Before getting engaged I often joked to my at-the-time-boyfriend that we should just get it over with and go to the courthouse. What’s the difference? Why does it matter? I was a foolish youth in those days, but my thought process was thusly: why do I need a big party that costs a lot of money? What is the purpose of this show? I don’t even like being the center of attention.
I was wrong.
I am not saying you should spend a lot of money on this—we aren’t going to—but I do want to advocate for the ritual. I want to challenge the hipster narrative that a wedding is an ironic occasion or something that doesn’t matter. My view changed almost immediately after I got engaged. It became quickly apparent how important this was for everyone else. My engagement somehow became a statement on everyone’s life choices, and suddenly I was facing anxiety and hope instead of cynicism in the conversations of my friends. I got the, “OMGWANTSHELPPLANSOMUCH” and I also got, “Fuck, dude, you’re engaged, I gotta get my shit together.” Both of these people love me very much, and sometimes these were the same people, but the point is a wedding is socially significant and an important moment when people start examining their own lives. I experienced this the year prior to when one of my closest friends bought a house. We are becoming adults.
But this really wasn’t the reaction that mattered most, because I would have ignored that, just like I ignored Wacky Walk at my Stanford graduation. You see, I haven’t been to many weddings, but in my family it is rare that you would have one. Most of the time, mostly because of a lack of resources, we either just become common-law married, or long-term committed, or courthouse married, or shotgun, we already have four-year-old married.
When my mom married my step-dad when I was fifteen, it was the first real-ish wedding I went to. I am pretty sure this is when my mom really entered adulthood. It was significant to her and to us; it sent the message that my step-dad was staying and was going to be my dad and not the dude my mom was dating. This was a huge deal to me. For a kid who can’t remember her biological father and was abused severely by her mother’s second husband, this is a huge deal. I know how it feels to not have a dad, which is why I can’t get beyond everyone being excited about single-parenthood (single parents can do an awesome job, but we all admit that it would be preferable if there were at least two adults involved—gender and generation being irrelevant here). This ceremony made it clear that I had a family. That meant something to me.
My mom is the person that changed my mind. It’s been a rough year for our family. Well, a rough several generations, but things have been especially hard for my mom for the last couple of years. Most of our phone calls are of the “I have to tell you a horrible thing that happened” variety. So when I called her, she said: Now WE get to plan a wedding. Immediately afterwards the women of my life were mobilized and they all wanted to help in this process, WE, being the operative word.
The thing is, I was and still am against having a frivolous show of a party. But for my family this wedding means something. It will be the first traditional wedding most of us have been to in a long time (or ever in my case). In fact, a lot of us are doing research now on customs, and I had to read two books on the history of weddings and several blogs that explained the service to understand what was happening. It shows us how far we have come. It is an opportunity for my community to welcome me into adulthood in the way they know how, which is coming together to help us build a family (albeit a childless, cat family).
This is of course not the only reason. I was born into an incredibly disadvantaged situation. That I am alive and able to write this is nothing short of miraculous and of course everyone who knows me knows this. So for us to be coming together at the Stanford church to celebrate a joyous occasion is, I think, the best possible way to honor the human spirit in this case. After all I’ve been through, people still get married and still find love and a home. This is beautiful. To deny my community this celebration would be disrespectful to a degree that would probably be an unforgivable trespass. So I guess what I am saying, is that once I understood that this wasn’t about me at all, it seemed to be the only appropriate choice. And so despite the fact that we are both shy, don’t like crowds, are not religious, and are very nervous about bringing our families and our Stanford community together, we are having a traditional ceremony in MemChu.
I’ve been joking for a year that the sign of being an adult is becoming aware that you do not exist in a vacuum. That is fundamentally one of the more beautiful facts of humanity.