My love-hate affair with weddings, even my own!
Fifth-grade Flash Mob Dance practice trumps the wedding registration party at Macy’s. The entertainer I’ve loved for years is never asked to perform in lieu of a surprise song from our kids. The venue we’ve chosen is a bar and leads almost every guest to ask in advance, “What is the appropriate attire?” to which I am forced to standardly reply, “Same thing you’d wear to any other fucking wedding!” A head full of lice shows up just hours before out-of-town guests arrive for our in-home night-before—the nuptials party for 50. And let’s not forget my therapist, or my lifeline, as I like to call her, has been on indefinite medical leave for weeks, leaving me scrambling for sanity.
It sounds like typical wedding-planning drama to me. Worthy of a reality show? Probably not. But definitely makes for a good story. I love good stories. They’re pretty much my mainstay for survival. A tall tale to make you laugh when you need a release, an embellished version of an embarrassing incident to make someone feel like they’re not alone in their humiliation, or the simple recanting of a family legend, worn smooth over the years by being told so often, and bringing warmth to your heart.
This past year I’ve been accumulating an insane chapter of my life story, as I’ve been manically planning an organized event that I didn’t want: a wedding. A fancy, indulgent, corny public display and affirmation of my love for another person was never one of my wishes as a child. I never got into happily-ever-after fairy-tale wedding stories aimed at little girls and I never flipped through bridal magazines as a teen or young adult for anything other than a new trendy hairstyle while waiting for my turn at the salon. And I certainly wasn’t upset when my accountant told my partner and me many moons ago that we were ‘better off’ from a tax-standpoint being in an unmarried gay relationship than in a traditional marriage.
It’s not that I have anything against a committed union of individuals promising their love to each other for eternity. From a young age, I learned to love hard and freely, which I have continued to do through adulthood. But I’ve never associated love and/or passion with marriage. Maybe it’s because the modeling marriage of my parents was not ideal, or maybe it was because I wanted nothing more than to claim my independence, or maybe it’s because deep down I knew that I was gay and that gay folks couldn’t get married. Suffice to say that it was just never a dream of mine. No daydreams about what it would be like to walk down an isle in a white dress while Ava Maria was being sung, nor to be announced as Mr. & Mrs. Blah Blah Blah, nor to be recognized by church and state as legally wed. That being said, I feel as if I’ve been reaping the important benefits of a marriage for the past fifteen years with my partner: commitment, devotion, and love through thick and thin.
Getting married, however, has ALWAYS been an aspiration for my now-wife. The ceremony, the dress, the giving away of the bride, the ‘I Do’s, the big-ass reception, and everything else fairy-tale wedding-oriented had always been a pipedream for her. In an effort to meet that notion some seven years ago, I’d secretly planned a private commitment ceremony on the beach in Maui, complete with rings, flowers, a minister, and gorgeous photos that still line our bedroom walls. But in my book, we were same as hitched way before then, dating back to the day we decided to grow our family, first with a dog and then with kids. No matter how you sliced it, though, I thought we were covered.
Yet in the months leading up to the push toward marriage equality in Illinois last year, my girlfriend and I spent many any hour talking about what we would do if the laws did change. We both felt we would be crazy not to get married, even if just for the ease of dealing with external forces when it came to shared children, property, and resources. We decided a small informal ceremony with just us and our two kids would be nice and would be a compromise between both of our desires. We were unsure if the four of us would take a little trip afterwards or host a celebration party if we decided to include our friends and family. You know, something small and intimate.
But the day that our gay marriage law was passed, all of our plans went out the window. Wrought with emotion that trumped any ideas we had laid out, my partner started mapping out her big fantasy wedding. I was stunned with the news, as I truly didn’t think that the law would pass and stick so quickly: I was taken off guard. It’s possible I may have bought into the idea of a traditional wedding celebration as well, but it’s hard to trace back to where reality ends and illusion begins. The one thing I do know is that within a few weeks, I was overwhelmed and uncomfortable with the path that was being paved for this wedding. In addition to me having no want or need for the convention of marriage outside of practicality, I had no interest in taking on the expense, nor the planning of such an event. Over and over again I was adamant with my partner that this had to be nipped in the bud. She’d agree amicably, but then I’d look into her eyes and see the hope looming there that maybe I would change my mind; I am a lot of things, but a dream crusher is not one of them.
So for the next nine month, I vacillated daily between dedicated practical planner of a big, important event and anxious, sulking teenager who was “over it” because she didn’t get her way. It was a real internal struggle for me that would often bust out into my daily life, via coffee talk with my friends, frequent bitch sessions with my soon-to-be wife and weekly appointments with the therapist I begrudgingly hired to help me work through the opposing parts of myself.
At the end of the day, my wife’s girlhood vision made it to actuality, albeit slightly different than imagined in her head, yet every ounce as fulfilling and meaningful as she’d thought it would be. But the kicker is that the wedding itself ended up being for me everything that I ever wanted in life, but never knew I needed. Surrounded by so many of our friends and family, yet each one of them included in the intimacy of our family being joined in matrimony, it was nothing short of awesome. The love and bond I shared on that day for my wife, my family, and every loved one in attendance, will stay etched in my soul. It’s already been tested with the trials, tribulations, and sometimes mundane existence of married life (please don’t forget we’ve already been together 15 years and the shit that comes along with that doesn’t just change overnight) and that light is burning just as bright.
Looking back, I probably wouldn’t have kicked and screamed as hard as I did against the idea of marriage if I knew then the way I’d feel now. But that’s part of the beauty of the story of our lives: sometimes we can’t recognize we’re on top of the world until we’ve traveled to the depths of its core.