March 26th, 2013 by Julie Silver
On the evening of October 19, 2008, my wife Mary and I were home watching TV. We had just put our almost 4 year old daughter Sarah down for the night and I was getting ready to fly to New York early the next morning. It was election season, an exciting one, and the country was on the verge of electing its first black president. That said, the mood in our home was mixed. California would soon vote against marriage equality and loving couples throughout the state would once again be citizens in an America that would seek to criminalize our behavior, or at best, marginalize us as deviants.
So we’re sitting there and a commercial for this vile Proposition 8 comes up. We muted the TV but we heard the message loud and clear anyway: California is gay enough. Gay teachers will make gay students and gay parents make gay babies.
Mary and I looked at each other in gay silence. Sarah was fast asleep, dreaming in the next room. This was it. We decided at that very moment to get married while we were still legally allowed to do so.
When marriage equality was finally made legal in California, Mary and I had planned to get married in July of 2009 on Cape Cod. We had a guest list of almost 300 people and wanted to make it easier for everyone by holding the ceremony on the east coast where most of our family lives. We were excited to throw a big wedding. We loved each other and we wanted to stand up for it, in front of the world, our world. This was not to be. For the months leading up to the vote on Prop 8, I was consumed with anger knowing that the validity of my marriage would be voted on by the public.
Meanwhile, our gay and lesbian friends were getting married in droves. In many instances, I was officiating at these weddings.
This is always a great honor, to stand under a chuppah, the traditional Jewish marriage canopy, and look into the eyes of two people who love each other and bless their marriage. It’s doubly inspiring to help wed a gay couple. It took falling in love with Mary to know that I wanted to receive that wedding blessing, to be under that same chuppah standing beside her. I wanted to celebrate the shelter I had found with Mary and our growing family. I wanted to invite others into the openness of our chuppah, to hold the poles, to support our couple-hood and dance circles around us.
Mary said we should throw exactly the wedding we want and then suggested the following Saturday for a full wedding but with a handful of guests. Six. Days. Away.
Me: “Mary think about what we’re doing here! This is too much. We need a florist, a videographer, a reception room and a space to hold a ceremony. How can we hire a photographer on such short notice? And don’t forget the music, Mary. Who’s gonna sing us down the aisle? Who’s going to hold our chuppah and where are we going to find a chuppah? And what are we going to wear? We have to plan a ceremony and send out invitations and find two maids of honor, Mary.”
While I was worrying myself to the point of paralysis, Mary calmly took out a notebook and began planning our wedding that was to take place in six days.
Mary: “I’m not sure my Dad is going to want us to get married without a real ceremony or reception and I know he’s going to want to be here for it,”
Me: “You’re kidding me, right? Nobody is going to fly across the country with six days notice, Mary.”
Mary: “And your parents are going to want to be here, too” And she’s writing things down and she’s making a list.
Me: “Oh wow, Mare. You gotta call my parents. I can’t do this to them. They usually plan their travel 6 or 8 months in advance and they might not be able to come. You gotta call ‘em, Mare.”
Mary: “You’re out of your mind if you think your parents are going to miss this.”
She is totally ignoring me. But, to be fair, she ignores me with love. She hasn’t taken her eyes off the page she’s writing on and she’s not going to let me or my anger and our government get in our way.
The next morning I left before dawn for LAX, called Mary from the taxi and woke her up. I asked her again to please call my parents and tell them we were getting married the following Saturday night.
“Tell them they do not have to come,” I stressed.
“I know, I know,” she yawned. “They plan their travel 6 to 8 months in advance. I get it.”
I flew to New York, obsessed, panicked, in love, pissed off, reluctant, paralyzed.
I called Mary on the ride into the city. “What happened with my parents when you called? How was your Dad about the whole thing? Is everyone freaking out?”
“First I told Vinnie we were planning on having a small, legal wedding at City Hall and he wants us to have a religious ceremony and a party. And then I called your parents to tell them and– SURPRISE!–your mom said ‘This Saturday? Well, we usually plan our travel about 6 or 8 months in advance…’
“I gotta go, that’s my mom on the other line”
“Congratulations! Mary just called.”
“I know it’s short notice, Mom. Don’t feel like you have to come. It’s not a big deal. We’re just doing this for legal purposes. Don’t push yourselves to get here.” My mom just listened.
“We’re arriving Friday.” she said. I could hear her smiling, 3000 miles away.
Two minutes later, my sister Robin called sounding like she had won the lottery.
“We’re arriving on Friday!” she yelled. From the front seat, my cab driver asked if I was OK.
Again, the message was clear. Other people were more excited about this wedding than I was. I was too exhausted to be excited. I was still fighting. I even felt embarrassed I’m sorry to say, and sleep-deprived for months worrying about the future of my family as our rights were about to be taken away. I simply
couldn’t get beyond my resentment at having to plan a shotgun wedding in six days.
I should disclose now that Mary produces a one-hour talk show every day, so it was pretty ridiculous of me to doubt her ability to, y’know, find a florist.
Mary worked on the details while I wandered the streets of New York working on my attitude. But I was also on the phone planning the ceremony with our friend Judy, receiving messages via well-wishers, getting with the program. It was all happening.
I can remember the conversation when we chose the song for our first dance as wife and wife. I was standing in front of a deli on Madison avenue, talking to Mary, staring at the food and people on the inside.
Our first dance would be the Theme Song from “The Odd Couple”.
In fact every time I talked to Mary who was still producing a daily, one hour talk show that same week while planning everything, she would remind me of my own words, words I had confidently spoken to loving couples underneath chuppim over the past few months.
“We stand on the shores of the red sea,” she would say. She didn’t actually use these exact words with me on the phone, but I certainly did.
“Once we were slaves, and now we are free. Free to take that first step into an unknown future. Free to cross waters that might not even part for us. This is us, in love, taking that first step, made even bigger and more meaningful by the marching and loving and
singing and protesting and the pioneers who brought us to this day. Who have given us permission to stand on their shoulders and see farther than they ever imagined.”
Before we even took off, I had already told the flight attendant about our plans to marry. Later, he brought me a glass of champagne and toasted our marriage. I never drank champagne on an airplane before, but today was a new day. And the more I told people about it, the more it dawned on me that I had become a joyful bride to be. Details shmeetails. I’m getting married to the love of my life, the woman who just planned our wedding in six days! I win!
The day before the wedding, I ran to the lumber-yard in Santa Monica to purchase four plain, wooden chuppah poles. Then I raced to Sears and bought a flat sheet and some fabric markers.
“Here,” I said, tossing the items to Sarah. “Spread this sheet out on the driveway and decorate it with these markers. We’re running out of time. I’ll explain everything later.”
And one day, I’ll explain all of it.