Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Our Wedding! (Part 1: Preparations and Rehearsal Dinner)

Although I've put it off for an entire year, I really do want to get around to writing about getting married last year. And also about our honeymoon, but that will have to wait still longer, for a separate entry. Here's hoping I can get through it all fairly soon, finally, after a year of delay. It is a little strange looking back at this biggest and fanciest event of our lives now that large events like this are no longer allowed, and now that our incomes are in extreme jeopardy from the economic crash, and so on. A year ago was a happier, easier, more innocent time. But I'm very glad we had it, very glad we got married at a time when all of this was still possible. A bit sad that we didn't also manage to sell my house back when house-selling was still easy and brought in more money - but hey, you can only do so much at a time, and getting married was what we managed to do. Selling my house, not so much. But we'll figure something out. For now, it's time to reminisce about getting married!

Barry and I were married on Saturday, April 13, 2019, near Santa Rosa, California, at the house of some friends of ours. These friends were originally Barry's friends, whom he got to know just months before his first wife dumped him, and thus about a year before I met him. They friends are rather wealthy and own three houses; the one we were married at is the one they bought most recently, in 2017, and is not their primary residence; they use it primarily for entertaining large groups, although their daughter and her fiancée live full time in an in-law apartment on the property. It has many bedrooms that just stand empty until there are guests staying the night; it's a little like a hotel, and they've seemed to really enjoy opening it up for any big party we wanted to organize there, even before we got married there. So they were among the very first people we told about our engagement. They immediately asked where we were getting married, and we responded by asking if we could get married at their house. They got so excited over the prospect and started asking so eagerly about what else they could do to help that I felt obliged to assure them that providing a venue was plenty of help already and that they should not feel a need to overexert themselves by offering even more than that. In the event, however, they also provided (and fully funded!) our rehearsal dinner, taking our immediate families and some of our wedding party out to dinner at the exclusive country club near their house. It was hugely expensive, I'm sure; I'm rather glad I never have to know exactly how hugely expensive.

We sent invitations to 57 people; 39 of them accepted, so when adding the two of us and the photographer, we planned for 42 people. One of the guests was unexpectedly delayed and then canceled entirely after our wedding was already underway, so we ended up with 41 people and one empty place setting.

Barry and I both poured a huge amount of planning into our wedding, and it was all extremely collaborative and extremely personalized to represent the identities of both of us. We designed and created the invitations ourselves; Barry created a design based on my ideas (a paper gatefold, with a lupine blue butterfly on a lupine flower in front of the gate, and a wooden insert inside the gate with the text of our invitation engraved on one side and a lupine flower engraved on the other side) and lasercut the paper and the wood for both the invitations and the envelopes we sent them in, while I composed the text printed on the invitations and hand-addressed the envelopes in calligraphy, using a postage stamp we found that had a closely related blue butterfly on it. The invitations contained a link to our wedding website, which told our story as a couple, which we wrote very collaboratively, trading edits back and forth for weeks. After the invitations went out, we also co-wrote the entire ceremony, not just our vows; we traded edits to this back and forth for weeks as well, and after we finally agreed on a draft, our officiant (an old friend of Barry's, who is a "reverend" in the Universal Life Church and also an atheist) added still more suggestions, comments, and questions, so we traded additional edits back and forth with him for a few more weeks after that. And then we also collaboratively co-wrote the program and other paper items handed out in gift bags.

And of course, we also collaboratively planned all the details of our clothes, the food, the drinks, the cake, the tables and chairs, the tablecloths and other décor, the dishes and silverware, the schedule, the entertainment, the song selection, and even our choice of last name. Barry lasercut wooden place markers with people's names on them to go on the tables at the reception, as well as wooden table numbers, wooden food labels for the buffet table, name stickers for our favor/program bags, engraved wooden dice box wedding favors, and wooden plant labels for my table centerpieces. I planted nine different white ceramic pots with native plants to be our table centerpieces, created custom native seed packets for each guest's specific neighborhood, and printed out the details of each seed packet's contents and some botanical trivia about each guest's neighborhood.


