Aly & Elroi’s Marriage Legalization Adventure

Government shutdown can't stop this love!

* Aly, Editor and Writer & Elroi, Sociology Professor *

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When my partner and I decided it was time to make our marriage federally official this fall, we chose Washington, DC for its proximity, kid-friendly museums (dinosaurs! airplanes!), its allowance of “application by proxy,” and because I’ve never felt so patriotic as I did the day the DOMA decision came down.

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We already unlawfully married in 2007 in a big gay blowout so this wouldn’t be another wedding, just a marriage legalization ceremony. To that end, we really just wanted a judge to bang her gavel (not that they do that, do they?) to declare us legally wed but discovered that there was a two-month waiting list for courthouse ceremonies. That didn’t work with our schedules. So we decided to plan a quick, outdoor ceremony with an officiant during the weekend of October 5th.

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With the help of APW, I found a fantastic photographer, Sarah Gormley, who agreed to modify her usual photography package for us to better suit our tiny, kid-chaotic legalization moment. She helped us decide on the apropos Constitutional Gardens for our ceremony location. It took some incessant googling, but I found the right officiant in Maureen Burke. And a friend from Baltimore, Kendra Sandman, volunteered to apply for and pick up our license for us—and thank goodness because “application by proxy” services start at $200.

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And then I heard rumblings of a possible government shutdown. On Sunday, September 29th, I messaged Kendra to ask her if she had picked up the license yet. She had not but planned to later in the week. If the government shut down, the marriage license office would close Tuesday and our whole plan would fall apart. I stopped short of begging her to get to the office on Monday because I didn’t want to impose any more than we had. Lucky for us, she took it upon herself to drive over to DC to retrieve our documents Monday morning where she stood in a long line of other people doing the same. We were relieved when she texted me a picture of the license, but we still thought the shutdown was unlikely—until it happened.

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(By the way, Kendra was so inspired by her part in our adventure she decided to start offering this service to others for less than the going rate: message her through her aptly named Gay Bless America FB page.)

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So Kendra left the license for us at our hotel, and even though we were bummed for the kids that the museums were shuttered and the monuments were blocked off, we’d been waiting six years for a little legal status and no political collective tantrumming was going to stop us! Also, we thought, maybe everything will reopen by the time we get there? Then a woman rammed the barricades and there was the self-immolation and we were starting to wonder if maybe we shouldn’t just reschedule… But the rooms were paid for and everything was arranged so all we could do was hope for the best.

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On Friday, October 4th, with the government still firmly shut, I emailed our photographer Sarah to ask whether or not Constitutional Gardens would be off-limits because I couldn’t tell via Google. It’s a National Park area so even if it wasn’t totally locked down, it didn’t seem like a reliable option. She offered to make some calls looking for an alternate space, which I thought was amazing. Even more amazing, she reported back that one of her favorite restaurants, the vegetarian-friendly, farm-to-table Big Bear Cafe, offered to block off half of their patio for us for the ceremony for free and hold a large table for our dinner while we took pictures afterwards. This is when I cried.

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People can be so KIND.

The weekend that followed was a sometimes absurd blur of mishaps and tense moments involving less kind people, getting lost in downtown DC with malfunctioning smart phones and (minor) injuries to the children. But the most admittedly entertaining mishap of all (I mean, after the fact)? When I picked up the marriage license from the hotel front desk and promptly lost it. Turns out I set it on our car’s roof while unloading the kids. I later found it on the ground in the parking garage where the tire marks told me it had been run over a few times. Good thing our friend put it in a thick envelope.

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On Sunday, we headed over to the Big Bear Cafe in the early evening and were surprised to find the patio space decorated simply but beautifully for us with flowers and candles by their events coordinator, Kathleen. Our four-year-old lay down on the sidewalk and refused to enter because he didn’t know everyone there and our two-year-old was way too interested in the candle flames but, after a lot of cajoling and corralling, we got underway. Our officiant gave a thoughtful speech honoring our established marriage. We read our original vows. I cried (again). It might have been a little more awesome if our four-year-old belted out “You Give Love a Bad Name” like he’d been saying he would for weeks, but I was just glad he wasn’t on the sidewalk anymore and we could hear him in our hearts anyway.

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The next day, we left DC under a tornado watch and drove south through tropical depression Karen’s remnants. The rain finally let up that evening and we rode the last few miles through our home state—whose laws and constitution declare our relationship invalid—toward a post-storm pink horizon. It was no fairytale ending but it was nice, and besides, this marriage legalization adventure isn’t over yet.

