Sam and Mark's Super Happy Wedding Funtime

Archive for the ‘Wedding’ Category

On my wedding day I spent 3 hours getting my hair and make-up done. 3 hours.

After, I went home and my apartment was quiet. The first time it had been quiet in days. It was mid-day, but the apartment was a little dark and cool, which just added to the quiet. I walked down to where my dress waited for me and I couldn’t help but think about polish dancers. You know, when you are a kid and you go to the county fair and there are these dancers and they are wearing special costumes and they do their traditional folk dances? Big skirts and maybe aprons and hats?

Polish Dancers.

We’ve all heard that America is a melting pot. Cultures come here and melt into a gooey American cheese ball. I’ve also heard that America is a mixed salad, multiple diverse and culturally connected elements that keep their identity while coming together to form a delicious and nutritious salad of patriotism. But really, America is a fondue. It isn’t either/or. There is the melted bit, but then you dip in all those exciting bits of bread and veg. I’m in the melt-y bit. We are just white people. Even though our family is Scottish, there is no throwing of cabers in our house. I am part Swiss … but, well, do the Swiss even have a cultural identity? I don’t know if I’m German Swiss or Italian Swiss, and while I do love chocolate, I don’t own a watch. I guess I’m just American, and while that’s fine 50% of the time, it isn’t that exciting to me. It isn’t like I get to put on crazy shoes and skirts with special names and dance around.

Except today. That day. My wedding day.

That day I was going to be a polish dancer. I was putting on my ceremonial garb, my war paint, my helmet (trust me, with the amount of hairspray I had in my hair, I was ready for football) (also, I don’t think polish dancers wear helmets, but just go with it). I was getting ready for my “dance,” my performance. My moment at the county fair.

It was really cool.

We did an engagement photo shoot last week. It was weird.

In a good way.

I was really anti-engagement pictures. Adamantly. It was something other people did. Cute people in matching hats or boots or sweater vests. People who make me want to throw up. That said, I’m really glad we did it because it is going to make taking pictures at the wedding so. much. easier. Like a million times easier. For many reasons. Including:

  1. Our photographer is rad. Seriously. She is really easy to work with. And despite my awkwardness and anxiety, I actually had a lot of fun. I am not going to magically look like a supermodel in these pictures, she is not a wizard, but I felt really good taking them. And maybe that *is* kind of magical.
  2. Being photographed is not normal. Just going through the motions of this photo shoot is comforting. A dress rehearsal. Now, I won’t feel awkward. Well, I probably will, but I *know* I will and I *know* that’s ok and that makes a huge difference.
  3. I realized that I have to actually kiss Mark for more than half a second in order to get a decent picture. This is good information to have as PDA is not a natural thing for me. Well, documented PDA is not a natural thing for me.

So yay to engagement shoots! I never wanted one, but I’m so glad we did it. It was really fun!

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All pictures from the delightful Emily Takes Photos

When I was a little girl I loved Cinderella. I wasn’t so much into princesses as I was into transformations. And I still am. I love a good makeover, be it a house, a room, or a tortured urchin.

I had the Golden Book of Cinderella. I loved the pictures. I loved that book so much I actually chewed on the corner of it because I think I wanted it to be part of me. Also because I was like 4. And 4 year olds are weird.

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I would spend hours and hours reading that book. Poor, unfairly treated Cinderella was cleaned up and sent to a ball where she met a handsome prince who fell head-over-heels in love with her. Cinderella worked so hard, was so kind, she deserved to be treated kindly, to get to dress up and go out and enjoy the wonderful ball. I loved that. I loved that her nasty, mean stepsisters, who were so bent on marrying the prince ended up being ignored in favor of this beautiful woman in a beautiful dress who was content with just going to the ball. It was a perfect story. Inner beauty gets a trip outside and you end up marrying a prince.

Monday my parents and I bought my wedding dress. It is wonderful and magical and blue. And I didn’t realize until describing it to my boss (who has a daughter of book-chewing age, obsessed with Cinderella’s blue dress) that I am wearing Cinderella’s dress. If Cinderella was in Mad Men.

As soon as I realized what I’d done I was horrified. I am not a princess bride. This is not me. I don’t want to be Cinderella.

