Liz & Elly's queer trans lesbian secular church wedding

April 11 |
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Photos by Colin McMillen

The offbeat bride: Liz, Systems Administrator

Her offbeat partner: Elly, Software Engineer

Date and location of wedding: Channing Church, Rockland, MA — November 20, 2011

Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Elly and I have very strong ideals which we tried to reflect in our wedding. We're queer, vegan, secular, feminist, transgender, and geeky. We have a distaste for false pretension, and a desire to be straightforward and honest. We proposed to each other using code: Lisp from Elly and shell script from me. Our invitations were emailed, not printed, and we digitally signed them for our cryptographically-interested friends.

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Our programs were printed in fixed-point font as if we were coding, and included reprintings of our marriage proposals and an alphabetical listing of the friends and family who attended rather than singling out special roles and relationships. We included an XKCD strip about marriage as a scientific experiment: "Will you marry me?" "Let's find out!" "Apparently, yes!"

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We kept the wedding extremely small, in part because Elly experiences social phobia around large crowds. And our budget was kept small since we only spent money on things that mattered to us. We prioritized having a cheerful dinner celebration with our closest friends, and having well-made rings to wear every day to reflect the strength and duality of our relationship. Rather than ask a minister to marry us in a strange church, we chose a friend, who is in a lesbian marriage herself, to act as a lay minister for her Unitarian Universalist congregation. We'd previously spoken at her church on a transgender panel as part of their process of formal recognition as a fully LGBT-welcoming church.

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I've been playing the piano since I was eight, so I knew I wanted to play rather than using recorded music or hiring someone. I played the piano accompaniment to the hymns, and played Bach for a musical interlude. We worked my dog into the ceremony as our ring bearer. Fortunately, our vendor was friendly to our particular dog.

In terms of music, we paid homage to our appreciation of sci-fi by using the "Throne Room" theme from Star Wars for our processional, and used "Walk on the Moon" for our recessional. We picked the pre-wedding music to subtly subvert heteronormativity: "You Belong With Me" and "Love Story" by Taylor Swift, and "Firework" and "Teenage Dream" by Katy Perry.

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Tell us about the ceremony: After the introduction, Elly's father read "Blessing For A Marriage" by James Dillet Freeman:

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"May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another."

We had two hymns, the first of which reflected on the simplicity and authenticity of our marriage:

"'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free / 'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, / And when we find ourselves in the place just right, / 'Twill be in the valley of love and delight."

Our second hymn represented the strength of our love, even in the face of discrimination:

"Love makes a bridge / from heart to heart, and hand to hand. / Love finds a way, when laws are blind, and freedom banned."

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I played a portion of the "French Suite in G major" composed by Bach as a musical interlude. We chose to incorporate a unity candle ritual into our ceremony to symbolize our lives being joined.

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Our biggest challenge: We scheduled the wedding several months in advance, but did not realize until approximately a month before the wedding that it coincided with the Transgender Day of Remembrance, upon which the transgender community gathers to mourn those who have been victims of anti-transgender violence. Given that both Elly and I are transgender, we realized that we had to do something to recognize the gravity of that particular day without intruding into the overall celebratory mood of the wedding.

We ended up including a moment of silence in the ceremony for people to contemplate and reflect:

"In recognition of the hard paths the brides have walked, of the paths their transgender sisters past and present have walked, and the paths their children may some day not find a little easier, please be silent for a moment of prayer."

At our local Transgender Day of Remembrance event, a friend of ours read an announcement of our wedding at the open microphone towards the end of the event in order to provide a beacon of hope and love and help lift up the spirits of our transgender community.

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My favorite moment: Having the support of Elly's father meant a lot to both of us given that my parents and I are estranged. His presence at our wedding and his reading of a supportive blessing aloud in front of our close friends and family was extremely moving.

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Elly and I knew going into the wedding that we were going to tear up while reading each other our vows. She'd read her vows to me several times the night before. The moment I heard her start reading "You are the sky to my earth and the sea to my shore" in the church, I knew it was all real, and not a fanciful dream.

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The toast that our best people, Colin and Kristen, made at our wedding dinner was extremely special to us. Kristen described how she and Colin had first met Elly and I, and how much Elly had blossomed from a shy adolescent into an outspoken and proud individual. I especially loved how they described our relationship as a Venn diagram — she said that when they introduced us, they knew that we overlapped in many ways, such as being transgender, interested in software, and geeky, but that they didn't expect us to end up married. What was unexpected to them was the myriad of ways in which we differ and complement each other. For instance, my cooking and teaching Elly to cook, and Elly's boldness and inspiration in me to become more outspoken.

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My advice for Offbeat Brides: Practice saying no. Our wedding turned out to be the perfect size because we kept it small and resisted the temptation to invite too many people. Also, allow plenty of buffer room in your schedule to account for unexpected hiccups, such as sleeping in late, insolent copy machines, and traffic.

If you have any desire to, no matter how small, write your own vows! They'll turn out more authentic and memorable that way, and you might find the poet or writer inside you.

Google Docs will save your life. We kept track of the guest list, sketched out seating, wrote vows, and prepared the program, all in Docs without the need to email attachments around or keep backups.

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Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!

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  1. This wedding made me so happy! So much love, beauty, and closeness! Thank you for sharing, and best wishes to the both of you. <3

    12 agree
  2. I loved this post and really felt this is what a wedding and marriage is truly all about and what some people lose track of in the face of all of the excitement and planning. Love, respect and strength throughout adversity is what makes a marriage work. I wish the best of love to these beautiful women.

