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Archive for the ‘Traditions’ Category

Tony Richard's photograph of us just as we were pronounced married

My husband and I married one week ago this weekend. We probably won’t know for years what the ceremony and union ultimately signify for us. Immediately, however, we were joined legally. I have the pink, temporary marriage certificate to prove it. 

Since noon last Saturday, I have felt both completely different and exactly the same.

We have been slowly committing to each other throughout the last three and half years. Moving in together in a state neither of us had ever lived in before was a big step. We learned more about each other’s habits and lifestyles. Since we’d been long distance for two years and spent chunks of time essentially living together in each other’s apartment, nothing was shocking. 

For this reason, as I looked into his eyes and we said our vows before our closest friends and family, I knew I was marrying my best friend. Someone I trust, love and know.

When we walked out of the center of the circle as a married couple, I was jubilant. Simply jubilant. I knew that we were not only bound by our emotions, but also by a legal and public commitment. We had made a public vow to care for each other and our union throughout our lives. This vow would be recognized by our government.

I like calling him “my husband.” I like being a part of an institution that allows others to know and understand our relationship without question (of course, if I had taken his surname, this would have been more obvious.) I like that I could be on his health insurance. I like that we can hold hands in public.  

“Society” wanted us to marry. The word “society” is a vague one that often serves as a crutch. However, I think you understand, without labels, who I mean when I write that “society” did not always approve or recognize our relationship when we were living together as an unmarried couple. When we stayed in hotel rooms with one bed. When we accompanied each other to the doctor. We are lucky that our “society” only took it that far, considering what happens in other, less forgiving “societies.” 

We did not marry in order to please this or any other “society.”

We got married because it was important to us to share our vows of love publically and be bound legally.

I recently wrote an essay on this subject and a friend reading it noted that I sounded defensive. Perhaps. I feel compelled to explain myself to those who vote against gay marriage or see marriage as only a religious sacrament instead of a civil right with legal implications. 

For these and related reasons, we asked my husband’s friend Dr. Jonathan Ladd to read this during our ceremony:

Goodridge v. Massachusetts Dept. of Public Health

By Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall

Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.

 Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

 

We are not the first couple to include part of Chief Justice Marshall’s statement in their ceremony. We will certainly not be the last.

May all consenting adults be allowed to marry and experience our jubilance, publicly and under law.

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Paramount Theater in Newark, NJ

I’ve been thinking a lot about why we are getting married. I do not doubt my desire to be with my fiancé for the rest of our lives or our love for each other. I know that I want to marry him. I know that he wants to marry me.

But why, exactly? What is propelling us in this direction? I know it isn’t simply because we are “supposed to.” It is bigger than that. 

Marrying for love is a modern concept. There is no doubt that love is the primary reason behind our union. The public and legal reasons are also important.  

I am happy to be able to share our vows in a circle of our friends and family. In the beginning of a relationship, we want to “shout the person’s names from the rooftops.” As the relationship progresses, it deepens and we still want to share it.

I talked to some married friends to ask them what helped to shape their own decisions to marry.

Shasta, one of the Wonderful Women and author of the new sewing blog The Lovely Nest, notes the importance of commitment and accountability. She writes, “I think it comes down to commitment and sometimes just knowing between the two of you that you’ll spend your lives together isn’t enough.  You want to get up in front of all your family and friends and publicly declare your love and say “this is the person I will love until I die.”  There’s some accountability in that.” Yes, Shasta, that feels exactly right.

I am touched by how Wonderful Woman Alethea uses the word “hope” as she explores this topic. Perhaps there is nothing more hopeful or optimistic than making a decision like this one. Alethea writes, “Whether people decide to get married or not, love is a big chance that we all take, whether you go in with big doubts or big dreams of a perfect union. I think getting married is an expression of hope that the way you make each other feel is so unique and valuable, that it must mean you should couple for life.  And there is an urge to say it out loud in front of everyone you know!” 

