This blog post has been six months, at least, in the making, and long awaited. Because of the kind of day we wanted to have, we kept it very quiet as we only planned on inviting immediate family (and even that was not necessarily always what we wanted to do). There was a lot of stress, on my part, about people finding out and being disappointed or hurt that we weren’t inviting anyone beyond our parents and siblings. There were a myriad of reasons for that.
(I would say that this is the closest thing we have to an “our song” – The Rural Alberta Advantage – In The Summertime.)
It all began last autumn, when my partner and I had returned from one of our annual trips to Stratford, Ontario, to watch Shakespeare. I don’t really remember what exactly sparked his question, but he said, as I wandered past the office door:
“Do you want to get married?”
Slightly stunned, I stopped and said, eloquently, “Uhhhhhh…”
To which he calmly replied, “That was a question, not a proposal.”
My jaw closed quickly, and my rational brain started ticking again, and I more eloquently said, “Ah. Let me do some research and get back to you on that.”
So I did. I scoured the internet for legal advice and compare/contrast between the legal realities of common-law versus legal marriage. There were quite a few legal sites and good information out there. Basically, a lot of it just came down to what happens if you split (i.e., the legal stuff kicks in at the end of the relationship). There was also my own experience of seeing the benefits of legal marriage through the challenges my parents faced in their long marriage. But basically, what I came to realize was that, in order to have the same legal protections of a legally married couple, we would each need to have a lawyer and draw up three different legal documents (power of attorney, cohabitation agreement, and a will) ($$$). Or we could pay $500 and get legally married at City Hall in 15 minutes and use the process that the provincial government has in place.
It’s a bit of an oversimplification. We will still need to have wills, but if my partner gets sick, I will be able to show a legal certificate that says I am his wife, and I will be able to deal with the insurance company or the medical doctors or the bank, etc.
So I came back to my partner with all this information and we decided that, though we didn’t need a piece of paper from The Man to validate our already committed, almost four year relationship, that the legal protections of accessing this process was something we did want to have.
Hella romantic, I know.
So once we decided, then there was the rest of it…
I’m not going to lie. Eloping seemed like the best way to do this with the least amount of fuss. Pick a weekday, tell our witnesses when to show up, and just do it.
But then again, it’s the first marriage for both of us, and the first marriage in my subset of the family, so we thought it would be nice to invite our closest family. My mom and sister were going to be my witnesses anyway, even if we eloped. But that meant inviting an additional 6-8 people.
I got out my calendar and started going through weekends. I didn’t want it to fall on anyone’s birthday, any holiday weekend, or any other “special” occasion. That basically meant that from the beginning of May until September, it was almost impossible for us to have our wedding on a weekend. So I really started looking at April.
If not for my partner mentioning that April 11th was an ex-girlfiend’s (sic) birthday, then we might have done it then. I have major work things happening right now, but I’m not so sick in the head that I can’t walk away and tell them that there are more important things going on in my life right now, and that work can wait.
We told family, and my mother and sister were very supportive of us having the kind of wedding we wanted. Others we spoke with were more disappointed that we were having something small, something in Ottawa, something in April when the Canadian spring isn’t fully underway. And this is where some stress and almost weekly exclamations of, “THAT’S IT! ONE MORE THING AND THEY’LL FIND OUT IT HAPPENED LAST THURSDAY!” started happening. There were also some mutterings of if someone wanted to have a big family get together, they can organize a family reunion on their own time.
I have to thank my mother for not pressuring me into inviting various and sundry relatives, some of whom I rarely speak to, because someone’s nose might get out of joint. Frankly, I’m not responsible for other people’s emotional reactions to my happy news and how we were choosing to do it.
But every person I told, I felt I had to follow up my announcement with “But nothing goes on Facebook, Twitter or my blog, got it? No wedding related articles, mentions, nothing.” I shut down my Facebook wall and set it so that I would have to review everything someone wanted to share.
It was bizarre to be able to speak freely about it in real life, with my colleagues and others who had no earthly expectation to be invited to my celebration, but not be able to talk about what I was going through on social media with my other friends – ones who are in a different country or on a different coast. All because there were family members on my Facebook who would expect to be invited to a traditional big family wedding.
But I wasn’t having a traditional big family wedding. We were trying to steer as far from that as possible.
My sister had to talk me down a number of times, because I started to get angry at people just assuming I was. But you have to realize that I was answering the same questions over and over, and it was like being beaten with the abnormal stick every time someone looked disappointed, shocked, or uncomfortable because I just basically judged as unworthy for my celebration what a lot of women have been brought up dreaming about – their princess day. News flash – my “princess” day (dreamt of when I was *twelve*) included me wearing a dramatic black velvet “princess” dress, my bridesmaids in purple and forest green velvet dresses, a lot of black and no church. Probably also my latest crush. Recently, I have had no such aspirations for anything remotely princess day-ish. And I’ve known for a while that there was no way in hell, if I ever did get married, that I’d be wearing a white wedding dress.
