Today, I'm here to clarify the true purpose of weddings, and dispel any common notions you might have accepted before. After having lived together as a "man and wife" (whoever came up with this sexist phrase?), sharing a bank account, pyjama bottoms and political opinions, and having raised a child together for four years, Miguel and I have decided to confirm to the public that yes, indeed, we are serious about each other. Kind of.
Wait a minute. Let me rewrite this. I decided. Miguel objected, saying we were as good as married anyway. I persisted, saying I had never had a proper celebration of anything in my life and didn't want to pass this chance by. Miguel said we could celebrate right here in the living room. I said a wedding would be wonderful and fun. Miguel was unmoved. I said we'd have fabulous food and, if we did a medieval-theme wedding in my Czech hometown, he could even get a chance to fence. He was horrified ("you want me to do what??? Dress up as a clown in a renaissance costume?). I finally made a mean face and said: "If you're not gonna marry me, we're not having any kids. I don't collect children out of wedlock, one is plenty. And, if you get into a fucking car accident and become brain-dead, they might keep you on life-support for 20 years, because I won't be able to do anything about it." I think the combination of no chance of progeny plus 20 years spent with the NHS, albeit unconscious, finally worked, because he said okay.
Don't ask me about my reasons to want to marry. Yes, I do want a great big party with everyone that's ever meant anything in my life. Yes, I do think that society will see us differently, and life will be a bit less complicated when we are married. I have an issue with calling Miguel my boyfriend (that's, like, so high-school), and if I say I have a partner people wonder whether I'm gay, which I am not. Now, I don't particularly care about my dress or the colour of the tablecloth and whether it will match the napkins, and I don't give a damn if I have roses or tulips (as long as there is a flower somewhere.) I'm not making a list of wedding presents (unless Oxfam's goats and pigs count). The cake, however, has to be edible, not just pretty. And we all should have good fun.
However, as I'm learning, the true purpose of having a wedding is not fun, or romance, or having your people there. It's a formidable, monumental test of negotiation skills given to two people to see if they can pass. The first dilemma is obvious from my previous paragraph: to marry or not to marry. Once you say yes, you have opened a Pandora's box, because in the next year or so you will have to answer hundreds of questions, make dozens of compromises, and have truckloads of patience and perseverance. Especially if you happen to be of two distinct nationalities. (And emigrants on top of that.... Eeeee!)
Since we've decided to get married, we've composed about ten different guest lists. We went from no guests (eloping to the Caribbean) to seven guests (just the closest family), but imagine how boring it would be, sitting around one table eating dutifully some fancy food without being able to carry a decent conversation (Czech and Spanish are not even remotely related, and I'm NOT planning to be the interpreter at my own wedding).
So then we started adding. We decided we´d put down everyone we´d like to invite, just to get an idea. Three hours later we pried the pen out of our crooked fingers. "Okay, ...2358... no, 2360, I haven´t counted the kids!"
The number to this date, after an exhaustive elimination game, oscillates between fifty and one hundred. We haven't been able to nail it down any closer, no matter how hard we've tried. We pray that time will tell, and that the organizers in Cesky Krumlov are exceptionally flexible and understanding.
Jumping through the loops of bureaucracy
Our countries' authorities make especially sure you will be able to handle just about anything life throws at you after you go through their tedious, contradictory and thoroughly exasperating process. For instance, the Czech authorities require Miguel to provide something called a certificate of state eligibility to marry. It's not enough to just get a paper saying that he is single. Why? Because it's possible that his country could still prohibit him from getting married because of AGE RESTRICTION! (Well, he could also be crazy, I guess). Now, is there really anyone, in any country in the world, that would doubt that 31 is a good age to marry? If there is, let's hunt them down.
So, in order to equip Miguel with this certificate, the Spanish consulate asks me in turn to provide a stack of officially translated, notarized documents. With apostilles that can only be obtained at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Prague, naturally. And pronto!
On the other hand, it´s absolutely amazing how little the British registry office requires if you want to get married here in England, under the British law. You need a passport, a utility bill to prove your address, and you sign a declaration for everything else. They actually are willing to believe you!!! I spent about ten minutes reassuring myself on the phone that that's really all, no small print anywhere. It sounded too good to be true. "Let's get married here and have a party at home", I proposed. It seemed an ideal solution... but only up to a point. First, do we just go and sign the papers? But there is a nice little ceremony involved, so do we invite any guests? And then, won't our families feel bad for not being here? And how about all of the American friends flying over to Europe... won't they feel a bit cheated having just a party? "A ceremony without a party, and a party without a ceremony, won't it be a bit half-assed? "One half-ass and one-half ass make one full ass," concluded Miguel. "I'm not sure if that's the case here," I said. And we were back to square one.
