anarchy ring

An anarchist friend who knows I officiate weddings asked if I could sign their wedding paperwork, and adamantly specified that they don’t want any of the standard assumptions of what marriage means.  They’re in a non-monogamous romantic partnership and are having a child together. They mostly want to get legally married to simplify the logistics of paternity (in VA, a father only goes on the birth certificate if he’s legally married to the mother, or does extra paperwork after the fact), and also to make it easier for him to travel internationally to the country of which she is a dual citizen.

There are only two necessary pieces to do a legal wedding. First, I have to ask the people getting married to answer affirmatively to a “statement of intent”, which essentially just means “do you want to marry this person?”.  The only other legal part is the “pronouncement”: “I now pronounce you married”.  Everything else, I tell all my couples, is there for you to feel married at the end of the process… whether it’s the traditional format of white dress and bridal party and having your dad walk you down the aisle, or creating your own unique ceremony from scratch, or cobbling together different wedding traditions from around the world.

But this couple wanted the opposite.   They didn’t want to feel married at the end of it. To the contrary, they wanted to feel not married. So we had an un-wedding. She wore pants, suspenders, and a hat. He wore a white flowy skirt and a white blouse. For the statement of intent, I wrote some Anarchist Wedding Vows:

Do you agree to enter into a legal contract of marriage with this person? Do you pledge that this legal status of marriage will only be used for the practical logistics of raising a child and travelling internationally together, while continuing to undermine the system from which this status is provided?

Do you agree that this legal status creates no new expectations for your relationship, no new rights or responsibilities in each others’ lives, and no assumptions of either monogamy or gender roles in your relationship?

They both said the requisite “I do”, and then for the pronouncement, I said:

“I now pronounce you legally married, and personally autonomous.”

At the end they shook hands, high-fived, and then tore up their fancy “Certificate of Marriage” (which many couples get calligraphied but doesn’t have any official purpose), and threw the pieces in the river.

This wedding confirmed for me that what it takes to make a great wedding (or any ritual) is being clear on what the purpose is. This couple was clearly grounded in their love for each other, expressed through being really specific about what their commitments to each other are, and aren’t. They honor each other with clarity and autonomy, and it was an honor for me to create a wedding that celebrated that.