I made a three-piece posterboard display listing things we had done together: 1 plane trip, 1 garden tour hosted, 3 camping trips, 4 inns and AirBnBs, 5 parades attended or participated in, 5 books read together, 6 theatrical performances attended, 6 swimming trips, 11 movies watched, 11 computer games played together, 16 plant-shopping trips, 23 hiking trips, 23 counties traveled to, 24 cats fostered, 26 television shows watched, and 56 tabletop games played together. And I listed them all, in each case.



Oh, and we also collaboratively compiled a list of love songs to be played during our wedding! I compiled a first draft, Barry added a few more songs, we listened to it on various drives to and from the wedding venue while planning and setting up the wedding, we deleted a few songs we didn't like as much as the others, and then we were done! And now we have not just one song that is "our song" but a whole bunch of them.

All in all, our wedding was a massive joint project that was in every way very evenly shared between us, and it performed exactly the function that I had always thought wedding planning should ideally aspire to do: it demonstrated beyond all doubt our ability to collaborate with each other fairly and equitably while forging and expressing to our social circles a joint sense of identity that is satisfying to both of us.

And it was more exciting than stressful! But there was definitely stress involved at various moments along the way too. The stress was mostly a matter of the impending and rather short deadlines we had set for ourselves (we were engaged for only five and a half months!), but there were a few moments of mild friction between us when deciding how to handle some of the details. Barry initially wanted a titanium or other modern-material wedding ring, and I was bothered by that because I didn't have confidence that the materials would last (titanium is incredibly scratch-resistant but also far more brittle than gold and thus more prone to snapping in half). Barry gave in and chose a 14K yellow-and-rose-gold wedding ring, which he seems very happy with now, and I'm so happy with it that some part of my mind is occasionally weirdly jealous and wishes it were my ring, even though my own 18K rose gold wedding ring with a rose design and a diamond in the middle is really more my style.


Then there was also some stress about the program and accompanying papers; I wanted to give the guests a bunch of pages of text for entertainment and discussion value, with trivia questions about us and such, and Barry wanted just the actual one-page program. Also there were some details of the program's layout that he objected to, though I've forgotten what exactly. He ended up tweaking the program's design until we were both happy with it, and I think I reduced my extra papers slightly but not much, and Barry ended up saying after the wedding was over that he had decided it was for the best that people had more to read if they happened to want something to do.

Oh, and there was stress about my hairstyle! I didn't want professional hair or makeup, because it was important to me to look like myself. But I was slightly surprised to realize that I did want to look a little fancier than usual, so I started researching crown braids and tried to get Barry help me braid my hair into a crown braid. This did not go well, and Barry wanted me to hire a professional hairstylist for our wedding day. I refused this, but I did agree to consult a professional hairstylist for advice a month ahead of our wedding day. This hairstylist was a black woman and had a lot of advice for me about curly hair. She slightly despaired of my refusal to use hair products, but she settled for advising me to put a lot of conditioner in my hair and not wash it out, so as to make my hair hold its curls and not deteriorate into frizz. She supported her point by showing my photographs of her toddler-aged son with and without leave-in conditioner, with curls versus frizz. I was convinced. She also convinced me to show off my curls by doing only a partial crown braid, with some hair left down loose. She showed me several ways of braiding a partial crown braid that were much easier for me to do by myself than my original idea had been. I practiced various ideas for the remaining month before the wedding until I settled on a final plan. I chose to create a twist (two pieces of hair wound around one another, rather than three pieces interwoven as in a standard braid) starting at each of my temples. On the advice of the hairstylist, I omitted a chunk of hair from the middle of my head from these braids so as to avoid having a parted-down the middle look. I tied the end of each twist with a small clear rubber band, then twisted the two twists around one another where they met at the back of my head. I did them as twists rather than braids because I liked the symbolism: marriage is about a union of two, not of three, and each of us also originated from a union of two, so we are two twists being twisted together. I held the whole thing in place with a whole bunch of bobby pins (color-matched to my hair and arranged in opposing pairs, one facing upward for each one facing downward). Then I added a fancy metal flower-and-leaf ornament I'd bought for our wedding and held that in place with even more bobby pins. I did the actual hairstyling myself, but on our actual wedding day, I asked my former housemate/lodger to help put in the bobby pins so she could make them as invisible as possible, since I couldn't see the back of my own head to make sure of how invisible they were. She did a good job.