Not to mention, the popular wedding right now feeds the wedding industry beast. And that beast does not need more food. There is no way that a couple needs to start their married life with that amount of debt, for one day that, I guarantee, goes by quickly enough that it’s going to be anti-climactic. Being a bridezilla also tests your relationship with your partner as well as friends and family who might be helping you with your organizational work. Frankly, I felt like I could add logistics to my CV after my little event, if it went off well. My fiance and I started using Google Docs to keep track of our plans and To Dos, and I made a spreadsheet for the finances.
I absolutely took some perverse delight in some of the shock. Like the woman at the shoe store who, in trying to make conversation, asked what the black pumps were for and I said, “For my wedding.” To which she blurted, “You’re wearing black pumps at your wedding??” And I smirked and said, “I’m not wearing a wedding dress…” Or when I mentioned to my mother-in-law that we weren’t playing the stupid “something-old-something-new-something-borrowed-something-blue” game, but if we were, the blue streak I was getting put in my hair would cover some of that. The look of shock and incomprehension made me giggle. (For the record, we have a good relationship.)
So my sister and I went shopping, which is one of my least favourite activities in the universe, and which is one of the major activities which will drive me into a rage. But because I was with her, it made it better. I also came home with significantly more dresses than I have probably ever bought… ever… But my partner happily gave his input as to the dress I should wear to our wedding, which was a grey and black polka dot number from Le Chateau, which I called “The Mad Men Dress”.
As for rings, we wanted to go to a goldsmith and just get rings made (well, actually, if we could have found a dwarven goldsmith in his forge under a mountain, that would have been ideal), rather than facing an actual jewelry shop. Why? Because the one time we walked into a People’s jewelers in the mall, the woman was stalking us and trying to force us to talk to her and tell her what we were looking for. It just made me swear to never enter such an establishment again in the future. The goldsmith we ended up using was local to us, Goldform, and the fellows were very down to earth and straightforward. We really appreciated their businesslike nature and the boundaries that they respected. They didn’t try to oversell us.
Then the spectre of religion raised its ugly head. My mother asked the innocent question of whether someone would be saying grace at dinner. My immediate reaction was (appropriately?), “Hell no.” But when I relayed that story to my partner, he cautioned saying that someone might want to give a prayer before dinner. I argued that it wouldn’t be appropriate at the civil marriage of a pagan and an agnostic/atheist, but he argued that we have freedom of religion at our marriage and we have to recognize that some of our family is religious. I actually said, out loud, that I didn’t want someone invoking the blessings of Jesus on my marriage when we were intentionally not invoking any other religious blessings. And then it simmered in my gut for a bit before I decided to let it go, and let whatever was going to happen, happen.
The last thing to really set me off was the restaurant. We had decided that we’d do the City Hall thing in the afternoon and then a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. I had previously taken a set of my work colleagues out to Restaurant e18hteen when one of our international colleagues had been visiting, and we had a lovely meal. Despite there being many excellent restaurant options in the downtown core, my previous experience there did weigh heavily in their favour. Another reason for choosing them included the fact that, selfishly, I didn’t want to eat roasted squash or something with goat cheese for my wedding dinner (bleck and bleck), and they were one of the only restaurants that had something I would gladly eat on their reduced menu for groups.
However, when I called to make the reservation for 16 people, the lady on the other end of the line said coquettishly, “A special occasion?” To which I said, “Yes.” Then there was a bit of a blank spot, and she said, “Care to share?” To which I *should* have said, “No.” But I said, “We’re getting married earlier in the day.” So, there it was. I swore and kicked myself for having the ethic that I will not lie. She clearly marked it down, because about a month before the wedding, I received a series of calls from the events planner at the restaurant, wanting to iron out the details for our reservation. I called back, worried that there was something wrong with the reservation. But no, she wanted to send me a template so that I could tell them what colour of flowers we wanted on the table, and whether I needed a cake stand and knife, or cocktail hour, canapes, a table for gifts, and what the guests can and can’t order from the bar. I immediately forwarded the email to my partner along with a string of curse words. And I called back to let her know that we just wanted a regular dinner for 16 people at their restaurant, and explained that while, yes, we were getting married earlier in the day, we had no interest in any of that.
