On Friday, September 4, 2015, Jennifer and I got married at the courthouse in Campbell’s Bay, Quebec. My father and some of our closest friends were in attendance, but for the most part we didn’t tell anyone. It was an elopement of sorts, only without the travelling to Las Vegas.
Here’s how it came about.
Jennifer and I have been living together for more than 12 years, and had been content to do so without getting formally married. Weddings were expensive and complicated and stressful and involved family drama, and as we got older they made less and less sense on several levels. (As if we need a registry: we’ve already got stuff.) More than anything, I think, we were introverts who didn’t want a fuss made; our devotion to one another did not need a public demonstration to be real.
But in the end a couple of factors pushed us in this direction. First, as Barry pointed out to us over the summer, in contrast to other provinces, common-law partnerships do not have the same status in Quebec as married couples do. We began to think that we were letting our ambivalence about weddings get in the way of being married. As Leah recently observed, “weddings are bullshit; marriage is awesome.”
And we also had an anniversary coming up that was worth marking in some significant way. The 4th was the first anniversary of Jennifer’s cancer diagnosis. Her cancer was treatable, even curable; and it was treated, and even cured—but all the same it represented one of the most difficult periods in either of our lives so far. And we handled it.
It suddenly occurred to us that getting married on that cancer anniversary was a message—a bird flipped in the direction of cancer and any other adversity sent our way—that whatever may happen, we won’t be broken by it, or broken apart. If the past year has taught the two of us anything, it’s been that. We have stared disaster in the face, and we did not blanch.
That was the logic that propelled us to the courthouse last Friday, and to do it quickly and quietly. To do it at a scale that was manageable without taking a year to plan for it required letting very few people in on it: those who were already here, and those who could get here without much disruption to their own schedules. Even at that, we had about as many people as we could before having to think about hotels and facilities; even at that, we had people determined to make a fuss—planning, hosting and cooking for a reception/dinner after the brief civil ceremony.
Our intention was to get married with minimum fuss: to flip the switch from “common law” to “married” while carrying on as before. We were not entirely successful. The fault belongs to the people in our lives who love and care for us: their efforts, and their attendance, made the day we got married a very good day indeed.