Saying ‘I do’ long after saying ‘I love you'

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A long engagement ends in August. - PHOTOS: Courtesy

Most engagements in the United States last about 13 to18 months. My “engagement,” after 21 years, ends on Aug. 16 in a simple ceremony in a canyon near White Pines Forest State Park in Mount Morris, Illinois.

That’s not far, going west, from where Connie’s family resides and not far, going northeast, from where most of my family resides.

And Mount Morris is 87 miles from Rock Island, Illinois, where Connie and I met in December 1992 — she was working at a bookstore and I was reporting for a daily newspaper. Remember those days? We were wearing flannel and listening to grunge, cheering the “Year of the Woman” and awaiting Bill Clinton’s first inauguration.

Being political junkies, it would be fitting if Connie and I got married with another Clinton in office, but we don’t want to wait three more years.

We’ve waited.

And waited. 

And waited enough.

Now we’re “brides.” It seems strange to use that term, because we’ve been “spouses” for so many years. 

And much of the wedding planning seems so foreign. I figure lesbians in my generation tuned out and turned off on dreams of white weddings and princess brides by about 6 years old, maybe even 5, which is when I got my first ball glove.

We’ll be barefoot and wearing pants on our wedding day, but we are “brides.”

One of the conversations with our much-appreciated and helpful wedding consultant went like:

Consultant: What colors or specific types of flowers would you like for the ceremony?

Me: We like the minimalist approach.

Connie: White and black?

Consultant: Would you like a table for a unity ceremony?

Me: No.

Consultant: Would you like to rent a microphone or speakers for the ceremony?

Connie: No.

Consultant: A DJ or wedding music?

Us: No. No.

She asked about the brides making a grand entrance in a horse-drawn carriage. No.

She asked about flowers. We said just for our moms and my sister, the matron of honor, who would have been a maid of honor had we been able to legally wed two decades ago.

When we came to the question of scattering rose petals in the aisle, we said “yes” — in part to say “yes” to something, but also to give the kids something to do.

When Connie and I met, we had one niece to dote on, Anna, the first daughter of Connie’s older sister. Our families have grown, as our siblings have married and we now have 11 nieces and nephews, more than a reminder of the big transformations that have taken place over two decades — in our personal lives and in the public arena.

In one way, waiting to wed has been a positive, because we can share the day with the kids, who — with much credit to their parents and our parents — are growing up knowing us as Aunt Lisa and Aunt Connie and loving us, understanding who we are to one another and appreciating our relationship. No judgment. No laboriously processing the gay thing. 

Last fall, Connie and I went to Puerto Rico for my brother’s wedding. We don’t dance too often, but the DJ played Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and who can resist? My 4-year-old niece Pippa was on the dance floor, in a circle of kids. She looked up and saw Connie and I, clapped her hands to her cheeks and said, “Awwww.”

Not too long ago, after some back-seat contemplation on a drive, she inquired of 50-year-old Aunt Lisa, “After you’re married, who is going to have the baby?”

Pippa will help us with the sand ceremony, which we want, but I’m not sure we made arrangements. And there are roles for the others — 12-year-old Jackie will recite “Sunshine on my Shoulders,” Anna, now 22, and John, 14, will act as ushers, the youngest will scatter those rose petals and 10-year-old Madeline will play a wedding march.

We’re planning this celebration long-distance from Florida and, since Connie’s name doesn’t confirm our same-sex couple status, we’ve had to come out as a lesbian couple at each turn.

So far, we’ve encountered enthusiasm.

I talked with one wedding photographer in Rockford, Illinois, who said, “You can’t see it but I’m giving you the high-five.”

Another photographer, after some confusion about “two brides,” said, “Cool, that’s so trendy.”

We nixed a lot of typical wedding traditions, but not the cake — which is white cake, vanilla buttercream frosting, black piping and multi-layered. It’s perhaps the most elegant-looking item we’ve ever purchased as a couple.

We did say no, however, to a topper out of concern that we could mistakenly end up with a bride and groom instead of a bride and bride.

We haven’t met our officiant, who was hired through the White Pines service.

For years, I’ve been reporting on the discrimination couples faced as they made plans for a wedding day, and before that the “commitment ceremony,” and before that the “unity service.” So I had some anxiety when reaching out to the minister and asking her if she was fine marrying a lesbian couple.

She responded with a blessing and an agreement that marriage equality has been a long-time coming.

And so, we are working on the details of our ceremony, replacing the references to the “groom” and reworking the passages that sound as if Connie and I became engaged maybe 13 just months ago, like the average couple we are not.


+1 7 Teresa Hansen 2014-06-01 22:04
I especially liked the comment about your first baseball glove! I remember hammering out the homers with you Lisa and collecting baseball cards! I wish you both the best and more years of continued happiness!

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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0 6 Teresa Hansen 2014-06-01 22:01
My favorite part of course is when you got your first ball glove! Hammering out the homers and collecting baseball cards! Best wishes and good luck to both of you!

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail".

Ralph Waldo Emerson
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+1 5 jim sulliva 2014-06-01 16:15
Hey neighbors; great story for two great people; we are happy for you ! Jsul
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+1 4 Nancy Anderson Reidy 2014-05-31 13:21
What a great story.! I'm so happy for you both. It's been far too long coming. Enjoy your wonderful day. I'm sure it will be perfect. Much love.
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+1 3 Diana Myer Chery 2014-05-30 17:58

This was beautiful!! Thank you for sharing... I laughed, was touched and sat back and thought WOW, what a great way to begin the rest of your lives... Surrounded by family and friends! All my blessings to you both!
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+1 2 Jackie Chesser 2014-05-30 14:22
What a beautiful, beautiful story. I had tears in my eyes by the end. I am so happy for you two and so glad the world has changed enough that most people realize that everyone has a right to be happy and marry the person they love.
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+2 1 Sue Zambo 2014-05-29 19:46
I want to be there. This was beautiful. You two have waited long enough for what has been a right for too many who end up not ever realizing the truth about love. A man and woman...a man and man ...and woman and woman. The head and heart choose who is right for them. Not a religion, not a bible, not a group of people who stand up about the sanctity of family values; ie traditional marriage. I stand by you. I stand by you because love is love!!! Bless you both.
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