Cindy & Julia

Today, after sharing some of her wedding service yesterday, we get wedding grad Cindy (she’s the one in the strapless dress)! Cindy hosts APW meet-ups in Chicago, leaves awesome comments, and is in general, awesome. So I was pretty excited for her post from the get-go. But then I started reading it, and she talks about my favorite things: marriage equality (it’s Pride month, y’all!), writing words for a ceremony that mean something to you (with examples), and wedding stage managing (you can’t do it all! But you should be organized). So needless to say, I’m delighted. Let’s do this thing!

Here’s how we planned our wedding: one hot summer afternoon, we were chilling on the beach, five blocks from our condo, talking about what we might want our wedding to be like. I can’t remember which one of us noticed the pier to our left, but we decided to go check it out. And it was perfect. The pier was V-shaped, which meant we could each have our own aisle, with guests on both sides, and meet in the middle to get married with the Chicago skyline in the background. Hello? This is the stuff that fantasy (lesbian) weddings are made of.

Next, we needed a reception spot, so we kept our eyes peeled as we started to walk home. Half a block from the beach was a restaurant we’d never been to, offering a 3-course prix fixe menu for $18 everyday. So we ate there that night, loved the food and the wine selections, and pretty much decided on the spot that it was the right spot. This is pretty much how all of our planning went – something or someone seemed perfect for us, and it was. From an awesome photographer who specializes in LGBT events/theatre/weddings (um, we were lesbian stage managers getting married, so he was pretty much perfect) to an eco-friendly florist willing to work with our tiny budget to the shocking ease of Chicago Park District permits, everything just fell right into place. And we all lived happily ever after. The End.

(Just kidding.)

While the paragraph above is totally true, not everything was quite so simple. Here are my biggest takeaways:

You will be joyfully overwhelmed and surprised. We knew that our friends and families were excited about us getting married, but we never imagined the magnitude of love we’d feel from them on our wedding day. It was indescribably awesome to have so many people we love in one place celebrating with us.

When I think back to how I felt on the day, the morning seems twice as long as the afternoon and evening combined. We actually had a lot of down time in the morning before we needed to get ready, which you’d think would help get the wedding zen going, but I got antsy and nervous. Once I started actually getting dressed and doing my makeup, that’s when I got really calm and just felt READY. After that, the rest of the day flew by in a whirlwind. I was so excited that I sped down the aisle, and then had to awkwardly wait for my bride to meet me in the middle. The ceremony seemed to end almost as soon as it started. Before we knew it, we were cutting the cake and dancing and toasting and falling into (our own bed at home – woot!) exhausted.

On (the lack of) marriage equality. When we became engaged in 2007, our plan was to wait until we could legally marry each other in the state where we lived before throwing a wedding. When the Prop 8 fight started and gay marriage politics heated up across the nation, we dared to hope it might even be pretty soon. But after nearly three years of engagement, we were tired of waiting (and extremely sick of correcting people who assumed our fiances were male) and we really, really just wanted to be married!

The words matter. We asked a good friend of ours to officiate our ceremony, and his wife (who is a writer) to help me write and edit it. (Can I just say it rocks to have someone who knows you so well leading you through your wedding?) Creating our ceremony from scratch was no small undertaking, but it forced us to really think about what we wanted the foundation of our marriage to be, and how we wanted to incorporate our community into it. It was so worth it. I highly recommend it if you are at all inclined towards writing.

As part of our ceremony, we decided make our own marriage license, since we couldn’t get a legally-binding one from the State of Illinois. Borrowing from Jewish and Quaker traditions, we created a contract that included our vows along with the signatures of all our guests as witnesses. We took it with us on our Boston honeymoon, and after our legal ceremony there, we had our Justice of the Peace sign it too. It may be our favorite part of the wedding. We’ve got it hanging on our living room wall, where we can see it all the time and be reminded of our vows and all the love and support we have from our community.

I’d like to share a little bit of our ceremony here, because I think it says a lot about the character of our wedding (and it’s my favorite part and I’m really proud of it!) The first paragraph was written entirely by our friend, and brought us to tears.

I probably don’t need to remind you that you’ve come here on Independence Day weekend. We stand here on the Third Coast of America, on the banks of Lake Michigan from which the land stretches west to the Pacific and east to the Atlantic. We have the unique perspective, here in the middle of the nation, to see America for what it is, laid out before us. Amidst all the fireworks and BBQs and running from here to there, what is the freedom that we’re celebrating? Because freedom for some is not freedom at all. But that’s ok. Because to those who might oppose why we’re here today, I have one thing to say: you’ve already lost. Our generation doesn’t care. Despite all the sham and drudgery in this world, we realize that love, where it can be found, should be revered, protected, and consecrated. Period.

So, although the state and federal governments will not recognize it for a few more years, we pronounce you married now. Today, we are the legislators who will issue the marriage license, by the power vested in our Commonwealth, and we are the enforcers of the law who will hold Cindy and Julia to their vows in the years to come.

