Video – Our Wedding Ceremony

3810387085_7a25877a5e_b This may be of limited interest, but some people have enquired about video from our wedding ceremony.  I’ve edited it together along with some pictures from our more than nine years together. 

The audio isn’t perfect – why didn’t I think to pack lavalier mics for everyone and a mixer? – but you’ll get the sense of what a humble, midwestern civil ceremony looks like.

The vows we exchanged were our own, the same ones we used for our commitment ceremony in September, 2004.  Very cool that the justice agreed to use them.

Warning: Shocking footage of a same-sex couple enjoying equal rights. 

 

 

The Reception

IMG_0254 Friday evening after returning to Kansas City, Tawn and I met my cousins (one local and two visiting) as well as a few KC-based friends at Cafe Trio.  Trio is a nice restaurant/bar right on the Country Club Plaza shopping center with a nice deck that overlooks JC Nichols Memorial Fountain.  Of course, they couldn’t handle seating for a dozen so we just occupied the bar area, slowly expanding as adjacent drinkers left.

Eventually, one of the owners came over to see if we were planning on eating dinner.  I explained that we wanted a table but the maitre d’ had said they couldn’t accommodate us.  Telling him that it was our wedding night (my gaydar went off when speaking with him, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention it) and we wanted a table, he was accommodating and a few minutes later we were sitting at a group of tables on the deck.  Sitting on it was a complimentary bottle of champagne.  Nothing like pulling family strings, huh?

Saturday was the big reception.  We opted for an afternoon reception since our guests included several young children and some older adults for whom a late night event might be tiring.  The site was Lidia’s Kansas City, the first restaurant in Lidia Bastianich’s small chain.  You may know Lidia from her Public Television cooking shows.  The restaurant location is a former freight building across the tracks from Union Station.  It is beautifully designed and their upstairs reception area has lots of light.  We enjoyed great service from our two servers, who really went out of their way to make it a special event.

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Above, Albert makes a very nice toast to our health and happiness. 

It was a lovely reception with lots of family members, family friends and a few close friends who came in for the event.  These included three high school friends who have been close to my family over the decades.

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The meal was a three course menu with a choice of entrees: either a lovely lemon chicken or a trio of homemade pasta with included a wild mushroom ravioli, seafood fettucini and a rigatoni with Italian sausage and broccoli rabe.  Dessert was a lemon olive oil cake with basil sauce.  It was really nice.  All their pasta is freshly made on site, which makes all the difference in the taste and texture.

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In addition to a very thoughtful toast by Albert, a long-time family friend, my mother made a beautiful speech:

Chris and Tawn:

We never thought we would be able to celebrate this occasion of your wedding.  How much joy we feel that it is a reality for the two of you and for our family.

One of the realities of being parents of a gay or lesbian child is that the child is not the only one who much “come out of the closet”.  To continue with our relationship as your parents, we had to come out as well.  We had to grow into the understanding that this is who you are and that it is necessary for us to continue loving you and supporting you in your life because you are our child and everything else is secondary to that fact.  For us, that means sharing your activities with extended family members and friends with the same openness that we share Jennifer and Kevin’s activities.

A similar growth has occurred for your sister, her husband, and more recently their daughters.  Likewise, your grandparents have grown in their understanding of this aspect of who you are.  Aunts, uncles and cousins, to widen the circle, have also experienced a growth of understanding.

This understanding is: You are of us and we are of you and that will never change.

Today the family has gathered around you, both physically and in spirit, to celebrate this road of your life’s journey.  We welcomed Tawn with open arms nine years ago, loving him as your choice of a life partner.   Now, Tawn, we welcome you as Chris’ husband and Chris as your husband.  We love you both with all our hearts and pray that your life together will be strong.

How lucky am I to have such supportive parents and such a supportive family? 

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Knowing that we were heading to New York City next, most of our guests had chipped in to make our visit there very memorable.  The gift bag, which we are opening below, contained a one night’s stay at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square, two tickets to see the Tony Award-winning show Billy Elliot, and reservations at Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, which Restaurant magazine rated the 15th best restaurant in the world this year. 

Such a thoughtful gift!  Something we will really enjoy and, an added benefit, it certainly packs easily!

