Wednesday, February 28, 2001

Wedding Journal: Why Get Married?

It's a question that many gay couples hear when they announce their engagement: "Why get married, if it's not legal?"

Our answer is simple: "For the same reasons that straight couples get married."

We know a lot of straight couples, and we doubt than any of them, if asked, would say that they got married so that they could file a joint income tax return, or visit each other in the hospital, or put the other on their health insurance. Sure, straight couples automatically get all these benefits when they marry, but is that why they do it?

Of course not, they get married because they love each other, because they want to spend the rest of their lives together, because they want to stand up in front of their families and friends and declare to the world that they are now one, and because they want those family members and friends to stand beside them and support their union.

That's why we got married, too - even if it's not legal.

Would we like all the benefits that come with legal marriage? Of course, that's why we want same-sex marriage legalized, and why, when it is, we'll be at the front of the line, but we're not going to wait until then to declare our love to the world.

Saturday, February 24, 2001

Wedding Journal: What a long, strange couple of weeks it's been . . .

On the evening of Thursday, February 1, I received news that my brother-in-law had unexpectedly died of a heart attack. He was 41 years old, and left behind a wife, a 16 year-old son and a 13 year-old daughter.

While, obviously, our primary concern was for my sister, niece and nephew, as well as my brother-in-law's mother, brother, and other family members, this also required us to make some major changes in our plans.

I asked my mom if we should even go ahead with the wedding as planned, and her opinion was that we were well past the "point of no return," that too many of our guests had already made their travel arrangements, and that we really had no choice.

We both immediately contacted our bosses to arrange for more time off from work. They were both great about it, especially considering that Shrike had to start by coming out to her boss, in order to explain exactly whose funeral she was attending, and had to tell her about the wedding, to explain why she would still need the vacation time she had originally planned.

The next day, a couple of her coworkers mentioned that they had heard there had been a death in her family, so she explained the situation to them. They were all great about it, and one in particular seemed really interested in the wedding.

I took off work Friday, so I could finish up with some of the wedding preparations that we thought we'd have another week to work on. I burned the CDs of wedding music (more or less), burned all of our various wedding documents that still needed to be printed (programs, instructions, etc.) onto a CD to be printed at her parent's house, and started packing.

We were able to change the date of our outgoing flight without too much trouble, but had to leave everything else the same, so on Saturday, we drove about two hours to BigCityTwoHoursAway, flew three hours to New Orleans, rented a car and drove about five hours to my parents' house in Texas.

On Sunday, various family members arrived in town, we had lunch at my mom's house, provided by the members of my sister's church, and the visitation was that evening.

We all thought that my sister had gone a little overboard in scheduling four hours of visitation (4-8 p.m.), but she knew that, since it was a Sunday, many people would be stopping by either before or after church. As it turned out, their pastor canceled evening services, so that people could attend, but there were many people there from other churches, and, although people were coming and going the whole time, the chapel stayed about half-full for the entire four hours, so if it had been any shorter, there probably would have been too many people there at once for her to speak to.

Despite the circumstances, there were actually a few funny moments that evening.

Perhaps the oddest was the woman who "crashed" the visitation. Her first words to my sister were "I never knew your husband. . . ." which was a bad sign to start with.

She had attended the annual Christian music festival that my sister and brother-in-law had organized (there have been three, the fourth is scheduled for next month) and when she saw the obituary (which mentioned his role as a founder of the festival) she wanted to stop by and pay her respects.

This would have been fine, but she wouldn't leave! She kept talking to my sister, "And what is your name?"

(You'd think she could've gotten that from the obituary, too.)

My sister and her sister-in-law (the wife of my brother-in-law's older brother who died a few years ago - she was "running interference" for my sister, moving people along, getting her out when she needed a break, etc.) thanked this woman for coming, and said "good-bye" types of things several times, and she still wouldn't leave!

