Bells Will Be Ringing: Wedding Plans in a Post-COVID World

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Jewell and Sebastian.

In June of 2019, while the night was heady with the smell of the roses which proliferate in the Pacific Northwest, I proposed to my fiance, Jewell. We were one of the few houses on our block which did not have its own proliferation of roses. Seizing the moment to propose — and snatching as many roses as I could break off without gloves from some unknowing householder — I fell to one knee. 

He said yes. I was happily not surprised by his answer. After all, we had met only about six weeks before we moved in together. Almost instantly we began doing things like becoming each other’s contact for emergencies. We talked a lot about the houses we would like to live in (someday an old house), and the countries we would like to visit (someplace we’ve both not been to before).

So, there was already a plan to share our lives together. 

Jewell was with his partner for 17 years, until he passed away a few years ago. Due to health and financial obligations they were not able to formally marry. This will be my second marriage, after a painful divorce. But both of us began thinking and planning within days of our engagement. 

Then of course, life intervened. As discussed in another column, exactly one year ago this month we left Portland. The COVID-shutdown had much to do with it. Getting settled in my old hometown — Jewell’s new hometown — has taken center stage above all other endeavors.

Yet, friends have asked, 

“How’s the planning going?”

“For, what, painting our bedroom? We picked out 817 paint swatches but… you know gay men.”

“No, the wedding.”

We came close to just going to City Hall in Philadelphia and getting married in the autumn. But, that was only when we worried our rights as a gay couple to marry could be overturned by the Supreme Court. An act which, when it did not occur, left many on the Right smugly annoyed with the inability of a Trump-packed SCOTUS to destroy the lives of LGBTQ-people. 

But no: despite what could have happened, we didn’t want to line up to get married because someone — or some entity — was going to forbid it. 

“If that happens,” Jewell said, “we’ll wait until Biden gets elected. Hopefully he can overturn it.” 

In Portland, we wanted a big drag-queen officiated wedding. Bolivia Carmichaels is a well-loved performer and a lifelong friend of Jewell’s. Ideally we’d be the first gay marriage on Pioneer Square. If not that, a quaint, small wedding at a local vineyard. Or, maybe up on top of Mount Washington at the famed International Rose Test Garden or the Pittock Mansion — both known for their dazzling views. Just this morning as we sat in the sun sipping coffee we talked about our wedding again. 

“I’d like it to be in a park,” he said. 

“Philly has plenty of those! There’s Rittenhouse, and of course all the mansions in Fairmount Park for a wedding.” 

“Or maybe a church,” he said. “A Baptist church…”

Lapsed-Catholic, vaguely-Episcopalian me asked “Does it have to be a church?”

But, establishing local connections is really the most important thing right now. I want to make sure he is as much a part of my chosen family as I am. Instead of planning a wedding, which at this point will be abstract due to pandemic fears as most of his loved ones are out West, we are feathering our nest.

For my birthday last year in May Jewell replaced a set of dishes I gave up after my divorce. To his credit, he has added to our Blue Willow collection after finding a good deal online. I have always been a lover of antiques and worked in the industry a few times. In my copywriting life, I work for an estate sales company based in New Jersey. He always appreciated beautiful and unusual things — including his choice of fiance! — but Facebook Marketplace is now a mutual addiction.

And lately when I say, “Oh, honey, there’s an 18th Century etching after Raphael for $75!” Or, “I know we don’t need this but, it’s a Victrola from 1918.” Or, “This antiques repair guy is selling his inventory! There’s an 18th Century bed we have got to have!” Jewell smiles and most often says, “It’s cool, I think we should get it.”