Gay Dads: A “Wedding” Wedding
By Joey Troxel
Its just a ceremony, it doesn’t really mean anything. I mean, we have been together for 10 years and we have a 7yr old child. We already committed to each other long ago. That’s what I kept telling everyone. Its not a “Wedding” wedding, Its just a formality.
We decided last year that we needed to get married. There were many reasons for the decision. The biggest one was so I could legally change my last name in order to start the process of all three of us having the same last name. Or course there were other reason too. For instance, I am on T’s health insurance at his work. His employer is nice enough to offer their health insurance to domestic partners of employees. This means that regardless of if your partner is the same sex or different sex, they can be covered through the employee’s health insurance without being married. The bad part is that you are taxed on that benefit. It’s a pretty hefty tax. Every year we get a letter from his employer saying that an extra $10,000 will be added to T’s gross pay for the year so when he pays taxes at the end of the year, he will pay on the higher amount. This of course is illegal to do to married couples but employers’ are required to do this for domestic partner coverage to non-married partners. Nice, huh? I could go on and on but the fact is, it was time to be legally recognized federally as a couple and as a family. This is only one of the over 1000 federal benefits that married couples are entitled to.
We live in Arizona, which does not recognize or permit same-sex marriage so getting married here in front of our friends was out of the question. We then figured we would just go across state lines to California. That was the simplest thing to do. We could find a courthouse, get married and we would be done with it. When we went home to Minnesota for Thanksgiving last year, we told T’s mom the plan about California and she was not happy. She wanted to be involved in the wedding and she wanted to be there for it. Ok, great, I thought. Now this is getting complicated. Of course, in my mind, I knew all along that she would want to be there but now I was hearing it out loud. Now what?
Well, as it turns out, T’s home state of Minnesota has same sex marriage. So, we could do a trip back up there and get married. I told her I would look into it. As 2014 arrived, and the holidays were over, I started to look at dates for the summer. In March, we realized that T’s sister from Florida would be visiting her mom in Minnesota during the second week of July. He has another sister that lives about 30 minutes from his mom in Fargo, ND. It seemed to me that if we were going to have family at the wedding, we would need to do it during his sister’s July visit to Minnesota. That’s when it all started coming together. I looked at the dates and it all added up for us to get married on July 13, 2014. I checked the rules for Minnesota for gay marriage on their website. It was all laid out in plain English. I could download the marriage application online, and it would need to be presented to the courthouse in person by at least one of the grooms. Then, there was a 5-day waiting period before you could get married. That presented us with the first two problems. Problem number one was how can we drop off the application in person if we live in Arizona? Problem number two was if there is a 5-day waiting period, we have to be there for at least 5 days before we could even get married much less have a honeymoon. We decided that T would go to Minnesota alone in mid June to fill out the paperwork and get his part of the license requirement completed. He could then bring home the paperwork for me to sign and get notarized here in Arizona and I could mail my part back to the state of Minnesota. That would solve the issue of at least 1 person in the marriage dropping the application off to the state in person and assuming I got my part of the paperwork notarized and mailed back to them in time, it would solve the 5-day waiting period. Then, I asked the lady on the phone at the state house about getting a Justice of the Peace. Well, as it turns out, in Minnesota there are no Justice’s of the Peace. You have to hire a “Wedding Officiant”. That means an Ordained Minister, or someone else that does weddings. I did not want any part of the church involved in my wedding so that left out most of the usual officiants. The state had a list of people that were certified to be wedding officiants, but almost all of them were in Minneapolis, Saint Paul, Duluth and other cities that were very far from where we were going to get married, in Western Minnesota. That became problem number 3. Who can we get to marry us?
This is one of those situations where you just have to put it out of your mind for a while and the answer will just come to you, and it did. On April 3rd, Will Horton married Sonny Kiriakis on Days of our lives. It was the first all male same sex wedding on the soaps and it was absolutely beautiful. Will asked his grandma, Marlena Evans (Played by Deidre Hall, LOVE HER!!) to go online and become an Ordained Minister . She thought it was crazy but he said that he couldn’t imagine his wedding day without her marrying them because she has been by his side since he came out. He wanted her to be the one because he trusted her and because she loved both him and his boyfriend Sonny. That’s when it hit me. We needed the same thing. We needed someone who loves the both of us and who has been by our side from the moment we met almost 10 years ago. It was obvious that the person who would marry us would need to be T’s mother. I could think of no other person that knew us better than she did.