Except. Well. I do. I guess I do. My mom (actual, not godmother and not fairy) bought me a beautiful dress. A dress I would have never bought myself. A dress that makes me feel lovely and fancy and wonderful. A dress that makes me feel like something special, something other than a normal person, something not unlike a princess. And while I’m not a fan of the princess, when my boss mentioned Cinderella something inside pinged. Like a little (chewed off) fragment of that silly book started glowing inside some long lost nook of my innards. The little girl who stared for hours and hours at the lovely blue gown on the cleaned up Cinderella smiled a great big ear to ear smile at the idea that she was going to get cleaned up and dressed up and get to marry her very own Prince Charming.

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My High School french teacher, in discussing marriage and culture in France, told us that in France you have a civil ceremony and you have a religious ceremony. And that some couples (the horror) only have a civil ceremony (the horror) because in France, only the civil ceremony counts (the horror). (My french teacher was a bit of a bible beater.)

This little nugget of information stuck in my brain. It brightened my day. It appealed to me in a way that I didn’t quite understand at the time. A civil ceremony. Not in a church. Not by the church. But a real marriage, a real recognized marriage, that has nothing to do with religion.

You see, 14-year-old Sam had never really thought about marriage (she was only 14). 14-year-old Sam just kind of thought you had to go to church, or get a minister, or something like that to get married (and yes, her parents didn’t do this, but that didn’t mean 14-year-old Sam put 2 and 2 together). And 14-year-old Sam knew she didn’t like that idea, but because she never really thought about it, hadn’t really, well, thought about it. But here was this little seed. Given to her by a person she mostly despised for her condescending, overtly religious tone that seemed inappropriate for the classroom. A small, round, seed of thought, planted in the soft mushy gray matter of her brain.

I did some checking and my french teacher was correct. French law only recognizes civil marriage, performed by someone in the French Civil Authority (officier de l’état civil), which includes the Mayor (maire), the Deputy Mayor (adjoint), or a City Councillor (conseiller municipal). This is not relevent to the rest of this story, but I thought you might like to know. Additionally, France does not recognize gay marriage, but they do have something called Pacte Civil de Solidarité (PaCS), which gives the couple (gay or straight) some (not all) of the legal protections of marriage without officially being married. Now you know.

This isn’t about France. This is about City Hall. But I bet you can guess where I am going with this.

Flash forward 20 years. Now I am an adult. Sort of. And I am preparing to get married. Hitched. Wed-ed. And now we have to decide all sorts of things- the when, the where, the who, the how. What do we want? A country wedding? A city wedding? A beach wedding? An elopement?

We went through them all, slowly eliminating them one by one. Too expensive to my beloved Cal Academy and Ferry Building. Too complicated to Monterey and Mendocino. Too Barn-y to all the rustic wine country weddings (while beautiful, rustic tends to not have sufficient bathroom space. I’m not using a port-a-potty at my wedding, I’m just not that girl). Elopement was eliminated (though not without a bit of a battle). We eventually decided on The City. Our beautiful city where we met and fell in love.

Of course, narrowing it down in the city was still tough. We have beautiful beaches and parks and forests and hotels and ballrooms. Heck, we have boats and islands. We pretty much have anything you could possibly want. Anything.

But the other side of anything I want is that I didn’t really want much. I want to get married. I want it to be official. I want it to be secular. I don’t want birds in flight at sunset or fireworks or the sea lapping at my bare feet. I don’t want bare feet. A wedding is a legal union. A wedding is official and proper and witnessed. It is a serious thing. It requires paperwork.

Paperwork.

Ding!

City Hall. What could be more perfect? Let me revise that- what could be more perfect for me?

I guess some people don’t think wandering cold, bureaucratic halls in your fancy clothes screams wedding. But I do. I totally do.

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The cold, bureaucratic halls.

A wedding is, at it’s core, a celebration of paperwork. We are not going to be more committed to each other after the vows than before. We are going to be more publicly committed, sure. And we are definitely going to be more legally committed. And that is thanks to the power of paperwork. A magic form that changes our lives. A form that gives me access to all these rights and all these new tax rules. A form that lets me change my insurance- outside of open enrollment. It is a powerful form.

So, City Hall. Center of municipality. Center of society. Where laws are made. Where decrees are decreed. Could there be a better place for paperwork of this magnitude? I think not.

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San Francisco City Hall. Beautiful, historic, City Hall.

The current City Hall is a replacement for the original which was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. The replacement and the surrounding buildings in the area known as Civic Center were all designed and constructed as part of the city beautiful movement. Construction started in 1913 and finished in 1915 (just in time for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition). The dome on our City Hall is the fifth largest in the world and 19ft higher than the US Capitol building. Our City Hall has been home to student protests, state funerals and Gavin Newsom’s famous “whether you like it or not” speech. Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio were married there. And steps from the Mayor’s Balcony was where George Moscone was shot to death by Supervisor Dan Brown.