(Here we signed our license, followed by our officiant and our two best people.)

By the power unlawfully seized by me, in defiance of the State of Illinois’ laws prohibiting marriage equality, it is my great pleasure to declare you MARRIED!

And I have to tell you, although I most certainly felt married after our wedding in Chicago, when our Justice of the Peace in Boston declared us legally married, I was overwhelmed with the power of that statement.

You need a wedding stage manager. Even (or perhaps especially) if, like us, you’re two stage managers marrying each other, a wedding stage manager is not optional. Not because you need someone to plan your wedding for you, because, duh, you can totally do that all by yourself. But because it’s the best thing ever to hand over the schedule and the guest list and the bag full of just-in-case stuff to somebody else, who you trust to deal with whatever, so that you and your almost-spouse can be really present in every moment. Get one now!

Some people suck, and they don’t suck any less just because it’s your wedding day. This is an oft-repeated bit of solid advice on APW, so I’ll skip the preaching and get right to our personal stories. When my sister got married two years before me, my parents and I had a knock-down, drag-out fight about me being gay, which ended in my mother telling me that under no circumstance would she attend a wedding where I married another woman, and my then-fiance kicking her out of our condo while wearing only a towel. (It was a seriously film-worthy scene there that we really should write down at some point.) So, we were fully expecting that they would not be in attendance at the wedding. We sent them a save-the-date and an invite anyway. They failed to RSVP. About six weeks before the wedding, my mom (a calligrapher) sent me a Facebook message (right?!) to ask how my invitations were coming along and offered to address them for us. Which obviously threw me for a big loop.

I let my mom do the lettering (which was beautiful) and asked if she might want to do our license as well. Big mistake. She showed up the weekend of the wedding without having done it. Luckily, I know my mom pretty well, and had a backup plan for printing it at Kinkos. After all that, my parents were well-behaved (though my dad was sorely underdressed), and seemed happy for me, but chose not to sign their names as witnesses to our marriage. Suffice it to say that the drama around their attendance was stressful at best.

Meanwhile, Julia had her own drama going on. Her best person failed to plan (financially) for attending the wedding or to ask us for help getting her to Chicago, and after a pretty big fight, we ended up asking her not to come. Another friend stepped in and on we went.

I suppose it was our decision not to let these things upset us on our wedding day. But honestly? We were wrapped up in so much love and joy that we hardly spent a moment thinking about it.

But most of your people are awesome, so don’t underestimate them. We were fortunate to have lots of support from Julia’s parents, and that was crucial in dealing with the lack of support from mine. My best friend and my siblings were also there for me, and that was really important too. They hovered around us and refused to stop helping. They fed us, ran to the grocery store for more cake ingredients, did my hair, helped put finishing touches on our dresses, and generally kept us sane and relaxed all weekend. A professional stage manager friend of ours managed our wedding; others saved us an insane holiday delivery fee from the chair rental place by loaning their cars and selves to schlep them about; my brother-in-law took over the grill at our welcome party while we dealt with an irate neighbor; a cousin who used to be a club DJ manned the iPod at the reception; my sister volunteered to be our designated driver; an out-of-town friend sat in our living room making white knots for us on the crazy dress-finishing/cake baking day; the list goes on and on. Your friends and family love you and they want your wedding day to be awesome almost as much as you do. When they offer to help, don’t say no!

There will be stuff that doesn’t go according to plan. Try not to lose your sh*t about it. I made our wedding cake. It was three tiers (chocolate/mocha, vanilla/berry, and pumpkin/ginger) and it took about 10 hours to make on the day before the wedding. After having a near meltdown about uneven layers, and baking two extra ones to even things out (I am really anal about some things, ok?), the cake was looking good. But at some point during the five block drive to the restaurant, the entire cake had shifted and was smooshed up against the side of the box. For some reason, my imperfect layers had caused tears, but I found the fallen cake hilarious. We planned to fix it the next day, but when we arrived to do so, I was too thrilled about getting married to give a damn what it looked like anymore! Julia and I figured no one would care as long as it tasted amazing (and it did), so we said “Eff that!” And we still think it’s really, really funny.

I could write a whole post about the projects we took on for our wedding, but I’m just going to say that we each made our own dresses; I also made a corset to wear under mine. I designed our save-the-dates, invitations, thank you cards, and website; we self-catered our welcome party; and (obviously) I made our wedding cake. (And then broke it.)

Your wedding will be exactly as awesome as you decide to make it. Make the decisions you want and then own them. Relax, find your wedding zen, be in the moment, and bask in the love. And then? Enjoy the party!

The InfoThe Venues: Ceremony Venue: Pier in Loyola Park, Chicago Park District; Reception Venue, Food, & Drink: RoPa RestaurantChairs: Halls RentalDresses: Designed & Made by us, Crafty Broads (our very new custom clothing & wedding SM business!) or see our blogPhotography: Starbelly StudiosFlowers: Pollen Floral

Photos By: Starbelly Studios

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