I’m a little absurdly excited about today’s post. I know, I know, but I just am. Michelle (the one in the red shrug, for those of you who like to know these things) and I have been friends since back in her NYU days, and my slightly-past-NYU professional NYC theatre days. Michelle is hilarious (and will be back tomorrow co-hosting Ask Team Practical with Alyssa… yeahhhh, it’s gonna be good), and we used to be on an email list together, back in Web 1.0, about Television Without Pity, and American Idol. We’ve logged many a snarky writing hour together. She’s also a writer for So You’re EnGAYged, but I knew her first, so I’m borrowing her today! So I’m thrilled to bring you Michelle and Deborah’s theatre-kid wedding. It’s a story of learning to own your power, to stand up for yourself without apology, and, well, cutting cakes with swords. So. The important stuff.
Deborah and I met in a summer community theatre production of Thoroughly Modern Millie just two months after I had moved back home to Texas. I had been living my dream life in New York City, interning for a Broadway PR company and attending NYU. Then I got hit by a drunk driver while I was in a cab in Long Island. Due to the accident and resulting knee injury, I moved back in with my parents so I could go through physical therapy. I was broken, mentally and physically. So, I did what any good theatre kid does when they are feeling down in the dumps– I auditioned for a musical.
Deborah and I spent a lot of time together during the production, and after months of friendship, flirting and late nights watching The X-Files, we started dating in October 2007. By July of 2008, we were already discussing our futures together.
We both came from very traditional families, so I don’t think we ever considered *not* getting married. To us, the fact that we were two women living in a state that constitutionally bans gay marriage didn’t phase us at all. We proposed to each other in September 2008 after a completely serious discussion over the appropriate minimum length of dating time required prior to an engagement (see? traditional).
Now, having been a wedding junkie since the tender age of 10, I jumped head first into wedding planning. The funny thing about planning our wedding was how much I grew-up during the process. Sure, in the general day to dayness of your twenties you learn about compromise, sacrifice, dreams and goals. Somehow, our wedding put that learning curve on hyper-drive and sent me sky-rocketing into full fledged honest to goodness adulthood. In planning our wedding, we were defining ourselves. That doesn’t mean our wedding defined who we were to other people. What I mean is that our wedding helped define our roles as wife and wife.
There were a lot of DIY projects for the wedding. The biggest project was making our bouquets. Deborah, being the responsible person she is, didn’t want to spend loads of money on flowers because…well, flowers die. We ended up making both of our bouquets and all of our bridesmate bouquets. When I say we, what I really mean is me and our bridesmate Sarah. Deborah is not a crafty person. She is logical and rational and can do things with our monthly expense budget that I would never be able to, but the woman can’t tie a bow to save her life. This, very surprisingly, turned out to be extremely frustrating.
Equally frustrating was the assumption from friends and family that because we are both women, we would be equally awesome at doing crafty, artistic things. The whole gender-role wedding issues arose on more than one occasion, but I eventually learned that our loved ones weren’t trying to be rude. It never made the questions less annoying, but once I realized they were coming from genuine curiosity or confusion, I was able to have honest conversations with people. I would calmly explain that just because Deborah is not a DIY genius doesn’t mean she cares less about the wedding. It didn’t mean she was ‘acting like the groom’ who didn’t care what ‘the bride’ did (which is just a gross assumption, gay or straight). She just wasn’t (isn’t) crafty.
That being said, accepting and loving my significant other’s shortcomings, no matter how trivial they may be, was a difficult process. Especially when it was 2 a.m. and I was covered in tiny hot glue gun burns and asking Deborah if she could just maybe help with these motherf&*ing bouquets this ONE TIME?! When her flower looked more like a five year old’s art project over the solar system, I couldn’t be mad. I wanted to be mad! I wanted to say that I was doing all of the work and pout, but where would that get us? I would be upset and Deborah would feel bad about herself, but she wouldn’t magically become a DIY expert just because I threw a hissy fit. So, I fixed her sad little flower, and she kept me company and helped where she could. That would be what we educators call “a teaching moment”.