Saturday evening my sister and brother-in-law hosted an open house, with pretty much all the same guests gathering for further visiting and home-smoked barbecue.  It was nice to have several more hours to visit with everyone, especially since several people flew or drove a long way to visit.

Yes, it was small and not nearly as fancy as many weddings and receptions I’ve been to, but I think it was very nicely suited to who we are and what we value as a couple.

 

We’re Married! (Now with Photos)

Thanks for your patience as Tawn and I went through a weekend’s worth of wedding celebrations and then tried to sort through pictures in order to share them, and the associated stories, with you.  We were fortunate to have several guests with cameras and had the opportunity to gather the pictures before the weekend ended.  Another friend, Ryan, shot with a digital SLR and hopefully we’ll have some even nicer pictures to share with you in a few weeks.

Thanks also to the dozens of congratulatory comments and well-wishes.  More than ever, this trip in which we’ve met several Xangans, has reinforced what a community this site really is.  We appreciate all your thoughts and greetings.

On Thursday morning we headed north to Council Bluffs, Iowa, about three hours from Kansas City.  While my sister, brother-in-law and the nieces went to the zoo, Tawn and I took a nap then picked up guests from the airport.

Along the way, we had a rather blogable moment as my brother-in-law borrowed the keys for the sedan in order to remove something from the trunk.  He then kept the keys in his pocket as they headed off to the zoo, something I didn’t discover until thirty minutes before Lilian and Anita’s flight was scheduled to arrive.

We ended up taking a taxi across the river to the airport, what ended up being a $50 round trip!  Thankfully, though, Lilian and Anita were easily found at the baggage claim and the timing worked well.

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Above: Tawn, Anita and Lilian at La Mesa Restaurant.

After dinner at a Mexican restaurant (I realize I’m repeating a bit of a previous entry, so my apologies), we headed to the Cass County (Nebraska) Fair to enjoy the rides on the midway, a taste of cotton candy, and the roar of the crowd at the tractor pull.

Top: Tawn, Lilian and Anita in the grandstands at the tractor pull.  Middle left: The same trio buying some cotton candy.  Middle right: A single passenger spins round and round as the sun dips below the western horizon.  Bottom: Tawn, Chris, Sugi and Andy.

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Driving home along the country roads, Lilian and Tawn dozed as Anita chatted with me to help keep my eyes open.  After dropping them off at the hotel, I headed back out to the Omaha airport as Ryan’s flight arrived at 11:30.  After stopping by a local diner so he could order dinner (six hours on Southwest with only peanuts – but that is to be expected), I called it a night.

Bight and early on Friday morning, we were showered and dressed and ready for breakfast.  The obvious choice: the Cracker Barrel.  Below, Anita and Tawn wait for their grits.

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We arrived at the courthouse at 10:30 and went to the County Recorder’s office to pick up the license.  The clerk, who had been grumpy on Tuesday morning when we first applied, seemed a little less so this morning.  Maybe she’s more of a Friday person?  In either case, we reviewed the document, signed it to attest to the accuracy, and then headed upstairs to the Court Clerk’s office.

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Above, waiting at the Court Clerk’s window with our witnesses, Anita and Ryan.

Thankfully, there weren’t any cases in session so the waiting area outside the courtrooms weren’t filled with the scraggly assortment of people who were there Tuesday morning.  Still, there were a few people around, looking on with curiosity as the dozen or so friends and family members filled the room.

Below, pre-wedding picture with my family members who had made the trip.  Note the bemused lawyer getting into the elevator in the background!

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This whole bureaucratic process reinforced for me that marriage is, more than anything, a civil function: a legal recognition by the state of the relationship between two adults.  I believe more than ever that all “marriages” should be identified by the state only as “civil unions” and that the churches should be allowed to do whatever additional ceremonies they see fit.  Separation of church and state.  Anyhow, let’s not get into the political aspect of this issue here.

While we were taking pictures, the judge came out of his courtroom and called us in.  He was very friendly and invited people to walk in front of the bar if they wanted to take pictures from the area in front of the bench.  Oddly, though, everyone respected the institution and stayed in the viewing gallery.

We asked the judge whether we could use our vows from the commitment ceremony we did in 2004 as part of the wedding.  He reviewed them and decided they complied with whatever requirements for wedding vows that the state of Iowa has, so agreed to use them instead.