A wedding is a cruel and unusual punishment for having gotten together years ago.
The name game
I don´t have any intentions on giving up my surname, and fortunately Miguel and his culture don´t expect me to, which is nice. If there is anything which makes my blood not only boil, but downright evaporate, it´s those wedding announcements in the US Sunday papers with grinning brides and grooms and the dreadful words: Mr. and Mrs. John Dingbat Fitzpatrick, Jr. When I first saw it I thought someone made a mistake during printing, and laughed hysterically until my American host-mother explained that that was indeed correct. I will never understand brides who say words such as "I couldn't wait to be Mrs. Richard Landau!" while toying with her three-karat diamond ring. Okay, you couldn't wait to have your very identity wiped out and swallowed by the MALE in your life. "I'm married, therefore I am. And please call me Dick."
So, I will keep carrying my family name to my grave. Good. There are few of us as it is. Nevertheless, we haven't escaped the curse of the name dilemma. Children. I already have one and he's, of course, named after me. Now, the original plan was to keep it that way, and when any new additions come, they would take Miguel's surname. So it would be Jonathan Beautiful and Isabel Smart, or something to that effect. The Spanish consulate, though, wants us to have ONE surname for all our children. Great. According to the Spanish tradition, where people take their father's and mother's surname, Jonathan would therefore have to become Jonathan Smart Beautiful, to give Miguel a chance to give our future children his name. Okay, sure. But Smart, as the paternal surname, would be the more important one, which is not right because Jonathan was born as Beautiful. Here in Britain, Smart would be the middle name. Unfortunately, Miguel's surname, which sounds great in Spanish, spells the same way as the word "carcass" in English. How's that for a middle name?
Anyway. We'll keep you posted. In any case, whatever we'll decide, we hope our children will be both smart and beautiful.
The ring thing (bling bling)
Last Sunday we decided to go on a brave excursion to Hatton Garden, London's Mecca for wedding and engagement rings. The jewellery shops in Hatton Garden are like no other jewellery shops I've ever seen before. Everything is on display in the windows. The shop, on the other hand, is bare, with four to six tables similar to what you might see in a bank when you go close a mortgage. We saw serious salesmen with thick glasses and saggy chins, speaking to the clients with hushed reverence as you would hear in church. You're in the holy presence of diamonds, after all.
(Side note: Diamonds have no resale value. The reason a "diamond is forever" is because you're basically stuck with it. You'll never be able to resell it except to a pawn shop. Even a jeweler (the few who would be willing to buy it) would offer a fraction of what you paid. Read full article here:
Instead of excitement we experienced boredom and hopelessness, fuelled by Jonathan's "I want to go to Paul's and drink hot chocolate" cries that came about every five seconds and got louder with each new shop window (never ever promise anything to a five-year-old, unless you're able to do it the very second you tell them). Rows and rows of pretty much the same stuff: uniform, uninspired metal circles that are supposed to show the world how much you were worth to your future husband. We finally stopped at one stand inside that looked like it might carry some oriental jewellery and, perhaps, mokume rings, which we were interested in. The owner had heard of mokume, but didn't have any. But this didn't deter him from trying to sell us something anyway.
"If you have a decent budget, there is this one," he said proudly and showed us a hideous, very square ring with a large rock inside. "It's a copy of a Tiffany's ring." He forced it on my finger. The price tag: £16,000. I held my breath. It reminded me of Dolly Parton's quote: "You don't know how much it costs to look so cheap." I thought of all the things in the world I'd rather have for that price than this Tiffany knock-off. For instance, our entire house furnished with the most beautiful antique Chinese furniture. Or a good chunk for a deposit for our own place. Or three top-notch courses for Pilates in the best schools in London, or a series of fantastic holidays all over the world. You could rebuild an entire friggin' village in Africa with this money if you wanted, and die in peace for having served mankind. And I wanted to cry, concluding the world was truly insane.
The truth is that I like my inexpensive but original silver jewellery much more than any of those solitaires, princess cuts and eternity bands lining the Hatton Garden streets. The trip served a purpose: we decided we would design our own rings. And won't spend more than a couple hundred pounds on it at most. I will reuse a diamond out of an old ring my mom once found and wore for the rest of her life, so I will carry a bit of her with me as well. Miguel will get his desired mokume ring, and we'll all be happy.
This diary is getting to be a bit long, so I will stop. We are still trying to negotiate many aspects of the wedding, so there will be chapters to come as the date draws nearer (and we grow crazier). We haven't even uncovered the tip of the iceberg, and many challenges lie ahead. You're welcome to read about them when done with nuclear energy and neoliberalism.