“How do you plan a wedding that’s not a wedding?”
My friend asked that question as we sat in her car in the parking lot outside Costco. We had gone to get more liquor for our double wedding the following day and I had cried all the way there. I was trying to understand and explain why I had been crying all week and was having a complete breakdown in her car.
My monologue went something like this:
“I am overwhelmed and I need to clean the bathrooms and I still need to iron our clothes for the wedding and I can’t find the list of things we need to take to the venue and I am sad that neither my sister nor Deborah are coming to the wedding but I am also upset that my friend from Seattle is coming because it’s such a long way to come and maybe she shouldn’t go to so much trouble! And I can’t help but wonder if maybe Luisa deserves better than me because I am an underemployed writer and so clearly downwardly mobile and every time I think of exchanging vows with her, I start crying again because she can do better. She should do better! No. That’s not true. I know that’s silly and I really need to stop being silly because I’m annoying everyone including myself and I really need to go grocery shopping but, instead, I just keep going places and buying mascara. I don’t even wear mascara but I have mascara and make up remover but I don’t even have a cucumber for Zeca’s lunch and none of this matters anyway because Luisa and I exchanged vows in 2000 and Zeca can eat carrots. Do you have a kleenex? I don’t have a kleenex and I need to blow my nose. I also need to do laundry and vacuum the upstairs and I need a throat lozenge and why won’t Zeca just eat carrots?!”
After I had completely unraveled, my friend asked her question and, when she did, I sobbed harder and squeaked out, “Yes!” and then my friend burst into tears as well. So, we cried in the parking lot because we were excited about the wedding but felt we shouldn’t be, because we were happy but were happy before, because we wanted our friends and family there but felt that we couldn’t expect it of them, because this was a wedding but we had both had weddings before so this one shouldn’t matter.
But it did matter and we were both struggling to reconcile that fact with the commitments we’d made to our partners long ago. To embrace this wedding somehow felt like denying the validity of the ones we’d had before that had not been legally recognized.
Luisa was in Trinidad and I’d been alone all week and I felt like I’d been holding all these emotions in my hands and like water, they kept slipping through my fingers no matter how tight my grip. Sitting in that parking lot, I opened my hands and let them spill out and I could breathe.
Luisa came back from Trinidad that night and we made our way to the wedding rehearsal and I was ready. Everything that came before meant something and this wedding meant something too.
On Saturday, we gathered at the Midtown Exchange with friends and family (including my sister and nephew who surprised me) to make legal the commitment we made long ago. The ceremony began with a video a friend made of our children visiting the Orpheum Theater where Luisa and I first met, a coffee shop where we had more than one date and the first apartment we shared. Then, my friend and I sang a duet and I messed up twice before making jokes and starting again. Our officiant talked about our rich history and our children read haiku they had written about love, family and parenting, commitment and community. We exchanged vows and rings and then my son and my friends’ oldest daughter stood together to read a community blessing. Then, we were pronounced married and we kissed…more than once. I cried more than once during the ceremony but they were happy tears as I took notice of all that we have created together.
And, my mascara didn’t run.
Later, more friends joined us and we ate cake and drank and toasted each other and danced late into the night.
The next day, I woke up with Luisa as I have for the past 20 years and I felt no different.
It was a beautiful wedding, a perfect night. It meant everything and nothing at all. I’ve made peace with that.