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Here they are:  (Video of us saying our vows here)

(Chris/Tawn), I choose you to spend my life with,
to grow with, and to make my life with.
I will honor and respect you and be by your side
as we build a life together.

You are the love of my life.
Through the challenges and joys,
the brightest peaks and darkest valleys,
the sunny days and stormy nights,
I pledge my love to you
until the last day of my life.

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We then exchanged rings and continued:

(Chris/Tawn), I give you this ring as a symbol
of my love, joy and fidelity.
Wear it as a reminder of my vows to you
and your vows to me.

With that, five minutes after we started, the judge pronounced us legally married.

It is worth noting that during the ceremony, I had a view over Tawn’s shoulder of the window in the courtroom door.  I noticed two faces in it during the proceedings:  One was that of a redheaded teenage boy wearing a baseball cap, who had a confused and slightly disgusted look on his face.  The other was of the grumpy clerk from the County Recorder, whose face was beaming with a wide smile.

After the witnesses signed the license and the judge congratulated us, we headed downstairs to the adjacent park for some pictures.  Council Bluffs, a town that is perhaps a bit lost in the shadows of its larger neighbor, Omaha, still has a cute historic center and they have done a very nice job on the remodel of the park.

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Above, Tawn and I pose in front of the fountain.  Below, posing with my parents, who drove in the previous day from Indiana.

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After pictures, we drove to a local barbeque restaurant (C’mon, this is a midwestern wedding.  What did you expect us to eat after an important family event?) for lunch.  No pictures there as once you get your fingers wet with barbeque sauce, you don’t want to be handling your camera!

Filled up with good food and flushed with the excitement of finally being legally recognized as a couple, we loaded back into the car and headed back to Kansas City.

Reception covered in the next entry.  Once again, thanks for your good wishes.  I’m glad to be able to share this special event with you.

Tractor Pull Bachelor Party

It is Friday morning.  A loud thunderstorm passed through at 4:00, waking us up in our room at the Days Inn.  We will head to the courthouse in three hours.  Last night was our defacto bachelor party.  We drove up to Council Bluffs in the morning with my sister, brother-in-law and nieces.  My parents arrived mid afternoon and we picked Lilian and Anita up at the airport before dinner.

Dinner was at La Mesa Mexican Restaurant, whose hearty portions deserve an entry of their own. 

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Three generations of the family: my mother, sister and nieces.

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Lilian and Anita join us at dinner.

After dinner, Anita, Lilian, Tawn and I drove to the Cass County Fair (about 18 miles south of Omaha), an idyllic fair with games, rides, cotton candy and a tractor pull.  We met up with Andy and Sugi, enjoyed some Bud Light, and watched souped-up tractors pull a weight-carrying sled as far as they could down the field.

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It was lots of fun and I have some loud video to share with you later.  Stay tuned.

Well, time to shower, shave and get ready to get married.

 

First Trip to Iowa

Arrangements for the Friday wedding are moving ahead quickly.  Monday afternoon I drove to KC Airport and picked up Tawn, who was flying in from San Francisco.  We then drove north two-and-a-half hours to Omaha, Nebraska where we met yet another Xangan, Andy, and stayed with him and his girlfriend at their cute suburban home.

Omaha is known for its beef (and Warren Buffet, too) so Andy took us to Brother Sebastian’s, a steak house and winery that is designed to look like a monastery.  Very good New York Strip.  Below from left: Chris, Tawn, Sugi, Andy and Ali (a summer intern working in Andy’s lab).

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Tuesday morning, Andy accompanied us to the Pottawattamie County courthouse, in beautiful downtown Council Bluffs, Iowa.  It is actually a cute downtown, although the city itself has seen better days.  Andy served as our witness as we filled out the marriage license application.

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Going through this process reinforced for me that the issue of same sex marriage is ultimately a civil one, not a religious one.  Nothing that we filled out had anything to do with religious beliefs; it was strictly a civil procedure, the creation of a contract between two consenting adults.

The lady working the counter wasn’t the friendliest person I’ve encountered.  I wonder if she’s just that way all the time or whether she feels forced as a civil servant to process applications for same sex weddings she doesn’t believe in.  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’s just grouchy.

