Thursday, 26 June 2008

The Big Fat Gay Quaker Wedding III

I am still recounting my adventures during my friends’ Big Fat Gay Quaker Wedding. In part one, I talked about events leading to the wedding day. In part two, I share random bits about setting up and tearing down. Here I will talk about the actual ceremony and the reception and finally, I will share some general reflections on the entire weekend.

The ceremony

I had never been to a gay wedding and neither had I been to a Quaker wedding and so I was really looking forward to this particular one. I knew there was going to be long moments of silence (from my experience with other Quaker meetings) but that was pretty much all I knew to expect.

In the Quaker meeting place where the ceremony was held, the chairs were placed in a (multi layered) circle with the grooms seated in the front. The ceremony started out by the meeting clerk (yes, even though Quakers don’t have a pastor/priest, they do have someone to drive meetings and such) telling us how everything was going to be done. Then everyone in the room (a little over a hundred I think) introduced themselves and briefly stated how they were connected to the grooms. This activity was important to me for a variety of reasons. First of all, everyone is immediately drawn into the ceremony. They weren’t merely onlookers but participants. Secondly, this wasn’t simply a roomful of strangers but instead people who are connected because of their relationship with the couple. And finally, it was interesting to see what a diverse collection of people were there to support the couple. There were family and friends who had known them since birth, friends they grew up with, college and graduate school friends, colleagues and other friends from all aspects of their lives.

After the introduction, there was about fifteen minutes of silence. Quakers believe in silent worship. During this time, the three year old nephew of one of the grooms ran commentary. This baby is the cutest thing ever. For those of us who are challenged by having to sit still and silent for longer than a minute, he was a much appreciated and amusing distraction, although I am not sure the Quakers present necessarily agreed with me.

And then the grooms stood up and exchanged their vows. This part was particularly poignant for a variety of reasons. Quakers believe that each one of us has direct access to God and so there is no need for a mediator (i.e. pastor/priest). I like very much the idea of a personal God, one that we can go to whenever and say whatever to. They exchanged very simple and traditional vows but what was particularly moving was how heartfelt their words were (from the emotion heard). One of the grooms even sounded choked (?) when he started to speak.

And then there was some more audience participation. There was an opportunity for everyone present to share something with the groom (and the audience?). This was probably my most favourite part of the ceremony. So this activity could go either of two ways: It could be a chance for people to off load a bunch of BS or an opportunity for people to share deeply and sensitively about themselves and the grooms. What happened was that almost everyone there had something important to share. Some advice, or a reading from some place, and most commonly some memory of their interactions with one pf the grooms. How can just two people, having lived such short live have touched so many people in so many important ways? Did I mention that these guys are truly an inspiration? Yes, they really are.

I remember sitting there and thinking that I could maybe find some friends and family to say some sort of cool things about me, and my relationships with them and maybe even share some positive influence I have had on their lives. I would be harder if not impossible to get my work colleagues to do so however. But this many people, from that many areas of my life? Wow!

The most heartfelt moment for me was when a friend of the grooms said something like “I have so many memories with these guys I don’t even know where to start.” And then stopped because he was choked and couldn’t talk any more. To any observers, it probably didn’t mean much. But if I was going to cry at any point during the entire weekend, it probably would have been then. I knew exactly what he was saying and I felt like he couldn’t have said it any better. Knowing this guy and knowing off his relationship with the grooms, I believe I know exactly where he was coming from. And knowing this guy to be one not given to blatant expression of emotions such as he was at that instant made the moment even more moving.

And finally, the grooms shared a handshake (another Quaker thing) and everyone there did the same with the people around them. This was the end of the ceremony and the grooms walked out of the meeting place. The last thing to come though was the signing of the marriage certificate. After the couple signed, Quakers encourage everyone present, even the children to sign it too. I guess the certificate acts as a record of all the witnesses to the occasion. A very interesting concept – having a record of every witness to the event

The reception
After the Quaker ceremony went without any big events. The food was great, I am told. I finally had dinner sometime around
midnight, and by then I think I was too tired and hungry not to be impressed by wet saw dust. As usual, the great troupe of amazing volunteers came together to make everything run smoothly, from serving drinks and food, to cleaning glasses (we broke (only) seven in total) and cutlery and plates. I have never had to deal with that many plates and glasses. But I have also never worked with such remarkable, enthusiastic, willing and efficient volunteers. Now I definitely know who I will be inviting if I ever get married. I continued to be humbled at how much everyone was so disposed to help out.

The highlight of the reception for me was the throwing of the boa. Yes, a boa! My friends had decided that they wanted to start some traditions for gay wedding, since there really aren’t any. There wasn’t a bouquet to toss and neither of them was wearing a garter (at least not one they were willing to part with (LOL)). So they came up with tossing a boa. The sister of one of the grooms had left an ugly lime green boa in the back of his car a couple of months earlier. And somehow they decided that a boa was the perfect thing to toss at a gay wedding. Lots of hilarity ensued, especially since the guy who caught the boa was one of the few single straight guys in attendance.

So somehow, with no consultation from the two (sort of single) female wedding planners, the grooms decided that only males were going to be allowed to vie for said boa. You would think that gay guys would be more attuned to issues of gender discrimination. Tsk, tsk. I am still a little miffed, just a little. The fact that I DO NOT want to catch the boa (bouquet, garter, whatever) is entirely beside the point. Like someone famously said, I wanted the option to refuse.

And finally, some reflections on the entire weekend…


Joe Moderate said...

Huzzah for the boa! Actually, I thought the announcement made before the boa toss was an invitation for all singles (no gender specified) to gather. My memory may not serve me perfectly, but this is what I recall.

On the other hand, it seemed that the crowd that gathered early was all male, so perhaps attendees misunderstood that only guys were allowed to gather. :-/ Shucks.

It was special reading your recollection of B's moving words during the ceremony. That was the only part of the service during which I cried. And I noticed C cried during that part, too. *sigh* B is such an important friend to both of us...

Thanks for making our big day so special,


Selly said...

To be fair, I wasn't actually there when the announcement was made about the boa. I did however come out just before the throwing of the boa to find that there were only men in attendance.

I did wonder aloud why that was so. But like I said, my protestations were only halfhearted so I didn't really push for "feminine involvement." :-)