I also, technically speaking, wore makeup at the wedding. But not such that anybody would notice. Only a little bit of translucent foundation, called Nudestix, to even out my complexion slightly. No other makeup – no lipstick or eyeshadow or nail polish or anything like that.

I wore flats instead of high heels. Shiny silver flats with shiny silver stocking socks. A white tulle cape instead of a veil, pinned at the neck with a blue butterfly pin that matched the blue butterflies on my dress. No traditional jewelry types like necklaces or bracelets, just the pin and my wedding ring and the hair ornament.


All of these things felt important to achieving the perfect balance between feeling that I was dressed fancier than usual and yet feeling that I was still myself. And my dress: it was long enough to touch the ground but not long enough to trip on or get dirty, which seemed to me the perfect balance between formality and practicality. It was custom-ordered from eShakti, like every dress I've bought in the last several years, but it was a little more customized than any other dress I've ever ordered from them, because I made a special request for them to use a neckline from one dress pattern while using the rest of a different dress pattern. They accommodated my request, and I was delighted with how it came out. And of course it had pockets. And of course it was primarily white, yet not entirely white - another way it felt important to me to break with tradition while also using it as a starting point to work against and respond to.

I dyed my hair for the first time in my entire life! Well, sort of, slightly. I used henna instead of a traditional permanent hair dye. Actually, I used henna mixed with Cassia obovata, which is another plant similar to henna but much lighter in color. Both henna and cassia are translucent temporary dyes, so they only produce visible results on hair that is lighter in color to begin with than they are. Henna is pretty close in color to my natural original color, but Cassia is more of a platinum blond color, so a mix of the two creates a temporary dye that is distinctly lighter than my natural non-gray hairs, and thus (because it's translucent) totally invisible on my natural non-gray hairs. All it did was darken my gray hairs (or really my white hairs; my hair doesn't seem to have any actual gray stage but just goes directly to white) to a paler version of my natural color. I liked that it preserved plenty of variation in the colors of my hair, including leaving it clear that I do have some white in my hair; this looked so much more natural than uniform one-color hair dyes ever do. I also liked that it was temporary, so it didn't give me obvious roots when it grew out. It just faded away unobtrusively. Also it was far safer than traditional hair dyes, which tend to be remarkably toxic.

But mostly, I didn't want to try to look 21 again. I wanted to have some white hairs here and there. I just didn't want so much white hair that it would be obvious in all our wedding photographs. I wanted to be able to look back at our wedding photographs in future years and have the common, traditional experience of thinking how young I looked back then, instead of thinking how old I already looked by then. I had never really intended to remain single until I was 42, and I wanted my wedding pictures not to remind me too much of how old 42 was.

Barry also has some white hair and did not feel a need to dye his, even with temporary hair dye. But he was my hot young 37-year-old husband, and I was glad for him to look 37. He mostly dressed to coordinate his outfit with mine, which is actually very much the same way he usually dresses on far more ordinary days. We coordinae the colors of our outfits a lot. For our wedding, he wore blue to coordinate with the blue butterflies on my dress, and I gave him blue butterfly cuff links to coordinate with my blue butterfly pin. I didn't realize that cuff links required special unusual shirts, and it turned out that Barry had been planning to wear a shirt that was not compatible with cuff links. He decided to have the shirt tailored to make it compatible.


Barry was a big fan of my wedding cape and has kept saying ever since then that I should wear more capes. He also sometimes says I should wear more hats or scarves. I think his fashion ideal for me might be for me to join the Red Hat Society. This is good, because that's pretty much my fashion ideal also.