City Hall is more than just a place to fill out forms and pay fines. It is the heart of The City. It is the bloody, painful past and the hopeful, enthusiastic future. For someone who lives solely in the secular world, this is a true cathedral. I can think of no better place on earth to get married.

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That is the Mayor’s Balcony. Over the clock is the inscription:

SAN • FRANCISCO
O • GLORIOVS • CITY • OF • OVR
HEARTS • THAT • HAST • BEEN
TRIED • AND • NOT • FOVND
WANTING • GO • THOV • WITH
LIKE • SPIRIT • TO • MAKE
THE • FVTVRE • THINE

1912 JAMES ROLPH JR. MAYOR 1931

I love this. I love the beautiful details in the building. I love the grandeur.

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The Grand Staircase

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4th floor light-well under the rotunda

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Light well from below

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The view from the Mayor’s Balcony

So that is where we will be getting married. Right there. On the Mayor’s Balcony overlooking the grand staircase, we will add our small but significant moment to the layers of history in this beautiful place.

We went with an April wedding for many reasons. It is the spring, and I love the spring time. Flowers. Birds. Things waking up after winter. The air smells nice. The days are getting longer. Warm but not too warm. Spring is nice. Spring is friendly. Spring is delightful.

We were thinking September, because I also love the fall. And September in San Francisco is easily the best weather we have all year. But September 2013 just seemed too far away. Plus there’s this thing called the America’s Cup that will be happening then. Not good for getting a hotel room at a reasonable rate.

I thought about summer too. I love that it is the first full day of summer and I was freezing on my way into the office this morning. Summer here is rad. Summer here is weird, even a bit nutty. Summer here is also high tourist season, and again- room rates are going to be higher. Plus some people think freezing to death in July isn’t fun. Go figure.

Winter is winter. You’ve got stuff going on. I’ve got stuff going on. Plus, it is raining.

It might rain in April. It might be beautiful and warm. It might just be windy and cold. Who knows? This year we had bright sunny, warm weather, then terrible, havoc raising thunderstorms, then back to bright, sunny good times. I can’t tell you what the weather will be like, I just hope it won’t be awful. And if it is? Well, dinner is inside. The ceremony is inside. And The City looks so pretty in the rain!

Dancing at a wedding is like bacon at brunch.  Assuming you eat bacon. And brunch.

Dancing, I’ve come to find, is expected at weddings.  Expected.  So expected that the comments on internet posts seeking help on non-dancing weddings are peppered with people telling you that it is weird to not have dancing and that you should have dancing and that if you don’t have dancing everyone will hate you.  People really want dancing.

I’m not opposed to dancing. I’m also not opposed to bacon.  I’m pro-bacon.  I’m pro-dancing too, I guess, but it just feels weird to plan for it at my wedding.

And the wedding blogs make it even tougher. Dancing is shorthand for joy.  Look at any wedding blog post you’ll see pictures of people dancing.  Old people, young people, fat people, skinny people, hipsters- yes, especially hipsters- they all must dance.  Dancing is Proof that the wedding was Fun.

So looking at these lovely weddings, and these obviously joyful and happy dancing people, I get a little nervous.  Like, maybe I should have dancing.  Like, maybe the internet is right.  If I don’t have dancing, no one will enjoy themselves. Everyone will just sit there and stare at each other, biding their time, waiting for an opportunity to exit stage right as fast as their dancing shoes can take them.

The thing is,  I never go dancing.  I have lots of friends who do, but we have managed to socialize successfully without doing either the running man or the fox trot thus far, so I think we should be ok for one more night.

Dancing needs to be organic.  The most fun I’ve had dancing at weddings has been because the band was amazing (and I was probably drunk, but mostly it was the band).  It worked, it was a natural part of the festivities, it was right (it was perfect) for that wedding. It wasn’t forced. If we were getting a band, I might change my tune, but we aren’t.  I can’t afford Spoon or David Byrne.  And a DJ?  Well… something about hiring a DJ just makes me feel… weird.  It doesn’t sit right with me.  I’m not the DJ hiring type.

Music is important to us.  Music is what first brought Mark and I together, so our reception will have music. If the joy cannot be contained, and dancing must occur, I will not stop it. I’m not a monster. I’m just not going to schedule it. I’m not going to assign it a start and end time.  I’m not going to have a floor set up in expectation. I’m not going to set myself up to feel stress because people aren’t dancing when they are supposed to be dancing.

