What Will It Take For My Marriage to Matter?

A month ago, during a late-summer trip to Portugal, my partner, David, and I are racing to meet with the band for our wedding when my mom calls. A familiar grip of tension takes hold. To my surprise, Olivia (I call my mom by her first name) is in great spirits.

“Hi, Honey,” she chirps. “I was just calling to ask about progress on the wedding.” Her question is like a ray of light punching through the growing gloom in my head.

“Funnily enough,” I say, “we are on our way to meet the wedding band right now!”

“No,” she says, followed a don’t-be-ridiculous giggle. “I’m talking about Steven and Danielle.” Her tone is as light and feathery as a freshly cleaned sheet softly landing against a mattress.

I take. A moment. To drink this in. Who the hell are Steven and Danielle? And what does this have to do with MY wedding celebration?

“Have you made your plans to fly down to Florida?” she continues. “For Steven’s wedding in January?”

I freeze. Oh yeah, Steven. Now I remember. My second cousin, once removed.

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David and I have attended a lot of weddings during our 24 years together. Many have been for members of my large extended family. Each time, I have found myself sitting there during the ceremony and daydreaming. Where would we have our wedding? What songs would we play at our wedding? What would it be like to have my family there to honor us at our wedding?

David and I are technically married. In 2010, we made our union legal—in Canada. It was a year before same-sex marriage was recognized in our home state of New York, and five years before it was legalized nationwide. Once marriage equality hit the United States, our Canada-performed marriage was automatically recognized.

But David and I had eloped—without telling family and friends beforehand. So, I’ve talked for years about hosting a celebration of our marriage I would call a “wedding” (despite our legal status). Then life got in the way. We always had a better use of our funds than for a ceremony.

Now, as grooms-of-a-certain-age, David and I really have no more excuses. We can afford a wedding. And, to be honest, I’ve gotten tired of simply watching the rest of my world celebrate their unions.

I want my family to be with me, to cheer us on, to honor this milestone in our lives.

And so, we finally picked a date and location: next June, on Portugal’s Algarve Coast. This summer, we sent out Save-The-Dates, an appropriate year-in-advance timeline for a destination wedding. Why a place so far away? It’s simple. For one, David and I own a house on the beach in Portugal. And our family lives all over the United States. It’s just as easy—and much less expensive—for them to come to Portugal than to come to where we live in New York City.

Also, I was trying to be “nice.” I figured Portugal would give those family members who we are not close to an opportunity to gracefully bow out. (We had once needed to bow out gracefully ourselves when a cousin’s daughter was marrying—mid-week—in Florida. It coincided with our new radio show, which was being recorded in New York and we could not miss. Even then, her parents didn’t talk to us until the next daughter’s wedding years later, and an eight-hour car ride away.)

After sending our save-the-dates, we had heard a smattering of “congratulations” from a handful of friends and my closest cousins. Other than that, the response was, as they say, crickets. The exception was my mother, who had been consulted along the way. (She liked the photo of us walking into the sunset.)

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And now, here was my mother, on a day we were actively planning our special day, asking about Steve’s.

“Where are you staying? Are you driving me to the venue? Have you RSVP’d yet?”

That one shocks me out of my stupor. I’d responded the moment I got the invitation. I had also sent an email congratulations as soon as I got the save-the-date several months earlier. In fact, whenever I get a save-the-date, I always send at least a congratulations with multiple emojis—maybe even call to say that, of course, I will be there. Everyone knows I have showed up to most every family event I have ever been invited to.

Nonetheless, as lovingly as possible, I promise Olivia we will follow through on plans for Steven’s wedding ASAP and get off the phone.

And that is that—until a few hours later. I am excited about the band and want to share the news. Since I have heard nothing from my older brother, I figure the band is the perfect excuse to call. When I do, he too is fairly silent. So I not-so-covertly ask if he and his wife have received our save-the-date, by way of, “Are you and Barbara planning on coming to our wedding?”

“It’s under consideration,” he responds.

I laugh, nervously. “Oh” is about all I can eek out. I don’t have the energy to start in with an emotional yo-yo.

Then he quickly changes the subject: “Michael and Liz are becoming very serious.” Michael is my adorably handsome 26-year-old nephew and Liz is a girl … I never knew existed. My nephew lives ten blocks away from us in Brooklyn. We’ve invited him for dinner a number of times. He has never made it. I give Michael a pass under the umbrella of “he’s swamped with a new job, just out of college.”

Still, after my brother and I hang up, I begin to scratch my head. His rapid shift to my nephew’s relationship with a girl I have never met, and the intimation that Liz is “the one,” gets me to thinking. Do weddings for people “of a certain age” not matter, compared to those of a more traditional marrying age? Could that be why I’ve heard crickets about mine? Is this ageism?

Or … is it actually about homophobia?

Maybe I should be taking this personally. With this loop playing in my mind, the snake began to eat its own tail.

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It’s so hard not to hold others to your expectations of yourself. Why is it so hard to get my loved ones to acknowledge our marriage? Are my expectations out of whack?

After the call with my brother, I decide to do some research. Eventually I find my way onto what is now my most dreaded website—The Knot. I scan it for topics like “Later-in-Life Marriages” and read through several articles, including one on long engagements titled How Long is Too Long? It is all about financial, legal or taxation issues, and some tips on what’s appropriate to do or wear.

I do, however, find something on Get Old.com, brought to you by Pfizer. (You can’t make this shit up.) Get Old said, “It’s your day and the people who need to be there almost certainly will find a way to be there.” And, “Remember how many weddings you had to move heaven and earth to attend over the years.” Hmmm. I’ve thought this before. Neither make me feel happier, but they do confirm that it’s about damn time my family stepped up for my day.

I feel worse than empty. I feel drained. It’s as if I was in the middle of a speech on a stage, when the mic begins to scream that defining feedback squeal and then suddenly everything goes dead. No cheers. No applause. Just frozen silence. Nobody cares. Stop talking. Spotlight off.

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I guess there’s a plus side to all this—one that not only saves time and money as well. Perhaps if everyone is taking our wedding celebration as lightly as my brother, then, at the very least, we can take any upcoming nuptials (like Steven’s) with the same level of disregard. Or perhaps I am just being a big brat. OMG. Am I rapidly turning into #Bridezilla?

My best friend Amanda confirms this. When I tell her that most days I wanna give up and find an excuse to cancel the celebration, she says there is one rule: “If you don’t melt down at least five times and threaten to cancel, then you’re not serious about having a wedding.”

I appreciate her wisdom and calm down for a day or so. But no, I decide. This celebration is a major life moment—one my husband and I never had the opportunity to do before because we weren’t legally allowed to.

My feelings were hurt by the world for all those years. And they are hurt again now.

This is a wedding. It’s our wedding—one we’ve never had and never thought we could. So yes. I want a moment, a day when the world celebrates my life with my husband. I want my family with me—to acknowledge that we matter. It’s not to much to ask.

I want my family to save the date for me.
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