Toronto
4 min

In holy matrimony

Why we're getting married, no matter what they say

WIFE & WIFE. Marrieds Lori Lucier and Maureen Hall survived drunken guests and a gladiola crisis. Credit: Mark Bogdanvic

Whether it’s the traditional white wedding or an intimate ritual with a handful of witnesses, commitment ceremonies have become an important part of queer life.



“We both grew up thinking that we would have a wedding at some point, so we did,” says Lori Lucier.



She and partner Maureen Hall shared their commitment ceremony in

September of 1993 at a resort in the Muskokas. They rented the whole place out and invited 50 of their friends and family. A friend studying religion presided.



“We had a hybrid wedding,” says Hall. “The ceremony was a mix of United Church, Unitarian, Wiccan and First Nations traditions.”



It was spiritual without being religious. “It was an important thing for us and an obvious difference between our ceremony and traditional ones.”



Lucier and Hall plan to renew their commitment with a more traditional ceremony to mark their tenth anniversary.



But if full marital rights come through in the meantime, the pair say

they’ll make their vows official, particularly now that they have a

child.



“It would make things a lot easier,” says Lucier. “So that we wouldn’t have to go out to expensive lawyers and have to draft up powers of attorney and custody and all that stuff.”



Reverend Brent Hawkes of the Metropolitan Community Church Of Toronto says while the number of homos getting hitched with his church has remained steady – somewhere between 15 and 25 a year – the ceremonies themselves have gotten bigger.



“In the early years it was usual that ceremonies would the couple and some friends,” recalls Hawkes. “Whereas now it’s the usual that families are involved.”



Although the church used to distinguish between opposite-sex “holy

matrimony” and same-sex “holy union,” Hawkes says MCCT has stopped differentiating.



“Just because society doesn’t give us full rights that doesn’t mean that we can’t use the language.”



Because homos don’t feel the same societal pressure to marry, the

decision to tie the knot is more meaningful than it is to straights, says Hawkes.



“I think they take it more seriously. They don’t have to do it –

it’s something that people freely choose rather than a cultural requirement or a legal or family requirement.”



There are no divorce stats, however.



Lucier and Hall expressed their commitment, but in a different kind of way, they say.



“We weren’t interested in doing the traditional because we weren’t a traditional couple,” says Lucier.



“Afterwards we both felt a little cheated.”



The two feel they missed out on some of the solemnity that comes with a conventional wedding ceremony.



The photos were a mess. The MC got too drunk to lead the speeches. “The whole reception was not taken as seriously as it could have been,” says Hall. “And not as formal as we may have wanted, in hindsight.”



The real wedding day disaster was the flowers.



After a violent domestic dispute, one of the two men in charge of the decorations was taken away in a cop car, leaving the gladiolas in cold storage to prevent them from blooming too early.



It wasn’t until the afternoon of the ceremony that someone realized the flowers were still frozen. “Our mothers were totally appalled,” says Hall, recalling how they stepped in to repair the situation, scavenging to make due. “It’s kind of funny now, but it wasn’t funny then.”



To qualify for a commitment ceremony with MCCT, homos must live together for at least a year. They must also be a couple – no triads or communes.



“Currently in the denomination, the by-laws say that these commitment ceremonies are ceremonies between two people,” says Hawkes, adding that “blessing ceremonies” are available for larger groups and couples who haven’t been together long enough.



Hawkes notes that MCCT used to do more to prepare couples. At one point the church ran mandatory classes for prospective spouses, including workshops on how to organize a life together and communication for couples.



These days they’re a little more relaxed about the whole thing. “It became unmanageable in terms of the number of requests,” he says. “We decided that we had to learn to trust where couples are at.”



He says that the ceremonies are pretty flexible, including on the level of religious content. “One of the things we’re trying to learn at MCC is how to be a Christian church without being obnoxious about it. It’s their ceremony, it’s not our ceremony.”



For some, sharing the news with friends and family isn’t enough. To allow couples to reach as wide an audience as possible, a US company has set up the International Commitment Ceremony Registry (ICCR) at www.ilovethisplace.com/iccr.



“What this site does is provide couples an opportunity to announce to the world their love and devotion for one another,” says the site’s chief registrar, Lester Kau.



“So many couples in this and other countries are forbidden by primitive laws to legally wed,” he says. “Our web site provides a place for them to make their partnership known to all.”



You can even buy a commitment ceremony certificate (for $24.95).



A more elaborate certificate is offered by the Words Of The Ancients Distributing, based on early Christian writings and presented in the style of medieval illumination. This company is a little less subtle in its marketing approach.



“Don’t wait for the straight world to validate your loving relationship,” declares the web page. “Confirm your love now by ordering today!”



Elsewhere online, queer couples have documented their commitment ceremonies, complete with tips on where to find gay cake toppers (www.gaywired.com, $25.50), and what to read to plan the perfect event (The Essential Guide To Lesbian And Gay Weddings by Tess Ayers and Paul Brown).



In Vancouver, Beverly Greene maintains a site (at www.geocities.com/westhollywood/heights/3517/bchp.html) devoted to the ceremony between her and her partner, Jamie. They were joined during a small gathering in their home by Reverend Linda Eriving of the Trinity United Church in 1996.



Greene says that she wants the world to see her as a wedded woman. “I want to be recognized as being married,” she says. “I am not single and resent having to put ‘single’ on legal forms.”



She and her partner also plan to repeat their vows when same-sex marriage comes through, but in a less traditional, Pagan ceremony.



Greene says that day can’t come soon enough.



“Heterosexual couples can get married the day that they meet and have more rights than a same-sex couple who has been together for 25 years,” she says.



“That’s not right.”