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“Then why now?” It’s a question from Amin, my partner of over 20 years, that I’ve heard a lot in the weeks leading up to our wedding.
Indeed, our (same-sex) relationship went back so far that legally recognized marriage was out of the question during our first few years together. But of course there are other, and mostly prosaic, reasons why we’ve waited so long.
Life is busy, we have other priorities, and we move a lot for work. Over the years, we’ve been thinking about some dates and event plans. We even booked a venue once – it seemed auspicious that it was the 20th year since we first met. However, COVID-19.
Finally, the stars lined up and we walked down an aisle in Vancouver’s Yaletown Courtyard last summer. Before that day, however, it was almost surreal to realize that “this really happened.”
To finalize the planning, one of us focused on aesthetics and the other on logistics. We reconciled any differences in perspective and vision with a balanced compromise: “Okay, we’re going to get into Bollywood music, but the prizes for those trivia contests need to be scaled back.” Despite the many families, we only addressed a few dozen people at the ceremony. The guests lined up. In the end, this is exactly the event we have collectively been waiting for.
In the weeks since, the more common question has become: “So is married life any different?”
Ask this question with genuine curiosity, especially if you’re in a long-term cohabiting relationship. This is the question we keep asking ourselves. Do you feel any difference? should be? Are we doing it on purpose?
On the one hand, yes, it should. Shouldn’t it?
As we’ve often happily observed, getting married is a great excuse to throw a big party. But what is certain is that marriage shouldn’t just represent a celebration.
On the other hand, do we really want to change the nature of relationships that have served our needs so well for decades?
Does reciting a few basic formulaic lines in front of a marriage commissioner have that kind of power?
No, not really. But more importantly, yes.
My husband and I would have no less love for each other or less commitment to each other if we had never taken the time to get married. Many couples never step off the beaten path down the aisle. While married couples still far outnumber common-law couples in Canada, I would in no way argue that one form of relationship has inherent advantages over the other.
Now that we’re married, my husband and I’s day-to-day lives don’t interact with each other in any noticeably different ways. Aside from maybe jokingly reminding each other which month’s anniversary we’re marking, that’s sure to get old pretty quickly.
But getting married has become a major dividing point—even though we’re well into our 50s and after a rather lengthy courtship. If invisibly different, something is profound. At the end of the day, perhaps some of the most resonant of the many things that were said at the time.
As our ceremony was about to begin, the Marriage Commissioner issued the necessary warning that what we were doing “should not be done lightly or hastily”. We can hardly be accused of haste. But in reflection before the event and since, I realize the gravity of what we did. I’d even go so far as to say it’s more important than any other single act in my life.
Whether a person is religious or not, marriage is probably the most solemn and sacred act many of us will ever experience. It is a bold public statement that places its participants in a broadly shared human tradition that stretches back to time immemorial.
We talked about the climax and defining phase of “I do.” That’s certainly powerful, but one line that particularly struck me was: “I appeal to those present to witness.” These are probably the words that I feel most likely to choke on reciting them.
As it turns out, I didn’t. But it was overwhelming to have our family and some representative friends out there answering that call to witness in a totally good way. To testify to their embrace of our relationship, their support for the new steps we are taking and their celebration of what my husband and I mean to each other.
Some of my favorite photos of the ceremony capture not the groom, but the expressions on the faces of the guests; the ones that make it clear how eager and sincere the proof is. They are without their witnesses – even more so than the photos – the whole marriage really wouldn’t have happened.
And of course the things my husband and I said about each other. Not so much at the ceremony, but more in the speeches we had afterwards: a sincere attempt to openly express some of our deepest feelings and reflections about our relationship and the shared life we have built around it; The depth of commitment to own something.
Solemn, witnessing and public affirmation. These are powerful states of mind and forms of expression and bonding. We’ve now experienced them intertwined in the formulaic but also celebratory and important context of a wedding. our wedding. Daily life may continue as before, but things still feel a little different.
Kevin Hansen lives in East Vancouver.