On November 23rd, 2015, I married my American boyfriend of eleven years. We had been told by the Danish Immigration Service that marriage would be necessary to even be considered eligible for family reunification, giving Andrew the right to be here for more than 90 days. The only way to avoid marriage would be if we had previously lived together on the same address for at least 18 months, something that had not been possible due to the restrictions of the 90 days tourist visa.
So. We gathered our closest family (read: my) and went down to the Copenhagen City Hall for the “appointment” that had been given to us only four days before. Our month old application to get married had fallen through the cracks and because we were eventually in such a rush due to the 90-day tourist visa limit, we were desperate and ready to take anything they offered us. They offered us November 23rd, at 11:45am.
We dressed up, and so did our guests. My father brought his video camera, as requested by me, and took photos of us from every possible angle. There were no rings, and my bridal bouquet was a revamped version of the bouquet Andrew had bought me at a gas station two days prior to congratulate me on my first (volunteer) job. I had asked my grandmother if she could make it smaller and somehow more wedding-like, and she worked her magic. I love my grandmother. So does Andrew. She and my grandfather were our witnesses, which felt like the most natural thing in the world. Ignorant to the process, we didn’t know that we were supposed to have witnesses, which now seems incredibly stupid. It was the one thing we hadn’t thought of, or talked about. The one thing we had not tried to prepare ourselves for mentally.
On the video my father took of the ceremony, if you can call it that, you will hear me correct Andrew when he is asked to state his full name and forgets to mention his middle. I will forever be ashamed of that. My worst fear is that that is who I am. Someone who corrects her boyfriend – her nervous-as-hell boyfriend, who doesn’t have a single family-member there to support him, whose entire family is on the other side of the planet, still asleep at 5:45am – when he forgets to mention his middle name. I hate myself for that.
Andrew was embarrassed to kiss me in front of my family, as it would be the first kiss they had ever witnessed between us. Neither of us is comfortable with PDA, unless we are among strangers. I guess we are a little immature like that – easily embarrassed. But with all of my 5 feet and a half I got on my tippy toes and practically blackmailed him into giving me a quick peck, because how can you reject a bride on her tippy toes? And isn’t this what you do? On the video, you will see that it took me about three seconds to muster up the courage to do it. It felt like an eternity to me. You can also hear the man who wed us ask, “Did you get the kiss? Sometimes they don’t get the kiss.”
Afterwards more pictures were taken, and more deep breaths were drawn. We took pictures with all of my family members – my siblings, my parents, my grandparents – on the balcony overlooking this gorgeous hall that usually houses bigger things, like important people with important things to say.
While we were having our pictures taken on the balcony, I could hear my grandfather in the distance, making a video for Andrew’s family wherein he explains the history of the different wall decorations and city hall in general. They loved it. I loved it. I love my grandfather.
As soon as I could, I took off my high heels and put on my bright pink Nike Free-sneakers. My high-heels were killing me. Bought at a flea-market six years prior, they were my first (and only) fancy shoes. Silver and sparkly. One of the straps was broken, and I was constantly afraid of falling. I threw them out when I cleaned out my closet a couple of months ago, because I told myself that I deserve better. But do I?
Afterwards we invited our guests to our favorite coffee shop. Everybody got what he or she wanted, and I got my chai latte ice blend – my trusted comfort in times of chaos. Extra whipped cream and sprinkles, please. More pictures were taken.
When a couple of hours had passed, my grandparents drove us home. It took a while before Andrew and I had a real conversation. He took off his suit, hung it in his closet, and put on a t-shirt, and I took off my dress, hung it on my closet, and put on a t-shirt. Then I got on the couch and swept myself in a blanket.
When he was just about to go into his office, I said “Hey, can we talk?”. He didn’t say anything, but came over and sat on the couch with me.
“How are you feeling? What did you think about everything?”, I asked.
“I don’t know”, he said. “It was very surreal what just happened. It’s hard for me to think about.” To which I responded that I felt the same way. “But Andrew, nothing has changed. It’s just a piece of paper. We didn’t want it to happen this way, but it was a necessity. That’s what they want.”
“We don’t have to think about this day ever again, if we don’t want to. We can pretend it never happened. This will be known as the day that didn’t happen. We can just pretend that we are still boyfriend and girlfriend, engaged to be married boyfriend and girlfriend, saving up for our dream wedding. That’s how it is, right?”
So we agreed to pretend it never happened. We held hands for a little bit, and talked about other things. Work-things, school-things – safe topics that seemed so uncomplicated then. Then he went into his office and shut the door and I made a cup of tea and turned the television on, and we each spent the afternoon with our respective distractions. I ate an omelet, he ate ice cream, and I can’t remember if we wound up watching a movie in the evening. It is a little blurry for me.
It is hard to explain why this day was traumatic, but I suppose I can try. First, there was the fact that Andrew was missing his family; that his mother, with whom he is so close, wasn’t there. We both missed her. Second, while it didn’t happen against our will –no one held a gun to our heads – it was an intimate thing that became the matter of something or somebody else. We have always known that we wanted to get married, and it’s something we have talked about and dreamt about many times. We both take it very seriously, not for religious reasons seeing as neither of us is religious, but because it is a commitment. And we are a little uptight about those. We both come from broken homes, and have seen marriages turn to shit. It’s weird to stand there and declare your love (in a very non-romantic way) just to get a piece of paper for an application.
One day we will be able to do it how we want it, which means a big summer wedding (we really don’t know that many people, but big sounds good) and flying in Andrew’s family. It means cake, decorations, speeches, and oldies playing in the background. It means (happy) tears, laughter, and a proper kiss.
But anyway, yeah, I got married.