Monday, January 31, 2005

Some Questions about Marriage

1. Why get married at all? I've struggled with this one (as you'll see in other questions below), because I don't think that marriage is something that should necessarily involve the state. (I have anarchist relatives who didn't marry for precisely that reason.) In my case, it's obviously not going to involve a religion, either. The difficulty is, if you don't involve the state, then it doesn't count for any of the practical issues--I couldn't be covered by his health insurance, for example (yes, I know some companies don't require marriage for that, but his isn't one of them). But, it turns out, my answer actually doesn't have much to do with those things. I came to realize, in more ways than I had originally thought, that we--we humans--are interdependent. It's true that marriage was, until relatively recently in human history, a property arrangement as much as anything, but it's also true that humans have come up with a remarkably large number of ceremonies to acknowledge, in communal ways, important events in the lives of the communities in which we live. Births and deaths are notable, and i came to realize that marriages, partnerships, are part of that, too. Making a party, having a ceremony, making a promise in front of and with the people one loves, is a way of acknowledging that something important has happened, and of asking for the community's support.

2. Who's going to officiate? Given that view of marriage, I've always liked the Quaker way of getting married--i.e., the whole meeting serves as "officiant" for the wedding. As they put it:
Marriage is a sacred commitment of two people to love one another in faithful partnership with the expectation that the relationship will mature and be mutually enriching. Friends know that marriage depends on the inner experiences of the couple who marry and not on any external service or words. Thus, the ceremony in which the couple enter into this commitment is performed by the couple alone, in the presence of God, the families, and the worshiping community. Both the solemnity and the joy of the occasion are enhanced by its simplicity.
Neither C nor I is a Quaker, and neither of us believes in deities. It is presumably possible that we could still find a Meeting that would welcome us, but I don't think it would be fair to try to rush their process, and I really don't know whether they'd be completely happy with the atheism thing. However, we can get married "in the manner of Friends," and that's what we're going to do. In our case, we're asking someone close to us (we're not sure who yet--a close friend or C's sister or my brother, perhaps) to serve as our officiant. I do believe that the marriage is between the two of us, even though it's the state that intervenes and sanctions it. In any case, I don't really feel comfortable asking the minister I know to officiate but leave deities out of it--that doesn't seem fair to him--and we don't know any JPs, and I don't particularly want a complete stranger officiating. That seems divorced from the very things I like about the Quakers.

3. Is anyone else going to talk? Umm, maybe? I want to give people the option, if the spirit moves anyone, but I don't have any particular desires in this regard. Maybe C does, though.

4. How about the vows? I figure we're probably going to write our own, but I can't think of much that will be unusual about them. I doubt that either obedience or faithfulness is likely to be part of the vows, and I suspect we'll both do as much as possible to avoid the spirit of Stuart Smalley entering into our vows, but otherwise I think they'll be pretty straightforward. The two things that I want are, first, everyone around us, in a circle, rather than us up in front of everyone, and, second, a marriage document, sort of like a ketubah or the document that would be produced at a Friends' ceremony, that everyone who's present signs. I consider everyone at the wedding to be a participant and officiant, and I want their presence to be part of the marriage. We've started considering texts for it; it shouldn't be difficult. We'll have to figure out who can create the actual document though; I'm suspecting that we'll have to find a calligrapher.

5. Where are we going to do it? A restaurant that we both like a lot has a lovely space. We can get the place for the whole day, we think (we'll find out next week when we meet with them), and that means a minimum of shlepping. We'll probably have to have an "after-party" location, a hotel suite or something, because a lot of people will be from out of town.

6. Any other tidbits? Hmmm; I'm going to ask the mother of a friend of mine to design a dress for me. It's probably going to be purple or blue--definitely not white, not least because I look terrible in white. And I'm not going to look like a fairy princess. We're going to see if we can get someone to design rings for us, too, but I don't know if we can afford that. We're going to have at least one babysitter, maybe more, because so many of our friends have kids under 12. (My brother suggested a "duct tape room" for kids who are getting out of hand, but I suspect that some of our friends would object to that.) I want the kids to be there, but I want the parents to be able to enjoy themselves, too.

7. Can you pull this off in less than five months? Well, we'll see.

8. Aren't you scared? Well, yes; terrified, as a matter of fact. I'm nearing 50, and, not only have I never been married, I hadn't been in this kind of relationship with anyone for 15 years when I met C, so the thought of attaching myself to someone else in this way is a little . . . strange. I'm used to working without a partner, and, even though we've forged a partnership in the past six years, the thought of taking that additional, legal step does give me pause. I think I'd feel that way about anyone, though; I don't think it's specific to C or to our relationship.

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