Principled Wedding Planning

After seven months of being engaged, Jared and I have come up with a working location for our wedding. I say ‘working’ because it’s still possible that everything will change and we’ll elope on some yet-to-be-discovered island in the Caribbean, but for now, we’ve got an idea.

Insadong, Seoul
No, we’re not going back to Asia.

Although we met in Bruges, and have since traveled through Europe and Asia, there’s not one location that seemed right to us as a couple. So we went with a place that meant a lot to me growing up (it’s always about the bride, isn’t it?) but wasn’t my hometown. I’ll always have a soft spot for Indianapolis, but it’s not where we want to get married.

Also, I’d feel kind of guilty if Jared’s guests flew all the way in from Australia and all I had to offer them was a football stadium and sweetcorn. Don’t get me wrong – the corn is good, but it’s not $2000 plane ticket good.

Plus, we’re beach people. One of the first things we agreed on is that this wedding would ideally happen on or near a beach.

After much discussion, the winner is….

St. Augustine, Florida

Not quite the exotic locale many people have been expecting, but hear me out. My mom grew up here. My parents got married here. I spent nearly every summer here until I graduated college. It’s got history (we’re talking the oldest city in America, people), culture (Spanish influence), and plenty of white sand beach. Of all the places in America, St. Augustine has the most appeal to me.

It feels right.

Sisters in St.Augustine, Florida
My sisters and I, looking snazzy in St.Augustine in the ’90s. Kate…what are you doing?

Except for one little thing.

Jared and I believe that marriage is about love and commitment. It’s not about gender. For us, it’s not even about religion.

The state of Florida doesn’t exactly see things that way. State law bans same-sex marriage and refuses to recognize civil unions and domestic partnerships. It’s like Florida is shutting its eyes, covering its ears, and going “lalalalalala I can’t hear you.”

And I’m not exactly cool with that.

I know that choosing not to get married in Florida isn’t going to change the laws. I’m not saying that we’ll refuse to get married until things change, or that I’ll only get married in a state where same-sex marriage is legal (sadly, that only gives us 8 choices and rules out all of Australia). The United States as a whole has a long way to go in terms of marriage equality, but Florida seems particularly behind.

I want to get married; I’m just lucky I fell in love with someone from the opposite sex, or St. Augustine wouldn’t even be an option.

“I don’t think we should rule Florida out,” Jared said, “but we have to think about it. Are we principled people or not? And what can we do to uphold those principles while still getting married in Florida?”

On thin ice in Busan's Trick Eye Museum
Making decisions has never been my forté.

So now I’m struggling with this weird, unsettled feeling towards St. Augustine. I want to get married there, but I disagree with the laws. Is there a way to stick by our principles in this situation? Would getting married in Florida make us hypocrites? Is it enough to say that we don’t believe in gender discrimination? Because it feels a little sneaky to say we support marriage equality, then turn around and sign a marriage license in the state of Florida.

Or, like so many things related to this wedding, am I simply over-thinking things?

In the end, only two opinions matter: mine and Jared’s. Where we choose to get married is our personal decision, and we have to do what feels right for us. Maybe that will be getting married in Florida. Maybe it won’t. But unlike many other couples, at least we have a choice.

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  1. i hear you. it broke my heart to sign (8 years ago!) my marriage license in minnesota saying that one of us was a man and the other a woman (and we now have a marriage amendment up for vote in november…).

    i listened to MPR a week ago, and one of the guests was an ethicist who wrote a column for the new yorker. he had a call from the audience asking effectively the same thing – if his friends aren’t all able to get married, should he not get married in protest? and i thought the answer was interesting: if you are joining a larger group that refuses to get married, then it’s an organized protest and has potential of creating change. if you are going to do it on your own, tell everyone about it and write a lot of letters to the editor and to politicians explaining your protest. otherwise, it has no meaning and will not affect policy or change anyone’s mind.

    it’s tough. but i really do think that change will be coming on this issue, at least in our lifetime.

    plus, if you do it in the states, maybe i can come dance at your wedding like you did at mine 🙂

    1. First, 8 years! Congrats. Can’t believe it was that long ago. I’d love to have you & Perry dancing at our wedding! Since I wrote this (only yesterday!) we are still vacillating back and forth. I agree that if it’s just one couple, it’s hard to have an impact without being very active about it. I don’t want to make it a political protest – just a wedding! Jared just told me that it looks as if NSW will be voting on the issue soon…and it’s in progress in Tasmania & South Australia at the moment, though I don’t know if the laws are expected to pass. It does look like change is coming, even if it’s starting with baby steps.
      Then again, a lot of this wedding location depends on what we end up doing next year and where we’ll be, which is still undecided. All part of the planning process, I guess!

  2. Love the last line. It’s a tough call, especially in situations like ours when it’s SO HARD to settle on a place to get married in the first place. I don’t think I could do it, personally. Even if no else else knew that we didn’t get married in X because of Y, I’d know, and that’s all I need to say no to X. If it makes you happy, go for it! If it makes you question, then maybe don’t. You don’t want to live with that nagging feeling in the back of your mind years down the road.