So what about the First Dance? This is a SPECIAL MOMENT and you are just going to throw it away?

Yes.

Actually, yes.

And it feels kinda good.

Some people are really into wedding dresses. I will confess, while addled by the flu,* to watching every season of “Say Yes to the Dress” on Netflix. Mostly, this was to watch how happy the brides were in picking out their dress. I liked watching them find the one special dress that made them feel so beautiful and wonderful they burst into tears of joy.

Sometimes I would see a plus size bride. A woman who was comfortable with her size and her assets and she would struggle with the dresses- emotionally and physically- until she eventually triumphed and found some dress that made her feel like a sexy wedding princess. Hooray! Even plus size brides can find a perfect dress!

So everyone is all bedecked in sparkly white, sobbing up a storm, and forking over thousands and thousands of dollars. And they don’t care! $5,000? $10,000? What is the price of perfection? Of joy? Of happiness?

And I would cheer for them! Yay! They look so pretty; they are so happy! I would cheer for them, and then happily return to my life. My wedding dress free life. My jeans and sweaters life.

And now I am where I wanted to be, engaged, and I am faced with the whole picking out and buying a dress thing. And it is hard. Even though my tastes don’t run “ballgown” or “mermaid,” I’m still finding myself wanting a perfect dress for my special day.

And it makes me feel sick.

Ugh. My special day? Who am I? What am I thinking? I didn’t grow up gazing at pictures of weddings and dreaming of my “special day.” In fact, as much as I wanted to have a husband (which is different than wanting to be a wife), I never really cared that much about the wedding. So this desire to purchase and wear a wedding dress is, frankly, strange. Unpractical. Excessive.

And yet… there it was. I wanted a wedding dress. The internal battle between practicality and fantasy is making me more than a bit nauseous.

So I did my research. I started searching for a dress that would fit into the tiny sliver of cross-over between sensible and fantastic. My idea of fantastic being a lot more tame than most, I started looking. Searching for something slightly retro, slightly now, with just enough fluff to put it over the top, but not enough to make me look like some sort of county fair princess, I scoured the internet. I’d find things here and there, but nothing that really grabbed me. Or that would fit me. More of the latter than the former, but enough of the former to keep my plus size insecurities at bay.

Then I found Dolly Couture. The dresses were right in line with what I want- easy and fun with just enough whimsy. And, to top it all off, they actually make them in my size. I was sold. I booked an appointment in their LA showroom.

When it got closer and closer to the appointment date, I became more and more anxious about going. I wanted to cancel the whole thing. A wedding dress is… silly. Excessive. Sure, these were about as paired down as you can get before just wearing a pretty dress, but… was it me? Not just the specific dress, the wedding dress in general. Am I wedding dress material?** Am I the sort of person who can do this? You can’t hide in a wedding dress. You can’t pretend you are just going to dinner. You are a bride. You suddenly become something else. You are part of an institution. You have responsibilities to that institution. There are expectations, and the dress- well, the dress sets the stage doesn’t it? It is a signal of how you regard the institution. How serious you are. How much you are willing to put in.

That’s a lot of pressure on a damn dress.

Pressure that really, really is coming out of nowhere, right? I mean, it is just a dress. Wedding dress, yes, but a dress. An aspect of, not definition of. A decoration. A costume. A lovely costume for a lovely party.

So I went to the appointment. Me and Mark. And it was weird. And it took 20 minutes. It wasn’t like a “bridal appointment” from “Say Yes to the Dress,” it was more of a surgical strike. I already knew what I wanted, I didn’t need to play dress up. I just wanted to… I don’t know. Touch the fabric, see the colors. See if there was some other dress that might catch my eye. But there weren’t. I didn’t even look at another dress. I think secretly I wanted to see the dress and not like it, that way I could give up on the whole wedding dress idea. But I loved it. I loved it even more than I thought I would.

And now, with a bit of time and distance between me and that dress, I’m still conflicted. It is an impractical purchase. It is excessive and I don’t know if I can justify the cost. I don’t know if I want to. But. Well. It is a pretty, pretty dress. Fancy and impractical. A dress I could only wear once. A dress that would be made just for me.

A ridiculous thing.

A fun, silly thing.

And.. well, that would be what I would want in both a wedding and a wedding dress.

*And also after being addled by the flu

**Pun intended


Sam and Mark