It’s All About the Weddings

July 25, 2013 

Part I: The Year of the Weddings

I’m getting married next week. I never expected that. Marriage wasn’t in the picture for me 45 years ago, when my friends were playing house and bride and flower girl. I hated dresses and the whole image of being a wife or walking down an aisle to a waiting groom never entered my mind. I didn’t have any clear concept of why that didn’t fit for me at that time.

Marriage wasn’t in the picture 30 years ago, when I marched with friends in Boston Gay Pride, chanting behind the other young activists, worried about this new disease that was ravaging our community. We were young and scared and proud and courageous and united and we knew we had a long way to go to gain equal footing in the world and be treated fairly. But marriage? Not on the radar screen.

Twenty years ago, we wanted equality at work, in housing, in health care–all of those things that are so much better now and yet still not quite there, but getting married wasn’t part of my dream. I thought partnership, love and commitment would be just fine if it came around for any length of time.

It’s the Year of the Wedding in Maine now. Our close-knit circle of friends, most of us in our 40s, 50s, 60s, and even 70, are planning our weddings like 20-somethings and we’re giddy with our new-found visions. This feels crazy and foreign and exciting and exhilarating and I never expected that either.

Maine has just extended the marriage welcome mat to all couples and we are jumping on it in droves. A marriage license is a piece of paper that never meant so much until we realized how much it meant to not be allowed to have it. Last week, Edie and I were the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in our town. We played paper, scissors, rock at the clerk’s counter to fill in “Party A” and “Party B” (I won). We are part of history, and while it feels momentous to us now, it is also remarkable to think about how in a generation or two, this really will be much ado about nothing. As it should be.

Our community has debated the legal issues for years now: Financial security, material assets, and health protections. This is even sweeter and more real for those of us in some states now, since the Supreme Court clearly stated the simple truth about discrimination. Marriage means so much more now because it can be on our radar screens and we are publicly validated in our love and in our existence. Even after 16 years together, Edie and I realize from the responses we get that the word marriage makes a difference.

Our circle of friends has a wide variety of plans. S and P—the matriarchs of our group in longevity and activism—got married at the end of December in a small ceremony in their home on the first day that it was legal. They weren’t waiting any longer than they had to. Past health problems have taught them about the fragility of life and love. They had a large and festive reception in the spring.

B and D wanted to keep the anniversary date they’ve had for 17 years, and they also felt some urgency because of B’s dad, who, at 92, was ailing and wanted so much to be at their wedding. A retired minister, he was able to give them a blessing and a moving speech from his wheelchair at their ceremony. He passed away three weeks later.

Edie’s old friends, J and K, together 34 years, had a church wedding and a stylish reception. The other S and P had their legal wedding in the same church where they had their commitment ceremony 19 years ago, with many of the same guests cheering them on. D and K will pack the synagogue this weekend, as the chuppah and an eclectic community embrace their 27 years together. We’re on deck for next weekend, followed soon after by V and L, T and D, and G and M. Good thing our inner circle of friends sat down with our date books last fall. We can’t miss any of these.

The Year of the Weddings. We honor each couple in turn, and yet each event feels like a community celebration and joyful victory. We are moved to tears as middle-aged women embrace each other in an ancient tradition that no longer excludes us.

Part II: Holy Shit, a Wedding

Wow…that glass was half full. What the hell are we thinking? There’s nothing like planning a wedding to potentially exterminate a copacetic 16 year relationship. We knew that we would get married if the November vote passed. I’m not sure we expected the challenges of actually putting together a wedding, especially when we were 300 miles apart from October until mid-June. Our anniversary date has always been July 31 (don’t ask, it’s complicated, but we settled on that years ago). On July 31, 2001, the two of us hiked out to one of our favorite spots in Gulf Hagas and exchanged rings. That was simple.

We thought fleetingly about getting married as soon as Maine made it legal—grab an officiant, sign the papers, call it good. Simple, efficient, legal, inexpensive. Not very festive or fun though. So we decided to go for it with a ceremony and party. We wanted to keep our anniversary date, but since it falls on a Wednesday this year, we realized that would probably mean our wedding would end up being dinner out at Applebee’s with the kids and a couple of friends.