Wonderful Woman Amy writes about the “pledge” she and her husband made: “To me, marriage is telling the world that you’re in it for the long haul. If Peter and I had just continued to live together without getting married, I guess it would have felt more open-ended. I would have wondered how long we would be together. Now, whatever may happen in the future, I know that we at least went in with the expectation of forever. I am a very shy and private person, but I really wanted to make that public declaration. We wrote our own vows and they included the words “Before God and these witnesses, I vow…” as an acknowledgment that we weren’t just saying nice words; we were truly committed to what we were pledging.”

A certain proof and commitment to a relationship can’t be denied in a true marriage. Shasta adds, “I think security probably plays some role.  Sometimes I joke and ask Chris if he promises to love me forever and he always answers “I already did.”  I think there really is something powerful about publicly promising to love someone forever.” 

My fiancé and I are already a committed, nuclear family in so many ways. We are committed to each other and will make this pledge public in 10 days.

I really can’t wait.

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The tradition of watching a 3D movie (my first!)

I will be getting married in a dress that is not white and I am not changing my name.

Are we completely shunning tradition? As a family friend pointed out, I was wore a very shiny tiara at my wedding shower. Indeed, we are picking and choosing what makes sense for us while still laughing along the way. 

The tiara was fun – great fun, actually – and we feminists can all enjoy ourselves.

At the shower, I wore black – a fashion choice above all – and didn’t flinch when I was given a pizza cutter and high quality kitchen scissors. There are some traditions that don’t allow the bride to be to use scissors, cut anything with a sharp object or receive anything sharp. Frankly, the gifts are often related to the kitchen and it is hard to avoid all sharp objects. What good luck comes from missing the opportunity for a friend to share her favorite sharp kitchen tool?

Luck, as we know, is what we decide it is. We make things happen. My fiancé and I are making this wedding happen because we love each other and we want to be one, emotionally and legally. 

Do I look down on a more traditional wedding celebration, shower to honeymoon? Of course not. The true beauty of our diverse, contemporary nation is that we can all make our own choices, and those choices can all be celebrated.

What is a “traditional” marriage to me? It is one in which the gender roles are clearly defined. There is a religious aspect to the purpose of the union and the participants follow prescribed rules – clothing choice, names, roles, etc. 

Of course, there are some useful purposes to tradition. My fiancé wrote in the first part of his guest blog  on traditions that they , “help to build connections across time and place.” In the second part, he notes, “A lot of traditions help solve coordination and cooperation problems.” There are reasons to do things in a familiar way that accomplish a certain goal. We’ve thought a lot about this and I encourage you to read his musings.

We are putting a twist on the traditions that we find meaningful. We aren’t the first to do so and we certainly won’t be the last.

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A family friend asked me about the wording on our invitation. We invited guests to our celebrate our “union,” not our “wedding.” Why?

There are two reasons. First, we would want to wait to get married until all couples have the option to get married legally. However, becoming a legal unit is important to us and we’ve found it impossible to wait. By using the word union, as in, a “civil union,” we give a nod towards that fight.

Also, we like the idea of a “union,” over the more traditional “marriage.” The difference does not  only contain the legal rights (without religious implications), but also the meaning of the word. A union brings together two entities as equal parts who become one by choice. 

As writers, academic and creative, words are important to us. We have chosen them carefully for what they mean to us and others.

There is no denying that a marriage offers us, a heterosexual couple, certain legal rights (hospital visitation, shared health insurance, etc.) How is it possible that marriage, or at the very least the rights inherent in a legal marriage, is not available to all couples in our country? 

Do I believe that all couples who have the legal option to get married do so? Of course not. It is a choice.

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Less than two weeks before the wedding! I am returning to Michigan today to be with my fiance’, catch up on work and maybe even take a nap. This has been a busy, productive and fun trip. I can’t believe the shower and bachelorette party (and Tiziano Ferro concert) are over already.

Today is the last day I’ll be alone visiting my parents as an unmarried woman. I’m packing up my luggage in my childhood bedroom.

