Last week, I read (former Atlanta DJ) Melissa Carter’s article regarding gay marriage in the Georgia Voice. She states that lawmakers would think of gay marriage differently if we make it an economic issue. The math in the article is certainly eye-opening, but my first thought was that this argument only works if gay couples stop having ceremonies if living in a state where gay marriage is illegal. Because otherwise, we’re still dropping considerable amounts of money into the wedding industry – all for a “counterfeit concert ticket” as she put it. (It looks real, but when it really comes down to it, you’re not allowed into the show. Love that analogy).
That sent me down the rabbit hole of rumination as I thought about our own decision not to have a ceremony. Something I still think about often.
When we decided to start a family, we assumed we’d do something publicly to express our commitment to one another and our future family. Something to serve as notice that we’re in this for the long haul. That it is a relationship worth the work that relationships entail. Something to officially mark the passage from “girlfriends” to something more permanent.
So just over 2 years ago, Ashley surprised me with a gorgeous ring on a Florida beach. In a surprise downpour. With a rainbow overhead. Really, I can’t make this stuff up. When we returned to the restaurant on the beach, Ashley had arranged for my mom and step-dad to be there to celebrate with us. Up to that point, it was easily the best day of my life. After that we started looking for wedding venues in New Orleans and culling the invite list to something manageable.
The whole time I was haunted by thought, “but it’s not real“. Well meaning friends and family, and more recently Bailey on Grey’s Anatomy, were all there to say, “it’s as real as it is in your heart.”
As we set our wedding budget, we had to think about other budgets as well. Once the wedding was over, we’d have to lawyer up and drop a few thousand dollars to legally protect ourselves. Then we’d have to lawyer up again so that Ashley could adopt her own child…a few more thousand. Then we’ll have to move from our great little neighborhood so that we can spend a lot more money on a lot less house in one of the only 2 counties in Georgia that will grant 2nd parent adoptions. That will cost tens of thousands of dollars over the years. Then we had to consider the cost to actually get pregnant. Suddenly this wedding seemed like “just” a big party. After talking it through, we decided that we needed to spend the money on our family. And that meant legally and medically.
See, believing it in my heart didn’t change how I was treated when Ashley went in for an outpatient procedure where she was put completely under. Despite making our relationship and wishes clear, I was left out in the waiting room until she was dressed, discharged, and sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway waiting to be wheeled out. The doc spoke to her alone and since she was pretty much still drugged, she didn’t remember a thing that he told her. Believing it in my heart didn’t change the fact that I had to meet with every OB in the practice to let them know that my partner is a woman and to provide them all with a copy of the legal paperwork that gives Ashley medical power of attorney over me and a limited custody of Elia should the worst have happened during labor. Believing it in my heart doesn’t change the fact that cousins that I haven’t seen in decades may have more rights to Elia than Ashley does, should something happen to me (until the adoption of course.) Believing it in my heart doesn’t protect me and Elia should something happen to Ashley – the primary breadwinner. Believing it my heart won’t put Ashley’s name on Elia’s birth certificate or make Cobb County suddenly grant 2nd parent adoptions. And while we’re lucky that Home Depot offers partner benefits, believing it in my heart doesn’t offer equal coverage. My coverage (as a nondependent partner) is taxable which will cost more in taxes over the years.
Is a wedding or love about medical benefits? Life insurance? What county you’ll live in?No, of course not. But when we have to jump through so many hoops and open the checkbook so often, it really drives home the fact that a wedding just wouldn’t be real.
I can’t express how badly I want that day. The celebration of love. The honoring of *us*. The clink of champagne glasses against the chatter and laughter of our loved ones. The first dance (to Ray LaMontagne’s You are the Best Thing). The flower girl who barely makes it down the aisle. The dress. The kiss.
But despite that longing, I think we have to wait for the real thing. We deserve the real thing.