    12 agree
  3. This was a lovely and sweet wedding. I appreciate your awareness of your values and thoughtfulness towards each other. Congratulations and may you have great joy in your marriage.

    4 agree
  4. Weddings like this will be why I'll be voting YES this November when Maine decides whether or not to legalize same-sex marriage. Beautiful!

    11 agree
  5. This wedding made me squeal with happy. So much love!

    Also, as a quick shout-out – Jade Moran designed my engagement ring and is designing our wedding bands now. Her work is amazing!!

    1 agrees
  6. I lost it at the photo of you and Elly with your dog at your feet at the altar! I'm such a sucker for pups, especially in weddings!

    2 agree
  7. This is so beautiful, definitely made me a bit teary. It's a lovely way to commemorate TDoR, showing that love will shine through the darkness. Best wishes to you both!

    6 agree
  8. What a meaningful and moving ceremony you planned! The hymns you chose were perfect as were the readings. Thank you for sharing your day with us, and congratulations to the two of you!

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  9. Big ups to google docs for sure! Lovely dresses too.

    0 agree
  10. Fabulous, thoughtful, deliberate wedding. Thank you for sharing!!

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  11. I love so much about this wedding!
    you are such lovely, thoughtful people there can be no doubt your marriage will be just as wonderful.
    yay the Venn diagram and THIS!
    At our local Transgender Day of Remembrance event, a friend of ours read an announcement of our wedding at the open microphone towards the end of the event in order to provide a beacon of hope and love and help lift up the spirits of our transgender community.

    4 agree
  12. The shot of both of you with Elly's father and the comment below made me tear up big time. I'm so glad you had such a beautiful day, and I LOVELOVELOVE that you played the piano yourself! It's so awesome couples get involved in their own ceremony in non-traditional ways.

    Yay and congrats!!!

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  13. The backlit photo of ya'll smooching with gauzy curtains in the background is stunning. Many blessings for a joyous life with one another.

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  14. May Goddess bless your union with many healthy years of prosperity, joy and growth. Your dog took my breath away. I simply stared, and had to write. S/he is an exact match to my Heart Dog, who passed away in my arms many years ago. I am sure that my Sasha is at the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for me and smiling a Sammy smile at her doppelganger being part of such a wonderful family. I could ask for nothing more. Namaste.

    2 agree
  15. Thank you so much for sharing your love with us. Your family is beautiful and my heart is touched.

    1 agrees
  16. The words that came to mind when I saw this entry were intimate, gentle, and sincere. Awesome. :)

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  17. The meaningfulness of every part of your wedding touched my heart!
    I loved the love going on in all your pictures!

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  18. You dont know how much this post moved me, partly because how it resounds with my own situation, my engagement to my fiancée, us both being trans and geeks as well i just know how much this meant to the both of you.

    2 agree
  19. Absolutely beautiful! I wish you many happy years. <3

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing your story! What a beautiful and meaningful wedding.

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  21. How very beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  22. Such a lovely and romantic wedding. I thought I'd share this, given the geeky nature of the wedded couple: (x^2+y^2-1)^3 – x^2y^3 = 0.

    1 agrees
  23. $50?!?!?! (plus all the nice stuff everyone else said) but wow. They look way way more expensive than that!

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  24. @Josephine: Yes, really! Mine was $20, and Elly's was $30. You'd be surprised what you can find at offbeat secondhand department stores. I was pretty sure beforehand I'd be able to find a fancy purple/lilac dress, but the shocker was when Elly found a white traditional wedding dress (with a train!) that perfectly fit her hiding among the other dresses.

    3 agree
  25. Love the xkcd comic! It's all very cute.

    1 agrees
  26. Congratulations to you both! You seem very sweet together, and also, I LOVE the Venn Diagram mention. So wonderfully nerdy!!

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  27. I LOVE this wedding and I LOVE this community for the all the support we show each other!

    1 agrees
  28. I love this wedding story SO much, it made me tear up just reading about all the individuality, special thought, romance, and compassion – from the proposal on… Much love and happiness to both of you! <3

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  29. Absolutely beautiful. This post is full of joy, love and inspiration – thanks for sharing :D Also I LOVE that you proposed to each other in code!

    1 agrees
  30. That is a sweet story, and a lovely wedding! Congrats to the brides!

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  31. A beautiful, intimate and heartfelt celebration of love and growth. You ladies are rockstars! <3

    0 agree
  32. YAY!! I hope your wedded life has continued with happiness!

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  33. I do not believe the dresses. The price and the way they look??? Oh my! Totally cool. I love the lila color! And the dog is just perfect! I wish my pets would cooperate for any kind of ceremony fun. Anyway, beautiful beautiful wedding!!!! Congrats to you both!

    0 agree
  34. This made me smile on so many levels and also being one of those seemingly rare beasts, a female programmer, the utter geekery of it, fixed-type font really? that is probably beyond geek and somewhere into crazy genius :)

    I loved that you had an XKCD strip on your Orders of Service, you played music from Star Wars and that your pup was your ring bearer but most of all I love that as two trans* queer women, you were able to be married, the first same sex marriages are due to take place here in the UK at the end of this month (March 2014) and although we've had Civil Partnerships for longer, I'm joyous that full recognition is about to happen.

    Congratulations, you both looked amazing (purple dress YUM!) and may you have a very long and very happy life together :D

    1 agrees

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