I’ll return for a few days before the wedding, but my fiance’ will be with me, which is somehow different.  This feels like an important day. I’m not exactly sure how I’ll feel differently later, but I think I will.

If you are married, did you feel differently afterwards?

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Looking at the book during the showerHands down, my favorite gift at the shower last weekend was a book that the Chief Wonderful Woman, the Wonderful Women as a group, the Mother of the Bride and my fiancé all contributed to. The Chief asked everyone to send her pictures and she put them together in a square, red book (by Shutterfly.) 

The images are organized by era – infancy, childhood, high school, friends’ weddings, etc. I think I am most touched by the pictures of me with the Wonderful Women years ago… there is the picture of us in college, in high school… these are the people I grew up and continue to grow with.

In this era of Facebook, we often upload pictures and forget about them. I look forward to carrying this book with me from home to home and looking at it in the future. I’ll remember not only my friends and how we all were, but also receiving it at the shower. 

I am still glowing from the memory of Sunday and the memories brought into the present by the book. Thank you.

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cake tastingToday was a sweet, sweet day. It started off with cake tasting at our venue and ended with chocolate making.  

The Mother of the Bride and I were each given a plate with four different generous slices of cake. The venue made four cakes total and we took home the rest of the four cakes. I had no idea that we would not only taste the cake, but be able to eat it for the rest of the week. That’s what I call preparing for the wedding. 

Our meeting took about an hour, since we discussed many of the final details of the big day (seating, order of the day, etc.) How does time fly by so quickly? It seems just yesterday we were taking off our winter coats and meeting with the same people in January. I’m both overwhelmed by everything that has to be done at the end and amazed by how much we’ve already done. 

I spent the afternoon making the chocolates for the wedding favors. I had planned to make 3 per person, but I ended up making 5 (apparently an odd number is good luck for a bride. I think any amount of chocolate is good luck for anyone!) It was fun, but I could use a massage on my lower back after leaning over for three hours. The Mother of the Bride and I still have to package them in little bags.

Chocolate favor making

To prepare to make the favors, I had experimented with various flavors and techniques for chocolate making in Michigan. I thought that I’d try using squeeze bottles this time, but that proved to be a disaster yesterday. I kept melting the chocolate on low in the microwave and the chocolate wouldn’t melt. When it did, it wouldn’t flow nicely through the very small tip (even after I gave the bottom a good slap.) Finally, I microwaved the bottle some more and it imploded. The bottom was sucked inward and the chocolate was mixed with the melted plastic. That is not something you want to serve to your most beloved family and friends. I threw out the dreaded bottles and bought a new double-broiler on sale at Bed Bath and Beyond yesterday. So today, I knew what I was getting myself into and was ready. 

If you plan to be a DIY bride like I am, I recommend practicing making the items ahead of time (especially if it is food!) I was able to practice in Michigan and then order everything that I needed to have it ready for me at my parents’ house when I arrived last week. I did overdo it a little; there were twice as many bags of chocolate than I needed and I even made more chocolates than I thought I would (see how important math is?) Anyone need a bag? Or seven?

Yesterday was a busy day, too. I finished packaging the hotel welcome bags and wrapped the presents for the Wonderful Women. (More on that after the wedding. Can’t ruin any surprises!) After shopping for the double-broiler (called a “bagno Maria” in Italian – literally, Maria’s Bath?), I bought some special wines to share with our guests at a wine pairing station. We’ve made sure that my fiancé’s home state and our current state (Michigan) are represented. A friend told me that there is New Jersey Exit Wine. Perhaps I’ll look for that. Am I allowed to make the joke about what exit I take for the store? I didn’t think so. 

Tomorrow I’m off to pick up the wedding license, meet with the DJ and visit with my great aunt before going to a dance class with my parents. Somewhere in between then, I might have a slice of cake and a chocolate or two that went awry and wasn’t counting. Luckily, there are more than a few.

Chocolate favors

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