The second amusing moment happened later, when Shrike and I had returned to the house to reheat and put back out the food from earlier. My mom's cousin, a 70-something Baptist preacher, and his wife had come into town and had already gone back to the house, so we had to sit and make small-talk with them while we waited from everyone else to return from the funeral home.

As you may guess, we are not out to these people. No telling what they might have thought about Shrike flying across the country with me for the funeral, but we did mention that we'd already planned a visit with my family and a trip to New Orleans, so maybe that threw them off.

Anyway, just as I was opening the oven to get some food out, he asked, "So, how did you two meet?" I immediately called Shrike over to help me with the food, and as we were putting it on the table in the other room, told her "Ok, they're old, maybe they'll forget they asked."

No such luck, of course. Later in the evening, he asked again. I mumbled something along the lines of "Well, she was moving, living here, and then before, and that was when I, the thing up there, and . . . ."

In the earlier conversation, they had had to ask us to repeat several things, so we're hoping that they just assumed the problem with my answer was their hearing!

Oh, and we were also rather amused when the cousin's wife told us they had videotaped the "coronation - I mean inauguration" to send to their son, who is a missionary in China. It's pretty sad when his biggest fans refer to it that way!

Monday was about the longest day of our lives. The funeral was at 10 am, in my hometown, then we drove about four hours to my brother-in-law's hometown for a graveside service. (He was buried next to his brother, father, and several other family members.)

Afterwards, we went to his mom's house for yet more food, provided by her church, and then drove four hours back to my parents' house.

My sister, niece and nephew are doing pretty well, all things considered, but we worry about what will happen when it all finally sinks in.

The next few days are something of a blur - as my mom said, it was quite a schizophrenic week, going back and forth between taking care of my sister and the kids and preparing for the wedding, but somehow, we made it through.

Over the course of the week, we finished buying gifts for the wedding participants, met with the minister, printed the programs, tracked down a video camera, ordered the party trays, and finished the music.

Friday afternoon, we went to the church with my mom to set up and decorate. Shrike's mom, sister, niece and nephew arrived in town later in the afternoon, and that evening was the rehearsal dinner, hosted by my brother.

I was incredibly nervous about our families meeting, but it seemed to go pretty well. Shrike's nephew ended up sitting next to my dad at dinner. He didn't seem too sure about that at first, and just looked at me like I was nuts when I told him "That's my daddy."

When my dad got out his digital camera, though, he decided he was his best friend, and we're not sure, but we think we heard him refer to him as "Dad" at one point!

My sister had, quite understandably, decided that she couldn't handle attending the dinner or the ceremony, but she wanted to meet Shrikes' family, so they all came over to my parents' house Saturday morning.

My niece, who's 13, held Shrike's niece (8 months) almost the whole time they were there, and, as usual, Shrike's nephew charmed everyone. He had a ball looking at the pictures from the night before, and when each one that he wasn't in came up he said, "Dat's not HisName!" What a little ham!

After we got the families cleared out, we packed our bag for the church and for overnight, and headed to the mall to pick up the party trays and chips and dips from my favorite Mexican restaurant. We met my mom at the church and finished setting everything up just in time.

As we were going out to the car to get our wedding clothes, our photographer friend showed up to start taking pictures. We got dressed

and did our pictures, and by the time we were finished with that, my dad and brother were there to do family pictures.

Just as we finished those, Shrike's family arrived so we could do pictures with them, and the last of the readers and the minister got there just as we were getting done with that. We couldn't believe what a good job we'd done in telling everybody when to show up!

We rehearsed the ceremony, and by the end of that, I was thoroughly convinced that I was the only one there, with the possible exception of Shrike, who had any clue what was supposed to happen!

Somehow, we made it through the hour or so of waiting,

and before we knew it, it was time to walk down the aisle. I was an absolute wreck!

Somehow we both made it down the aisle, and I managed to not pass out during the ceremony. At the altar, Shrike kept asking mr if I was okay, and I kept assuring her that I was, but I probably didn't look very okay at all.

