Marrying Nightingale

Nightingale and I married in July, on a winter night in a forest beneath a beautiful old tree. It was magic. It was messy. It was beautiful, and imperfect in many ways both trivial and significant. It was us.

ID: A forest at night. In the foreground is a cluster of wooden chairs of various designs, arranged in rows facing a huge white dead tree. Pink, blue and yellow lights are cast upon the trunk, making it glow. Bottles of fairy lights are on tree stumps on either side.

We started many months before, with rings. It was a delicious way to spend precious date time together. Nightingale wears a simple sweet sapphire ring I brought myself years ago, and she took Poppy shopping to help pick out a lovely trio of rings for us to choose between or wear together. We tried on rings together, talked with jewellers, and fell in love with parti sapphires. It took us months to pick out the stones, taking them back and forth between sunlight and lamps to see them change hue. Design and manufacture was beset with troubles and they’re still not finished, so we married with our stand in rings. We planned a lovely hand fasting and brought beautiful silk ribbons for it, which we forgot to bring into the forest with us. There was a delightful frazzled moment mid ceremony where we each started to stumble across these facts and Nightingale smuggled our rings off and gave them to our wonderful minister just in time for us to give them back to each other.

Nightingale has a wonderful friend who is a minister living overseas. We wanted them for our celebrant but they can’t legally marry someone in this country. So we found someone local who was happy to team up with them. Then Covid and vaccination rules meant some very important people couldn’t attend the wedding with our celebrant. So we split the day into a tiny legal ceremony with the local celebrant and a big ‘renewal of vows’ in the evening with our friends and family and minister friend. This meant two ceremonies to plan, and a lovely restaurant lunch between intended to thank our hard working friends and family, that instead ran terribly overtime and took up most of the prep time for the evening.

A couple of weeks before the wedding we had to change venues for the reception due to issues hiring generators and accessible toilets for use in the forest. So our simple outdoor ceremony then ran across two ceremonies and three venues!

Vases accidentally got taken to the forest instead of the hall, leaving hundreds of flowers in buckets in a back room. People who planned to help set up with us were sick on the day and I woke up to a huge asthma attack after packing all the things the day before in the cold air. The flowers for the cake were wrong and had to be completely redone by the cake decorator that morning. It was complicated to say the least and various dear friends sprang into service and filled in some huge gaps to ensure things were set up and people were comfortable, fed, and enjoyed themselves.

In the end Covid or similar illnesses knocked a number of key people out on the day, guests, members of the wedding crew, our videographer, and most crucially darling Poppy who is still sad they missed out. Once our rings are finally done we plan to do a little ceremony again together to include them.

ID Large red cap mushroom with white dots nested in pine needles on a forest floor. Trees are visible in the background.

Our lovely people carried us through. The lights on the trees in the forest were incredibly beautiful and finally all our confused guests understood what we meant by the theme of WOMADELAIDE. Stunning red and white spotted mushrooms sprang up all through the forest that day. The day was perfect weather, cool but clear, and the hall we found was so well appointed, warm and comfortable with the most lovely person staffing it. Our dessert table was a rainbow of lollies as a nod to our lovely queer crew of teen guests who worked as kitchen hands for the night and gave us some of the most beautiful wedding cards.

ID: A trestle table set with bowls and jars or lollies and treats arranged on approximately a rainbow from red to purple. Two large rainbow umbrellas are open over the table. Visible are red jaffas, pink musk sticks, yellow bananas, yellow fantails, green spearmint leaves, and purple pastilles.

Clothes were lovely and difficult and complicated. As a non binary person there’s not a lot of weddings I see myself in. Nightingale thought she wanted a black dress but hated them when she tried them on. Thought she wanted pants but found herself twirling in the beautiful white dresses feeling oddly at home. We tried on so many clothes. I held space for her to experiment and find what she really wanted. She held space for us to be confused and excited and anxious and try on femme and masc clothes and try to figure out who of us was going to be present and how to present us. In the end we both wore beautiful jackets, white shirts and black jeans to the first ceremony, she wore a red sari to lunch, and we both wore amazing dresses to the evening. She spent several months having to convince her nearest and dearest that this was her choice and not being fostered on to her by someone obnoxious or tradition. Hers was a stunning white halterneck with clean flowing lines that fit over her baby bump, and had pockets! Mine nearly didn’t arrive in time, a guest kindly brought it in their luggage from the overseas seamstress. It was a lovely ivory and honey tulle skirt with a corset top. Nightingale wore fairy lights in her amazing braided hair, and they were sewn all through the lining of my skirt.

