On Friday, March 13, 2015, Frank and I got married. Since Tennessee isn’t one of the 37(ish) states that recognize same-sex marriage, we traveled to Asheville, North Carolina to do it. The wedding party was made up of the two of us, of course, our daughters, Katie and Ruth, our grandchild, Fisher, our pastor, Pam, and friend from our church, Phil. Other people wanted to be there, but I discouraged them. I have never liked car trips, and I projected my distaste for them onto others and encouraged them to stay home. I just couldn’t see a large group of people making the trip for a ceremony that lasted less than ten minutes. More about those ten minutes later.
We arrived in Asheville the night before, and here I have to say six-month-old baby Fisher was the perfect traveling baby. In the six hours of driving he only had two “I’m really tired of sitting in this car seat!” moments, when even watching the squirrels find the acorn (his favorite video on the iPad) once again didn’t cut it. After the journey, we settled into our three reserved rooms at the Holiday Inn and headed out for an impromptu rehearsal dinner.
Even though Asheville offers a plethora of unique eating opportunities, we opted not to get back in the car and walked to a nearby Outback instead. Katie, Ruth, Fisher, Frank, and I arrived first. Once seated, Katie looked at Frank with a smile as she informed our waitress that we were in town for a wedding. Confused, the waitress looked first at Frank and then at Ruth, trying to match the bride and groom. Frank is 51. Ruth is 18. The waitress’ assumption was understandable. Unions that span generations have been around a lot longer than same-sex unions. We all had a lighthearted laugh at the waitress’ expense, set her straight, and she more than made up for her faux pas by comping us a blooming onion. Nice!
Pam and Phil arrived. We ordered our food and ate. During the meal, Pam asked Frank and me to share two things we appreciate about each other. Eventually, everyone at the table participated, with the responses directed at Frank and me.
Clash of worlds. We do the same thing when Sisters elevate. I used to do this on youth retreats as a pastor myself. We do it as our prayer before family birthdays. It occurs to me that the reason why we do it in each of these settings is because we want to open ourselves to holy moments by giving ourselves permission to express our love for each other. This realization is Ann Wenita Morelove approved.
I told Frank that I appreciate how patient he is, and how forgiving. Frank told me that he admires my ability to see the truth in a situation. He didn’t get a chance to share his second affirmation because I asked people to unpack his first response.
I’ve been struggling with the attribute he named. I feel like it puts me in a place of judgment and that I shouldn’t be the one to call out bull shit when I sense it. It was profoundly striking for me to hear from him that he appreciates it, and to hear my daughters echo the thought. Hearing it affirmed doesn’t give me license to run amok with it, but it invites me to treat this character trait more mindfully. After dinner, which Phil paid for (thanks again, Phil!), we retired to our rooms.
Frank and I awoke on the big day to a room service breakfast. We dressed in our black suits and bow ties, and left the hotel around 8:30 am for the Buncombe County Register of Deeds office to get our marriage license. That’s when we lost all manner of common sense because both of us were irrationally nervous. I don’t think either of us could believe that we’d actually be allowed to leave the office with the document we needed. We looked for a place to park around the courthouse. Neither of us had any change for the parking meter. There was a bank Bank of America across the street, but instead of waiting ten minutes for it to open, we went to the ATM to get some cash. Of course, that didn’t solve the lack of change problem, so we drove away from downtown until we saw a Shell station. Frank went inside and bought a pack of gum. Change in hand, we headed back to the courthouse and parked.
Two police officers were walking in front of us and I asked them for directions to the Register of Deeds. They pointed across the street to an office building with a sign above the door that read, “Register of Deeds.” It was right next to a parking garage, which was next to the Bank of America. It started to rain as we crossed the road. Our umbrella was somewhere in our rented Grand Caravan.
