This is the last time I will write this column as a single lady. After today, I’m taking some time off of writing about marriage to actually get married. With my own wedding just 12 days away (!?!?), I’m reflecting on the last 15 months since I got engaged. I am ridiculously excited for my wedding and feel truly fortunate to be able to throw an amazing party to celebrate my love.
But, I’ll be perfectly honest: I cannot wait for this to be over. Planning a wedding has been the most stressful experience of my life (and I can assure you I’m no stranger to stress). I know this because I track my time on an iPhone app for lunatics, and to date, I’ve spent 314.5 hours organizing my wedding – that is the equivalent of almost eight 40-hour workweeks. And that doesn’t even include the many, many nights I’ve laid awake agonizing over tiny details like whether our passed appetizer menu includes too many items that could be classified as tiny sandwiches. My fiancée and I and our families are spending a pretty ridiculous amount of money (for us) on this one evening, which everyone tells me I won’t even have time to enjoy. My mind is so scattered with things to do and remember that I rarely get more than four Ambien-induced hours of sleep a night. I have precisely zero quality time to spend with my fiancée. When she attempted to tell me about her workday last week, I actually said, “Sweetie, can we talk about this on the honeymoon? We need to finalize the seating chart.”
In spite of all of the sleepless nights, the stress, the family drama and approximately five full-scale wedding-related meltdowns, if I had it all to do over again, I would do the exact same thing. That’s how important I think weddings are. Yes, weddings are expensive and stressful, but they do serve some really important purposes, particularly if you’re gay.
It is not lost on me that when I wake up the morning after my wedding, I’ll be thousands of dollars poorer, but no more legally married than I was the day before – at least in the eyes of most governments. But for me, the fact that I can’t legally get married is actually an incentive to have a wedding. If I can’t have the paperwork, I at least want a memorable party to mark this milestone in my relationship. It’s kind of like how men who aren’t particularly well endowed overcompensate with expensive cars. And I’m okay with that. Until gay couples have the luxury of getting hitched after a drunken night in Vegas or going to the justice of the peace on a romantic whim, then I think having a wedding is especially important for us.
A wedding might not do anything to legalize your union, but it could go a long way in legitimizing your relationship in the eyes of your family and friends. Sadly, many gay couples – even ones who’ve been together for a decade, share a home, are financially and emotionally interdependent and live like any other married people – just don’t get taken as seriously as their straight counterparts. Anyone else ever had their long-time, live-in girlfriend referred to as a “friend” at a family party when a cousin’s or brother’s summer fling was welcomed embraced as a legitimate girlfriend? Yeah, it sucks. I don’t know that draining our bank accounts to host weddings will necessarily eliminate those kinds of slights, but I have to believe it will make relatives who witness our nuptials think twice before diminishing our relationships again in the future.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support and enthusiasm that both my and my fiancée’s family have shown for our wedding – even people who I know don’t believe in same-sex marriage (at least not yet). There must be something about weddings that evokes some universal sentimentality among straight people. I think it takes some of the mystery away from gay relationships. Left to their own devices, straight imaginations might run wild with misinformed visions of what life is like in a gay household (constant orgies and discretionary income flying around everywhere, obviously). But when they get that wedding invitation in the mail, I think a switch gets flipped in some straight folks’ minds. They may not understand homosexuality, but weddings are something they can relate to.
Take my grandfather, for instance. He is Catholic and a Republican. I’ll go out on a limb and say he doesn’t personally support gay marriage. But to my surprise and delight, he’s coming to my wedding. Not that I want to turn my wedding into a PSA, but I do hope it leaves a lasting impression on some hearts and minds. For the vast majority of my wedding guests, this will be the first time they’ve ever watched a gay couple get married. Hell, for some of them, it might be the first time they’ve ever seen a gay couple in three dimensions. Aside from admiring my impeccable taste and enviable attention to detail (JK. Mostly.), I hope people leave my wedding thinking it was astonishingly normal. And I think they will because, at the end of the day, love is love and I do believe most people intuitively get that. One big, wild wedding; one small, but important step toward equality for lesbians and gay men.
Ever since reply cards started flooding my mailbox, I’ve been shocked by how many “yes” responses we’ve gotten. I thought we’d have more conscientious objectors (whether to gay marriage or Chicago winters). Nope, nearly every person we invited is attending our wedding – and I couldn’t be more thrilled. It’s been fun checking the mailbox every night with my fiancée and talking about seeing so-and-so at the wedding. I’ve realized that this will probably be the one and only time in my entire life that everyone I love will be in the same room. Okay, there will be one other time, but I’ll be dead at that party, so it will be considerably less exciting. Life is short, and while the amount of money, time and stress a wedding requires feels staggering in the moment, I think in the grand scheme of things, it’s well worth the cost.
Here’s how I know. I was visiting with my grandmother a few weeks ago, and she recounted to me every last detail of her wedding day, which was almost 60 years ago. She talked about the venue, the music, even the weather on that day (the rain cleared up and the sun came out just before her ceremony). That was all of the evidence I needed that every penny I’m paying for this wedding will be money well spent.
Weddings are one of the few occasions families have to get everyone together, they’re among the most documented with photos and videos, and they’re the ones people still talk about decades later. Like it or not, weddings are an important part of family history – a part that, until very recently, gay people simply could not share in equally with straight people. So, as a lesbian, it’s important for me to start that legacy for my future children and grandchildren. Maybe I’ll remember every beautiful detail of my wedding like my grandmother does, or maybe it will be a delightful blur of champagne toasts and first dances, but either way, it will be an investment in my own family legacy. And hopefully, 60 years from now, my granddaughter will display a photo of me on my wedding day at her own wedding, just like I’m doing with my grandparents’ photos.
This is my other grandmother, who is now deceased, on her wedding day in 1955. I wish so much that she was going to be there, and I hope I look as pretty as she did on her wedding day when I get married on January 26.