A year and a half ago, I was married on the Fourth of July.
Some called it “the American wedding.”
I loved attending weddings when I was young. I grew up poor and was home-schooled in Batavia, so weddings were the only opportunity to dress up for a formal and celebratory occasion – you know, eat good food. When I was considering the elements I wanted to incorporate into my own wedding, I quickly realized that good food was at the top of the list. My fiancée agreed.
My fiancée, Melissa, and I also realized that our big day would be many of our guests’ first same-sex wedding.
However, we didn’t want that to be a distracting characteristic. We encouraged guests to come only if they supported us and wanted to see our marriage thrive for a lifetime. To mark the beginning of our marriage, our goal was to have good food, good drinks and good times.
Melissa and I sifted through all of the traditional components of a wedding and chose what we wanted. We didn’t have bridal showers or bachelorette parties. We didn’t have a wedding party. We found our dresses – on sale – at J. Crew. Our heirloom-quality invitations were handcrafted by California-based Brenna Catalano Design Studio. Our centerpieces were created using wine bottles and foraged flowers. Friends took photos, another friend provided ceremony music and yet another friend officiated.
Ada Street Restaurant in Chicago, with chef Zoë Schor at the helm, was a perfect fit for us. She considered dishes that helped tell the story of our relationship: the lobster and steak from our first date; dim sum from our trip to China; charcuterie and wine from “wine night” – the first time we met. Schor created an incredibly personal (and delicious!) small plates menu.
The bartenders created special cocktails for us: “Melissa’s Manhattan” and “Rosemary Me, Yvonne!” Midway through the evening, while we were dancing with glow sticks under the stars, Schor served her famous sliders with soft cheese and bacon jam.
Having a same-sex wedding granted us the freedom to focus on our relationship and values rather than tradition.
For example, tradition dictates that my dad walk me down the aisle and “give me away.” Instead, Melissa and I walked down the aisle together to the song, “How Long Will I Love You?” by Ellie Goulding.
Our officiant began the ceremony with a line from the film “The Princess Bride”: “Mawage. Mawage is what bwings us together today. Mawage, that bwessed awangement, that dweam wifin a dweam… .”
The opening made everyone laugh and feel more relaxed.
What I learned from the overall experience of planning and hosting a wedding ceremony and reception is that it’s easy to get distracted by what other people want.
For example, you will probably be bombarded by family members’ requests for additional guests. My aunt thought that it was vitally important to invite my extended family over friends – a suggestion that would require accommodating a larger number of guests, which would have derailed my budget and my vision. It was incredibly difficult for me to go against her urging, but I’m glad that I stayed true to myself.
During the event, I also noticed that I craved positive feedback from people more than usual. I put so much time, money and work into planning my wedding that I wanted to ensure that everyone was having fun. Fortunately, most people told me that they loved it.
The event exceeded our expectations. It was everything that I loved about weddings as a child, but amplified. It was truly a celebratory occasion. A good time with good food and good drinks – and it took place on the Fourth of July. It was OUR American wedding.
Yvonne Benson is a Batavia native, and freelance writer for Kane County Magazine.