I sent her a message on Facebook and expected her to just yes me and that would be it. Keep in mind its still April and we are only a few weeks into the preliminary planning of this. Five days goes by and she contacts me to tell me she got her package in the mail and that she is now an Ordained Minister. I was speech less. I of course said congratulations and that we were every excited to have her marry us but in my mind I was like “Holy smoke, she aint kidding.” When she puts her mind to something, she doesn’t play games. That’s how Minnesota people are. Problem # 3 was now solved!
Well now that we had someone to marry us, we needed a place to have the wedding. I told T and his mom that money is tight and that we had a budge of basically nothing. We could afford the plane tickets and hotel but a “Wedding” wedding was out of the question. Plus, this was just a ceremonial thing. I didn’t really want a “Wedding” wedding, because we have been together for 10 years, right? I just need the piece of paper. That’s what I kept saying. Luckily, neither my mother-in-law nor my husband ever listened to me. Since we were going to be there while T’s sister from Florida was visiting, his family wanted us all to stay in one big cabin with many bedrooms. This way we have a full kitchen, a game room, our own private lake, etc. And, the kids could all play together since they would all be sharing common areas. We have done this before and it’s a win, win for everyone. These cabin homes cost about $800.00 a night during peak season in Minnesota (Summer) but spread out among 4 families, it becomes the same as staying in a nice hotel room. I agreed to this, but of course I kept saying “the budget, the budget!” As we got closer to the wedding date, and once we found a resort to stay at, we started planning the ceremony, the meal and the cake. The ceremony was tricky. First, it’s a same sex wedding so there is no real template. Second, its an atheist wedding so once you remove the stuff about god and the church from the standard wedding template you are left with nothing because a church wedding isn’t about the people getting married, its about the church. Third, it’s my mother-in-law’s first wedding as a wedding officiant and I wanted it to be perfect for her. It became very obvious to me, very quickly that I would need to personally write the entire wedding sermon and try and get everyone on board with it. I have been to one wedding in my life and it was this past May. I have very little wedding experience. Still, I am a wiz with words and a computer keyboard so I jumped into this task head first. I put together a wedding sermon that was all about us. It talked about how T and I met, our family, our journey, and our future. I felt pretty satisfied with it and so did my husband and his mother. She actually loved it. Since we lived in two different states, I made a video of myself talking through it to give her an idea of how it should sound or least how it sounded in my head. She said that really helped her. Ok, so now we have a sermon in place.
We needed to find a place to do the actual ceremony that was safe for us and we needed to find a place to eat afterwards. We talked about making meals for everyone but we decided we didn’t want that responsibility. My mother-in-law made a call to the restaurant at the resort and told them we were getting married on Sunday the 13th of July and that we wanted to possibly come to the restaurant for dinner afterwards. The guy on the phone was very nice but he told her that they had 3 wedding that weekend and that it was pretty booked up. She reminded him that most people get married on Saturday at resorts and that we are doing this on Sunday. He confirmed that they had no wedding dinners reserved for Sunday. He told her that we could have their “private room” for $500.00 and that they would serve a family style menu that was about $28.00-$30.00 per person. Ok, my mother in law is very sweet, and just loves everyone she meets. But, when she wants something for her kids, she aint taking no for an answer. She reminded him that we would be bringing about 18 people for dinner that night and that on a Sunday it would be slow for the restaurant since that’s when everyone goes back home from a resort hotel. She said we couldn’t afford $500.00 just for the room itself and then still have to pay $30.00 a person for dinner. The guy came down to $250.00 and after another few more minutes of painful negotiations he finally said, “Lady, you can have the room for free!!” Did I mention she was from MN?
During this conversation, she asked him about having the wedding on the property and he mentioned that there is a beautiful, picturesque spot behind the restaurant that is set up for having a wedding ceremony. It had an alter, a running creek, woods, etc. She got him to agree to throw that in for us also for free. She called to tell us this and while I was happy to hear it, I felt kind of bad for the restaurant manager. He really was in way over his head with my mother in law. Bless her heart!
Meanwhile, T was making phone calls to get a cake for us for the wedding. After a few phone calls, he was told that Shaeffer’s Grocery made wedding cakes for the resort. He called over there and asked about a cake. Well as you can imagine, the cake prices were crazy. T explained to them that we didn’t need a cake with three levels or anything like that. We just needed an 8 inch round cake that looked nice enough for a wedding but that wasn’t going to cost as much as a “Wedding” wedding cake. So, they agreed to make a single layer cake for $25.00. I thought, ok, this is going to be a disaster. A $25.00 wedding cake from a grocery store? Really, I didn’t care, it was just a piece of paper and a ceremony so we could change our names and stop paying those extra taxes, Right? I mean, it’s not a “Wedding” wedding. By the way, this is a great time to throw in here that Wal-Mart sells individual grooms (and brides) to put on top of a cake. I was very surprised by this and tried to understand why they offered them separated from the bride. Its like they are supporting same sex marriage without actually supporting it. Then I realized they sold the grooms (and brides) in different skin tones and it was clear that you could pick the right skin tones of each little statue for your particular marriage. I for one should know that not every family is from a standard mold. I grabbed the last two Caucasian grooms they had.