Interestingly, the application form has “Person A” and “Person B” and you can check one of three boxes for each person: “Bride”, “Groom” or “Spouse”.  We opted for “Groom” and “Groom”.

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Above, Tawn and I in front of the courthouse.

You’ll find this interesting: in the hallway of the recorder’s office is this poster:

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Harrah’s Council Bluffs casino will give you a complimentary cocktail with your marriage license.  Based on the rainbow color and “Everyone Plays a Part” slogan, they must be targetting same sex couples.

 

Last weekend we were able to meet another Xangan, although just briefly.  Ruth Ann has been reading a lot recently as she and her husband lived in Thailand back in the early 1970s.  I really enjoy her comments as she provides nice perspectives on what it was like to be an expat in Thailand then.  Needless to say, some things have changed a lot while others haven’t.

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My brother-in-law has also been doing some smoking in preparation for the guests who will be in town this weekend.  You can just smell the hickory smoke, huh?

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Will have information about the wedding soon… stay tuned.

 

Patrapa and Suriyon’s Wedding

P1100721 With all this recent talk about same-sex marriage, I thought I’d go old-school and write about different-sex… er, “traditional” marriage.  You know, the kind with a man and a woman. 

Last Saturday Tawn and I attended the wedding of his university friend Patrapa and her groom Suriyon.  To avoid any confusion here in a Saturday Night Live skit sort of way, the bride is “Pat” and the groom is “Yon”. 

Pat studied her postgraduate degree in the US, just like Tawn.  In fact, she came and visited us in San Francisco but I was out of town on business. 

Unlike every other Thai wedding we’ve been to, this was a Catholic wedding.  For once, I felt more familiar with the ceremony than 95% of the guests.  Quite a turn of events!

We started with the church service at 1:00 at the beautiful Assumption Cathedral, located on the same soi as the Oriental Hotel, around the corner from the old French embassy, in the Bangrak district.  This was the first part of the city to have a paved road – Thanon Charoen Khrung (“New Road”) – and during the early 1900’s was the European quarter.

The cathedral is beautiful, done in clean lines with a brick facade.  The interior is every bit as colorful as the Grand Palace but instead of Buddhist and Brahman mosaics there are paintings of Christ, Mary, and the saints.

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There is no air conditioning but all the side windows are open-air and there was an army of fans agitating the heat.  With the natural rainy season breeze, it was actually very pleasant.

Since it was an afternoon wedding, Tawn wore white and a hat.  Sharp, huh?

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When we arrived at the church, we ran into many friends including one of Pat’s bridesmaids, whose daughter was a flower girl.  Doesn’t she look look just like her mother?

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The service was, interestingly enough, conducted in English.  As near as I can tell, this is the lingua franca of this church.  Some instructions (the Catholic calisthenics – stand, sit, kneel, stand, kneel, sit, stand, sit again…) were given in Thai along with some explanation such as the ritual of holy communion. 

Other than that, though, I was in much better shape, thanks to my Jesuit education, than most of my fellow attendees.  Listening to the responses of the participants, it is safe to say that very few of them are Catholic.

P1100685 I was thinking about the language issue and all of the Catholic weddings I’ve attended in the past twelve years or so have been in English plus another language: Ryan and Sabrina had a Cantonese-speaking priest and Liliana and Earl had a trilingual service (Tagalog, Spanish and English), for example.

Proof of the Catholic Church’s ability to insinuate itself into cultures around the world, I suppose.

Based on the number of photographers and videographers in the picture above, you might think this wedding was a big deal.  And you would be correct.  It seems that Pat’s father is a bit of a puu yai – “big person” – and was, among other things, a high ranking official in the finance ministry.  In fact, that evening, the host of the reception was His Majesty the King’s personal secretary, who handles all of his charitable activities.

Chalk another one up for our “hi-so” social life.  Ha ha…

As the bride and groom walked down the aisle and out the church, everyone showered them with rose petals as the press corps snapped pictures and shot footage.

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That evening, we returned to Thanon Charoen Khrung for the reception, held in the ballroom of the venerable Oriental Hotel.  On the way, we picked up another university friend, Fluck, who lives with his partner Bobby a few blocks away from us.

