Heather, my sweetie of four years, and I are tying the knot later this year. And planning the wedding has become our part time job.
The really sneaky thing about a wedding is that it makes the internal, external. That is, as a single man, you spend all your time asking questions like: Is she the one? Is this the time? Can love last?
Then when you decide that, yes, she is the one, yes, this is the time and, dammit, it better last, you get engaged and tell the world. And, for a moment there, everyone cheers and flowers bloom and everything seems so right.
That moment lasts approximately 24 hours.
Then come the questions. When's the wedding? Where? Who's coming? Have you thought about the food? Uncle So-and-so can't eat such-and-such. Have you thought about having a chuppah? A bartender? A sandwich?
The unfortunate thing about finding your soulmate is making your relationship public. And there's nothing like a wedding to bring out people's issues. Suddenly this ceremony, this very private, emotional, personal ceremony, is everybody's business.
And, really, that's the point. A wedding is your moment to say to your community: See this person? She's with me. Forever. It's supposed to be public. It's supposed to involve everyone close to you. It's supposed to make you crazy.
OK, maybe not the crazy part. But it is a common side effect.
There are far worse marriage horror stories to be found out there. My parents, bless them, have been wonderful to us. And Heather's family has been totally supportive and hassle-free.
The point is, weddings are stressful for everyone. They always are. And it was right at that moment of stress, right as I was starting to panic about all the wedding details, that Heather and I went to the San Francisco City Hall to watch gay people get married.
A couple days earlier, Mayor Gavin Newsom decided that San Francisco should stop violating the California constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and begin offering marriage licenses to same-sex couples. So, on Sunday, Heather and I went down to City Hall just to take in the scene. Heather brought a sign that said CONGRATULATIONS. I brought my camera.
What I saw there that day blew me away. The sheer joy of those couples, descending the City Hall steps. The long-craved acceptance, now finally granted. The boundless optimism and hope that comes with being granted true equality. And the ecstatic feeling of love that flowed from that place. It was overwhelming.
At one point I was standing behind a camerawoman who was interviewing two gentlemen that had just been married. The bearded man, holding his husband's hand, was talking about a lifetime of knowing he was gay, and always knowing that if he found the man of his dreams, they could not be wed. Ever.
I glanced back at Heather in the crowd, holding up her sign. Congratulations.
Now, he was saying, now we can. And it's amazing. This is not about gay rights, he was saying, this is about equality. This is about human rights.
He didn't know it, but behind the camera, just out of sight, was a straight guy wiping tears out of his eyes.
Suddenly all my wedding planning stress was gone. And in its place was this feeling of gratitude. I'm so lucky to have found Heather. And so happy that I can marry her without anyone standing in my way -- not our family, not the state, not the president.
Everyone should be as fortunate as I am. Everyone can be. And it's starting in San Francisco.
It's funny, but watching a few hundred same-sex marriages really reminded me of why I wanted to get married in the first place.
Heather and I have a date and we have a location. We have a list and a save-the-date card printed. We have appointments with caterers and a block of hotel rooms booked. Those are all details, and they matter, but they're not what weddings are about.
We have each other, and everything is going to be OK.
Derek Powazek is the Online Director of AlterNet, in San Francisco.