I am married! My wife, Meredith Schonfeld Hicks, and I were wed on August 8th at my family’s cabin in Ely, Minnesota. It was the most amazing weekend of my life. We organized an entire weekend of fun complete with a Greek themed rehearsal feast, an afternoon BBQ, nighttime bonfire and karaoke, guided outdoor activities and, of course, our ceremony and a raucous reception.
Over the course of our 19 month engagement, we put countless hours into the planning of this wedding and every second was worth it. It far exceeded our expectations. We treasured every moment of our wedding, knowing that it was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Our spirits soared when we saw the face of our friend who had flown in from Pakistan, received a blessing from Meredith’s 91 year old grandfather, heard our processional music being played by my best friends from high school, or danced the night away with so many of the people who have supported us and loved us at every stage of our lives.
But, as we all know, every wedding has its drama and ours was no exception. After a ladies’ afternoon at the spa on Friday went sour because of horrible customer service, Meredith said to me, “People just love wedding drama. I’ve had six people come up and say, ‘what happened at the spa? Are you okay?’ Am I supposed to be falling apart or something?”
Interestingly though, no one asked us about the most dramatic (and traumatic) part of our wedding. Getting legally married was the most shocking and trying part of our journey towards marriage.
We never had a doubt about spending the rest of our lives together. We savored every moment of designing our religious marriage ceremony. But along our journey to get legally married, we both got cold feet.
First of all, we had procrastinated getting a marriage license until several weeks before. With very little time to spare we went to the Ramsey County Department of Public Health to submit our application for a marriage license. On that day we had the most jarring experience along our road to marriage.
When filling out the form we cringed when we had to sign the following oath.
“I, the undersigned, hereby apply for a license to marry and declare upon oath that all the above answers and statements of fact are true and correct; that neither of us has a spouse living; that neither of us is a mentally deficient person committed to the guardianship or conservatorship of the Commissioner of Human Services and that one of the applicants is a man and the other a woman.”
Reading the last line of that oath made our hearts sink. But it wasn’t until we turned it over to the clerk that the language really sunk in. She looked it over and happily asked us to raise our right hands and take an oath. We did not know what this next oath would be. I thought this would be some sort of legal vows or something at least somewhat uplifting. It was an exciting moment and we slid our left hands under the counter and held hands.
Both our hands went completely limp when she began reading the same language we had already signed. It was one thing to scribble my signature below a distasteful oath; it felt entirely different to speak my affirmation. We took the oath and walked out to our car in silence.
Seven days later, Meredith went back and picked up the certificate. We still had to decide how we would incorporate the actual signing of the certificate, by an officiant and two witnesses, into our wedding weekend. We spoke with our friend and ceremony officiant, Rev. Meg Riley, and decided to keep our legal marriage separate from our religious marriage by having a separate officiant for our legal marriage. Thankfully, I have no shortage of ministers in my life, so my Uncle Tim, a Lutheran minister in Minnesota (a wonderful straight-ally) discreetly officiated our legal marriage after our religious ceremony.
On our wedding day, our photographer was hovering nearby as our siblings signed our marriage certificate as witnesses and she asked Meredith and I to hold it up for a photo. We did as directed, but in all the frenzy of staged photographs that day, that picture with our marriage license was the only one I didn’t really want to be in. We had taken pictures with our families who love us unconditionally and with our entire group of guests who had just blessed our union. But that picture with our certificate was like taking a picture with a state that doesn’t love unconditionally nor bless the unions of so many. I posed for the picture, because it was I who invited the state to my wedding, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to smile.
Cold feet or not, Meredith and I are legally wed. We now have access to hundreds of privileges, most of which we aren’t even aware of yet. August 8th will always be a day when we will reflect upon how much we love each other and how lucky we are to have so many wonderfully supportive friends and family in our lives. It will also be a day when we rededicate ourselves to our calling to stand on the side of love.
That reminds me, I think you’d like to know that Standing on the Side of Love was very present at our wedding. I wore my Standing on the Side of Love t-shirt the morning of my wedding, “standing on the side of love” was said in Meredith father’s toast and multiple times during our ceremony – including at the very heart of our ceremony. We wrote our vows together and right there in the middle we vowed to “seek out the holy, walk gently upon the earth, and to stand on the side of love.”
Every time we practiced our vows that line made us smile. I smiled for three reasons. First, it felt a little bit like product placement; second, it made me think of all the fun I had working with all of you to bring the Standing on the Side of Love campaign to life; and third, I felt incredibly blessed to have found a partner who was vowing to stand on the side of love with me, and with all of you, for the rest of our lives.