liv: bacterial conjugation (attached)
[personal profile] liv
Ages ago when [personal profile] jack and I first started talking about getting married, we couldn't decide if we wanted to have a cool anniversary or if we wanted to get married during a summer weekend. [personal profile] jack facetiously suggested we could do both, and the more we thought about that, the more it seemed like actually a good idea. So yesterday we invited our immediate families and [personal profile] jack's best man to the registry office where we declared that we wanted to be legally married to eachother. Now we are married according to the English legal system.

Having made the odd decision to have a completely separate legal wedding from the ceremonial wedding, we thought quite a lot about how this could work. We decided that if the ceremony with all our friends is going to be meaningful, we should play down the civil wedding. So we took just yesterday off work, and only asked immediate family (rather than trying to figure out who counts as a "close" enough friend that they should be there), and asked the registry office for the absolute minimum ceremony that would be legally valid, and dressed in smart but regular clothes. I also started to feel echoes of the long-obsolete Jewish custom of having a separate "betrothal" when you become committed to marry eachother and aren't allowed to marry anyone else without a religious divorce, and "marriage" when you actually start married life together. I can't now marry anyone else without first divorcing [personal profile] jack (note: I have no plans to do this!), but I don't really feel married to him exactly.

Keeping things as simple as possible actually worked really well; we didn't have to stress about logistics beyond making sure to get to Shire Hall on time. We turned up, we got married. There was no stage managing or worrying about whether things would go smoothly. We were able to spend a pleasant day surrounded by our loved ones. It just felt right.

For various, mostly practical, reasons, I ended up getting married almost "out of" my parents' home. I hadn't thought of that as something I wanted, but in hindsight that also seemed symbolically right. I travelled up from Stoke, via a visit to my family's lawyers to make a will. The lawyer congratulated me heartily, of course, but he also kept repeating that my status was about to change. I hadn't quite internalized the idea that there are a whole bunch of laws, even things as mundane as the tax system, that treat me completely differently just because I decided on a particular relationship configuration. Also the lawyers' office is in the small town where I lived between the ages of 5 and 15, so going there was like walking into one of my recurring dreams where the town seems familiar but isn't quite right. Turns out it's only half a mile from the station to the town centre, too.

Then I arrived at my parents' house, to be gradually joined over the course of the evening by all three of my siblings and Thuggish Poet's partner. When Screwy finally arrived, we sat down to a supper which soon turned into a raucous philosophical argument about piebald unicorns and whether parents should default to presuming that babies are cisgendered when they are too young to express their own gender identity. The sibs teased me about spending my "hen night" sitting at the kitchen table with my family, but I can't think of any better way to spend my last hours of legal singlehood!

I was quite nervous on the day. I'm not sure what about; I've been lucky enough to take about a year and a half to contemplate the decision to get married, so it should have been straightforward. I think I still have some niggling doubts about going against my previous firm decision never to marry, though none at all about marrying [personal profile] jack specifically! And it's quite hard to get my entire family through the front door, sometimes, we all tend to get distracted or try to finish tasks at the last minute, so I think I was a bit nervous we'd be late. In fact everybody, including all [personal profile] jack's party, arrived at almost exactly the same time, 10 minutes before the registry office was ready to deal with us. The two families milled about introducing themselves to eachother, so [personal profile] jack and I didn't particularly have to play host or make an effort at social lubrication.

When we first booked our slot at the registry office, we discussed with the registrar that we wanted to change the script slightly so that the officiant wouldn't keep going on about "vows". I really don't like the idea of making open-ended, ill-defined vows, and indeed would prefer not to make any vows at all. And honestly it's not actually part of what makes it a legally valid marriage, just the sections where the officiant welcomes the guests to the wedding etc. And the wording is there purely because the English civil ceremony is basically an Anglican wedding with the explicit Jesus references taken out. This had seemed fine, but we discovered at the last minute that this discussion didn't count as "official", so we hadn't given enough notice to make changes. I am a little unbalanced by this, because I have a bad conscience that I may have accidentally vowed something, but it doesn't really matter since obviously I intend to keep the commitments I made anyway.

