After eleven years of blissful togetherness, Sarah and I decided to marry. Issues like health insurance hung in the balance, and time was of the essence. For the record, Sarah proposed to me, and I accepted. I have some experience with marriage ceremonies. This was a decidedly odd experience.
Sarah and I first went to get our license, an event I hoped to photograph, forgetting that the courthouse bans cameras, so we had to dash over to Sarah’s office to ditch it. For some reason, marriage licenses are to be obtained in a federal courthouse who must be vigilant against terrorists taking pictures. Once you have the license you must go elsewhere to be hitched. In Virginia now one must have a marriage ceremony. You can’t just go to the courthouse and say “I wanna,” and that’s enough. Even queers could do that. No, there has to be a ceremony, by God. We were given a list of “celebrants” in two categories “religious” and “civil.” Now, you can guess which category a pair of atheists would pick. I called one of the names on the list, talked to this guy’s wife who set up a time. I explained we wanted it soon, with a minimum of ceremony. $50 if performed in their home, $100 anywhere else. Their home, it is.
It’s a house in an older burb. The guy fills out the paperwork while the wife regales us with stories of her grandson and his remote control car. Fair enough. Then the guy emerges with what could have been a Bible or prayer book in his hand, or maybe it was his daily planner. He never opened it. Anyway, he launches into the standard religious service beginning with marriage starting in the Garden of Eden, right down to God joining us together and no man putting asunder or whatever it is. I love the word “asunder,” but this is civil? I wonder what the religious ceremony would be like. I was afraid Sarah was going to bail on religious grounds, but she hung in there, though she did giggle a couple of times.
The high point was the rings. We didn’t have rings. We haven’t decided on the ring question, and we hadn’t had time to go gold shopping with other matters pressing. Not to be deterred, Civil Celebrant whips out two gold bands and hands them over. They’re not technically bands, since they’re split so that they’ll fit any finger hankering after the symbolism, though maybe no ring in that regard would be better than a cheapie broken one? He gave me permission to kiss the bride, and I did. We were so stunned by the whole experience, we almost forgot to give him his fifty bucks.
Then we went out and ate a meal we never would’ve bought any other day, costing about as much as a week’s groceries. We’re very happy now that we’ve made a meaningful commitment.
With this ring?…