Then begins the vortex of the details….date, location, day or evening, officiant, rings, favors, menus, lodging, cost…and the unforgiving guest list…

The last weekend in July is always Edie’s family reunion, so that left the following weekend. None of our friends had claimed it. Our rabbi and minister were available. All systems go.

Now size. Small. Many of you who are reading this have received invitations to our wedding, and to our surprise, almost all of the people whom we invited are planning to come. I know there are many others of you who did not get invitations and I am worried that you may be offended or hurt by that. Obviously, I am new to this wedding thing, but I’ve learned that this is a common dilemma, probably dating back to the days of Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel, all of whom bickered and agonized over whether to invite cousin Miriam or the camel herder and his family.

I never thought that having connections with so many friends and family members would feel like a problem. This was an exercise in literally counting our blessings person by person. Looking at Facebook alone, I have 272 “friends” and Edie has 208, with 116 of them mutual. So between the two of us, there are 364 people who we care enough about to at least keep in touch with in some way, even if it involves a minute amount of voyeurism. We also have quite a few friends who are not on Facebook; you know, those folks who plant their own goats and raise their own zucchini.

I have a small immediate family and they all live far away from Maine. I have my parents, one brother (he has three young step-sons), two aunts, and four first cousins, all of whom are married. One of my aunts, two cousins, and my nephews won’t be able to come because of distance, logistics, cost, and prior commitments.

Edie, on the other hand, has an enormous family, and most of them live in Maine. In addition to her mom, three children, five grandchildren, two brothers, and four nieces and nephews and all of their spouses, she has seven living aunts and uncles, and upwards of 35 first cousins (that she knows of), and all of their spouses. After 16 years, I’ve met most of them and I think I can identify at least 75% of them by name. That doesn’t include all of the cousins’ kids, or the identical twin cousins from up north, who usually need to be with their husbands for identity confirmation. But I think most of the family secretly relies on that.

Our inner circle of friends here in Maine is a close-knit group of about 25 women, and we consider them our chosen family. We have friends in the concentric circles of the extended community as well. I also have many very dear old friends around the country from my college and graduate school years whom I also consider family.

I made new friends in Vermont, but since those bonds developed after the planning and save-the-dating had progressed, I didn’t feel pressure to add them to our Sophie’s Choice undertaking.

My Vermont Writer’s Center friends have threatened to crash the wedding, and I wouldn’t put it past them. I can picture them, an odd mix of loveable misfits crammed into a Prius or Mini Cooper, driving up to Maine, sipping wine from travel tumblers and stopping at every independent bookstore along the way. They would toast us with prompts and witty verse and charm our guests into buying them drinks. On the ride home, they’d write a story together, use some of our guests as characters, and have a few laughs at our expense. I miss them.

I did consider inviting The Voice because since last August, I’ve probably communicated with her more than a lot of people in my life whom I’ve actually met. I would only be able to identify Chris in a suspect lineup (probably for kidnapping me) if the group holiday card that her Weatherby team sent is actually them. I mentioned the wedding date to her a while back, and she said that she usually goes on a family vacation during that time. I think she dodged the issue so she could avoid admitting that the company headquarters is really somewhere across the Pacific, and it would be a logistical and financial nightmare to get from Bali to Bangor for a weekend. The truth is, it’s a logistical nightmare to get from California, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Georgia, or pretty much anywhere to Bangor for a weekend. That’s why it’s such a great location for the Witness Protection Program, which is the standard reason I give when people ask why I moved here in the first place.

So Edie and I especially appreciate the efforts of our out of town guests and we’ll try to throw a fun party. We’ve probably focused more on the ceremony, but with the people we are blessed to have in our lives coming together, I think there’s a festive party brewing. We truly apologize to those of you who weren’t invited. We do love you. We just didn’t want to have our wedding at the Augusta Civic Center.

The long-term weather forecast looks okay, but this is Maine. From the glass half-empty gal, if you’re upset that you didn’t get an invitation, assume that on August 3, we’ll have torrential rain, 100 degree heat and humidity, a new hatch of mosquitos, and the mayo in the pasta salad will taste a little funny. You’ll be thankful that you weren’t there. Enjoy a relaxing weekend somewhere dry, welt-free and hydrated. We’ll post pictures.

