Truth be told, I have never been all that fond of weddings. In fact, in my disgust with their usual sexist buttressing of patriarchy, in my more cynical moments I have been known to refer to them as “Babes on Parade.” When Tom and I were living together outside of the bonds of matrimony, oh-so-many years ago, I was quite content. I knew he loved me. I loved him. We were committed to each other. What more did we need? Quite a lot, actually.
In spite of my reservations, when Tom asked me to marry him, I found I couldn’t possibly say no. So I suggested we just call the priest, invite Tom’s brother and sister-in-law, have a little ceremony on the lawn outside the church some sunny afternoon, and then let folks know and throw a little party to celebrate. But Tom was all “Well, we gotta do it right and invite the whole family and everybody.” Really? Really. Seeing as how I was jazzed to be part of the whole family he was intent on inviting, and seeing as how one of the things I found so attractive about him was how much he loves his family, I went along, albeit somewhat skeptically.
I agonized about what to do about my name. I couldn’t imagine not being “Mary Ray.” Even when I was single, people treated “Ray” like it was a sort of combination middle name and last name. But I also wanted my name to signify that Tom and I are family. I wanted to be a Worley. I went back and forth about what to do for weeks, until finally Tom said, “Would it help if I took your name too?”
Me (completely taken by surprise): “Hah! You would do that?”
Tom: “Sure. Why not?”
Me: “No wonder I love you.”
So it was settled. He’s Tom Ray Worley and I’m Mary Ray Worley. Call me Mary Worley and it will take me a minute to figure out who you’re talking to. As a friend said at the time, the name exchange signified that this was “a merger rather than an acquisition.” Amen and boy howdy! “Ray” still does double duty as middle and last name, and the whole world knows just by our names that we belong to each other.
Tom was in graduate school at the time, so it was left to me (with much-needed help from my wonderful soon-to-be sister-in-law) to make the arrangements. This wasn’t as unfair as it might sound, because we could have gotten hitched whenever we wanted. We could have waited until Tom was available to help with the preparations. But since May 1 fell on a Saturday in 1993, I was determined to get married on what seemed to me to be an especially auspicious date, which unhappily was right before finals week for Tom. Being the swell guy that he is, he raised no objections. So we got married on May Day.
I planned for as egalitarian a ceremony as I could conjure. Both of Tom’s parents walked him down the aisle, and both of mine did the same for me. We each had two attendants: Tom’s brothers stood up for him and my sister and a dear friend stood up for me. I told my attendants that the only requirement was that they had to come clothed. Beyond that, they could wear whatever they liked.
So we did the big family celebration, complete with cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and friends from all over the country. I was amazed and pleased by how great it felt to have public support from our friends and family for our commitment to each other. Tom was right. It was important to have the big family celebration. We loved each other a lot, but we needed the support of our friends and family. We needed our commitment to be not only before God and each other but before our families, friends, church, and community. I could feel the power of that support almost viscerally. The world we live in is full of selfishness, greed, and foolishness, and our need for compassion and forgiveness is a constant. Love doesn’t flourish in lonely isolation. It takes a village—a loving, supportive community—for love to thrive.
After our celebration, Tom went back and took his finals, and then we went on our glorious honeymoon in Hawaii, courtesy of Tom’s uncle, who bought our plane tickets with his frequent flyer miles, put us up in his condo right across from Diamond Head on Waikiki, gave us the use of his very cool little red Karmann Ghia sports car, graciously skedaddled right after picking us up from the airport, and even left us two perfectly ripe papayas. We really did get off to a most excellent start.
Tom and I will celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary in less than a month. And that support from family and community means as much or more now than it did then. Like every loving couple, we have encountered bumps and some bruises along the way. As good a fit as we are for each other, we still require the support and love of our family and community to continue learning how to love each other well.
As true as it is for us, a privileged straight couple, it’s no less true, and perhaps more so, for LGBT couples, who regularly encounter hostility and judgment even from those purporting to represent a loving creator. Our LGBT sisters and brothers need us to celebrate with them and surround them with our wild, enthusiastic, unreserved support. Love and commitment and family are some of God’s most precious gifts to us. In this world of woe we live in, love, commitment, family, and joy must be embraced and celebrated whenever and wherever we encounter them.
I feel differently these days about weddings, some of them anyway. In my heart I hear the sound of wedding bells pealing for LGBT friends and family. I picture joyous, colorful, creative celebrations in which the tired old patriarchal, traditional wedding ceremony gets a much-needed shot in the arm. I believe that our LGBT sisters and brothers have much to teach the rest of us about love in the face of adversity. Make no mistake: it’s not just that they need us; we need them. We need them in our circle, in our community, our village. Our marriages need their support. We need to learn what they have to teach us. Love is in the air. The time for marriage equality—for everyone—is now.
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“We Know How It Ends” courtesy of Believe Out Loud.