My partner later laughed at me and said I was being an anti-bride-zilla (not the first time I’d been called an anti-bride – in fact, one of my friends who got married in the autumn said that brides were “warned” against people like me trying to get them not to buy in to the whole big wedding thing). He imitated me saying, “What the hell are you talking to me about cake for?! Are you trying to ruin my day?!?!” I laughed too, because I basically was saying that, actually. :)
The stress evaporated sometime about a week before the wedding, where every day felt like a countdown. It was replaced by sometimes gut-wrenching nervous excitement that it was going to be happening soon. I had started to pack probably three weeks earlier, but the day before we checked into the executive suite at the Westin, we packed our things for real. My dresses and his slacks, his grey shirt and my faux fur bolero for my shoulders (it wasn’t going to be *that* warm).
We tried to have a lazy Friday. We even played some Diablo III together. And then, around 2:00pm, we called it and finalized our packing. I looked about 5 times to make sure I had the rings in my purse. And we went to check in to the suite.
That night, we had a much larger dinner than I had expected. Because my family and we were staying in the hotel the night before the wedding, we needed to eat dinner somewhere. So I’d made a small reservation at Metropolitain Brasserie. However, everyone wanted to get together for a family dinner that night, so I expanded our reservation to include all of them. I really enjoyed my food (calamari shared with my fiance, and the Pacific halibut main) and drinks, and had lots of fun as our toddler nephew kept wandering around and coming to visit. We finished with a drink at The Shore Club and then headed to get our beauty rest.
We tried to sleep in, but sleeping in just hasn’t been happening for me in the past few weeks (I wonder why…? Perhaps my cortisol levels have been elevated??) I eventually got up and showered and then headed down to Starbucks to pick up coffee for us. Then I fiddled around in the suite, twitching things into their “perfect” places, and pacing, looking out at the cloudy sky. Then we met with my mom and sister for brunch at Memories. It spattered rain a bit while we were walking there, so I walked with my sister, as she’d just gotten her hair straightened at the salon across from the hotel, and I had an umbrella. Brunch was tasty, and I actually managed not to have any nervous excitement stomach issues. Time ran, and soon enough it was time to get ready and go.
At that point, I’d like to say that I was thoughtfully existing in each and every moment, savouring the milliseconds and weighing the immense promise I was making. But honestly, I was trying not to trip in my heels, to stand up straight, to make sure no one was being left behind, to not mess up my words (enunciating very clearly). I actually asked my husband this morning whether he remembers what we said to each other during the ceremony and he laughed and shook his head. It took me a minute and I said, “I think it was something about no legal impediment and then lawfully married husband.” There was also a part about a covenant when we were sliding the rings on. Serious business.
The officiant was a very sweet man, balancing being friendly and happy for us, and trying to maintain an authority and seriousness about the promises we were making. Our motley crew crowded into the small room on the second floor of City Hall and my fiance and I stood in front of the podium, staring at each other. We teased each other through the ceremony and I smiled a lot. And then it was done, and we were using my sister’s sparkly pen to sign the documents.
We spilled out onto the balcony, and everyone started taking pictures of us. It felt a little like a line-up, or being told “Dance, monkey, dance!” None of the pictures from that will have artistic merit, but they will document everyone who was there. At a certain point, a stranger sat down at the grand piano downstairs and started playing classical songs, which was quite beautiful.
Then we headed back to our executive suite to have drinks and chat. We ordered room service, which I really couldn’t eat (a pizza with pepperoni on it, and a cheese plate which I risked a small slice of, hoping I wouldn’t immediately regret it). My sister and I killed the bottle of champagne, and everyone else had the Hob Nob Pinot Noir.
My husband’s slightly older nephews did a quick run to the liquor store in the mall and came back with a selection of beers for those who didn’t wish to have wine. We have inherited those beers…
Then we went for our dinner at Restaurant e18hteen, and it was lovely. The staff were responsive, the food was delicious and the room we were in, while somewhat busy because staff had to come in to get wine from the shelves behind us, was secluded enough that we felt like our party was private. At the end of the evening, some of our family members decided to continue partying, but my new husband and I decided to take our tired selves back to the hotel to relax. There was an awkward moment when my mother-in-law teased us about having to go and consummate our marriage, which was slightly horrifying. But we continued to rally and leave the restaurant, kind of trying to ignore that reference. We left family huddled in the doorway, waiting for their cabs, and thanked everyone for coming. Even my mother and sister went back out after they changed their clothes, to get tea at the coffee shop across from the hotel. We, however, completely crashed.
Today, I took the day off, though my husband went to work. I needed another day of quiet before returning. It wasn’t as much of a circus as I thought it would be, and I managed to be a hostess for the afternoon and evening without too much trouble. But I did want to give myself a bit of space and non-people time.
And, you know what? We feel the same post-ceremony. Sure, we’re both wearing rings now, and I’ve been a little extra smooshy, but the quality of my love and connection to my husband hasn’t changed. I just have to get used to calling him my husband. :)