Our motivation when planning was simple: to get all our friends and family together for a big party. Why not just do exactly that, I hear you ask. Just throw a party and not bother with the wedding stuff? It'd be easy, right? Well, for most people maybe. But not if your parents are immigrants so you don't have any relatives in the UK, and your partners best friends all live in other countries. Then, it's less easy to get people together for 'just' a party. We had to ask ourselves, what would motivate people to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles? Only a wedding, a celebration, a liefdesfeestje, would do.
Still, though we continued to avoid the W-word (although we also got annoyed when my mum and step-mum said "It wasn't really a wedding" - go figure). For reasons both political and personal - weddings, lets face it, aren't very cool or punk - both Thomas and I resisted until, a few months before the celebration, we came across a poem that ended up playing a central part of our ceremony. Read beautifully by Thomas' sister, Julia (a fellow kickass feminist), I'm going to reproduce it here because, for me, there's nothing that better explains how we came to be at peace with the W-word and, indeed, with the notion of marriage.
Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?
Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?
Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.
Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.
But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.
Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.
This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.
"A public saying to all our friends," isn't that beautiful? The poem brought us round to thinking about the purpose of weddings, of the ways in which they can be a positive declaration and, yes, a celebration. Ultimately, we found ourselves realising, we could call it whatever we liked but, if you're both wearing fancy clothes and saying vows and there's cake and confetti, it's probably a wedding. And a really great excuse for a party.