June. The month when many schools shut their doors for the summer. The month when students graduate from high school and college amid much excitement. The month when couples go to the chapel (or city hall) and say “I do.”
Hearing so much talk of weddings this month brought me back nearly three years ago to my wedding to Eric. We met on AOL in October 1995, and officially tied the knot nearly 14 years later, on August 20, 2009.
But the events from the fall of 2008, when we decided to make our union “official” with a civil union ceremony the following winter, were eventful.
My mom was in the hospital at the time: a heart attack, followed by triple bypass surgery, and then a cancer diagnosis on her 78th birthday. Mom’s health issues showed me that life was short; so one day after visiting her in the hospital, I came home and suggested to Eric that we take the plunge.
Plans for our winter 2009 civil union ceremony were underway. A friend was going to sing “For Good” from the Broadway musical Wicked. Our friend Deb declared herself our "wedding wench."
And then, in January 2009, Eric’s dad, Walt, died suddenly.
We decided to postpone the ceremony. Saddened by Walt’s passing, we felt it wasn’t the time to celebrate our commitment to each other. Our decision proved wise: shortly after his father died, Eric tore his retina twice, requiring multiple surgeries and a long recuperation.
We were heading to Provincetown in August. Provincetown was, and still is, like a second home to us. We have dear friends there. It’s a place I go to write; it is the setting for my novel and play “Breeding Ground.” It’s a town where we can openly hold hands as we walk down the street—something we can’t do just anywhere.
So we decided to get married during our vacation. Some lessons we learned from our experience:
1. Sometimes less is more. We opted out of a big, splashy, and costly ceremony in favor of a low-key and stress-free celebration of our commitment to each other. We were going to Provincetown during Carnival Week, which culminates in an elaborate, wild and colorful parade celebrating diversity and pride. We decided to get married after the parade was over.
We went to Provincetown having lined up an officiant, a small group of friends for our guests—but no venue. We figured we’d find a strip of beach on which to hold the ceremony; that’s pretty much how we live. Instead, when we got to town, our dear friends Bill and Jim graciously offered us their rooftop deck.
2. Let your personalities shine. When it comes down to it, the wedding really is about the groom and groom, or the bride and bride, or the bride and groom—although you might not expect that after hearing so many horror stories about family and friends forcing their opinions on the happy couple.
Our wedding was for us, so we made it about us; our passions and interests. Instead of a stodgy cleric, our minister was Lady Di, a raucous Provincetown drag queen. The Carnival theme in 2009 was “Summer of Love,” so Eric and I wore sixties hippies garb, and I wore a peace sign around my neck. Summer of love, indeed.
3. Let go of stress. Our friend Deb was more stressed out than either of us. We put stress out of our minds and instead focused on having fun. And that’s what we did. We had lots of fun!
4. And, finally, embrace the magic of your special day! Our wedding was a memorable time, not only for us but for our guests. At sunset, our small group gathered at Bill and Jim’s house, where they waited with Deb, our songbird, John, and two unexpected but very welcome additional guests: Bill’s friends Anthony and Christian, who were also in town for Carnival.
Deb read a few poems. John surprised us by singing Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” all the while sporting a white wedding veil. Afterward, he sang again, a beautiful song that moved us to tears. A small circle of new and longtime friends flanked us as we dedicated our love to each other, the Pilgrim Monument towering in the background. (Did you know that the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown before moving onto Plymouth?)
I can’t keep a secret at all, but I did in this case. During the ceremony, I switched the rings Eric was expecting with two titanium-and-black-ceramic bands featuring five small diamonds.
As I explained to my surprised new husband after the ceremony, the diamonds represented him and me and our cats Mulder, Tabby, and Vasquez. I saw a tear descend from his eye.
It was a day for us and about us, a ceremony that reflected us and our personalities; a day with little fanfare and little stress. For us, it was the perfect wedding.