By Rob Watson
I did not ask for it to happen. Through an ongoing set of circumstances this year, I was called upon to do something incredibly special. I was asked to officiate for a betrothed couple and marry them. This was an honor that I had not sought out, but the couple knew that I could speak well, write and had a strong sense of spiritual principles—so they asked. I eagerly accepted.
Then another couple asked. I again was thrilled, honored, and accepted. As I met with the two couples on their special days, I reflected back a year to a blog piece I had written about another wedding official, reverend Marian Hale.
Reverend Hale had shared a story with me of her first same gender couple back in the 1990s. This couple was different than the ones I was going to marry – they were marrying for love only, their wedding would bring no legal standing or protection whatsoever.
Reverend Hale felt protective of the couple even though they had acknowledged to her that some of the people in attendance looked on the event somewhat as a joke. They however did not. She was gratified that one of the groom’s parents had flown in specifically for the ceremony, but equally pained by the fact that the mother of the other groom, who lived across town, was specifically boycotting it. Marian fought the specter of rejection due to the absent mother, and worked to keep it from affecting the beauty of the day. Her goal was for her young couple to feel nothing but the love and adoration that was due them. To that end, she created a ceremony by which roses, for one groom, and lilies for the other, would be combined in a crystal vase signifying their union. This blend would be done by the families and friends in attendance.
As the ceremony progressed, Marian noticed the face of the father who had flown in. She could see that he had come as a matter of duty. He sat back gingerly toying with the rose. She could feel her heart sinking as she feared more parental rejection was in the making. Finally he stood and came to the front. As he placed the rose in the bowl, the full weight of what his son was doing hit him. He started to speak, and then weep as, for the first time, the love, respect and honor he felt for his son and his new son in law came spilling out. As the son hugged his tear stained Dad, Marian saw that the father had, in that moment, undergone the process of true acceptance. The spirit of the congregation welled up, and with honor and dignity, the couple was declared as one. They were no longer single, but a family. Reverend Hale observed, “The world had shifted. The words that came almost immediately are these: If that had been a heterosexual wedding at that day and time, there could be all kinds of reasons, agendas if you will, for this event to be taking place. There can be a baby on the way, pressure from the family, even pressure from the church. There can be tax reasons, other financial reasons – or even a Green Card! For this gay wedding, none of these agendas applied.”
The two weddings were different than Reverend Hale’s. These two were legal. The couple Reverend Hale married are likely parents now. The couples that I joined together had no intention of having children. One couple, who are of opposite gender, are looking forward to spending time with their grand children. The other couple, who are of the same gender, have a life of community, dogs and adventures. One couple went miles from home for their wedding venue, the other did it in their living room. One couple used candles and fire to symbolize unity, the other, like Reverend Hale’s couple, used flowers for the same symbolism. My opposite gender couple was similar to Reverend Hale’s couple—they had only known each other for over a year. My same sex couple had been together for twenty seven years. Three couples, so different in so many ways, but in reflecting on the three weddings, they seem almost identical.
They all shared a vision of family, love and community. They all shared a hope and a dream. They all shared the desire to be permitted to define themselves and not apologize to anyone for who they were, and who they would commit themselves to for life. As Reverend Hale stated, “It happened solely because two people wanted to stand side by side and be witnessed making a life commitment to one another, that was the only reason for it. It was, and is so clean, so pure, so simple.”
Weddings… amongst the chaos, the decisions, the pomp, the glory and the fun, they can all be seen that same way. It is so simple. It is love, it is life and we all need the freedom to live it.