"May I ask if instead of marriage you decided to live together under a civil contract if you could feel the same way and if not why?"
I wasn't quite sure how to answer. So I started writing, this is what came out.
Steven & I lived as "ummers" for a dozen years before we registered as domestic partners. (As in, let me introduce you to my um, er...) Eight years after that, we got married. So we've experienced both the civil contract and the civil ceremony. There's a world of difference between them. We registered as domestic partners just in case--just in case we needed to put Steven on my insurance, or needed to go to the hospital. It was easy, we downloaded a form off of the internet, filled it out, had it notarized and mailed it off with a $10 check. Two weeks later, we received a copy of the form stamped "FILED." Bingo, we were now registered domestic partners.
We got married because we had to get married. I can't really explain it otherwise. It's what both of us were raised to do: you meet someone, you fall in love, you get married. We'd been together almost exactly 20 years when, suddenly, that option opened up for us. We were so ready to get married that we had half the ceremony planned and booked before we'd proposed to each other.
Each of us has a list of moments so special, they're forever engraved in our memories. These are a few of mine:
* I've written here about the moment when the Prop 22 court decision came down:
That's what I mean by we had to get married.
You hear of a court decision, and as you read it, tears fall down your face, unbidden. And you let out a cry from deep in your soul, so deep you don't know where that sound came from. You've never heard it before, it's a sound of joy, and sorrow that it's taken so long, and celebration, and the release of a pain, a burden you didn't know you were carrying.
* This is the complete text of my niece's maid of honor toast as I remember it:
"Uncle Steve & Uncle Jim. You've made my dreams come true. When I was five years old, I danced with my Uncle Jim at my Aunt Eileen's wedding. I remember promising myself that I would dance with my uncle at his wedding. And today I finally did. I love you both. Congratulations."
That's it. She sat down & I realized that if she had said another word, I'd have been a puddle.
* Two days after the court decision, I sat down in our living room with Steve and his mom and asked her for permission to marry her son. I've never heard the word "yes" spoken with more love, conviction and authority.
* I almost lost it when Steve & I exchanged our vows:
* I did lose it when we exchanged rings:
I, Steven Clair, take thee, James Michael, to be my wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto do I give thee my pledge.
My hand shook so much, Steven had to hold it still so that I could place the ring on his finger. Those last six words slayed me. They are the words that meant everything. They meant that all that we'd been through and all that we have yet to endure had been and would be worth it.
Steven, I give you this ring in token of our marriage vows. From this moment forward, may it ever be a symbol of the unbroken bond of my love for you, given to you eternally. With this ring, I thee wed.
Rereading the question, the key part seems to be "...if you could feel the same way." But that's a might big "if." A year ago, I might have settled for the civil contract, and probably not have known what I was missing. Six months ago, I might have wondered what I might be missing. Now, I won't settle for anything less than the whole enchilada. With chipotle sauce and sour cream on top.