minimalist wedding plans [installment the first]

While I loved to dress up and play princess or flower fairy in my babysitters' hand-me-down prom dresses as a child, I don't remember having much of a thing for weddings. Even my princess games tended toward the "orphan princesses run away to the magic forest to set up housekeeping together in the Swiss Family Robinson treehouse" feel to them (who me, pre-adolescent passionate friendships? what?). So I can completely and entirely, without any regret, say that I'm thankful beyond belief that Hanna isn't interested in a bells-and-whistles wedding.

About a month after we decided we were getting hitched on, like, a particular date, the major decisions have been made and the pressing details ironed out. Everything else is just icing-on-the-cake details. (Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago what kind of cake we were going to have and I was like, "Oh, that's right! An excuse for cake!")

For folks interested in the process of minimalist wedding planning, here's what we've got sketched out so far.

1. Ceremony. It's going to be a civil ceremony (neither of us are active in a church/religion), performed either out-of-doors or at the office of the Justice of the Peace we've hired for the occasion. The state of Massachusetts requires paperwork to be filed three days in advance of the license being issued, so we'll be heading down to City Hall to do that together at some point the week before the wedding. As I mentioned already, Massachusetts is one of those easy-peasy states where the fact we're both women is neither here nor there as far as the bureaucracy is concerned. (Thanks to GLAD for the legal overview; PDF)

The vows are still a work-in-progress, though we're shooting for impersonal-formal without saying shit we don't actually believe in. This is harder than you might think.

2. Witnesses. We aren't required to have witnesses, here in the state of Massachusetts, but we're talking about who we want in attendance. One problem is that the short list is scattered across at least four states and multiple time zones. So the question of who will be with us on the day, if anyone, is still under discussion and advisement. We do have a work-around in mind we're pretty happy with; more on that soon.

3. Rings & Things. We've decided to have rings, a matching set from an artist in Spain who sells through Etsy. She's engraving the rings with our new middle names (see below). We fussed a bit about the font for the text before deciding to supply her with the names written in our own hands.

"Sunday best" will probably be in order, just to spruce ourselves up a bit, though neither of us are inclined to spend the time or money necessary for the wedding clothes we might -- in our ideal fantasy headspace -- enjoy dressing up in (hint: there has, in the past, been talk of knee-high boots, corsets, and waistcoats).

4. Names. We've been going back and forth about this for about as long as we've been talking about getting married, and finally decided that since children aren't in the picture and there's no elegant way of combining Cook and Clutterbuck, we'd go with combining our middle names instead. Hence our new, legal, middle names: Elisabeth Jane.

5. Tattoos. Wedding tattoos, I know. But we've both got ink already and since my ability to wear jewelry consistently is a bit dodgy we decided ink was a more permanent way of marking the transition to being wives. Drawing on Hanna's Buddhist practice and our English-Scottish roots we decided we wanted a knotwork design, and chose the eternal or endless knot. We're going to have my dad work up some different options incorporating colors we're both drawn to, including browns, purples, blues, greens, and grays.

6. Announcements. We're asking our friend Diana to design us letterpress announcements to mail out to family and friends. Photographs of any kind are still under negotiation, but a wedding portrait of some kind may or may not be included.

7. Honeymoon. This part actually came first! Our original plan was to spend a week's vacation on Cape Cod this fall (our first honest-to-goodness vacation that doesn't involve travel for professional development or family visits) and it was in planning that vacation that we decided the time was ripe to get married. So we're renting a tiny studio cottage on the ocean for a week and planning to spend lots of hours wandering around the national shoreline, hanging in coffee shops, reading, watching Supernatural and Stargate: Atlantis, cooking, wading in tidepools, and all the other things one does on a vacation-honeymoon with one's wife.

8. Family. With my family scattered across the U.S. from Michigan to Texas to Oregon, we're still working out the details of how to mark the occasion with family members. There's talk of celebration dinner with the parents of the brides, or a "grand tour" to visit the siblings ... basically, we're not sure yet. Time and money being what they are, a unified family-and-friends gathering probably just isn't in the cards.

9. Larger Meanings. Getting married. Being a wife. Having a wife. As an historian with an interest in sexuality and gender, and as a queer feminist, I'm obviously acutely aware of the historical specificity of what we're doing here. It's living in this time, in this place, that's making it possible for Hanna and I to conceive of ourselves as being in a relationship that falls within the purview of marital relations -- and then makes it possible for us to act on that self-understanding. Without fear of losing our jobs or being shunned by friends. Quite the opposite, in fact: our friends and family have celebrated with and for us, and when I told my colleagues about the nuptials I got a hug from my boss.

There have been other times when, there continue to be other places where, and other couples for whom, this manner of openness, legality, and celebration is not an option.

I'm also aware, and in political sympathy with, many of the people who decry the way the institution of marriage, however equal, has become the gateway to a whole host of civil rights, responsibilities, and benefits -- from parental leave to retirement benefits and everything in-between. The navigation of private meaning and personal choices as they interact with and help to shape public dialogue and structural inequalities, for better or worse, is something none of us can escape. Writing about what we're doing, and why, is part of my commitment to thinking about how the personal and political interact in myriad ways.

10. Cake! When I was a child, my default celebration cake was chocolate chip pound cake; these days I'm a fan of red velvet (is there a better mode of cream cheese frosting delivery? seriously). Clearly important decisions must be made.

I'll keep you posted!

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