Advice for same-sex couples getting married in California

Posted in Gay rights, Married life at 3:35 pm by ducky

To my gay and lesbian friends, I am absolutely thrilled that you are going to be able to get married starting on June 16th!

I wrote some wedding advice for (straight) couples a few years back, and I’d like to give some specific advice to gay and lesbian couples who want to get married in the next few months.

  • Read Lorem Ipsum and/or the EQCA FAQ about the topic. Those are good, but there are a few things they leave out and a few points that I think are incorrect.
  • Consider carefully if you want to get married. I’m a big fan of marriage, but you need to be sure it is right for you. In addition to getting to throw a big party, you become (among other things) responsible for your spouse’s maintenance and their debts.
  • Get married between June 16 and November 4, 2008. There is going to be an initiative in November that will shut down same-sex marriages if it passes, but I hear from reputable sources that even if it passes, your June 16-November 4 marriage will be valid. I am not a lawyer, but I believe it is hard to pass retroactive laws, and the way that the amendment is worded doesn’t do the right magic to make it retroactive. Of course, Our Opposition could always file suit saying that it was retroactive, and they would lose, but that would be a big pain so let’s just defeat the amendment, okay?
  • Ask your wedding guests to give money to the anti-amendment campaign in lieu of gifts. (Or to NCLR, or to Lambda, or to the ACLU.) Remind people that there is a real risk that the next generation won’t be able to celebrate their love and comittment in the same way if the amendment passes.
  • Give money yourself to the campaign, NCLR, Lambda, or the ACLU.
  • Book your venue early. I expect that there will be an enormous demand for venues from June 16-Nov 4! (If you are straight, consider waiting until November 8 to avoid the crowds!)
  • Make plans for your officiant early. Clergy and Commissioners of Marriage might be heavily booked.
    • You can have a friend officiate via the Deputy-Commissioner-of-Marriage-for-a-Day program. Different counties have different rules, fees, and lead times for that program. (Some counties do not participate.) The EQCA FAQ says that there is a 60 day lead time, but I question whether that is true for all counties (or even for San Francisco — the San Francisco site says “You should come no sooner than 60 days from the date of the ceremony” which I interpret to mean as “Your deputization is only valid for sixty days”). When my uncle-in-law got deputized by the County of Santa Clara, he didn’t have to appear in person, he didn’t have to do a training class, but he did have to swear to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Check with the county that will issue the deputization. NOTE: it is not clear if yYou can get your marriage license in one county and the deputization in another. The wedding does not have to be in the same county that issued the Deputization or marriage license.
    • Note that you do not have to be married or straight to become a Deputy Commissioner of Marriage, so you can officiate at your friends’ weddings. Bonus!
    • You and your friends can get ordinated as clergy very quickly over the Internet. It took me less than fifteen minutes through the Universal Life Church. I am not a lawyer, but it sure looked rock-solid legal to me. However, weddings also are about social validation, and using quickie-clergy does sound kind of shady to some people. (Note: I didn’t feel so bad once I looked at what roles were traditionally allowed to officiate, and figuring out what they all had in common. I decided that the common feature was that they had proved that they were able to fill in paperwork correctly, and responsible enough to mail it in.) I would thus encourage you to do Deputy-for-a-Day instead of Internet ordination.
  • You might consider getting married at a County Building and/or doing a joint wedding with some good friends who also will (finally) be getting married. While you are free to do that, as a married person, I would recommend against that unless you’ve already done the big ceremony and party thing. There are (at least) two important functions of weddings above and beyond informing the state that they now have to recognize your relationship:
    • You make it clear to the people who are important to you that this person is special and that they have to treat your spouse as special.
    • The families and friends get to meet each other. While that might not be so important if you’ve been together for a zillion years already, it might be. I was really surprised at how much getting married connected our two families together. (Bad news: you now have to go visit your in-laws at Christmas. You can’t just send your spouse any more.)
  • If you get married at a county building (e.g. with one of their marriage commissioners), then (I think) you can get a marriage certificate right away. Otherwise, you have to ask for it. While my husband and I didn’t get asked for one until we moved to Canada (with different last names), it might be more important for you than for a straight couple.
  • There are lots of traditions associated with weddings. Some don’t really make sense in a same-sex wedding; some don’t even make sense in today’s hetero weddings. Remember, however, that it’s those strange traditions that make no logical sense that bind you most to your community. Why do you do X at a Foo wedding? Because you are Fooian. Doing X tells your guests (and your spouse) that you value being (or being married to) a Fooian, and that you honour the Fooian traditions.
  • There is a huge enormous wedding industry that is designed to extract dollars from your wallets. Remember that it is your wedding and you don’t “have” to do anything. If you don’t want flowers, party favors for the guests, a videographer, or a professional photographer, you don’t have to.
    • Everybody has a camera nowadays, and the cameras take good pictures. We asked our guests to take pictures and send them to us, and it worked extraordinarily well. Hubby and I also sat for a professional photographer in our wedding clothes the day before, and we were really happy with that as well.
    • We didn’t have a gorgeous six-tier wedding cake, and you know what? We were still married at the end of the day. Also, the (flat) carrot cake and the cupcakes tasted wonderful.
    • Unsolicited recommendation: at our wedding ten years ago, Continental Catering in Menlo Park did a fantastic job. A bit on the spendy side, but well worth it. (It was so good that most people didn’t notice that it was all vegetarian.) That was ten years ago, but hopefully their quality would still be good.

Note that there are lots of references to county buildings, county this, county that, but you remember people getting married at San Francisco City Hall. Marriage stuff is administered through counties in California. San Francisco is the only jurisdiction that is both a city and a county. (I think that means it is the only jurisdiction where a mayor could have decided to issue marriage licenses. Thank you, Gavin Newsom!)


  1. Cost Turf said,

    February 10, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    Great post… keep it coming! I only wish there were more websites like this.

  2. Tiger Turf said,

    February 12, 2010 at 10:10 am

    Very true, great post… Keem ’em coming!

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