*Sarah, Web Developer & Jen, Massage Therapist*
As we explore the idea of unexpected outcomes this week, Sarah’s post (she’s the one in blue!) about figuring out what their wedding was going to be is perfect. Sarah and Jen moved from not being totally sure they could make a wedding happen, to wanting a simple party, to something else all together. I hope it reminds all of us that weddings are malleable, and we can make them into what we need them to be.
At one time, I thought this would be a story about a gay wedding. And obviously, it is. But really, I think ours is just a story about A Practical Wedding, and how two girls in love found a way to have one, despite their fears.
In May 2010, a handful of circumstances converged to make Jen and me realize that we wanted to make our commitment to each other official and public. We had been together five years, and a wedding was something I had fantasized about. In all my fantasies, though, I couldn’t figure out a practical way for us to make it actually happen. I always got bogged down with thoughts of how we would find a rabbi (we’re not part of a congregation), how our families would react, who would walk whom down the aisle, and how we would afford all the little things that make up a wedding (in New York City, no less). And then one day, I had the realization that our wedding could be whatever we wanted it to be—it could be as simple as a cocktail party where we toasted each other with our friends around us, no rabbi and no wedding trappings if we didn’t want them.
I proposed this idea to Jen and we set a date not too far away that seemed like a reasonable time to pull off such a simple party.
As we started to tell our family and friends about our idea—“A simple party, not even a wedding really, more like an anniversary party, no need for cake, bouquets, an officiant, or even a sit down meal,” we defended—the reactions we got surprised us. Somehow, I didn’t really expect approval from either our more conservative family members or some of our more radical friends (who have spoken out against working toward same-sex marriage in favor of broader marriage equality). Still, we were afraid of getting negative reactions—that two women couldn’t legally get married, that we were calling attention to ourselves for no reason, that we shouldn’t need a wedding to validate our already strongly committed relationship, or even that we were too young at twenty-four to make such a commitment.
But no one said any of those things. They were happy for us. Some almost happier than we were. They treated us like any other engaged couple and asked where we would be having the wedding, what we would wear, who would conduct the ceremony (we never even talked about a ceremony), and amazingly, what they could do to help. Almost no one seemed to care that the wedding would be purely emotional, since we weren’t interested in getting an out-of-state marriage certificate. (New York State did not offer a legal marriage to us at that time, and the Federal government still won’t recognize one).
Suddenly, what we had thought would be a quiet affair, where we would slip in a toast about our love for each other, became the wedding I had thought I would never be able to have. Even the host at the restaurant we booked encouraged us to look into doing an outdoor ceremony in a neighboring park.
My mom came with us to try on dresses and to find Jen the suit she would end up looking like a rock star in. My coworkers threw us a surprise shower. A friend agreed to lead a ceremony that other friends helped us to write. A simple menu of hors d’oeuvres sprouted into a full lunch menu and open bar, magically still within our meager budget.
We weren’t without our wedding drama, but thankfully, most of it ended up being the kind we can laugh about now. Like how the zipper of my dress broke while I was putting it on the morning of the wedding, and my mother-in-law skillfully sewed me into it within moments, zipper be damned. And of course we had to have some hard conversations throughout the whole process, with each other and with our families. But I never even expected to have the opportunity to have those conversations, so in the end it didn’t matter that they were hard, just that we got to have them.
Once we decided to have a non-traditional wedding, all the details we didn’t really care about fell to the wayside, and we didn’t feel bad about what we might be doing differently from other people. We realized that we needed to have a wedding that would make us happy, and to us that meant making a lot of it ourselves. We didn’t have to worry about flowers at the reception since the restaurant took care of that—great because neither of us cared one bit about flowers. Our bouquets were silk flowers we wrapped together with ribbons to match my dress, because we wanted to have something to hold. Our clothes were more or less off the rack. Our thank you notes were cards we printed ourselves with an image I created of our wedding cake topper. Our wedding cake topper was a porcelain figure of two embracing owls that I found for Jen while studying in Europe during which time we spent eight months at opposite ends of the world. We even made the rings ourselves, with the unbelievable help of the brilliant jeweler and craftsman at New York Wedding Ring.
On August 1, 2010, we had the ceremony outside under a gazebo in a park we visit weekly. Our sweet little dog got to be there. We laughed, we cried, we kissed, while we read aloud well-considered words, and our friends surprised us with their own recitations. There was no aisle, no wedding party, just a round gazebo filled with all the people we love. People I never expected to be able to see together in one place.
It started to rain as the ceremony ended and our guests made their way to the reception a block away. Instead of being a disaster, it solidified the day in my mind as a magical one. And the reception was just a grand old time. We didn’t have dancing, and no one could hear the playlist that Jen spent weeks perfecting, but we had unbelievable food (since we held the reception in one of our favorite restaurants), free-flowing drinks and champagne, tasty tasty non-wedding cakes, and time to spend celebrating and gushing with joy with people were actively supporting us.
It was a beautiful day, and surprisingly, not all that different from a wedding with a bride and a groom, except for the traditions we chose to skip over (which weren’t missed). I feel a little silly for not thinking that it would be “wedding enough” for us years earlier.
Exactly one year later, New York State had decided to allow same-sex couples to marry legally*. But we’d already powered through the hard part. We already had one year of marriage under our belts. Signing a piece of paper was a piece of cake.
*We were dorks and actually wore our exact wedding outfits to the Country Clerk one year later to have our legal ceremony. There aren’t any pictures because the camera they were taken on was stolen shortly after. The ones from our wedding day were way better anyway.
The Info—Photography: Grace Glenny / Ceremony Site: Sakura Park /Venue: Pisticci / Sarah’s Dress: David’s Bridal Bridesmaid Dress in Horizon / Sarah’s Shoes: Poetic Licence / Jen’s White Suit: Tahari / Mokume Gane Wedding Rings: Made by the brides with Sam of New York Wedding Ring / Silk Hydrangeas and Gardenias: Arranged by the brides, purchased from Pany Silk / Jordan Almond and Lace Flower Favors: Crocheted by Sarah