Kelly and I have never been particularly traditional because, well, we like doing whatever we want to do. I’m a Black queer woman from Indiana who works in media, loves Kenny Loggins, and probably spends too much time on social media. Kelly is a white straight cis dude who works at an independent bookstore, cries at Bob Weir concerts, and has a Facebook page he checks approximately every three months. I am three years older than him. I earn more money, but he has better credit. And he is the first person I’ve ever dated who has read more books than I have. A lot more. Our relationship works because we talk honestly and constantly, we seek to be kind to one another, and we both think the other person is the cutest thing in the world. Our relationship is cheesy, fun, passionate, and real. But most importantly, it’s ours.
On our first date, Kelly took me four-wheeling in a giant pit full of mud and hills, then he taught me how to do donuts in the gravel. On our second date, he taught me how to shoot clay pigeons with hunting rifles at a gun range. I’ve known him since 2010, and I’ve been kissing him off and on since 2011. He’d lived in Seattle for a year before he showed up on my front porch in Indiana in October of 2013, kissed me, then asked, “Are you seeing anybody?” I wasn’t. We’ve been an official couple pretty much since that day, and we have loved every bit of our weird and awesome co-existence. Over the years there has been adventure, and even more good times. I suppose that’s why he asked me to marry him this past May. He proposed with an Avengers collector’s ring, and got himself a matching one. Of course I said yes. Now, we both wear engagement rings, and have a wedding to plan. So how the hell do we plan a wedding?
Despite coming from medium to large-sized clans, neither of our families has had a full-on wedding in almost 20 years. On my side, the last wedding I remember was my Aunt Tammie and Uncle Geoff’s nuptials. The baby they had about a year after they got married just graduated high school. When I told my sister I was engaged, she yelled, “Finally! A real fucking wedding!” My dad almost cried, and my mom squealed. Kel’s family was excited as well. One of his aunts offered him her mother’s ring to give me (which I only turned down because I really don’t trust myself with expensive jewelry), and his mom has told me over and over, “I just want you to have the wedding you’ve always dreamed of.” Our families were immediately invested in our union, and honestly, we’re overdue for a big damn party on both sides.
If we didn’t consider our families at all, we’d probably just go to City Hall, do the marrying thing, then have a raging party in Brooklyn, and another in our home state of Indiana. Instead, after experiencing the reaction to our engagement announcement, we decided it was important to both of us to include the biological and chosen family that has been so supportive of our relationship and life together in our wedding day. We are without a doubt the main players in our relationship, as it should be, but so many of these people helped us get to this place. We would do the wedding our way, while honoring their investment in us as a couple, and us as individuals. So where does a newly-engaged person find inspiration for her wedding when she’s Black, queer, kinda fat, and leans toward non-traditional celebrations?
Who the hell knows?
I visited the bridal magazine section of a bookstore the day after I got engaged hoping to find something motivating. I was immediately annoyed that it wasn’t called the wedding section (because seriously, in 2017 is it really still the woman’s job to plan this thing?). Every magazine I saw had a thin white woman on the cover. I left without buying anything.
Luckily, I have friends who get me: Angel and Shira showed up with four issues of the wedding magazine Catalyst. The covers had women of color, lesbian couples, trans women, brides who were in their 60s, fat brides, and brides who weren’t wearing dresses! They had articles like “Keep The Tie, Ditch The Binary,” “How To Be A Woke Bridal Consultant,” and “One Ceremony, Years of Patriarchy.” There were pages and pages of beautifully diverse photos and wedding options. I was so excited I began to cry. This was what I wanted, a simple visual reminder that people like me have beautiful weddings every day.
After that, I felt a lot better about the options for our wedding, but still pretty lost on where to begin. A friend of mine who found herself in a similar place after getting engaged gave me the same advice someone had given her. She said, “Ashley, all you have to do is start somewhere. Anywhere. Think of one thing you know you want, write it down, and see if it doesn’t make you think of another thing you want. Pretty soon, you’ll have a decent list of things you know you want for sure at your wedding. After that, everything else is just making decisions.”
Turns out, we have a lot of decisions to make. What colors do we want? How do we even figure something like that out? Weddings are inherently patriarchal, so how will we minimize that in our ceremony? What will my dress look like? Who makes good dresses for brides with bigger bodies? Do I even want to wear a dress? Will it be white? What will Kel wear? How do we make sure the suit made for his best person (a woman) fits just as well as the suits for the groomsmen? Engagement party? Bachelor/Bachelorette party? GAH! There’s so much to decide. I just have to remember that every decision, even the small ones, help us paint a bigger picture for how we want the celebration of our love to reflect us.
In the wake of all those questions, and the many more we have, and will have, another friend suggested Kelly and I come up with a wedding mission statement. Just something to come back to remind us what we’re trying to do, why we’re trying to do it, and where we might want to go from here. Here’s that statement:
“Our wedding day should be fun more than it should be anything else. We only invite people who will add to our joy. Every person is allowed to cry and laugh as much as they want or need to. Dancing is strongly encouraged. Eating and drinking to your heart’s content are mandatory. At the end of the day, we are most focused on our commitment to spend the rest of our lives encouraging each other to be better people than we were the day before. To be more kind, loving, and adventurous. That’s what we want to celebrate. This is just our huge fucking party.”
Approximately one year from today, Kel and I will be getting married. As we go through this process and I make more and more decisions, I’ve decided to share the story of planning our wedding here. This will be a bi-weekly column that will span until our wedding day. Beyond that, who knows? Sometimes it will be fun, and sometimes it will be tough to write about what comes up in the wedding planning process. Either way, I look forward to sharing. Some day, I hope the world is full of accessible resources for other big-bodied, Black, queer women to plan their weddings (or whatever they choose to call them) to whomever. Until then, you have me. I hope that’ll help.