So I’m engaged… and I’m getting married in 612 days.
I never thought I’d ever say that out loud to anyone, let alone type it down and stare at it. There’s no quick explanation on why I never thought I’d get married. For a long laundry list of reasons, I just didn’t want to. I never thought about what my wedding would look like. I never wanted to be a “bride,” however I defined it. I could never picture it. The white dress… I still can’t. My wedding just didn’t exist in my head. And then I met my partner Brian.
One of the first things Brian said to me when I asked them to marry me was that they’d always wanted to get married but never thought they would. We are both fiercely independent people who have spent a lot of time in relationships with people who didn’t quite get us. We’re artists who even our families don’t completely understand, and we have very particular ideas about our lives and how we navigate them; choices that our families simultaneously wish we’d give up for desk jobs and succeeded at stardom beyond their expectations (neither of which we’ll ever promise them).
But meeting this person who mirrors my values and lifestyle, accepts, listens, and supports my beliefs, and struggles with minimalism, vegetarianism, speciesism, ageism, wicca… it allowed me to reconsider the quiet fantasy of having a family with another adult. Of creating a safe and loving space with someone else, instead of doing it all alone. This is what marriage means to me.
When I asked Brian to marry me, we were on Toronto Island, staring out at the city skyline reading poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay and listening to the Lake Ontario waters lap up on the beach. Tranquil and quiet energy swirled around us. Given the rush of living in a city of over five million, it brought a calm strangeness to know that no one was around.
When Brian agreed to spend their life with me, we both put on our matching walnut and birch rings. I wanted to create something earthy for us, something handmade and full of positive light. I had the words “I believe in you” inscribed inside both rings, mostly for those dark moments when we’d find ourselves looking for nothing but a sad song and box of donuts to soothe our souls. It’s worked a few times, already.
In all the perfection that this was for us, I didn’t expect the whirlwind that would come — the questions, assumptions, unsolicited advice, and all the “good things” that go along with an engagement in two large and loving families. Our quiet serenity on that beach on Toronto island slipped away from me so fast, I went looking for it in all the wrong places. I went looking for it in supposed-to’s:
“Woah, you’re BOTH wearing rings?” Wait – are we not supposed to? I wanted to be part of this engagement too…
“You don’t have a date set? I don’t think you want to have a very long engagement, right?” Huh? We don’t? How long is an engagement supposed to be?
“You’ll consider our church, right? You really want to have a classy wedding.” Are we supposed to want that? Can’t it be calm and fun and meditative and outside and still be classy?
“Am I going to be in your wedding party?”
“Are you going to have kids?”
“Do you want to have it at our beach house?”
“Can my child be your flower bearer?”
“Are you going to get real wedding rings?”
After many tears from pressure I couldn’t calculate, Brian and I agreed on one reply: “We haven’t talked about it yet, but when we do, we will let you know.”
At our first wedding planning meeting, we agreed that we didn’t want most of what people thought we would want for our wedding. We made a list of words to describe what it would feel like: natural, outdoors, sustainable, welcoming, homey, spiritual, inclusive, artistic…
We decided that it would be outside and probably in the woods because that’s where we feel the most at home. We decided it would be on Sunday because Mercury isn’t in retrograde, the moon is waxing, and our first full day of marriage would be on the anniversary of the day we met (and also a full moon!).
We decided that we’d continue to be partners, or Andrea and Brian, because binaries like bride and groom are just not for us. I decided that I wouldn’t be wearing white, and Brian decided that they wouldn’t wear a tux. We decided that we’d have a wedding party and that we wouldn’t have “sides.” We decided that we would make each decision for a reason, and we’d discuss each reason to ensure it’s the right one, and that we could explain it to our questioning relatives.
I never thought for a second about my wedding, I only thought of support my partner’s dreams of having a wedding and a marriage. In the process I’ve learned to define those things for myself, too. And like most things we do, we want to use our wedding as a conversation starter: this is why we’re “partners,” this is why we chose handmade rings, this is why…
Getting engaged has taught me that I feel an unrelenting pressure to please; that this need is often the root of my many anxiety attacks.
It’s reminded me of my values, hopes, and first loves. It’s reminded me that we don’t need a lot to feel loved, that harmony, for us, comes from the earth, and that Brian and I can do this together, whatever way we want.
“Brian wants to get married in a circle,” I told my cousin. “To me that’s odd,” she laughed, “But the thing is, Andrea, no one would question it. It’s very… you.”