The ceremony went beautifully, everyone figured out where they were supposed to be when, and, despite what seemed like an hour of standing there being stared at while one song played, before we knew it, it was over.

The reception is pretty much a blur of hugs, and by the end we'd decided that we weren't up to going dancing, but we could sure use a drink, so we went out to Bennigan's with my brother and three of my friends from summer camp. We got to the hotel around midnight and . . . went to sleep!

The next morning we went back over to my parents' house to open gifts, pack up the rest of our stuff, sort through everything they'd brought back from the church, figure out what we could pack and what they needed to ship to us, and say good-bye.

We realized that our CDs and tapes and "The Big Red Notebook" with all our planning - and honeymoon - information in it had been left behind, so we got everything wrapped up there, hugged everyone good-bye, and left in time to stop at the church and pick them up and then headed to New Orleans.

New Orleans was, as usual, wonderful. After dropping off the rental car we caught a cab to the gay-owned bed and breakfast where we were staying. We called our families to check in, had a glass of champagne and headed to Pat O'Brien's for hurricanes.

We then wandered around the French Quarter for hours, ending up at a tiny little bar where an old man was playing piano and singing. There were just a few people there and we were sitting right up front, so he noticed us cuddling and said, "This is for you ladies," and sang a love song.

Later he sang several more love songs for us; he was just the sweetest guy. After that, we hit Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and beignets and then went back to the hotel, soaked in our jacuzzi and . . . went to sleep!

Monday we woke up just in time for breakfast, returned to our room to finally consumate our marriage, and then went back down to the French Quarter in the afternoon. After much whining from me about my feet hurting, we hung out at one bar for a couple of hours, where we attracted the attention of a group of merchant marines, one of whom, when he found out we were on our honeymoon, told us that we were "the coolest."

Later, when we were dancing to "We Are Family" some guy came up and started dancing "with us" and touched Shrike's butt! He asked me "Is this your sister?" We both showed him our rings and I said "This is my wife."

That must have scared him off, because we didn't see him again after that! We then wandered down to the gay end of the quarter for a while, hit Cafe du Monde once again and called it a night.

We flew home on Tuesday, dropped off the film to be developed on our way into town, waded through a huge stack of mail, and thanked God that we'd decided to take Wednesday off work, too!

Today we went to the mailing store to send back the other suit that I had ordered (she ordered two different sizes, just to be safe), took the video to be converted to VHS (the camera we finally tracked down was 8 mm and we had no clue what to do with that) and went to dinner.

We should have the photos and the video back tomorrow, and hopefully I will get the rest of the photos posted on the site by the end of the weekend.

In the meantime, we are going back to work tomorrow, so it's bedtime!

Friday, February 16, 2001

Wedding Journal: About Our Wedding

The Ceremony
The ceremony was held at a Unitarian Church near my hometown on February 10, 2001.

Prelude Music
A collection of songs that have had special meaning to us during our relationship:
"Head Over Feet - Alanis Morrissette
"Carmen" - Paula Cole
"Keep It Precious" - Melissa Etheridge
"Power of Two" - Indigo Girls
"Natural Woman" - Aretha Franklin
"Ice Cream" - Sarah McLachlan
"My Love, Sweet Love" - Patti LaBelle
"From This Moment" - Shania Twain

We walked down the aisle to Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D. My brother led the processional, followed by Shrike's sister and her nephew. Shrike was escorted by her mother, and I was escorted by my parents.

At the Altar
Before they were seated, the officiant asked our parents to promise us their blessing, love and support. She then welcomed the guests and thanked them for coming, before introducing the readings.

Love does not consist of gazing at one another, but of looking outward together in the same direction. Do not seek perfection in each other. Do not seek to make the other into your own image, or to remake yourself into another's image. What each most truly is will be known by the other. It is that truth of you which must be loved. Many things will change, but change is not the enemy of love. Change is the enemy only of any attempt to possess. May all that is good and true and beautiful abide with you now and always.

Ruth 1:16-17
And Ruth said to Naomi, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me.