Navigating a wedding with two ladies in a state where homosexuality was actually illegal twenty years ago is a bit… tricky. So is dealing with parents who refuse to recognize you as their daughter’s fiancee. I would love to say that we took Deborah’s parents refusal to participate in or even acknowledge our wedding in stride. We didn’t. We are still struggling with it today. For a time, their lack of support, though expected, affected how we dealt with other people outside of friends and my family. Deborah and I would sort of try to skirt the whole ‘how do you feel about gay weddings?‘ conversations when we would first talk to vendors. For a while, I felt like the ‘gay’ thing should only be discussed in whispered conversations. After all, it was whispered conversation between Deborah’s family.
When Prop 8 passed, something else shifted in the way Deborah and I handled our wedding planning. For two people who have always tried to do ‘the right thing’, it seemed like our wedding was everything but. Sometimes, we felt like the whole world didn’t want us to get married. That idea did some terrible things to our self-esteem. When speaking to vendors, heck even distant friends sometimes, I would mention it was a gay wedding and then mentally prepare myself for a slap in the face. It almost was like we were asking permission to get married from every person we encountered. It was strange and very self-demeaning. When I think about it now, it makes me nauseous.
After a particularly tense episode surrounding a trip to visit Deborah’s family for Christmas, we reached our emotional limit. Yes, it hurt that an entire side of her family would not be a part of our wedding or our life, but we couldn’t let that keep us from celebrating the family and love we had. We got sick of feeling like our wedding didn’t hold the same weight as other weddings. I then went to the other extreme and got a little angry and militant. This too was a strange reaction, and any psychology major would be able to scream “DEFENSE MECHANISM” , WHAT?! Eventually, like goldilocks, we found the ‘just right’ form of interaction with others. For us, that was balls-to-the-wall-bluntness. Bluntness, not to be confused with anger, prevented many awkward situations and stupid questions, especially from vendors ( Are y’all having a double wedding? Are y’all sisters?).
I always assumed, like most people do, that Smalltown, Texas, is not a welcoming place for the LGBT community. I am happy to report that my assumption was for the most part wrong. Once we got over our issues and started treating ourselves the way we deserved to be treated (i.e. engaged, happy couple), I found that people we didn’t know were excited for us and vendors were thrilled to work with us. It made the whole planning experience strangely empowering. Getting to that place was a journey and even though I knew Deborah and I were married couple material, it was on that journey we realized who we really were and how we worked as a couple.
Once we stopped thinking of our wedding as a ‘gay wedding’ and started see it for what it really was, OUR wedding, everything fell into place. Sure, the day we got married had a few mishaps. We had a bridesmate go M.I.A., a fair share of ‘no show’ wedding guests and I hated the boutonnieres so much that I made our male bridesmates take them off immediately following the ceremony.
Yet, every ounce of stress or anxiety melted when I saw Deborah for the first time that day. Our photographer encouraged us to do a ‘first look’ and I am so glad we did. Those first few minutes made our wedding day a reality instead of this whirl of activity and emotions. Neither of us were prepared for how momentous or meaningful it would be. I would highly encourage any couple to try and do a first look if they can arrange it. After our first look, things moved quickly from photos to ceremony to reception, but even though the hours flew by I feel like the moments did not. Just for the record, I call ‘shennanigans‘ on anyone who tries to tell you that you won’t remember your wedding day!
So, if I could offer advice to anyone getting married it would be this: Don’t let anybody make you feel like you are less than an amazing human being or less than a beautiful loving couple. Regardless of whatever may be stressing you out right now, know that your wedding will be remarkable.
Here’s why: you will be marrying your friend, your constant, your touchstone.
I promise you that all the bullshit that surrounds your wedding won’t matter once you walk down the aisle; because you will be just minutes away from marrying not only the person you love, but the person who makes you feel like you could run a marathon, broken knee be damned.
The Info—Venue: The Astin Mansion; Michelle’s Dress: VIP Bridal in College Station (Side-note: my dress was a $325 sample, in real people sizes no less, so if anyone in Texas is looking for a good dress and willing to road trip– I would high encourage it!); Michelle’s Bolero: Crimson Empress; Deborah & Bridesmates Dresses: David’s Bridal; Head-wear: Hems and Bustles; Suits: H&M; Ceremony and Reception Music: Acoustic Production; Cakes: Cinderella Stories (Book Cake), Cakes by Jocelyn (Croque-em-bouche, ask Michelle for info); Adorable bird cake toppers: The Girl In Yellow
Photos: Katherine O’Brien Photography in Austin, Texas