Still, the registrar and officiant respected our wishes to keep things simple and to the point, and didn't introduce any unnecessary frills and furbelows. I think the whole process of turning us from two individuals who happen to like spending time together into a Married Couple took little more than 10 minutes! I didn't "walk down the aisle"; I was just wearing an ordinary work suit, so there was no stunning DRESS to show off. We just stayed in the room after checking our details and receiving our pep-talk from the registrar, and our families came in from the waiting area. Actually one thing that threw me a little was that during the declarations that formally enact the wedding, we had to say I take thee to be my lawful wedded &c; my brain went haring off trying to consider the question whether it is appropriate to call [personal profile] jack thou. And we had to be identified by our fathers' occupations, which nowadays seems so archaic as to be practically weird.

Then we signed the register and posed for photos while pretending to sign a blank register (there's some bizarre byelaw that prohibits photographing the actual register). And [livejournal.com profile] fishpi and Screwy and Thuggish Poet and P'tite Soeur all signed as witnesses, and there was a minor awkward moment when they explained that the Rules say you have to use a fountain pen (not a ballpoint), which Screwy doesn't really have the dexterity for, but it was ok. The mood seemed to be quite ebullient, we were sort of half-joking with the officiant and registrar but not to the extent that the important parts of the ceremony would be disrupted. Screwy tried to ask linguistic philosophy questions about the instant of time between [personal profile] jack marrying me and me marrying him, which led to more hilarity than enlightenment, but thankfully after the point where the act of marriage was undeniably complete.

And then we went back to my parents' and ate a huge celebratory dinner that Mum had prepared in advance. Two kinds of soup, and chestnut pie and salmon for the gluten-intolerant people and vegetables with mint jelly and sweet-and-sour red cabbage and jacket potatoes with cheese and crème fraiche, and lemon soufflé and chocolate roulade and fruit salad and a cheeseboard, and champagne and red wine and white wine. [personal profile] jack and I had to sit side-by-side at the head of the table! I am never going to object to tasty food, but the really lovely thing was the two families getting to know eachother. The two relatives who are least comfortable with large social occasions seemed to get on very well with eachother, and [personal profile] jack's people were not too alarmed by my family being very voluble. I have in-laws now! Another thing I hadn't really thought of as a consequence of this getting married thing, but I am very pleased, because they are excellent in-laws. Also, some of [personal profile] jack's second-degree relatives, whom I see when I spend Christmas with his family, had sent us completely unexpected presents.

Then I got on a train and headed back to Stoke, cos I had a grant deadline and some teaching commitments today. The rumour is gradually leaking out at work, and my colleagues are almost more excited vicariously than I am!

Oh, and I have a ring. It's pleasingly annular:
blurry camphone pic of my contemporary silver ring with a square garnet. Basically it's silver and garnet, made by a random Israeli designer I found on Etsy, and it's very pretty, but probably not very durable, so I'm planning to wear it as a "betrothal" ring until the main wedding when I will switch to a plain wedding band.

Also, you know what's really lovely? Making things legally official led my geeky, grammar snob husband to make a post with HTML hearts and multiple exclamation marks. So I reckon that's a win.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 05:40 pm (UTC)
simont: (Default)
From: [personal profile] simont
Screwy tried to ask linguistic philosophy questions about the instant of time between [personal profile] jack marrying me and me marrying him

This seems to be quite a common instant of time to attract people's ponderings! I wondered about its potential dangers a few years ago (come to think of it, also at the wedding of a Rachel :-) and it turned out in the comments that I hadn't been the first either...

Also, if you're now officially married, then official congratulations! I wondered last week if you ought to have an official celebration, consisting of some sober people in suits standing around saying gravely "We are officially very happy for you." :-)
Edited Date: 2012-03-01 05:41 pm (UTC)

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Date: 2012-03-01 05:57 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
Thank you. It did seem to me a surprisingly common question, because as soon as Jacob mentioned it, practically everyone else in both families jumped on it (although the registrar seemed game, but didn't have a pat answer).

