One of the aspects of same-sex marriage I appreciate most is the freedom it affords us to deconstruct the cultural traditions that weigh down the wedding process. After all, once you've subtracted a bride or groom from the equation, pretty much anything goes. Your grandma isn't going to sweat the small stuff, like whether you'll be throwing a bouquet. (Spoiler: I'm not.)
I've been looking forward to all of the ways Tino and I could slough off traditional expectations: No resentful groomsmen in $200 rented tuxes. No drunken bachelor parties in Mexico, or Vegas, or Napa. Well…maybe Napa. And no adorable flower girls plopping down rose petals as if the Queen of Sheba has come to town.
So, we stripped out the cake, the bridal shower, the procession and yes, even the Jordan almonds. May we pause and wax philosophic on Jordan almonds? They are hard, disgusting, and Pepto-Bismol ugly. I have yet to meet someone who relishes a good Jordan almond. And yet somehow, like lice, they have formed some kind of parasitic relationship with the wedding industry that is too deeply ingrained in tradition to exterminate. Jordan almonds, my friends, are everything that is wrong with weddings.
But I digress. After we removed the parties, the desserts, and the customs, I felt safe that we wouldn't get caught up in the wedding machine, or that one of us would turn into a fire-breathing groomzilla (let's be real; it would be me). And yet I had a creeping sense of emptiness, too.
A number of people offered to throw us engagement parties, but we politely declined. Fortunately, we have some awesome people in our lives who decided to throw a couple for us anyway. During a trip to Los Angeles for Christmas, our small group from our old church turned a casual reunion into an amazing engagement party. A few days later, my sister planned a brunch with our cousins so that I could introduce Tino to the extended family and break the good news of our engagement.
We left both of these events feeling full, and I had to ask myself why. While many traditions are pointless, over-the-top, or commercially driven—here's to you, Valentine's Day!—some do have a purpose. They serve as a public declaration of commitment, faith, and love, and they allow others to share in your joy.
Like Tino, I've struggled with feeling as if our wedding is inferior, as if it's somehow "playing house" compared to opposite-sex weddings. This is in part because of my own internalized gunk over gay marriage, and in part due to my experience with others. A low point in feeling inferior was when, after announcing our engagement, a relative said to me, "Well, it looks like you're starting to get serious." Yes. Yes, we are.
But our own distaste for weddings is to blame as well. If you throw out all the rituals it stops looking like a celebration of marriage altogether. A wedding stripped of all tradition, ceremony, and celebration is just a signed certificate at a courthouse. It's official, but it lacks the joy and reverence I think God wants for such an occasion.
After our wonderful engagement parties, we decided that we needed to incorporate some traditions back into the process. So we've been asking ourselves all sorts of questions: What actually matters to us in the act of marriage? What are our own traditions? What nuptial elements will reflect Christ? Those are the things we keep.
Our wedding, it turns out, will look like a wedding. There will be a few changes: Blue Star donuts instead of cake. Casualwear instead of suits. And, most important, a ceremony that redirects the focus of the day away from us and toward God. It won't be as stripped-down and re-imagined as I had hoped, but it will echo the joy and sanctity of the ceremony that has threaded marriages throughout time. After all, Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding.
There will be laughter. There will be joy. There will be no Jordan almonds.