Jumping out of the car, who did we run into in front of the hotel?  Otto and Han, fresh in from Singapore, meeting with several other friends.  They were a bit surprised as were we!  Thankfully, I was able to meet up with them a few days later.

DSCN0417 The reception was amazing.  More than a thousand guests with a live jazz band including a wonderful female vocalist who sang all the standards.  Later on, the emcee joined in the singing, with his beautiful baritone voice. 

Right: Me and Tawn at the evening reception.  Blurry picture courtesy of Ko.  Time to get her a new camera, Santa.

The spread of food was bottomless: tables set around the room’s perimeter offered everything from made-to-order Thai food to western roasts to soups, Japanese tempura and sushi, and Chinese dim sum.  The center of the room was dotted with tables overflowing with appetizers and desserts.  Waiters circulated like ferries on the Chao Phraya River, gracefully weaving around the guests, picking up your empty plates and glasses and discreetly handing you new ones.

While there we ran into six or seven other university classmates, several of whom I’ve met before.  They are all very nice people, many of them with adorable young children in tow.

About ten o’clock we left the reception and headed to Silom Road to meet up with a group of friends who were celebrating one friend’s impending departure.  After drinks, we returned to the Oriental to meet in the Bamboo Bar with a professional colleague of Tawn’s, an expat American who after twelve years in Japan came to Thailand to manage a retail group that has the rights to the Barbara Barry, Martha Stewart Living and Thomasville brands.  There’s an interesting story I could share about our relationship with the Martha Stewart store, but I won’t.

This was the most social of evenings we’ve had in a long time.  By the time we pulled into home at 1:00, we were exhausted.

 

Congratulations to Pune and Detlev

In February, we traveled up to Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand to attend the Thai wedding ceremony for Pune and her groom, Detlev.  Entry about that here.

Pune has since moved to Germany with Detlev and today, Saturday the 30th of August, they are having their German wedding ceremony.  Tawn and I were originally going to attend, but the Italy travel plans by Tawn’s parents threw our plans for a trip to Germany into disarray.

Nonetheless our thoughts are with Pune and Detlev on their special day and we send them them the following wishes:

Congratulations!

Bicycle rides and weddings

Sometime Tuesday evening, my left trapezius muscle got a kink in it.  Now, I’m unable to lean my head towards my left shoulder at all.  Movement towards the right shoulder is still good, however.  Don’t know why it happened nor what caused it.  I had just returned home from dinner with Tawn and a few minutes later I became aware of a tightness along the back of my shoulder and the left side of my neck.

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Sunday evening we attended the wedding of one of Tawn’s former United Airlines colleagues, Som-O.  Her nickname means “pomelo” in Thai.  As part of the wedding favors, guests were given these nice canvas shopping bags with a silkscreened caricature of Som-O and her husband, Paun, in which we carried home pomelos and oranges.  Clever, huh?

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The wedding was held at the Police Officer’s Club up near Don Meuang since Som-O’s father is a retired police colonel.  The reception was very large, probably 1,000 guests or so, and there were all sorts of tables set up around the perimeter of the room serving different tasty Thai food as well as a few western and Japanese foods.  Very nicely done.  Som-O is a professional wedding planner, so of course every detail was well attended to.

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Tawn had a good time catching up with his former colleagues.  Some of them he is still very close to, while others have drifted away over time.  Many of them are still flying for various airlines and some rejoined United when UA reopened its flight attendant base in Bangkok a year ago.

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In the morning before the wedding, Markus and I drove out to Minburi and rode 35+ kilometers.  It was a great day for riding, partially overcast and breezy.  Along the way we picked up some followers, a group of boys who were riding their bicycles and decided they wanted to race us.  After a kilometer or so, they tired and gave up.  We also rode past a large Islamic wedding being held at one of the villager’s houses along a khlong, and stopped for beef noodles at a small halal restaurant before returning home.  The area east of the city, out near the airport, has a large Muslim population and makes an interesting contrast to Khrungthep as a whole.  In more than one area, you have a wat (temple) on one side of the street and a mosque on the other.  Above: Workers prepare a rice paddy for planting. 

Below: Short video of the tail end of an obstacle we encountered while riding: