Yesterday my high school friend Mark got married, to a Colombian man named Juan.
They actually got semi-legally married a year and a half ago, in that amazing same-sex weddings weekend. I didn't see them there, but there ended up being two photos of them in that book We Do: A Celebration of Gay and Lesbian Marriage (which I wrote about a little back when Kam gave it to me).
But Juan's mother couldn't get here, for various reasons, until now. So yesterday was another ceremony and a celebration, complete with family.
I went with my high school friend Karen K. (Not to be confused with my college friend Karen K.) As it turned out, neither of us knew anyone there except for Mark and Juan and Mark's family. But it was still really nice.
The warm afternoon sunshine was perfect for a wedding in the lovely Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland. Mark & Juan looked fabulous in not-quite-identical white tuxedos. The minister was a friend of M&J's; he was charming, and his obvious affection for them added a great deal to the loveliness of the ceremony. At one point he even got momentarily too choked up to speak. I doubt there was a dry eye in the audience; I was certainly leaking tears through much of the ceremony. There was singing (including a Natalie "Gaudeamus Hodie" Sleeth round I hadn't heard before, "Go Now in Peace," though I'm pretty sure that's not quite the same tune they were singing), and much ringing of bells from Mark's father's bell collection, and it was all beautiful.
And most of the ceremony was bilingual in English and Spanish. Almost everything was said in English and then translated into Spanish, but some bits started out in Spanish. And I think Juan's vows were exclusively in Spanish; at the reception, I heard him explain that he'd considered saying them in English (which he's fluent in), but that he felt them more deeply when he said them in Spanish. (I'm paraphrasing; he said it more clearly and elegantly than that.)
The reception afterward was at M&J's big house in the Oakland hills, which is even lovelier than it was last time I saw it (among other things, they've finally completed building the wide wooden steps from the street down to the front door). They had managed to fit a whole bunch of dinner tables in the house and garden, more than enough for the sixty or so guests. There were toasts, and chat, and dinner—K and I got to catch up with Mark's sister, who we hadn't seen in a dozen or more years—and general merrymaking.
Later, there was a performance by Angela Lloyd, a mix of anecdotes about her time performing washboard on the streets of New Orleans and some of the songs she used to sing there. I was pretty apprehensive going into it; I was approaching total social burnout by the time it started, and I'd ended up sitting in the front row, surrounded by people I didn't know, and that kind of performance often requires people in the front row to go up on stage and participate, and if she'd tried to make me do that I might have had to flee the wedding, which would've been bad all around. But I needn't have worried; she was the type of performer who encourages audience participation without demanding it, and without embarrassing those who can't or won't participate.
And her stories wove nicely together, and her songs were fun, and eventually I relaxed into it. And the coolest thing of all was that she slipped back and forth smoothly between English and Spanish throughout the stories, sometimes translating and sometimes not, sometimes aided when she couldn't think of a Spanish word by the many bilingual people in the audience. My Spanish vocabulary is pretty limited, so there was a lot that I couldn't follow in the Spanish bits, but even in the parts she didn't translate I think we could all get the gist of what she was saying. It was a really remarkable performance, made more so by how matter-of-factly she treated it; she acted as though she always performs this way. (And maybe she does, but I suspect not.) It made me think of Gloria Anzaldua, only with less of a political edge.
After that, things wound down pretty quickly, and we headed home. A lovely afternoon and evening; I'm very glad to have been there, to have helped witness M&J's making a public commitment to each other.
In the above, I managed somehow to leave out the political bits that cropped up here and there in the ceremony and the toasts, the explicit acknowledgments that there are people out there who don't think two men should be a couple, much less married. I'd like to talk more about the inclusion of those comments at some point, but my thoughts on the subject haven't really crystallized into anything coherent yet, so for now I'll stop here.