We arrived at the Register of Deeds office and, after the nice lady behind the counter greeted us with a smile (“I wonder if they’ll know we’re gay?” I’d asked Frank earlier), I realized I’d left my wallet in the van. I walked alone back to the vehicle, laughing at the absurdity of it all, until I thought, “Did I even think to lock the van when we parked?” I started walking faster.
I made it to the van and sure enough, there was my wallet on the middle console with the $100 still inside, discarded there after our visit to the ATM next door. Given that court was in session and all sorts of folks were heading in and out of the courthouse, I was much relieved.
I returned to the Register of Deeds and Frank and I continued with the process. All was in order. The nice lady spoke to us using small words that we could understand through our continued freak out. We left with an honest-to-the-State-of-North-Carolina marriage license.
We made the short drive back to the hotel to freshen up, gather everyone together, and breathe. I put on my grandmother’s pearls. Frank added his grandmother’s handkerchief. We left for a public park on the banks of the French Broad River.
Pam officiates a mean wedding! She briefly went over everyone’s part, perfectly embodying her multiple roles as director, pastor, participant, officiant, and friend. It may sound unnecessary, but we needed all the direction, even though by that point we were settled, present, and in the moment. Phil led us through the Declaration of Intention. Pam turned to Katie and Ruth and led them through the family affirmation. Our daughters read the scripture I had chosen, I John 4:7-21. She told Frank and me when to look at each other and when to hold hands. Pam broke up the call and response cadence of the vows in a deliberate, clear way. She gave us concise direction as we exchanged the rings she had blessed. Frank and I were both crying. I wiped a tear off of Frank’s cheek. Pam pronounced us husband and husband, and gave us permission to kiss. We all turned to one another, hugged, and smiled at each other. I remembered to play Widor’s Organ Toccata no. 5 on my phone.
Pam, Katie, and Ruth signed the marriage license out of the back of the rental van as officiant and witnesses. We took a few more pictures and then returned to the hotel to check out. Frank, Katie, Ruth, Fisher, and I headed back to the Register of Deeds office (parking in the adjacent garage this time) to pick up the marriage certificate. Everyone met one more time at the Moose Cafe for lunch before heading home.
If you’ve read my previous posts about this wedding, you’ve probably gotten the impression that I approached the day in a business-minded way. People get married for all sorts of reasons, and there’s nothing wrong with a marriage being about business. In my case, I made it my business to get Frank health insurance through my employer. One morning too many I watched him wake up with back pain and wait to make an appointment for therapy because his insurance wasn’t going to cover it. There came a point when I resolved to do all that I could to fix that.
On this side of the wedding, our marriage has become more than business. Those of you watching knew it would happen. Pam knew it would happen. Our family knew it would happen. Our friends knew it would happen. Our church knew it would happen. So many people insisted that more was happening in that moment than a business transaction involving health insurance benefits. The responses on Facebook, the cards, the texts, the calls, the hugs, the hand-shakes, have been overwhelming. Thank you all for that. It means more than I can say.
Two more items and then I’m done with this lengthy post. (I’ll write about the reception another time.) The first is a series of Facebook status updates I posted over the course of the weekend. The second is an update Katie posted. I want these on the blog so I can read them in the future, and I want everyone to have access to them even if they’re not on Facebook.
First, my Facebook updates:
I go to church with the most awesome people.
I am married to the most awesome man.
I have the most awesome friends.
Pending the reception post and pictures:
I have the most awesome family.
And this, from Katie:
This picture may not look like much, but you’re looking at the first car ride where my dads are legally married. The first trip where my sister is legally my sister. The first time my son is legally Douglas’s grandson and Ruth’s nephew. For 15 years I have grown up considering Doug a 2nd father, and Ruth a sister, and Sam and Ben my brothers. We’ve loved like a family, fought like a family, laughed like a family, struggled like a family, and celebrated like a family. We’ve earned this car ride. Congratulations, you two, on raising a wonderful loving group of kids (well, grown ups) and showing us that a family is what you make it, not what ANYBODY else tells you it has to be.