I do love planning parties, organizing in general, making lists, brainstorming ideas, shopping, “straightening up” and especially bringing people together. Last November, nine months seemed like a long time. With one week left and not enough check marks next to the items on my lists, I’m feeling just a little frazzled. I operate on planning, coordinating, time management and a sprinkling of OCD; Edie operates on winging it, chaos, procrastination, and a sprinkling of ADD. Ultimately, the tasks get done, but we have different approaches.

One afternoon last weekend, while we were driving in silence to Home Depot to pick up some last-minute supplies for our hand-made wedding favors, I said “Honey, are we going to argue again tomorrow morning?” Edie, smiling for the first time all day, cheerfully and eagerly responded, “If you want to,” and we finally burst out laughing.

Is it worth it? Our predecessors in The Year of the Wedding say yes. I think so, but I’ll let you know for sure in about ten days, after a little more housework, seating charts, favor arts and crafts, a family reunion and a wedding to attend, and probably a couple of silly arguments with the woman I love. Let the festivities begin….

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9 Responses to It’s All About the Weddings

  1. says:

    Couldn’t be more thrilled for you both–not to worry about the invite–promise to come here soon and let us toast you in person—wishing you many years of wedded bliss together , Love, Marilyn and Bill

  2. tamara says:

    Cindy, I am so thrilled to be coming up for your celebration. It just seems too good to be true that someone I love is getting commit to their loved one with friends and family gathered. Its a kind of antidote to some of the hard things I’ve experienced this year- and you’ve always been my antidote, which is why I love you.
    And I can’t believe I missed the blog about Louis until today, when I caught up.
    See you soon…..
    PS would it be fun if I wore a tuxedo?

    • Cindy says:

      Aww…Tamara, you made me laugh and cry in one comment. Can’t imagine this celebration without you up there with us.. You have been there for me through all of the ups and downs in my life for the past 20 years now… hard to believe. And it would be more fun if your dad wore a tuxedo and we skyped him in for commentary….

  3. Nancy says:

    Oh, it’s going to be wonderful — mazel tov and cheers and hip-hip hooray! May the sun shine on your big day, but if not, just remember that rain is considered a very auspicious sign in many cultures, so that’d bode well for you two crazy kids, too.

    And I like to think there’s a distinct advantage in planning something like this after being together for so long (although I may have a different opinion when Charlotte and I get around to planning ours). Can you imagine getting through some of this if you didn’t have all those years of locking horns and compromising and learning what to sweat and not to sweat? I’m amazed that any couple who’s been together only a couple years can survive the wedding planning.

    But you two (presumably) will — hey, the week’s not over! 😉 And you’ll have a great time, surrounded by love, and that’s all that will matter. Big hugs to you and Edie, and much love from afar, and may you have not just a perfect day but many more years of wedded bliss to follow!

  4. Nurse Phylene says:

    I am very excited about the upcoming weekend and so sorry that I’m being one of the complicating details to be reckoned with. I so appreciate your perspective on the gay timeline of our lives. Yeee Hawww THE event of the decade!!!!

  5. Cici says:

    Thank you Cindy! You were married yesterday and fb postings are starting to fly! I can’t wait to see photos, hear stories and read your blog. The impression I already have is of precious, inclusive, festive love enveloping all. I really appreciate your detailed description of the difficulty in making the invitation list, I pictured flying back to Bangor many times for these weddings… but getting to read and see them on the page is good! So much love to you both, your families and I’ll see you on a future visit!
    xoxoxo, Cici

  6. katgarroh says:

    Hi Cindy! Love to you both on your special,longly anticipated,court approved day! A year if weddings☺ that’s a book in itself don’t you think? Meeting you has been a joyful 6 months of my life. Hearing abt Edie copping all by herself during those winter months in Maine and you copping here in Vermont. Both doing wht you have to do to pay for the damn thing! Well tht makes it all the more precious in its promise of love, commitment,and til death do you part lol. By now your an old Jewish married yen tah ( is tht how u spell it) I wish you a long and wishful full filled marriage. You both deserve it. Love and friendship, Kat Garroh

    • Cindy says:

      Thanks Kat, Great to hear from you. I miss Vermont and all the wonderful people I met there. It’s good to be home, but my heart still drifts over there often. I will visit sometime, and I’ll let you know when I’m coming. We’ll have to have coffee.

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