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The Info—Photographer: Sarah Gormley / Location: Washington, DC / Venue: Big Bear Cafe / Aly’s Dress: Made to measure by Dig For Victory / Elroi’s Suit Coat: H&M / Elroi’s Pants, Tie, and Suit: Express for Men / Boy’s Pants and Shoes: H&M / Boys Shirts and Ties: KidsFormal / Officiant: Maureen Burke

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  • Rachel102712

    Whew! What bravery, determination, and persistence! I was on the edge of my seat reading this entry. Many blessings to you and your family.

    • Aly Windsor

      Thank you!

      • Rachel102712


  • “When I picked up the marriage license from the hotel front desk and promptly lost it. ”

    [heart attack]

  • Brigid

    Thank you so much for your honesty and candor in these two posts. While I am so filled with happiness and love for you and your family, I’m equally frustrated by all the fuckheads across this country who oppose your love and your marriage. Looking at these pictures, I just think “why would anyone want to stop this?” While I don’t have the answers, and while I’m sure it’s even more frustrating for you to be living it, I’m so hopeful by how the tide is turning in this country.
    I hope your marriage will soon be recognized in your home state, and I wish you nothing but the best in the years ahead.

    • Aly Windsor

      Thanks for the well wishes! Indeed, when I look around at my sweet little family, I don’t get why some people want to stop us. But I try to focus on the people do love us and how glad I am that, with their love and support, we cannot be stopped. :)

  • TeaforTwo


    • krichards

      GREEN HAIR <3

  • Adore this post! Makes me so proud of my DC, those photos by Sarah are ridiculously amazing, that dress is WHATTTT, and I loved their adventure. Congratulations!! (and high five x 1,000 to Big Bear Cafe)

  • Emmy

    I’ve been internet-stalking you two and your gorgeous family for like a year now (which is embarrassing to admit), and I’m so very happy you got legaled! Congratulations!!

    • Paranoid Libra

      Don’t worry I’ve had a crush on them since I saw their wedding photos years ago now. You are beautiful Aly and so is your family. I am always so envious of these awesome dresses you always seem to have on. I just wish the rest of USA would realize it just needs to be legalized.

      • Aly Windsor

        You guys! You’re making me blush. As for the dress–you don’t know what I went through looking for it. That was an adventure in and of itself. Thanks for all the compliments!

  • jashshea

    not what this post is about, but holy crap that picture through the trees with those amazing cat eyes! Gorgeous.

    • One More Sara

      Also, the pic of the little one hangin in the playground but still holding a balloon? Pretty sure that’s exactly how I felt at the end of our wedding day: “I’m exhausted, but please don’t make me leave”

      • Aly Windsor

        Yep that picture of our little one pretty much perfectly represents how I felt by then too.

        • NB

          Hee! Right? If asked to fill in the blank, “Wedding planning makes me feel:__________”, I would submit that picture and just be done with it.

          Tremendous, joyous congratulations to your whole family!

  • Shiri

    I think there needs to be a new warning for APW posts – “This post will give you shivers at your desk.”

    Congrats, ladies. I think I would have been even angrier about the shutdown if it had gotten in the way of your much-deserved and still-hatefully-combated moment of legalization.

  • Heather

    Such a wonderful post! And I totally went and “liked” Kendra Sandman’s page because holy cow, did I need that little parenthetical pick-me-up today. How incredibly awesome.

    • Aly Windsor

      Awesome. Thank you! Kendra is a great person. Also, I think it’s a little funny that during the government shutdown, this queer couple went ahead a created a job (even if by accident). Anyway, I hope folks will think of her if they need DC application by proxy services.

  • Could your boys be any cuter?!

  • You have a balloon coming out of your butt!

  • It was such a pleasure. And so poetic that the moat subversive among us are the job creators! Thank you for including me in your legalization and your post.

  • Class of 1980

    Sorry that North Carolina has become a political disaster zone this year … but CONGRATULATIONS on your marriage.

  • Debra

    I’m sorry your trip to DC wasn’t easy and effortless (and belated apologies for the grumpy DC folks you encountered) but I’m so glad you were able to officially and legally tie the knot here. Congratulations!

  • Bonnie

    So happy for you two (four)! :)
    Miss you bunches. Come visit me in Fla one day!!


  • Loxy

    The number of times I have googled “green dress” or some variation and haven’t found anything I like as much as yours.

    So fantastic!

    I can only hope you think it a compliment when I take pictures from this blog to a local dressmaker. :)

  • April

    LOVE. LOVE. LOVE! And congratulations to this lovely and amazing couple.

  • Pingback: Aly & Elroi’s Washington DC Wedding Ceremony at Big Bear Cafe | Capitol Romance ~ Offbeat & Alternative DC Weddings()

  • Andree K.

    Sorry the shutdown tried to rain on your parade (so to say). It came out wonderful anyway!

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