A few things running parallel in my life harmoniously synchronised in October this year to mean that I became a marriage celebrant and became engaged in the same fortnight.
When I first asked my man out, I was not looking for a husband and neither was he. A boyfriend, yes: maybe even a permanent one, but a husband wasn’t really in my sights. Quite apart from the fact that the Australian government was—like Richard III—not in the giving vein and wouldn’t allow us to get married anyway, I was happy enough with the status quo and didn’t feel any need to tether myself to anyone more strongly than I was tethered to my children.
Before long, however, I’d happily put my plans to leave Canberra on hold for my boyfriend, and I was becoming a master of deflecting his decreasingly-veiled allusions to marriage. My deflections were principally built on the sandy banks of John Howard’s amendment of the Marriage Act to exclude same sex couples from the privilege of matrimony.
Meanwhile, the Australian government increasingly looked to Richard III for inspiration. Courageous and thick-skinned members of the rainbow community were gathering us together behind a fight for legal equality, and their inspirational words made me think that, although marriage was not a personal aspiration for me, I would love to be able to help other members of the community celebrate their commitments to each other.
As I looked into what it would take to become a celebrant, my boyfriend dropped hints that he expected a proposal, which gradually turned into directions about the nature of the proposal expected.
On the celebrancy front, I thought I had time, but queer leaders were more astute at gauging the temper of the times, and with
Richard on the throne Turbull in power, they effectively backed the government into a corner, then pedalled like mad as the government turned the full fury of Australia’s homophobes upon us.
This state-sanctioned, state-funded abuse was eventually drowned out by Australia’s voters. The week after the result of the government’s wasteful and abusive plebisurvey was announced, I finally booked my place in a celebrancy course.
In the meantime, voters’ support for our relationship had eroded the sandy bank on which I’d built my objections to tying the knot, and I gradually relented, entertaining the thought of married life again. My boyfriend—rather more Henry V than Richard III—decided the game was afoot, and began planning a proposal of his own.
By the time I had my proposal planned and had sought the blessings of my children, he not only had a plan but also a pair of engagement rings. Before the ring I ordered arrived, it became apparent that we were each—independently—planning special proposals for the same weekend, the fourth anniversary of our first date. We decided to proceed with both plans regardless, and it happened that less than two weeks after the Attorney-General’s Department officially made me an officiant, my boyfriend made me a fiancé, and I returned the favour the following day.
As with many wedding customs, our pursuit of equality has led to uncertainty. Even opposite sex couples don’t need to assume that it will be him who proposes to her anymore. We’re not sure what to do about the surname thing, or the giving away, or children… but if we’re celebrating love, it really doesn’t matter. As long as we’re telling our odd three-ring engagement story to people in fifty years, that’s what matters.