June comes and T goes to Minnesota to do his part for the marriage license. He gets my paperwork from the state so he could bring it back home to me to get notarized. I gave him 5 days there on his own to visit so he could spend some time with his mom. While he was there, they decided to drive to the resort to check it out and scope out the situation. It was very smart of them to do that. It gave them an idea of what they needed to buy for the wedding and where it would all happen. After 5 days had gone by, T headed back home to Arizona.
July arrived and it was time to leave for Minnesota for the wedding. Even at this point, I was just treating this like a family vacation. The wedding part meant nothing to me other than a piece of paper. Forget that after 10 years with T, I am still in love with him. Forget that we have a 7yr old child. Forget that his mother is planning an actual wedding. I was not having any part of all that. Oh yeah, I am such a catch sometimes, huh? The wedding day gets here and we actually had some friends of ours from Phoenix fly in for the weekend. I told them not to waste their money coming for this because it wasn’t a “Wedding” wedding, it was just a formality but they weren’t having any part of it. I thought, ok, suit yourselves but you are wasting a lot of money. Somehow, they knew we would want our best friends there to support us but at the time, I couldn’t see it. I love them so much for that. We also had other friends there from T’s mother. It was her first official ceremony as an officiant and we thought she should have a few friends there for support if she wanted to. So here we are, ready to get married, we have friends and family all around us. We have a beautiful flower girl (our niece), two handsome 7 & 8 year old ring bearers (my son and his cousin), a best man for T (his step dad) and my best woman (T’s sister, who I am very close to) and a wedding officiant that not only is marrying us today but that loves us both very much. It was a picture perfect day for weather, the area for the ceremony was perfectly decorated by T and his mom and we are ready to go. The video camera is turned on and… Action! The entire thing goes off nicely but even during my vows, I still feel like it’s just a formality. We are just doing this to change my name and stop paying the extra taxes. It’s not really a “Wedding” wedding.
Cut to two weeks later. We are back home in Phoenix, our lives are back to being routine, and one day I am at my computer trying to take all the photos and video clips and somehow form the official wedding video. As I finish putting it all together, I start crying. I can’t help myself, its just starts happening. Nobody else is home and I didn’t even think about crying at all during the wedding trip but now, at home, alone, I am crying. As I watch the video I just made, it is absolutely beautiful. There is great footage of the welcoming resort we stayed at. There is wonderful footage of our friends joining us for our special day. Our family is standing next to us, proud and ready. All the kids are so happy to be part of the event that they are smiling large in every photo. Our niece walks down the aisle spreading beautiful red flowers. Our ring bearers walk in unison side by side each holding a Chinese take out box with a wedding ring in it (symbolic because T and I met at a Chinese restaurant for our first date). My husband looks so handsome and his eyes are filled with love as he looks at me. My mother in law is marrying us and not only is she NOT stumbling through her first ceremony, she’s gleaming with excitement and she says her words lovingly. My best woman is crying. In fact all the women are crying. As I look at the video, I can see myself kiss my husband and everyone is hugging us with congratulations. As the video continues, we have a wonderful dinner at the restaurant where the staff is fantastic. The cake looks awesome with the two grooms on top, and the video shows 18 people celebrating the love of a family that has been 10 years in the making. When I look at this video, I see only one thing. A wedding. And no, not just a wedding. I mean, a “Wedding” wedding. Somehow, while I was going on and on about how it meant nothing but a formality, my mother-in-law and my husband were putting together the wedding of my dreams and our friends wouldn’t let us go through it without them being by our side. Sure, we didn’t have a traditional church wedding like everyone else, but instead we had a wedding filled with family. The family that has stood by us for 10 years and the family that will be there for the rest of our lives. I get it now. I totally understand. Your wedding day is very special. I never should have trivialized it and I thank the stars that everyone around me saw right through that and gave me the wedding that even I didn’t know I wanted, or needed. Lucky for me, my mother-in-law is from Minnesota. She’s sweet, but she doesn’t take no for an answer.
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