    1. That’s exactly where I am right now, especially because St.Augustine is still fairly random at the end of the day. I think I was just anxious to decide on a location because I’m tired of not knowing. But since then, I’ve been looking up venues & catering, and it’s all so freaking complicated/expensive! It makes St.Augustine seem just as arbitrary as anywhere else, and with the marriage laws on top of it, I’m not so sure. All we really want is a backyard wedding with good food, drinks, and dancing, but this whole not-having-a-home thing also translates into not having a backyard…annoying.

  3. Such a thoughtful but tough dilemma. I’ve been hearing stories of couples like you guys who want to get married but also want to set an example for civil society. You don’t really have that much choice in terms of the principled route – I suppose NY and Washington are good options but that takes away from the ideal of having a personal attachment to a wedding location. Also, you have to think about whether you want to remember your wedding as some form of civic protest, as opposed to just doing something that feels right and happy for you.

    I’ve also been hearing about couples forgoing wedding gifts and instead having guests donate to a charity of the couple’s choice. But takes out all the fun of opening all those unnecessary household appliances (such a movie cliche)!!!

    Whatever decision you two make, I’m sure it will be a happy one!! Just make sure you don’t wear a hanbok!

    1. I guess it’s less a matter of setting an example and more just trying to act in a way that backs up what we say – I saw a quote the other day that went something like, “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person – your behavior does,” and I guess we just want to make sure we aren’t all talk. Because you’re right – the last thing I want is to turn our wedding into a civic protest!! It’s just going to be a party and don’t worry, there will be no hanbok involved 🙂

  4. Tough decision. We were married in Florida (6 years ago), which is Danny’s home state. I can’t say that we were even really cognizant of the fact that Florida limits marriage and civil unions at the time, but I do agree with you that living a purposeful life sometimes requires you to make touch decisions. If you decide to get married in St. Augustine, why not forgo the favors, as Mo suggested and instead donate to an organization that is lobbying for same sex rights in Florida?

    1. It’s something that hadn’t crossed my mind, but it’s been in the news a lot lately so we’ve both been thinking about it. I like your suggestion, especially as we’re on the move so much, we don’t really have a need for all of the traditional gifts that come with marriage. I also had a friend who attended a wedding in Indiana where they reserved the first dance for all same-sex couples in the audience. These are all going on the possibilities list if we do wind up getting married in Florida, but that might change. I think my friends have their fingers crossed for Australia, while Jared’s hope it’s in the US – good excuse for a trip abroad!

  5. While I think this a great and admirable concern when it comes to your wedding… it really doesn’t matter does it? Like you said, you getting married or not getting married in St Augustine will not have the slightest effect on state legislation. So if you decide not to get married in St. Augustine (but you really want to) because of the same sex marriage ban, it ends up being a pretty passive way to show your principles. I’d say most same sex couples, while appreciative of this gesture, know this.

    If you want to get married in St. Augustine because it holds a lot of sentimental value, has a great beach, and feels right then do it! Use this as an opportunity to become a vocal advocate of same-sex marriage, with donations in lieu of gifts and this blog, to start. I’m sure there are a ton of other great ways to step up and be an active example of your principles. Because at the end of the day, same sex couples don’t want other couples to sacrifice their dreams for them, they want equality.

    1. Hear, hear! I needed that. At the end of the day, it’s a wedding, not a political movement. When all is said and done, I’m not even sure I really want to have our wedding in St. Augustine – I just wanted a location & a date. But when I started researching prices and venues, I found myself getting all caught up in stereotypical ‘wedding’ stuff. Things that don’t matter, like cutlery and chair cushions. And then I realized – St.Augustine is kind of like anywhere else, and it’s going to wind up being more expensive than I can accept. So now we’ve got some new ideas churning…Australia or Costa Rica, maybe? Because the main issue is the budget. They say an average US wedding costs $26,000, and I can’t get my head around that.

  6. It can be a tough decision–when we got married in the UK, the government was slowly working its way towards civil partnerships, which are now legal. Marriage equality isn’t here yet, but will happen in the next few years. But same-sex partners *can* immigrate to the UK, which is still miles ahead of the US.

    I’d definitely consider suggesting donations to marriage equality organizations in lieu of wedding gifts if that’s something you feel strongly about.

    Costa Rica could be fun, some Anglo-American friends got married there and the pictures were amazing.

    1. The more I look at Costa Rica, the more appealing it is…not great in terms of marriage equality, but I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s not going to be a deciding factor. Does it mean that I don’t stick by my beliefs? I’m not sure. I just know that I won’t change things by allowing my beliefs to dictate my wedding location, nor do I want to use my wedding as a vehicle for political change. Since writing this post, I have gotten several good suggestions on how to reconcile the two, though, which I’ll definitely keep in mind.

      Even though Australia legally doesn’t allow same-sex marriage, they too are farther along than the US, legally recognizing partnerships and allowing immigration. There was something about Florida specifically that really rubbed me the wrong way, and in the end I realized it wasn’t for us, but for more reasons than marriage equality.

      Now I’m working on not making this more complicated than it needs to be!

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