Blatnikoff — walked them down the aisle, and Annette’s cousin, Renee Unger, became ordained online as a justice of the
peace so that she could officiate the nuptials. A friend of Annette’s daughter sat for eight hours addressing the invitations as a wedding present to the couple.
“It was the most beautiful wedding,” Leslee says. “Everything about it was perfect. The weather, the love.”
“Our family championed for us from the beginning, they were so happy and supportive of us,” Annette adds. “It was completely a marriage — and wedding — about love.” *
Steven Lelli’s Inn on the Green, Farmington Hills
Lori Sachs, Mad Specialties, West Bloomfield
Renee Unger, Annette’s cousin
Bruce Bolton, Breath of Spring, West Bloomfield
Noreen Barash, Salon Edge, West Bloomfield
Regina Pipia, Ruby’s Balm, West Bloomfield
Kara Laramie, a personal stylist and owner of Just Call Kara in Birmingham (and Leslee’s stepsister), asked the couple their sizes then invited them to the boutique. “She had about 10 dresses picked out for each of us,” Annette says. “We tried them on; we had champagne; we modeled for everyone there. We are girly-girls but not really shoppers. It was amazing.”
Banana-chocolate chip, from Mrs. Maddox Cakes, Farmington
— Lynne Konstantin | Arts & Life Editor Matt Harmon | Photographer