Something very special happened over the holiday weekend: Two of my dearest friends got married. I’ve known one since we were 12 years old and shared a locker in junior high school. I met the other one when the two began dating nearly 11 years ago.
That they would spend their lives together seemed a foregone conclusion—they are parents to an adorable 8-month-old daughter—but the topic of marriage rarely came up. That’s because until June 26, when the Supreme Court overturned California’s ban on same-sex marriage, getting hitched was not an option for these two beautiful women.
I was in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (a.k.a. wine country) last Monday night, toasting my twin sister on her birthday, when my friend texted me the good news: “We got our marriage license today. Would you be our officiate? We’d like to sign it at the picnic. No ceremony—nice and simple.”
The picnic she was referring to was a Fourth of July tradition among our group of friends. We had chosen a quiet hillside park in Santa Monica, Calif., for the afternoon festivities. When my sister and I arrived, we admired the spread—pulled pork, quinoa salad, baguettes, and cheese—and exchanged knowing glances. We were the only ones who knew what lay in store.
I had prepared a brief ceremony preceded by an even briefer reading (from Rainer Maria Rilke’s First Poems):
Understand, I’ll slip quietly
Away from the noisy crowd
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows,
With only this one dream:
You come too.
When the time came to perform the ritual, the surprise on our friends’ faces was matched only by their joy. We had all grown accustomed to living under Prop 8, the 2008 state constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in California. The Supreme Court ruling prompted some discussion about the implications for our gay friends, but for the most part, the consequences of the decision felt more public than personal (the fact that I was in San Francisco on June 26 may have had something to do with that; the city seemed to hum with a larger-than-life sense of relief and jubilation).
As my two friends stood before me at the picnic, I asked each of them the traditional questions, and marveled at how a ceremony could be both conventional and groundbreaking all at once:
“Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?”
“And do you promise to love and comfort her, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, and to be faithful until death do you part?”
My friends had stopped by a Tiffany & Co. store the day before to pick out matching 3 mm wide platinum bands, and my old friend fumbled with the ring as she slung her giggling daughter to one hip. She wore a simple white cotton dress and carried a bouquet of orangey-pink calla lilies. Her partner stood across from her, smiling broadly.
My friends exchanged 3 mm wide platinum bands they’d bought at Tiffany & Co. the day before the wedding.
To be honest, we were all smiling broadly at that point—even those of us crying through the smiles. The wedding was utterly lovely. Everything about it was nice and simple, as desired—even if the historic ruling it represented was anything but.
I am deeply honored to have been a part of the ceremony. Congratulations once again to my friends, and to all the same-sex couples out there who are rejoicing over their newfound right to marry (not to mention the jewelers rejoicing right there with them!).