I is 30 and lives in San Francisco.
Why are you choosing to get married?
It’s funny, it doesn’t seem like a choice to me. It’s not that it’s something I’m forced into, it’s just always what I imagined I would do when I met the person who I wanted to merge my life with. I’m not one of those girls who imagined the fairy tale wedding or the house in the suburbs or anything that specific. But I did hope that I would one day meet someone who felt like my missing half, and I did, and I knew that I would marry her.
I guess a bigger question is why am I choosing to marry E? I think we both knew when we met each other that we would get married, but we were both cautious. If we were different people, we would have been married years ago, but I’m not sure that I completely believed in the ‘love at first sight’ thing, and although it felt right, I also felt compelled to put our relationship through the practical test of a few years together before I could fully commit mentally based on a deep feeling that has been there since the beginning. A few years into our relationship, and after we got through a number of really difficult experiences, I knew that it had passed my intellectual test and I was ready to take that step to where my heart had always been.
What do you see the role of a wedding to be?
The wedding is our way of showing to our family and friends that we’re serious about being a family, and a way to let them celebrate with us. I think that a lot of queer couples become invisible when it is convenient for the people around them. It’s too easy to refer to my spouse with neutral terms like “roommate,” “companion,” “friend,” or even the word I use, which is partner. Having a wedding establishes for our families and community that we’re a union just like any of their hetero relatives, with the same commitments, and deserving of the same respect and treatment (even if the federal government does
On a more simple level, why not have a party for yourselves? I’m blissfully happy, why not celebrate with cake and pretty clothes and get presents?
Is there anything so far about being engaged/wedding planning that you find remarkable or surprising?
I am constantly surprised by how excited people are for us for what seems like political reasons. At least every day I fend off questions about the legality of my upcoming marriage, and it seems like everyone wants to tell me stories about their same-sex friends who got married. Suddenly, we’re not just getting married, we’re having a gay wedding, the latter with political significance that we did not intent to bring into it. I never considered the legality of my actions, and I think people get confused between ‘wedding/marriage’ meaning a spiritual and emotional commitment between people and ‘wedding/marriage’ meaning that the government gives you different rights. There’s a huge difference between the two for me. I never doubted that we could have a marriage/wedding within our religion and community that shows our commitment to each other and only became aware of the second meaning of marriage/wedding when the politics around gay marriage became a topic of conversation a few years ago. This doesn’t change how I see my own marriage/wedding, but it does seem to change how other people view my decision and adds a political slant to it that I didn’t intend and I’d like to get rid of. I’d really rather have people ask me about my vows or partnership than whether it’s legal to get married in California when I tell them about my upcoming wedding.
The other reaction that surprised me is that even in San Francisco, as soon as I started to wear an engagement ring to work, colleagues assumed I was straight. I’ve never hid my partner or my sexual orientation, but I guess I also was never open enough about it. I got lots of questions like “oh, what does he do” from people who I thought knew me better! At that point, I had a hard time coming out to people and would often answer with a non-committal, “oh, social worker” that answered their question but didn’t reveal too much more about me.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
I don’t like it. It sounds old-fashioned to me, like when someone calls me Mrs. S and I immediately look around for my mother. I’m not sure that I will ever be comfortable referring to E as my wife. That said, I know a number of queer couples that use it, and it seems to me to be a political statement for them, as they know it turns heads. It always makes me pause when I hear it–I know that my friends are married, but somehow hearing one refer to the other as wife makes me pause. There also doesn’t seem to be a better word. Partner is ambiguous. Spouse sounds a little odd as well. We also had issues with the word ‘fiance,’ I think for similar reasons. Our joking compromise was to call each other ‘biance,’ a combination of ‘boo’ and ‘fiance’ and with a joking nod to Ms.Knowles. I think we will come up with something like that to describe each other after we’re married as well.
What decision are you making about your name? Why?
I’m not changing it. I love the idea of a family where everyone has one last name, but it’s too problematic to figure out how to make that happen. Then there’s also the issue that my partner and I have the same first name (different spellings), so changing our last names would give us names that are too similar and I imagine cause all sorts of administrative issues. While I never thought of myself as someone who was attached to her last name, I can’t imaging changing it.
Everyone knows me with this particular identity and I’m established professionally and socially in a large network of people who know me by this name. Changing it just seems incredibly complicated, and my fear is that it would erase who I am in my existence as an independent person who is distinct from my spouse. I think the tradition of a woman changing her name comes from an era where the woman wasn’t expected to do much independently, where her social life and professional life all revolved around her family. It’s too late for my partner and I–we’ve been engaging with the world as independent women for many years and will continue to do so.
I’m not sure yet what name we’ll give our children. It seems important to me that they share my name, yet I understand how burdensome a hyphenated name can be. My partner’s name is already hyphenated from her parents. We haven’t yet figured out what we’ll do about that issue.
What do you expect marriage to be like? Are you expecting your relationship with your partner to change?
It’s hard for me to imagine that my relationship will change dramatically, or that after our wedding we will suddenly become a different couple just because we exchanged rings. However, many people have told me that marriage completely changed their relationship. I don’t really understand what this means, and it makes me a little nervous. We have been together for five years, and lived together for four of those years. The biggest transition in our relationship was when we moved in together, but basically our relationship has been shifting and transitioning, growing and changing gradually the entire time we’ve been together. So of course our relationship will continue to change after we are married, but it’s hard for me to imagine that marriage is what will change it.
In my mind, the commitment has already been made. All of the things we are promising to each other in marriage are promises that I already do my best to uphold, because they are the basis of trust in our relationship. The marriage seems like a formality at this point.