In Janis Martin’s words, “the preacher is a-waitin' and my heart is true,” so given my and David’s hangups with weddings, why not just elope? We talked about it. We learned that Oregon requires at least two witnesses in addition to the officiant, so the smallest you can go is a party of five. In the end, we didn’t really consider it.
Part of what we struggle with is feeling that this marriage is legitimate. Intellectually, we both know it is. Rationally, we understand that we’re entering into a legal contract that carries the full weight of the law. We know that the marriage license issued to us will be no different from that issued to any other couple anywhere in this country. This time next year we’ll be filing taxes jointly, and saving a nice chunk of change. If we ever divorced (we won’t) one of us could be required by the courts to pay the other alimony. There’s nothing make-believe about this, nothing less than the real deal—a big deal.
Theologically, we’re as confident as a pair of humans can be that God sanctions our union. We’ve studied the Bible carefully, for years, independent of each other. We’ve read treatises on marriage and gender complementarity. We’ve heard theology professors teach. We’ve heard pastors preach. We’ve heard friends advise. We’ve done church with other couples, other marriages we look up to. We’ve prayed over this. We didn't ask God to affirm us, but rather to convict us if we were going astray. He didn't, and though we didn’t ask for it, we’ve been affirmed.
We’re no trailblazers, David and I. Not by a long shot. Though we were adults at the time, and certainly capable, we both sat out the fight for marriage equality. Most of the hard work has been done for us, from the breaking of stereotypes to the activism. Now we get to just email our pastor and ask him if the date we want for the wedding works for him. We get to just go to the Parks and Recreation Department early one morning and stand in line with scores of other couples (mostly straight; one lesbian) trying to reserve a city park for their wedding. We get to just waltz into City Hall in a few weeks and pick up a marriage license like it’s nothing.
Easy. So easy! And yet we can’t change the messages with which we grew up, the worldview with which we came of age. And the easiness doesn’t help. I can’t speak for David, but for me, the easiness almost makes it feel less real. I never really thought this could happen. I never really thought marriage—real marriage—was an option for me. My thoughts on gay marriage were summed up by Will, from Will and Grace, in an episode from the early 2000s: “Oh, please! Gay weddings? Some witchy lesbian waves a stick over you on a beach somewhere, while a drag queen sings ‘Evergreen.’”
And now, boom. Just like that, I’m getting married.
The world has changed at blinding speed, and I’m just now realizing that I haven’t kept up. I’m still processing, even in this season of engagement, the fact that gay marriage is not ersatz marriage. For that reason, we can’t elope. We need this wedding, uncomfortable as it makes us feel. We need to call our honeymoon a honeymoon and not a vacation. We need to own the legitimacy of our covenant even when, say, my parents, refuse to acknowledge that this is happening. The more work we do, the more we plan, the more it sinks in that this is real—the more our emotions catch up to our brain.
Eloping would be nice. If marriage equality had become the law of the land 30 years ago we probably would have done it. Today, it’s a luxury we can’t afford. It would do us a disservice and would rob our friends and family of sharing in this realization that we are really getting married—not by a "witchy lesbian," but by a Christian pastor, who will say a prayer over us, at an altar, while our church sings a hymn.