Let’s open today’s post with a flashback:
The place is Roswell, New Mexico. The year is 2016, when late spring shimmers into early summer. I’m about three years into my role as the Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Roswell Museum, and one of my new coworkers has stopped by my office to ask if there are any available units at the complex where I live. He’s a tall, handsome man named Brandon Strange, and a few months ago he moved here from Tallahassee looking for a fresh start. He originally relocated to Roswell to join the fire department, but a foot injury forced him to leave the academy a few weeks before completion. Fortunately for him, turnover is always high in our security department, so he’s recently joined us as a full-time guard. Given his degree in history and international studies, he’s finding the museum to be a better fit for his interests anyway.
But there’s one problem. He’s been staying with his parents while he acclimates to his new surroundings and finds his own place, but his mother has just accepted a new job in Pensacola. As a result, Brandon now has three weeks to find, secure, and move into his own place, or else he’ll be going back to Florida. Housing can be hard to come by though, so after talking with his fellow security staff about his conundrum, they recommended that he talk to me. They know that my landlords tell me about their vacant properties before they get advertised, and I always inform museum staff of any openings.
As it turns out, there is a unit available: my studio apartment. About a month ago I moved into one of my landlords’ standalone units, and after a few weeks of renovation, my old place is about to come back onto the market. As I write down my landlord’s phone number, I tell Brandon that if he’s interested he should call right away, as it’ll be gone within hours once it starts getting advertised. I’ve given this spiel before, and each time, my coworkers have lost out due to their hesitation. Brandon’s situation has an urgency that the others didn’t though, so he follows my advice and calls immediately. As I’m walking home from work, I recognize his truck in the driveway. Later that evening, he’ll have his parents look at the apartment to get a second opinion. Before the end of the day, he’ll become my newest neighbor. Within a few months, he’ll transition from the security department to collections, becoming our Preparator.
Yet this adventure is only beginning. I don’t know it yet, but Brandon isn’t just my neighbor; he is my future husband.
On October 14, 2022, Brandon and I married. Like every major decision that has shaped our relationship, from first moving in together in 2017 to relocating to Williamsburg a year later, our decision to marry and the wedding that accompanied it was forged through pragmatism and open communication.
We first started talking about marriage back in 2019, after we’d been dating for about three years. While we agreed that our society strongly favors married couples in terms of benefits, we figured that we’d wait until my Ph.D. was finished. Nevertheless, we kept the conversation open and checked in periodically to see if our feelings had changed. For the next two years, that was more or less where things remained. Given that we were already sharing expenses and making decisions as a partnership, we weren’t in a hurry to get married, as in a practical sense we already approached life as a married couple.
After we bought a house though, the conversation changed. That was another decision we’d initially planned to wait on until after the Ph.D., but with our rent going up and buying suddenly becoming the more affordable option, we decided to go for it. After making that decision, getting married seemed like a less distant option. And so, in the spring of this year, Brandon and I became engaged. The proposal itself was a conversation. There was no dramatic knee-bending, no expensive ring (we ultimately opted for tattoos anyway because as an art handler Brandon can’t wear jewelry at work), no over-the-top gestures or utterances of “yes!” between choking sobs. Neither of us was interested in those performative acts. As far as we were concerned, we had already demonstrated our love and commitment to each other through the lives we shared. We were just getting the state to recognize it.
To be honest, one of the reasons why we held off on getting married for as long as we did was that neither of us wanted to plan a wedding. We both loathed the idea of spending that kind of money on a single day, and I found merely thinking about guest lists, cake tastings, and dress fittings exhausting. We’d also been to enough weddings both on our own and as a couple to know that it’s an onus on the guests in terms of travel and cost, and we didn’t want to put that burden on them. They have their own lives, expenses, and events to deal with, and we didn’t want to make everyone drop everything just to see us repeat some vows.
There was a personal reason for our hesitance as well. We came together because we were both far away from our families and friends, and found comfort in one another. We became our own family and made a life for ourselves together. It didn’t feel right to turn what has been a rather private relationship into a public spectacle, to repeat intimate promises in front of an audience. In our version of an ideal wedding, we’d get married at the courthouse after work and pick up a pizza on the way home. Hell, you don’t even need witnesses to get married in Virginia, so it’s ideal for no-fuss elopements.
In the end, we opted for a compromise between total privacy and family participation. We decided to get married at our home, as we’d learned that James City County has marriage commissioners who could meet us anywhere (if you’re looking to get married and you’re in the area, we used JoAnn McGrew and she was terrific). We first considered the idea of a home-based marriage after visiting the Everard House in Colonial Williamsburg back in 2019. We had gone to the Historic Area for a walk on my birthday, and had stopped by the house, which had been decorated as it would have appeared when Mr. Everard’s youngest daughter got married. We liked the idea of the convenience that went along with having an at-home wedding, so when we started thinking about ours a few years later, we decided to follow the Everard example and save ourselves a venue rental. Since it was our home that inspired us to get married, moreover, it seemed all the more appropriate to have it here.
For the actual wedding itself, we invited our parents, as we knew they’d want to be there. Since I knew my parents wouldn’t appreciate Virginia in full summer, and they’d want at least a couple of months to book tickets, we chose October (we also chose October because both my parents and my sister got married in August, and I didn’t want to have yet another anniversary to remember in that month). Since I knew I’d be teaching, we chose the weekend of my mid-semester break, as that would be one of the only times I’d have a few consecutive days off. We also invited Brandon’s cousins because they only live an hour away and have always made us feel welcome here, inviting us to Thanksgiving every year, helping us move our furniture into our house, and just being available as family. For everyone else, we’ll host a get-together next year, without all the fuss and muss of a wedding reception. You won’t be getting any bouquet tosses from me.
Despite our initial hesitance to put on any kind of wedding, as the date got closer we got excited about it. Brandon and I both liked the idea of having an official anniversary day since neither of us can remember when we started dating (sometime between July and September 2016 is all we know anymore). After spending more time than I care to admit browsing online, I bought my first brand-new piece of clothing in about three years, a dress from eShakti tailored to my measurements that I can use for future occasions and events. For our wedding cake, I baked a simple Bundt after experimenting with different recipes. Taking my mother-in-law’s eclair cake as inspiration, I modified a King Arthur vanilla pound cake recipe by turning it into a marbled cake and filling the center with the same pudding-based mixture. The week of the wedding, Brandon and I completed several last-minute projects around the house to make it look its best, from changing the hallway lights, to putting together a shed for all the yard tools.
And then the day came. The actual wedding only took about ten or fifteen minutes. Our marriage commissioner used her standard vows, omitting the part about rings because we’d already gotten tattoos. Since it was a nice day, we held the ceremony on our patio. A neighbor who was about to do some yard work with power tools politely waited until we had finished. According to our parents, it was a deeply satisfying experience despite its brevity, and I know I heard a stifled sob or two. And despite the seeming lack of sentiment I may emit here, it was in fact a deeply moving experience to look into Brandon’s eyes and promise to hold him and keep him.
The truth is, I’m thrilled to now call Brandon my husband. I couldn’t be happier to have this man I love so deeply as my life partner, and I’m forever grateful that he stopped by my office that day.