If A Tree Gets Married In the Forest Without a Priest or a Judge, Does It Still Make a Wedding?

Conversation I had on Saturday, when I invited our neighbor to Wedding #63:

Neighbor: “Wow! You are all dressed up today!” (Translation: “Wow! You’re not wearing sweatpants today!”) Is someone getting married?

Me: “Yes! Roberto and I — and we wanted to invite you to join us, if you like!”

Neighbor: “Okay, but who’s getting married?”

Me: “We are!”

Neighbor: “You? But, aren’t you already married?”

Me: “Well, yes, kind of. Roberto and I have decided to get married every day for a year — and today is our 63rd wedding!”

Neighbor: “Ohhhh, I see. You got married a year ago. And this is your anniversary?”

Me: “No, today is the wedding — we’ll have a wedding every day for the rest of 2014 — and, after that, every day will be our anniversary!”

Neighbor: “But, did you do it in a church?”

Me: “No.”

Neighbor: “So you did it at the courthouse?”

Me: “No.”

Neighbor: “Is there a judge here today?”

Me: “No.”

Neighbor: “Oh, I see…this must be one of those American things.”

Me: “Well, not really, it’s more like a…”

Neighbor: “Yeah, sure…we’ll stop by…” (Translation: “Weirdo.”)

I didn’t have the chance to explain to her that, no, The One Year Wedding isn’t an American thing. (Or a Mexican thing or an Anyone thing, really. It’s our thing.) Going by her pre-reqs, The One Year Wedding isn’t a wedding at all. Definitely not in the eyes of the church or state, who we’ve kept out of the loop for the last 67 days.

The whole conversation reminded me of my mother’s reaction when I told her that we were changing course with our wedding plans:

You know that people won’t actually think you’re getting married every day, right?

Or the friends who ask me regularly when we’ll have our real wedding so their parents can finally send us gifts.

And, yes, I know exactly where these good hearted people are coming from — because I am from the same place. Everything I believed about partnership, weddings, and marriage until…well, about 67 days ago, was formed in that place. It wasn’t until I was standing on the cusp of calling that place home for the rest of my life — our lives — that I realized, now or never style, it was time to leave. In fact, I honestly can’t believe I stayed so long.

The first time I knew I wanted out, I was in law school reading The Origin of Family, Private Property, and the State, instead of whatever legal texts were assigned to me at the time. I remember highlighting it furiously on the trip back from a radical lawyers convention. (I liked the radical stuff, the lawyering not so much.) I was at a tipping point with my faith, almost ready to come out as an agnostic, and this book was my entrance into the world after Adam and Eve.

The Origin of Family, Private Property, and The State refutes the theory that humans are naturally monagamous or that we always have been or that it’s the best/right/only way. The crux of Engels’ argument is that the practice of monogamy is historically intertwined with the advent of private property. And the “sacred institution” of marriage just happens to double as a convenient way to get more bang for our collective buck: privatize “women’s work”, keep capital in the hands of a few powerful heads of household, create neat little buying units more concerned with equity than community.

Ah, the romance of the capitalist patriarchy!

In just a few pages, that book exploded my tightly closed mind.

Whether or not you agree with Engels, when you look at Western wedding and marriage culture today, it’s impossible to deny that we are being consumed. One might not believe that marriage and capitalism began together, but they’re bosom buddies now.

And, despite knowing all that and believing it, I was all set to follow the fold and enter into partnership like a dutiful consumer — with a mountain of unnecessary debt and a river of traditions I opposed. A Knot approved wedding that wouldn’t puzzle the neighbors or confuse my friends’ parents.

My sister saw through the whole thing from the start.

Um, if you don’t believe in marriage, why are you having a wedding?

The Bridezilla training I received in my formative years informed my reaction. I was aghast that she could suggest such a thing on the eve of myyyyy wedding! What nerve! What gall!

What the fuck, she’s totally right.

What Roberto and I have — and intend to build — is a partnership of choice, intention, and conscious community building. That’s why we started talking weddings in the first place, shortly before I got lost in the rabbit hole echoing “Say Yes To The Dress.” And, to my surprise, it was my skeptical sister who shook me into consciousness again, with a question I’m ashamed I didn’t ask myself first.

Why are you doing something you don’t believe in?

Up until that point, I had ignored how completely unnatural it felt to me to punctuate the building process we had already started with a One Day event that was tearing us apart. We were doing ourselves and our values a disservice by trying to fit that partnership into a wedding shaped box. We weren’t simply speaking the language of our culture but saying all the “right” things. (Translation: With dollar bills.)

The One Year Wedding, on the other hand, does indeed still speak the language of our culture but the subtext has changed. It is our intention to add new meaning to these old words and ideas, taking back “marriage” and what it has meant to people for centuries — or even just the last few decades — and making it ours. Redefining modern partnership on our terms, which necessarily means parting with some of the traditions associated with a big One Day event.

So, it’s no mistake that Roberto and I haven’t neared a church or a courthouse in the last 67 days. We — I — spent too much time wanting someone else’s approval of this partnership, even if it meant sacrificing our deeply held values to achieve it. Today, when I “marry” my partner that is to say that I choose to continue on a radical adventure of love with him, despite knowing I could travel countless other roads and even that monogamy isn’t the best/right/only way. I “marry” my partner, fully aware that our “marriage” is meaningless in the eyes of the church or state. I “marry” my partner, while acknowledging that he is always free to choose another path — and that, while our intentions today may be for a lifetime, our commitment to this partnership is fully voluntary. (After 365 divorces…just kidding.)

We call it a “wedding”, you might call it “weird”, and don’t worry because I know where you’re coming from. I’m from there, too.

If a tree gets married in the forest without a priest or a judge, does it still make a wedding? Who cares?!

If a tree gets married in the forest without a priest or a judge, does it still make a wedding? Who cares?!


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