But back to our wedding preparations! We arrived at our friends' house (the wedding venue) a few days early to get things set up. I think I drove from my house to Barry's house on Tuesday evening after work, and then we drove together to the wedding venue on Wednesday evening after work. We claimed the "maid's room" (there is no actual maid, but this room is positioned behind the kitchen in a way that is clearly designed for a live-in maid) for ourselves, but we had also planned in advance how to allocate the other guest bedrooms to our other guests who were coming from out of town and could be spared from needing hotel reservations. My parents, arriving the day before the wedding, got the "presidential suite." My brother was allocated an air mattress in the wine cellar, although he didn't end up staying overnight at all. The best man and his then-girlfriend (now wife) were allocated a room across the hall from the "presidential suite," and our officiant was allocated another room next to them. But Barry and I were the only ones to arrive several nights before the wedding.

I had only the day before the wedding off from work, because I was going to be using up a full week of vacation time for our honeymoon the following week. So I did wedding setup on Wednesday evening and Thursday evening, but I telecommuted during the day Thursday. I had bought a bunch of new dresses from eShakti over the course of the preceding year that I'd been saving up to wear for the first time during our honeymoon, and I ended up also allocating certain dresses to be worn for the first time in the days just before the wedding. On the Thursday before our wedding, I wore a red and purple crepe dress printed with the pattern of giant butterfly wings (butterflies were a big theme of our wedding). On the Friday before our wedding, for our rehearsal dinner, I wore a sky-blue silk dress with a border of hummingbirds and white flowers.

But let's go back to the day of the butterfly-wing-print dress. Thursday, I suppose. We had a lot of setup tasks to take care of. With permission, during the preceding months I had replaced all the plants in all the pots and some of the in-ground flowerbeds in our friends' front courtyard with California native plants for the occasion. So I checked on my plantings, pulling a few weeds and disposing of them.


I unpacked and watered the six little white ceramic pots I had planted for use as table centerpieces. Also, we had packed our wedding favor/program bags flat to bring them to the venue, with Barry's lasercut name tags on each bag. At the wedding venue, I put the programs and my personalized seed packets into the bags, put dice into the wooden dice boxes Barry had lasercut, put the dice boxes into the bags, and set up the bags alphabetically so that people could easily find and claim their bags.


The lupine flower engraved on the lid of each dice box matched the lupine flower engraved on the back of each wooden wedding invitation we had sent out.


We also had a board game to play at our wedding. This was important because board games are an important part of Barry's life! The game hadn't officially been released quite yet, but Barry had met the game designers at a convention and they had arranged for him to get eight advance copies of the game, one for each table at our wedding and one extra. (The winner at each table got to take home their copy of the game.) We weren't playing separately at each table, though; it was a Bingo-style game with one caller for the entire room and all the people at individual tables playing along. That was the reason Barry chose this particular game, because we could all play it together. The game was called Tiny Towns. A few days before the wedding, Barry pulled all the small pieces out of all seven boxes and redistributed them into little plastic cups for each table. The distribution calculations were not simple, because we had different numbers of people at different tables (just Barry and me at one table, five or six people at each of three medium-size tables, and eight people at each of three longer tables). It was important to make sure everyone had enough pieces within easy reach to be able to play the game. I saw Barry dividing up the pieces and wanted to help, so I asked him to instruct me in what to do. But this stressed him out, and he asked me to just go away and let him do it by himself. This, in turn, stressed me out and made me feel like he didn't think I was capable of understanding what to do and helping him do it. So I insisted on helping, because I wanted to prove that I could understand and be helpful. Meanwhile, Barry felt further stressed out and offended because I wasn't willing to leave him alone when he had politely asked me to go away and let him do it himself. We didn't sort out the causes of the argument or reach any particular understanding of what it was about until June, but in the meantime, we did muddle our way through it well enough to get the pieces properly sorted and the immediate, essential task accomplished.


We had delegated to Barry's family and friends the tasks of bringing rented chairs and tables and borrowed dishes. We had purchased the silverware and the tablecloths. Barry and his parents and our hosts and the best man all owned square Corelle dinner plate sets that were identical except for the patterns on them, so we had all the owners of those matching plate sets bring their plates and loan them to us for the duration of the wedding. Most of the tables were also ones we owned or borrowed from friends who owned matching ones, but we had to rent a couple of longer tables, and we rented all 42 chairs so they would match each other well. Barry's brother Jeremy, and Jeremy's girlfriend Stephanie, flew in from Austin, Texas, picked up the rental furniture the day before the wedding, and brought it to us at the wedding venue, along with Barry's parents.