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Date: 2012-03-01 05:44 pm (UTC)
kass: white cat; "kass" (Default)
From: [personal profile] kass
I like the way the two ceremonies echoes kiddushin and nisu'in. Neat.

Also, this all sounds lovely! Go y'all.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 05:48 pm (UTC)
yvi: Kaylee half-smiling, looking very pretty (Default)
From: [personal profile] yvi
Well, congratulations! Awesome date to get married :)

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Date: 2012-03-01 05:54 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
*hugs* Thank you for describing everything in lots of detail, because I didn't :)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 06:02 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
FWIW, I'm trying very hard to not be a snob. Maybe using deliberately ambiguous and sloppy grammar is like eating meat (or eating dog) -- it disgusts me, but I try very hard not to blame people who don't come from the same culture as me and find it unexceptional.

However, I think "multiple exclamation marks" strongly implies consecutive exclamation marks, which I think is more specific than just "using more than one exclamation mark". If I said of a book "it used multiple exclamation marks", I wouldn't think "it used one on page 3 and one on page 157", I'd think it used "!!" at some point :)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] jack - Date: 2012-03-06 11:40 am (UTC) - Expand
lethargic_man: (serious)
From: [personal profile] lethargic_man
I'm sure I will get used to this eventually, but I'm a bit taken aback. It would have been one thing if you'd had got married in English law, and then would get married in Jewish law in May; but without that, your ceremony feels to me like just a big party, and the real thing yesterday.

Certainly, if you want people to feel the May event is the real thing, I'd advise you to stop calling [personal profile] jack "my husband", and start calling him "my betrothed".

Oh, and I have a ring. It's pleasingly annular: [piccy] Basically it's silver and garnet

A jeweller friend of mine says the Kimberley process is dysfunctional and it's basically impossible to obtain ethical natural diamonds, so I'm pleased to see you're eschewing the dominant paradigm (though I can't help but wonder how big a hike last year's royal engagement gave to non-diamond engagement rings...).
Edited Date: 2012-03-01 07:10 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
It would have been one thing if you'd had got married in English law, and then would get married in Jewish law in May; but without that, your ceremony feels to me like just a big party, and the real thing yesterday.

I know what you mean, and I think we're still not _sure_ why this felt like the right decision, so I'm still working this out as I go along (although, unsurprisingly, I don't think we're going to change our mind now).

One question is, you can see why people may want to have a religious ceremony, whether or not it can be part of the legal marriage? But as someone with a British mostly-secular culture marrying an observant but less-observant-than-you Jew, my cultural traditions for what constitutes marriage may be massively more vague than those of two people from the same long-standing religion, so I'm a lot more able to go through a usual register office ceremony, but does that mean I have no right to my cultural traditions? Even if they're not as important as some people's, if we make any pretence to freedom of religion, shouldn't Rachel and I have a right to a culturally appropriate ceremony whether or not other Jews agree mixed marriages are possible?

Another question is, even in legally binding ceremonies, the bride and groom usually have to disappear to sign the register, so the bit that's most important in some sense still happens not in front of everyone. Is only that the real thing? I agree it would be nice if a legal wedding could coincide with the ceremony but it often doesn't for one reason or another. Is it ok if they're separated by a few hours? By a few days? So although eccentric, is a few months, that different?

Another question is, if we lived somewhere where there wasn't any civil law, would we have marriages or not? I think we would, even if they're cobbled together from different cultural traditions. That's complicated when it interacts with civil law, but it suggests that a ceremony does mean _something_.

Another question is, because we're not immediately expecting cohabiting and children, our declarations are less sweeping than many people's, but does it matter if we count the declarations we really mean from May, not the pointless register-office twaddle from February?

So I'm really not sure, but also, I really do want to convince myself and others we are right, and not just settling in some way.

