Going to the Chapel

{Celebrating Same-Sex Weddings}

Weddings. Almost everyone has their horror stories of being in one (lots and lots of taffeta, maybe of the lavender or baby blue variety) or fond memories of attending one (open bar, good cake, fun party). But letting the good times roll isn’t just for our hetero counterparts; same-sex couples are getting married, too, whether it’s for governmental protections or emotional or spiritual reasons. Recently, two same-sex couples (Tamar & Arielle and Robby & Bryan) shared their memories of their special days with me. And for couples getting ready to take the plunge, there are a few venue ideas to get you started.

Tamar & Arielle

never could have imagined a commitment ceremony for me and my partner, or dreamt that our parents would willingly and lovingly host a magnificent celebration for 165 relatives and friends. This would have been, sadly, only a fantasy. Six years earlier I’d thought of ending my life because I was in love with a woman and could not tell a soul.

Between that narrow darkness and our day of celebration, we and our Modern Orthodox families took a journey that brought us back to the center of a Jewish universe and-most importantly-to ourselves. On September 25, 2005, I stood next to my beloved, Arielle, in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, listening to our parents read the wedding blessings, that we had written, under our huppah. We faced each other, in front of a rabbi and a community of loving, supportive people, and recited our vows, one woman to another.

Arielle and I first met in high school but lived our teen years in separate spheres. Then, at Barnard College, we found ourselves performing together in a troupe of singers, where hours of rehearsals and performances gave us time to become close friends. We proceeded to fall in love, and with each step we took toward each other, we stepped away from those closest to us. My entire family sensed that I was wholly different from the open, loving Tamar they all knew. I eventually told my family, one by one, that I was in a relationship with Arielle.

Years later, we decided to get married, and created our ceremony based on aspects of the traditional Jewish wedding. Using the Brit Ahuvim/Ahuvot, or Lover’s Covenant, created by Rachel Adler (from her book Engendering Judaism), we used the laws of Jewish partnership as a foundation for an egalitarian marriage. For a year and a half we worked tirelessly with Rabbi Ilana C. Garber to create a Jewish ritual that would honor and celebrate our love and commitment.

A week after our wedding, our last official celebration was hosted by my parents’ friends who felt strongly about supporting and celebrating our recent commitment to one another. That night my father gave a dvar Torah that spoke boldly about the very nature of what we were all attending. “Lo tov heyot adam levado”-it is not good for man to be alone, my father quoted from the Torah portion in Genesis. “Eeseh lo ezer knegdo”-I will make him a “helpmate.” My father went on to explain that the word ezer is gender neutral. God did not say I will make Adam a woman, but simply a helpmate. My father spoke deliberately and with passion; perhaps, he said, we can learn from this that the profound need for companionship and love does not need to be fulfilled in someone of the opposite sex. We all have a right to live and love freely with our chosen companion. – Tamar

Portions of this article were excerpted with permission from “Coming Out in the Orthodox World” in Lilith magazine. To read the full article or to subscribe, go to Lilith.org.

Robby & Bryan

ermont can be a very cold place. An early June frost isn’t out of the norm, and they get feet of snow, not to mention days and days of temperatures lingering below freezing. And yet it’s a state very close to this Southern boy’s heart.

I grew up in Kentucky, was taught to say yes ma’am and yes sir, and knew the love of a huge extended family. I was baptized into the Providence Church of Christ by Brother Bob at the ripe age of 11. I learned strong family values, love, religion, and an appreciation of life and living things.

In 1995, my heart was opened wide to true love after I got a call in response to an ad I had put in the personals of a local paper in North Carolina. We met, chatted for hours, fell madly in love, and have been together ever since. After four and a half years of bliss, we had a beautiful ceremony and committed our lives to each other within a circle of iris blossoms surrounded by our family and friends. Our friends built a promise bouquet of daisies. We jumped the broom. It was beautiful.

This ceremony illustrated our commitment and love for one another, but when we wanted to “make it official” with the government, we had to jump through a number of hoops. You see, I wanted to get married to a man and, at the time, Vermont was the only state on the East Coast granting civil unions. Our trip was originally planned for fall 2001, but because of September 11, we decided to reschedule for January and make a weeklong road trip out of it. Plus, it was our seven-year anniversary, and having the civil union on that date would be all the better.

We felt the trip was meant to be. The code to get into the condominium complex where we stayed in Burlington was 8488, my high school graduation year and his; we brought just enough spare change from home to feed the parking meter for a week; the flowers cost $66.70, my birth year and his. The ceremony was beautiful, with snow lightly falling, our rings freshly buffed and stones reset, and champagne to celebrate.

From a purely economic perspective, Vermont cleaned up. We drove 18 hours through seven states and poured more than $1,000 into Burlington’s economy, all to legalize our relationship, to obtain the legal recognition we deserve as citizens of this country. It’s a shame that our local economy-North Carolina’s at the time-could not have benefited from this great moment in our lives.

Those who oppose the right for gays and lesbians to marry are wasting their time trying to undo something that can never be undone in our hearts. I will love my partner with or without their approval; we will live together with or without their approval. They cannot retract my certified license that states that I am married. They cannot take away the pictures, the video, and the memories that we will carry with us forever. – Robby

This article is reprinted with permission from the June 19, 2002, edition of Independent Weekly, an alternative newsweekly covering the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region of North Carolina. The original version is online at indyweek.com.

Venues:

•First Congregational Church of Santa Barbara (UCC): This open and affirming church offers wedding and union ceremonies with member and nonmember policies. 2101 State St. Call 682-7146 or visit santabarbarafirst.org.

•Trinity Episcopal Church: Gay and straight couples must be members of the church in order to have a wedding here. 1500 State St. Call 965-7419 or visit trinitysb.org.

•Unitarian Society: Couples are allowed to bring their own officiant and accoutrements, but ministers are also available onsite. 1535 Santa Barbara St. Call 965-4583 or visit ussb.org.

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