I have to post about the wedding we went to this weekend, else I fear I won’t concentrate on the other things I have to write today. I’m still high from it, the feelings and memories still splashing around in my brain like rowdy children.
It was Jules and Lee’s wedding. Jules is the former girlfriend I wrote about on the old Moojinoribt site back in April, the one who sent me the See’s Scotchmallows out of the blue and reminded me of the Universe’s abundance. Lee is the woman she met online and began dating just 18 months ago. Their wedding was the most radical ‘traditional’ wedding I’ve ever seen. Witnessing it was, for me, a tidal wave of relief.
As a special events bartender for a hotel, I typically see 1-3 weddings, or at least wedding receptions, each month. They are all straight weddings, and I can only think of a handful that even had a single gay or lesbian couple in attendance. And as I’ve groused about before, they’re intensely cookie cutter, rarely moving even a couple of degrees outside of the conventional format. You could literally blindfold me and put me in the middle of one of these wedding receptions and I’d narrate the entire thing for you, including the exact drink orders from bridesmaids and groomsmen. Same-same, as Marshall likes to say. Talk about not thinking out of the box.
Granted, we only occasionally have the ceremonies at the hotel, so maybe, who knows, each one is wildly unique, but I get the feeling that—yeah, not so much. And none of this should be a cause for my judgment in and of itself. After all, weddings are tradition-based rituals, so they’re going to look similar, especially among the same socioeconomic sector of Americans. But having been a lesbian for the last two decades, and more recently writing about the politics of Proposition 8, and religion, and the other factors that seriously complicate marriage and life for same-sex-loving people, it really does start to grate on my nerves how much straight people get to take for granted–the legality, the family support, the oh-my-god-lemme-see-your-ring! dance at work. It’s not about fault, but there’s no getting around the privilege part. And because of this subtle but fundamental power dynamic, straight weddings are not exactly the most elevating events for most of the gay people I know. Sure, we’re happy for our loved ones, but it’s a weird situation. Internally corrosive might be a good phrase. Or as someone put it to me this weekend, “sometimes you feel like they take a little something away from you.”
On one level, Jules and Lee’s wedding looked like any other somewhat high-end wedding: held on the grounds of a quaint little inn on Cape Cod, under a large white tent, with a bouncy castle for the kids, and generations of both families in attendance. There was a casual rehearsal dinner (albeit with an extravagant lobster/clam bake), a whiffle ball tournament the next day, an afternoon wedding, and a reception with a DJ. There were fathers and brothers ushering, toasts, and five year-old ring bearers. There was a beautiful wedding dress and a custom tuxedo. There were a couple of embarrassing relatives and at least one drunken, gooey, microphoned shout-out to the happy couple.
But everything was different. Two brides, one in a tux–not because she wants to be “the man,” but because that’s what suits her; she has always been a beautiful combination of masculine and feminine. Jules’s dad walking her to the altar? I happen to know first-hand that that journey was not in any respects an easy one for that particular Italian Catholic conservative heart surgeon from Long Island. Grandparents in their nineties. Lee’s midwestern Air Force father walking his only daughter to meet her wife-to-be. And a legal marriage certificate from the state of Connecticut. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not your average wedding no matter how familiar it may look on the surface.
I underestimated what it would feel like to witness something like this. Marshall teases me for having been this nagging voice for the last, oh, ten years, telling her and Terry that I’d love to be at their commitment ceremony. I’m not getting off that train anytime soon, either. I’m 41, and Jules is the first of my gay friends to get married and only the second close gay or lesbian friend of mine to have any kind of commitment ceremony at all. Yes, I know how problematic marriage is as a political institution, and I’ve carefully considered the arguments against monogamy and the myth of the perfect “soul mate.” I get it. I don’t even believe the state has the right to codify anyone’s marriage; it shouldn’t be the government’s business, in my opinion.
And still. Going through the journey of claiming who you are and who you love, in front of your friends and family, in a world that, to put it mildly, would much rather you do things a very different way is a radical act of courage and trust. Getting to an altar when so many times you wondered if it was just impossible—pretty unbelievable when you think about it. Needless to say, I hope to do something along these lines someday. I finally have a vision of what it could look like, when it doesn’t exactly look like anything else.
Did I mention that both brides are also six feet tall?