FWIW, I'm unable to resist saying "wife", but also, aren't doing it freely. We went to considerable effort to make May "the" wedding, despite obvious difficulties, and it seems like in our minds, and in the minds of most people, we have mostly succeeded, so it seems to be working, even if it's not perfect :)

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Date: 2012-03-01 07:20 pm (UTC)
onyxlynx: The words "Onyx" and "Lynx" with x superimposed (Default)
From: [personal profile] onyxlynx
Mazel tov!

(Betrothal, now, that's an expression I haven't seen in years; it reminds me somewhat of the ABD phase of attaining a Ph. D.)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 07:34 pm (UTC)
ceb: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ceb
Yay, happiness! :-)

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Date: 2012-03-01 08:37 pm (UTC)
askygoneonfire: Red and orange sunset over Hove (Default)
From: [personal profile] askygoneonfire
Lovely post - and many congratulations!

I have to confess I sporfled at the song choice though!

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 08:47 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Bravo)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
Congratulations - it sounds like a fantastic day, and it probably means that both of you will be able to be more relaxed about your main wedding.

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-01 11:22 pm (UTC)
ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
That is a beautiful ring - and a wonderful moment to celebrate :D

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-02 01:03 am (UTC)
forestofglory: E. H. Shepard drawing of Christopher Robin reading a book to Pooh (Default)
From: [personal profile] forestofglory
General squee! Thanks for the detailed post.

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Date: 2012-03-02 10:32 am (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Official congratulations for your official wedding. Good choice of anniversary date too :-p

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Date: 2012-03-02 01:50 pm (UTC)
iddewes: (magnolias)
From: [personal profile] iddewes
Congrats! even if it doesn't feel like it yet. I had no idea they still made people use fountain pens to sign it (what do we lefties do? I can't use most fountain pens...)and that stuff about being identified by your father's occupations is a bit odd as well. I will most likely be married in Germany though so I guess I will see what it's like there!

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] iddewes - Date: 2012-03-04 12:50 pm (UTC) - Expand

Mazal Tov

Date: 2012-03-04 10:36 am (UTC)
ext_411969: (Default)
From: [identity profile] aviva-m.livejournal.com
Congratulations to you and Jack from far away Berlin. I would like to wish you all the best, a life together full of happiness and joy and health. Happy for you :o)

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-05 02:36 am (UTC)
hadassah: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hadassah
Yay, you're legally married! Squee!

And what's more, you called him 'husband'. DOUBLE SQEE!

:) *Hug*

(no subject)

Date: 2012-03-08 12:15 pm (UTC)
atreic: (Default)
From: [personal profile] atreic
[I only remember to read this when you do the LJ links; sorry my comment is late!]

Congratulations! :-) I am really pleased for both of you, and really looking forward to May.

I'm surprised that people in the comments are surprised that this has happened, because from my point of view right from the start you'd been discussing this as an option, so I knew when I was invited to the wedding that there was also a civil ceremony. I don't know if that's because I got particularly privileged information (it seems unlikely) or just because I like talking about weddings and different ways of doing things more than most people. I think like most things in life careful thought and clear communication about what you are doing and why are the main things, and from my point of view you have done that well, so I wouldn't let others rain on your parade!

Yay for you and Jack! :-)

(no subject)

From: [personal profile] atreic - Date: 2012-03-08 12:42 pm (UTC) - Expand

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Date: 2012-03-08 06:02 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] daharyn
I hadn't quite internalized the idea that there are a whole bunch of laws, even things as mundane as the tax system, that treat me completely differently just because I decided on a particular relationship configuration.

I'm sorry, but where along the way did you fail to really grok this? I mean, honestly. This is the whole freaking point of the marriage contract--its entire freaking purpose is to get civil society to treat you as part of an economic and social unit rather than as an individual, and to confer special benefits upon that unit, largely to promote child-rearing.

There's no "just because I decided" aspect of this. If that were what mattered, have the ceremony with friends, and don't bother with the legal one.

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