Liz & Elly's queer trans lesbian secular church wedding

By on Apr. 11th
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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!