[Note: At the request of the brides I'm not using their names, the denomination of their religion, or the area in which they were married. This is to protect the brave clergy-members who blessed the union despite their denomination's opinion on gay unions. For the purpose of the post, the brides are British Rikistene (Now showing in the US!) and American Teredon.]
[Note 2: It is a testament to how much we adore Rikistene and Teredon that we skipped the ABQ Balloon Fiesta in order to attend their wedding. In the future none of our friends or family may marry in October unless they do so in a hot air balloon here.]
Andy and I flew out to the wedding on Friday; starting at 09:00 our time and ending up there at 16:00 plus or minus. Upon check-in we received a bag full of directions to events (for idiots like me who left the invitation at home), a listing of events, and some sugar fixes. I wish I'd thought of that for me wedding; it was such a simple and thoughtful thing to do. It set the mood for the rest of the wedding nicely.
On Friday night they asked us to come to a party and bring drinks. We brought whatever cola was on sale and a gallon of water, the second of which was met with a grateful comment from the woman who accepted them. I get the notion that locals were asked to bring food and such. The party was non-alcoholic (except for some Jell-o shots which I didn't see, honest) and there was no music, except for a few examples noted later. It was decorated with pale turquoise and royal purple balloons since blue and purple are the brides' colors.
Once people had grazed they opened up the stage for people to tell stories about the brides. At first no one really came up, but as the evening wore on more people participated. We got to hear funny stories from family, such as Rikistene learning to walk late and talk early, crawling into the kitchen and asking politely "Please mum, may I have some juice?" and Teredon putting on footed pajamas and a cape and becoming Super Teredon. Two of Rikistene's British friends gave an amusing rundown of what they found when they cleaned out Teredon's refrigerator (the oldest legible expiration date was 1993). Rikistene's mother and sister related the story of Rikistene picking up some choice words at school and being told not to use them around her impressionable little sister, only to be caught later instructing her sister to go up to their mother and say those exact words.
Teredon is a folk singer with an incredible voice, so it is no surprise she participates in choir in her church. Many many members of her congregation were there and at the wedding itself, supporting both brides. One woman played/sang a song celebrating Teredon's legendary lateness and ended up giving them a gorgeous anniversary clock. Rikistene handed callicrates the wrapping paper. Another guy had the male audience members sing a few doobie-doos and the females sing some doots, and ended up with a fairly good accompaniment for his own version of Don't Worry, Be Happy which touched on quirks and endearing qualities of both brides. Finally, after the brides spoke they sang the first two verses of Let's Call the Whole Thing Off -- for those not familiar, it compares the way they say words like tomato (tomayto, tomahto) and neither (neether, niether). All in all it was wonderful.
We were invited to a mass the next morning but opted to skip it. After borrowing some tape and scissors from the church's children's group the night before, Andy had made a decent dent in making a very intricate wrapping-paper box. He wanted to finish it by brunch and present it to the brides. He managed to do so, and brunch was very nice. It was hosted by the two people who kept things moving the night before, including the woman who went hunting through the children's box to find scissors and tape requested by an unknown weirdo.
For an hour before the wedding there was a mingle-and-get-to-know-people gathering with cheese and veggies and the like. We were seated with Rikistene's two British friends (Andy knew both of them from online and I knew one of them from the same place) and with a couple, the guy with whom Andy had a lot in common. There were a lot of people there, and it was palpably obvious that Rikistene and Teredon have been positive influences on many lives out there.
In Britain the tradition is for the bride to lead the procession, while in the US it is tradition for the bride to be last. This dove-tailed nicely for the procession (The Pachelbel Canon), with Rikistene leading and her bridesmaids following, followed by the ring-bearer and Teredon's bridesmaids and, finally, Teredon. Both of them were positively glowing. I believe that any time a woman is marrying someone she loves, she is the absolute prettiest person there, and so with two brides so obviously in love it was impossible for this theory to be validated.
The ceremony itself was wonderful, mixing several traditions and creating one or two of its own. There were readings from the Bible and from Dr Seuss, among others, and songs sung surprisingly well by the church choir (I'm used to those where enthusiasm and volume are the principle characteristics, not melody and harmony) and soloists. For the part with "Do you, Rikistene <...>", the attendees were given the words printed on a program and chanted them in unison, almost.
There was also a period of silence in the Quaker tradition in which people were encouraged to speak up as the spirit moved them. Andy did a beautiful comment with a quote from Tolkien which I'll let him relay, since I'd just butcher it. If he puts it in his own journal I'll link to it once it's up. They lit a unity candle, but instead of just having it sit there and look pretty, they used it to light candles given to us when we walked in, so that we could all take the light and continue spreading it. Unfortunately mundane concerns (namely the fire alarm) ended up winning and we had to blow out the candles, but the symbolism was well-established by that point. On the way out we all signed their hand-made marriage license.
Instead of a guestbook, Rikistene and Teredon had a set of plain dishes and special permanent markers. They asked everyone who attended to sign the dishes as a very permanent remembrance of the occasion. When they went to sit down at their table they found two origami cranes, one blue and one purple, joined at the wing. This was actually quite difficult, since the usual pattern for the wing-joined cranes has them end up bi-colored. Also on the gift table was another origami piece, a blue and a purple swan with necks intertwined. The little gift from the brides were origami boxes made by Rikistene filled with turquoise and purple M&M's. Andy introduced Rikistene to paper-folding, and she has passed him in some forms, such as unit origami.
Aside from a few mentions, politics were mostly left out of the wedding. It was noted that although signed by some 150 witnesses, the marriage license had no legal standing, nor would the marriage help Rikistene with her immigration status. They asked to try to help them change it; by those within their denomination to help change it from within, and those outside of it to help by writing to representatives who pass laws.
There were several children at the wedding and they were obviously welcomed. I think an even more telling anecdote about the mindset of the brides is as follows: There was a mentally handicapped member in the audience and she occasionally made noises at inappropriate moments. During the part where anyone could say things about the brides, the mother stood up and said "I almost didn't come today because I couldn't find a sitter. When I gave this reason to Teredon, she asked why I just didn't bring her; after all, the idea of the wedding was to include everyone."
One last thing -- instead of the inherently negative "If you think this marriage should not go on" bit, the section where anyone could speak up also had the encouragement to say why people thought the marriage should occur. It was little touches like that which set the tone for the whole evening. And, believe it or not, everything I've written was just a series of highlights. I would overrun the buffer if I went on to describe the music (Done by people who had been helped sound-wise by Teredon when they released their album), the food, the two songs sung by Teredon to Rikistene (When You Wish Upon a Star with Someone to Watch Over Me embedded) during the reception, doing their first dance to an Indigo Girls song whose title I can't remember (Significant since they met on a mailing list dedicated to the Indigo Girls), and a ton of other things. I think if Andy and I ever renew our vows or whatever, we will be borrowing a lot of ideas from this weekend.