why we decided not to get married again [five]

earlier this month, florida officially joined the thirty-five other states that allow same-sex marriage.  the fact that 36 states allow same-sex marriage now is totally amazing, and the fact that florida is one of them just blows my mind!  florida is such a divided state; there are so many conservatives and so many liberals; politics are always super crazy here.  if you had asked me several years ago, i never would have believed that i could get married here in my lifetime.  i actually remember multiple conversations with other gays and lesbians; none of us expected gay marriage to be legal all over the U.S. in our lifetimes–and now it looks like it will be legal all over the States in just a few years!  it is amazing and beautiful.  i think in the next couple of decades, people will look back and be shocked that same-sex marriage was ever even an issue.

my wife and i got married two and a half years ago, in new york city.  i remember when she asked me to marry her, she didn’t take me out to some fancy dinner first.  she didn’t get down on one knee.  she didn’t even ask the words “will you marry me?”.  we were having a beautiful conversation about our relationship, our love, and i told her that i would always love her.  she asked if i promised, and i said yes.  and then she asked, “promise, promise?” and showed me the ring.

that night, the only person i shared the news with was one of my long-time best friends.  she was excited and congratulatory, and my wife and i kept the news quiet for the rest of our long weekend together.  when we sat at the kitchen table in my parents’ home a few days later, we were both nervous to tell them.  i started the conversation out with a joke, acting as if we were planning to have a baby and hinting that i may be pregnant.  it was obviously a joke, and it wasn’t that hysterical i guess, but it broke the ice and lightened the mood.  when we announced our engagement, we were relieved to find that my parents didn’t seem upset or weirded out at all.  the sad thing was, though, that they didn’t seem excited, either.  it was as if it wasn’t a “real wedding” to them.  i was saddened by it, but decided to focus on the fact that my wife and i were together and in love and happy, and we realized how important it was, and that we are super lucky for that.

after a lot of thought and some research, we decided to get married in new york.  we wanted to celebrate with a good-sized wedding with family and friends, of course, but more importantly, we wanted our marriage to be legal.  only five states had legalized same-sex marriage by then, and new york was the one we wanted to go to the most.

while we got engaged after just six months, we didn’t get married until we had been together for three years.  there was no rush, and while the planning was a big deal to us, compared to most traditional weddings, it was super easy and fun to plan!  it was almost as if we were planning a vacation, with a wedding added in [and i guess, in some ways, that’s exactly what we were planning!].

we invited our parents as well as my siblings, and a couple of close friends.  initially, everyone said they were definitely going to come.  we were so excited!  getting to travel to a place that recognized our relationship, getting to be legally wed, getting to celebrate it with our family, it was all just so amazing and perfect-sounding.  my wife and i had grown very close to my family in the last couple of years, and i know that she helped open their minds to gays.  a few of my siblings joined us at a downtown dive bar one night, and we all decided that she was the one that was going to change her name.  she really became part of the family, and as that was happening, i was also growing even closer to my parents and siblings.

once we decided on a new york wedding and started narrowing down dates, we told my family so they would have plenty of notice.  i worried that some people would end up not being able to make it, but when my sister told me that my mom said that “she didn’t care what it took; she would definitely be there, no matter what!”, i cried and felt full of hope.  i couldn’t wait for the big family dinner afterwards; i couldn’t stop picturing it.  i was nervous about my wife’s mom meeting my family, but i knew it would be ok.

as the months went by, people stopped talking about flying up for our wedding.  they would inquire about our excitement here and there, but things got quiet once i reminded them that they were invited.  having them at our wedding was SO important to us, but it became the elephant in the room with my parents and older siblings as we realized that they might not be joining us after all.

we were crushed.

i understood that money was super tight and i understood that the trip would be fairly expensive, i really did.  but that is why we gave them so much notice.  also, when it comes down to it, we would have helped them any way we could, just to have them there.

