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….