Everytime we talked to the celebrant or minister, I cried. It hurt. There are important people in my life who wouldn’t be there. I have been married before and I promised then to hold on until death parted us and I took that promise so seriously it nearly destroyed me. I’ve failed before, profoundly, when it meant everything to me and I still don’t in my heart understand why I couldn’t keep what I loved alive. How do I offer such imperfect love to someone I love so deeply? How do I believe in promises again? I couldn’t find the right words and they had to be right. There was so much sickness and loss and grief to row our little boat through and I felt so excited and so guilty and sad. And there were people there to hold us and guide us. We stumbled through the fears and grief to find what we do believe in, and what dream is so important to us we’re willing to put life as we know it at risk for. Knowing love hurts and breaks as well as heals and grows. Being hurt and broken and holding on to each other and the shared life we’re growing.

Friends helped me gather the flowers myself when we suddenly had an indoor venue that we wanted to decorate to feel special. I got the fabulous experience of being able to pick them out and plan the table flowers, cake flowers, and bouquets. I chose a range of flowers from the most important bouquets Nightingale and I have brought for each other since we first became friends. There were black lilies and white and green and blue chrysanthemums and white and blue delphiniums and tiny cream roses and andromeda and asiatic lillies and jonquils. Her bouquet was accented with green and mine with blue. It was spectacular and lovely and delightful. The tables were also decorated with willow branches and tiny red mushrooms, potted plants, blue books, and fairy lights in gin bottles.

ID: Table decorations. A potted black violet in bloom worth a decorative red and white spotted mushroom. To the left is a gin bottle with blue fairy lights inside. To the right are booked wrapped in brown paper. In front is a chocolate cupcake in silver foil, with a swirl of teal icing and two silver chocolate bird skulls on top.

The cake was a splendid teal buttercream chocolate cake with fresh black and blue and white flowers and silver bird skull memento mori. The guests had cupcakes in silver foil. For gifts we wrapped ‘blind date’ books by some of our favourite authors, the potted plants, lolly bags for the kids, and boxed macarons. So many of the people we love either garden, read, or enjoy a sweet treat.

ID: A three tier wedding cake surrounded by cupcakes. The cakes have teal icing, silver bird skulls, and edible flowers and butterflies. The main cake has a spray of black lilies and other flowers flowing down the right hand side. Black chocolate drips from each layer.

Our backup videographer was lovely. Friends stayed late and helped us clean up. They wrapped our last gifts and decorated tables and unpacked chairs and kept an eye on my asthma and kept an eye out for the few guests who knew almost no one else. Our makeup artist soothed many difficulties and helped us dress. Two dear friends missed the ceremonies because they set up the hall and spent the evening cooking for us! An interstate friend wound up mostly driving hired furniture and lights around instead of us. We woke the next morning incredibly ill with what turned out to be influenza. It was a brutal one and none of us left bed for a week. We didn’t get a honeymoon or to spend any time with our lovely long distance visitors. We still haven’t picked up all the wedding bits from the kindly folks who took home bits and bobs with them so we didn’t have to.

ID: Hand holding a cupcake with two bird skulls.

And it was perfect. No one fought, no one cried, we created name and pronoun badges for all the guests to make life more comfortable for all the gender queer folks to wear whatever we wanted to. The venues were beautiful, our guests delightful. People restrained themselves from giving us physical gifts as we currently have no home to put them in. We announced our pregnancy to much celebration. There was hot homemade soup and a stocked bar and a tremendous amount of kindness. We wrote emails about accessibility and tried to consider sensory needs, small children, chronic illness, mobility, safety, and comfort. We tried to ensure every guest knew at least one other guest. We brought beautiful shoes we didn’t wear and ordered lovely food we didn’t eat and stayed in a home nearby with an extra bed for tired guests we didn’t use and none of that mattered.

Nightingale was so beautiful and full of life. So lovely and nervous and kind. Putting the wedding together had been lovely and stressful and incredibly time pressured with so much else going on in our lives. I was afraid that on the day there would be tensions, sadness, fights, strain. But all the fears and tears and pinch and ache of the planning and stress just eased that day. We rolled with every change and gratefully accepted so much help and enjoyed all our guests and just let go of everything we couldn’t control.

Our vows were lovely. Our choices for everything were so considered and so specific to us. Our people carried us through bad luck, poor planning, and difficult timing with such generosity and grace. We made promises and vows we believed in. We exchanged rings. We held each other at the end of the longest day and felt exhausted and grateful. She said yes. She is my wife. I am her spouse. May we always be as lucky and as loved as we were that day. It was splendid, and she was spectacular.