And then it was time for our "rehearsal" dinner. In quotes because we had no actual rehearsal that day. (We did have a slight, abbreviated rehearsal on the morning of our actual wedding day, after the matrons of honor arrived at the venue.) But on the night before our wedding, our immediate families were there (except for my brother, Paul), and our hosts took us all out to dinner at the local private country club – us, nine of our closest family members, three members of our wedding party, and the five members of our hosts' family. There were several tables; Barry and I sat at the center of a long rectangular table or set of tables pushed together. To the left of us were my parents, and across from my parents were Barry's brother Jeremy and Jeremy's girlfriend Stephanie. To the right of us were our hosts, and across from our hosts were Barry's parents. At a separate, round-shaped table were Barry's half-sister Kim and her two daughters, along with our hosts' daughter, son, and daughter's fiancée.

My brother, Paul, was also invited to the "rehearsal" dinner, but when informed of the dress code for the country club, he decided not to go. He arrived the next day instead, a few hours before our wedding. Barry's half brother Shayne opted not to attend our wedding at all (which seemed quite reasonable to me, since Shayne had been the only one of Barry's half and full siblings who had attended Barry's previous wedding).

My main memory of the night is of my father trying to make conversation with Jeremy and Stephanie, who live in Austin, by launching into his standard tales of being drafted into the army during the Vietnam War and serving the entire war in El Paso. Having heard these tales a hundred times before, I was somewhat inclined to pity Jeremy and Stephanie for having to hear them, but of course Jeremy and Stephanie had never heard them before. My parents and Barry's parents had met on several previous occasions, but this was the first and likely only occasion for my parents to meet Jeremy and Stephanie, so my father was gamely attempting to make conversation about this tenuous commonality between them, that they had both spent some amount of time living somewhere in Texas. And Jeremy and Stephanie were at least polite enough to act vaguely interested, so it was a good show of civility on both sides, if perhaps largely for Barry's and my benefit. I don't remember any noteworthy tidbits of the conversation on the other side of us, but I remember that Barry and I didn't and couldn't participate all that much in conversation with anyone other than each other, because it was too hard for us to hear the bits of conversation from either end of the table, and everyone except us was closer to one end of the table or the other. So the way I remember it, we mostly just talked to each other the whole night, and listened in periodically to whatever scraps of conversation we could pick out from either end of our table. And that was fine; we were both about to get married, and everything felt important to take note of, so I think we were both just trying to take in the entire experience quietly, with each other.

Both of us had a very hard time trying to remember now, a year later, whether our officiant, the best man, and the best man's girlfriend (now wife) were at our "rehearsal" dinner or not. We have text-message records indicating we planned to have 17 people there, but we're unsure whether that number included my brother (who canceled plans to attend) and/or our hosts' entire family (who were there more as their guests than as ours). But Barry and I both remember being seated next to each other at the center of that long table, and that would seem to imply that someone was sitting across from us. And we both remember our officiant and the best man and his girlfriend all being in their pajamas the next morning, which implies that they spent the night at the venue, which implies that they were probably there the previous evening around dinnertime. So it would have been awfully weirdly rude if our hosts, who already had well-established friendships with all three of these people, had invited everyone else present out to dinner but told these three of their and our friends to just stay at the house and fend for themselves. So they must have been there. The best man and his girlfriend (my former housemate/lodger, who is now our best man's wife) must have been sitting across from us at the dinner, and our officiant would have been seated at the round table, because I have a dim impression of him being on that end of the room. Barry and I both remember our host wandering between the tables at various points during the meal, joining in the conversation at both tables in the way that a good host and an extrovert does. Barry and I, being introverts, did not wander or join in conversations much at all. My impression is that we mostly listened, or tried to listen to whatever we could pick out from the jumble of words around us, and talked to each other.

And that was the end of my day in the sky-blue dress with the hummingbirds.

And I guess I have to break this post here, because LiveJournal tells me it's too long to be all one post!
Tags: photographs

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