The Legend of Soulmates
Legend has it that once, long ago, all people had four legs, four arms and two heads. These people were of three sexes - man, born of the sun, woman, born of the earth, and man-woman, born of the moon. One day the gods, fearing the power of these people, threw down thunderbolts and split each of them in two, creating people - and the sexes - as we now know them. But this separation left both sides with a desperate yearning to be reunited, because, while their bodies had been separated, they still shared the same soul. Ever since then, all people spend their lives searching for the other half of their soul - their soulmate. It is said that when soulmates meet, they recognize each other immediately. Soulmates do not love each other because of outward qualities, but because each sings a song that only the other can understand. They are a part of each other; the part each has always vaguely missed. They watch out for each other, catch each other when they fall, listen to each other's stories, understand things that no one else would, and love each other. They are sacred to each other.

The officiant (who is African-American) drew an analogy between our commitment ceremony and African-American slaves "jumping the broom" when they were not allowed to marry legally.

Question of Intent
(Name), do you come before this gathering of friends and family to celebrate your love for (Name) and to commit your life to her? Do you pledge to love, comfort and protect her, affirm her, respect her, and care for her; to express your thoughts and emotions to her, and to listen to hers, in times of joy and of sorrow, in times of wealth and of need; to encourage and inspire her, while committing to grow, love and advance together in faith, honesty and determination?

I do.

Exchange of Vows
I, (Name), take you, (Name), as my partner in life. I will trust you and honor you. I will respect your goals and dreams, and help you to realize them. I will laugh with you and cry with you. I will love you, when we are together and when we are apart, when life is peaceful and when it is in disorder, when our love is simple, and when it is an effort, no matter what we may encounter together. I will make my home in your heart from this day forward. You are my partner, my lover, and my best friend. Will you let me share my life and all that I am with you?

I will

Signing of the Certificate of Commitment
After exchanging our vows, we and our families signed our Certificate of Commitment, which was created for us by a friend. While we were signing (and, it seemed, for an hour afterward!) "Sleep" by Melissa Etheridge was played.

Exchange of Rings

I give you this ring as a constant reminder, and as an outward sign to the world, of my love and my commitment to you.

Rose Ceremony
As we exchanged roses that we pulled from our bouquets, The officiant talked about the importance of commitment in a relationship, and the red rose as a symbol of love.

In the presence of your family and friends, by the power of your love, because you have exchanged vows of commitment, we recognize you as partners in life - you may kiss.

Now you are two people with one shared life before you. Go now into your dwelling place to enter into the days of your lives together. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and may your days together be good and long upon the earth.

The Reception
The reception was at the church, immediately following the ceremony. We served meat and cheese trays, chili con queso, salsa and tortilla chips from Casa Ole' (Whozat's favorite restaurant), sour cream and picante dip, cake, mints, nuts, punch, champagne and iced tea.

The cake was white with white icing. It was made of two double-layer hearts on top of each other with red roses around the edges of each layer. On top was a photo of us in a small heart-shaped frame.

We did the traditional cutting and feeding of the cake (no cake-smashing!) and champagne toast. Our toasting glasses were two "floating" hearts, shaped to fit together and form a circle. They were engraved with our names and the wedding date. They were beautiful, but very difficult to drink from without spilling!

We also did the traditional bouquet toss, but we tossed two bouquets and invited all of our single guests - male and female - to join in. We planned to toss them simultaneously, but Shrike's bouquet hit the ceiling on the first try, so she had to toss again.

After The Reception
After the reception, we had planned to continue celebrating at a local gay dance club with anyone who wanted to join us. By the end of the evening, however, we decided that we were much to tired to go dancing, so we went to Bennigan's with a few friends instead.

The Honeymoon
We spent our wedding night at a hotel in Whozat's hometown, and went back to Whozat's parents' house on Sunday to open gifts, pack our bags and say good-bye. We then drove to New Orleans and spent a couple of days at a gay-owned bed and breakfast, before flying back home on Tuesday.