Matt and I were engaged in Aruba in February 2003, and later decided to set the wedding date for September 6, 2003. Initially we were thinking of marrying later in September, but it was around the same time my parents and all their friends go to Aruba. Good thing that happened, because if we had gotten married when we first planned, Hurricane Isabel would have messed things up. A lot. As it was, Isabel only caused us to be evacuated during our honeymoon in Kill Devil Hills. We finished our honeymoon at Fairview Beach while watching the storm surge push the water farther and farther up our seawall. It was definitely exciting.
I digress (No! Not me, never!).
Matt and I did not want to get married in a church. While our views on religion differ, we agreed that we wanted to get married someplace special—Fairview Beach. Not getting married in a church presented us with the problem of having someone to marry us. We didn’t know anyone who could do that. Matt’s dad came up with a solution and procured a license that allowed him to perform a ceremony once in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was a one time thing—the license was only good for one marriage. No problem! This made things better—now we had Matt’s dad marrying us instead of a stranger.
Mom, Sande, and I planned and brainstormed about the ceremony and reception. First I wanted to get married on the beach. I had visions of walking up the dock toward the beach, but there wouldn’t have been room on the beach for guests. Then I thought people could be in boats and on the beach. Too impractical. Finally I settled on getting married in my parents’ yard, on the hill overlooking the river. I wanted my toes in the sand, though! So my dad and his friends (aka my Fairview Family) laid down plastic in the yard and brought in a dump truck load of soft white sand. Things were coming together. My future brother in law’s friend was a bagpiper, and he would lead me down the aisle, playing the bagpipes. I don’t know if it’s my Scottish roots, but the sound of a bagpipe gets me choked up every time.
Less than a month before our wedding date, so mid August, I was at work editing some of the most boring crap I’ve ever had to read when Matt called.
“Yeeeeeeeees…” I said.
“Um, there is a problem.”
My mind immediately started racing. Oh dear God, he doesn’t want to marry me, was the thought that clamored above all else.
“Yeah? Wh—what is it? Are you okay?”
“Oh! Yeah, yeah, I’m fine, but listen,” he was already trying to soothe me, “Don’t panic. We can fix this.”
“What?! Fix WHAT?!” My officemate turned in his chair and gave me an “Everything alright?” look. I shrugged at him and waited for Matt to tell me what was up.
I was holding my breath, trembling with worry. Matt took a breath and said, “There is a problem with my Dad marrying us.”
I became very quiet and still. Then I took a breath, “Wait. What ? What the fuck? I don’t—“
Matt interrupted me, “I don’t know the details but it’s something like they changed the law and you can only marry people in the county where you got the license.”
“But that’s Fairfax County. We need King George. When did they change the law?”
“Right after my dad got the license.”
“So isn’t he grandfathered in?”
“Uh, well, sort of, grandfathered in meaning he can still marry us, but it is only valid in Fairfax County—I—I’m not sure of all the details yet.”
The details didn’t matter. If Matt’s dad was going to marry Matt and me, then we had to do it in Fairfax County, an hour and a half (with no traffic) away from our wedding location, and everyone knows 95 is a mess both North and South on Saturdays. Also, our rehearsal dinner was in Fredericksburg, so driving here there and everywhere on our wedding day wouldn’t work.
I got up from my desk and told my officemate I’d be back. I had quit smoking months before, but I grabbed one of my friends at work who still smoked, and we went down to the garage to smoke a couple of delicious menthols and try to come up with solutions.
After I calmed down and returned to my office, I called King George County, Virginia, which is where Fairview is, to see if they gave the same sort of one-time license to perform a wedding ceremony. They did not. Next. Since the low tide mark on our part of the Potomac River is Charles County, Maryland, I called them and asked. Maybe I would get married on the actual beach, after all. Charles County had no idea what I was talking about.
For the time being, I was out of ideas I liked, so I started searching for people who could marry us at Fairview, or see if someone we knew could get one of those ordained minister of the Church of the Dogstar things. Both of these ideas would take too long to work out, and there was less than a month before the wedding.
When Matt and I got home after work that evening, we talked and discovered that we had both been following the same avenues to the same disappointing end.
At the beach that weekend, we were talking with my Dad to see if he had any ideas. I don’t know if it was him, Matt, or me who said, “Isn’t Fairfax County in part of the river? Or Occoquan, isn’t that Fairfax County?” Looking at each other we said, “We’d need a fast boat.”
We discovered that part of Fairfax County dips into the Potomac River up around the Occoquan, less than an hour upriver from Fairview–in a fast boat.
Around 10:00 am on our wedding day, Matt and I climbed aboard a friend’s Donzi with my dad, mom, Matt’s dad, my Maid of Honor, and my Flower Girl. We raced up the river toward the Fairfax County line to have our Super Secret Wedding Ceremony. I made everyone keep it a secret. For years. And they did! At the time my thought was that all our friends and family came from all over to see a wedding, and it might be anticlimactic if they knew we were already married when I walked down the aisle.
Matt and I stood on the back of the Donzi, drifting in the river that I love so much, holding hands and looking into each other’s eyes. I was wearing jean shorts and a blue tube top so I wouldn’t have strappy tan lines for my dress and a dear friend had loaned me her veil. Matt’s dad said what was required. Something very concise like, “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” and “Do you take this man to be your husband?” I wouldn’t let Matt kiss me until the real ceremony, so we hugged and he managed to grab my butt in lieu of a kiss.
Four hours later, surrounded by our loved ones, I was following our bagpiper down the aisle toward Matt so that we could finally seal our promises with a kiss…
…And legal documents.