as time went by and our wedding got closer, the family stopped talking about it, for the most part.  only when i asked them flat-out if they were still coming, did they finally confirm that they weren’t, that they “just weren’t able to make it work.”  there were so many nights i sat on the front steps crying my eyes out, or sat on the couch tearing up talking about it, that my wife finally asked if i still wanted to stick to the new york plan we made.  i told her that of course i did, which was why i was so upset–because i knew we were doing it the right way for us, and that the right way for us meant that my family wouldn’t be there.

as time went on, i made peace with it, and stopped being so upset at my family.  the wedding became about my wife and i, and it was perfect.  we didn’t have to please anyone else, or plan for anyone else, or worry about anyone else.  we did everything exactly the way we wanted to, focusing on just the two of us.  we were a team, as we always had been and always will be.

we flew to new york and were joined by our best friend the next day.  getting married became a big, crazy, new york adventure! we took a taxi to central park, and i cried the entire way through our vows.  there were lots of tears, lots of laughs, lots of hand-holding and nervousness and kisses.  i felt alive.  when we sealed our vows with a kiss, a large group of people nearby [i think it was a family reunion!] cheered and clapped and congratulated us.  it was absolutely perfect.  i hadn’t realized just how open-minded and welcoming the people of new york would be, until our wedding.  walking around central park, we were congratulated more times than i can count.  a gentleman with a horse and carriage offered us a free ride, people took pictures of us, everyone was smiling.  it was one of the happiest days of my entire life.

had my family been there, it would have been absolutely incredible.  it would have meant the world to me.  it would have meant that they really saw us as equals, that they really recognized our marriage, that we really were important enough.

i know that they would have liked to be there, and i know that they were happy for us.  a few months after our wedding, my parents brought the entire family out to dinner to celebrate; they even got a cake for us.  my parents got us a wedding present, which was awesome.

but still.  it just wasn’t the same.

looking back at it, i know they just didn’t get it.  they still don’t.  and i guess i’m not sure whether that makes it better or worse for us.

earlier this month, when same-sex marriage became legal in florida, my wife and i talked about having another, second wedding here.  when we got married in new york, we told people that once it became legal in florida, we would have a ceremony here.  but really, that was just to make us feel better about them not coming.  it was to fill that awkwardness and hide just how much it crushed us that every single person–save for our best friend who generously flew up to perform the ceremony–backed out.

the way we were married was perfect for us.  it was part of the story of US–a confirmation that sometimes, we are the only ones who have one another’s back.  despite the awesomeness of our family and friends, there are times that when it comes down to it, the two of us only have each other.  and when it comes down to it, we don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours of stress and planning, to make them feel better about not attending our first wedding–what will always be, no matter how many ceremonies we have or how big we make it–our REAL wedding.  my wife asked if i was sure–she reminded me how hard it was for me to watch a friend get married, how it was a bittersweet thing for me, watching my brother get married.  i am so happy for them, but also can’t deny the fact that i wish my family and friends had all participated in my wedding too.  my wife reminded me of this, and pointed out that it will be even harder, watching my sisters walk down the aisle eventually.  i think the hardest thing will be seeing my dad walk them down the aisle, knowing i didn’t get that.

but i can’t have a second ceremony just to have my parents and siblings there and pretend that it makes up for everything.  it won’t make up for anything.  it will always be our SECOND ceremony; it will never change the fact that they missed the first one.  i can’t have a bridal shower and pretend that they shouldn’t have thrown me one years ago, as my coworkers, of all people, did.

my wife and i have been through a lot, and sometimes we fight and can’t stand each other, but there are two things that i always know: i know that i can trust her, and i know that she always has my back.  and i know she loves me with all of her heart, in the best way she knows how, always.  i hope that she can say the same about me; it is one of the best feelings in the world.

writing this brings up a lot of tough stuff that i realized is still pretty raw for me.  i have made peace with some of this stuff, but am realizing that there is still a lot of it that i am not “over” as much as i thought i was.  maybe it was selfish to expect so much from my family, maybe it wasn’t.  but i am continuing to make peace with it, as i continue to grow close to them.  i appreciate everything they are to me and the relationships we have.  i know that they are there for me in so many ways, and when it comes down to it, they are there for me if i really need it.

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