San Francisco Gay Wedding at City Hall : Ryan & Kevin
I assumed I would have a more “traditional” wedding. Small, intimate gay weddings lacked a formality that stripped them of significance. Courthouse weddings were out of the question, thank you very much. You sure don't get any more sad than a courthouse wedding: lines formed by black velvet ropes undulating between brass poles. Yet here I am, just completing my second wedding, and it was at a court house. Once again, it was small: seven guests and two photographers which was up from four guests a year and a half ago when we had our Chicago Civil Union shot by Chrisman Studios. Clearly, it was intimate. But this this time I added a government building into the mix.
However, neither the Civil Union in May of 2012 nor our wedding at San Francisco City Hall in September of 2013 lacked significance.
Having two weddings behind me, I am truly grateful for the nontraditional approach to both events. As most of you know, I do this for a living. Weddings can involve industry politics, families tugging against each other with different interests and opinions, disagreements, anxiety and endless choices of flowers, decor, lighting, food, invitations, who to invite, who not to invite, table linens, timelines, photography locations, bands and DJs. None of these things are necessarily bad, but because I live this routine every weekend, I did not want to focus on anything but the moment.
As some of you might recall, the Civil Union in 2012 was a difficult time for me. I wrote an honest and thorough reaction for Ben Chrisman’s blog post on Junebug Weddings last year. If you have not read it, take a moment to visit their site where you can read my thoughts and reactions to our first ceremony.
I never wanted a wedding in Illinois, but I knew one day, when it was legal, I would go home to San Francisco to marry. But in 2012, that was not an option and I had to hold a ceremony in Illinois. We tried the year before to marry, but the stress of the wedding season and anger of not being able to go home to SF was too overwhelming. After some discussion, I called it off.
In 2012, Ryan and I felt ready again. Just before we began the ceremony, Ben Chrisman pointed out that our two friends conducting the service (my very first ever wedding clients Libby and Patrick Castro of LP/w Design Studios) had spent many years in San Francisco, Ryan's parents are living in the Bay Area wine country of St. Helena, and clearly Chrisman Studios is from San Francisco. Knowing there was a piece of San Francisco in each of the eight folks attending lifted tons of weight off my shoulders, washed me with more than enough happiness, several tears and a lot less anger about not being able to go home to marry.
A year and a half later, Federal benefits are now granted to those who marry in states that recognize ‘marriage between a same sex couple’ as well as extending those rights to folks in states that recognize a Civil Union. But, Federal recognition is not granted to those who merely marry in a state that only recognizes a Civil Union.
Ryan's middle sister, Dana, has been planning her Napa wedding with her fiancee Larisa for nearly two years. Ryan and I asked them if they would mind if we had a tiny bit of the spotlight and hold a wedding ceremony at City Hall so we can return home with federal rights and protection.
Can you imagine a brother or sister asking their sibling for one day where people actually turn their attention away from them to focus on another couple so they can have some little courthouse wedding just days before their own? Weddings are typically a time where attention to the bride(s) or groom(s) and their families is not something you disrupt.
Both Dana and Larisa were thrilled and it never crossed their minds to say no. If anything, they were excited because neither of Ryan's two sisters or Larisa could make it to our first wedding. In attendance two weeks ago was Ryan's little sister Laura, middle sister Dana, Dana’s fiancee Larisa, both of Ryan’s parents again AND his 87-year-old grandmother as well as her younger sister, both of whom found out recently that she has grandchildren that are gay, and one is already (half) married.
It was important to Dana that her grandmother attended the wedding. Because of her age there was concern it would be too much news to handle. But Dana always asked, what if she does not mind? A wrong decision could deprive her from an event that she would have loved to attend and support with all of her children, grandchildren, and extended family.
Clearly, they made the right decision because she did not blink twice about coming to the wedding. She is a delight. She gives great hugs, and does not shy away from a nice soft kiss on the cheek. And I lost count how many times she wrapped her arms around me to tell me congratulations. The entire five days in St. Helena, I felt honored to witness her excitement to be with all her entire family.
It has been a few weeks since the wedding and Ryan’s grandmother offered us her car. The two of us jumped on an Amtrak to the east coast to pick up the car. When we arrived at her doorstep, she immediate gave us both hugs and shed a few tears. I can’t begin to tell you (having no grandparents of my own anymore), how touching it was standing there in front of a woman who could care less about our sexuality. Mrs. Johnston was speechless and overwhelmed with joy that she could extend her love to help me and Ryan grow together. Sure, any person would feel moved. But unless you are gay, you will never understand the doubt, fear and immediate assumption that people around you will not honor your relationship like they would a heterosexual. Having lived life like this for 42 years probably means it is engrained into my soul.
But, clearly, in 2013 it is finally nice to say that I am proven incorrect most of the time.
San Francisco. As many of you know, I have had a 42-year obsession with SF. As a child for my birthday, my parents would tour me around the city, dine at Sutter 500, take me to galleries to stare at March Chagall pantings or attend a play at Golden Gate Theater. The bottom line, you just don't get in between me and the city. I don't know why I am obsessed with SF; I just understand it is deep.
Wedding two happened on Sept 25th at City Hall in San Francisco about 11:45 am. I didn’t think twice about having a City Hall wedding. I, Kevin Weinstein, would finally get to marry Ryan in a city close to my heart with his family and Chrisman Studios again.
Another highlight for us was traveling out West with our Chihuahua. While I know he can't think the way I wish he could, having him visit my mother, see where I was born and grew up, where I went to college, some of the restaurants I would eat at, and visit the family vineyard for my sister-in-law's wedding just made this trip one of the best in my life.
Thank you to the Sabins for jumping into the middle of my life and adding this loud, gregarious black sheep to your somewhat quiet gaggle. And thank you Ben and Erin Chrisman as well as Maurico for making my husband and I incredibly honored by your support over the last year and a half.
Dana and Larisa, you get my utmost gratitude. You planned long and hard for two years to have the wedding at a special place known as Sabina Vineyards but never thought twice about giving me and Ryan one little day that meant more than just Federal recognition and coverage.