Michigan is well-loved and well-known for many things throughout this amazing country, among them the birth of the auto-mobile, Kwame Kilpatrick and snow.
This great state, my home state, has many unique laws, such as “Persons must not be drunk on trains” and “A woman must obtain her husband’s permission before she cuts her hair”. Yeah, right. Sorry, my husband—sue me. Speaking of that, in Michigan, a robber can sue you if he gets hurt in your house.
And of course, there is that old tried and true divorce deterring law in this state of mine, that reads “Those wishing to obtain a marriage license must observe a three day mandatory waiting period”. Balance this last law, of course, with the fairly liberal firearm purchase period [read about it in this aptly named article (I found the pictures helpful)– How to Buy a Firearm in Michigan: 8 Steps (with Pictures)] and you sort of get a weird feeling that one could get a gun, rob a house (burning their tongue on the frozen burrito they stopped to warm up in your microwave) and file a law suit against you (it’s FIEGER TIME) in less time than you can finally, lovingly, wed your betrothed.
Since I have never been a big fan of waiting or permission or even laws for that matter, when MY betrothed and I decided to tie the knot, a quick and easy marriage process seemed particularly enticing. And most of my loyal readers (thank you Marc and Mike and Mom) know of my disturbing fondness for my local McDonalds (http://momof4istired.blogspot.com/2013/06/its-all-good-in-hood-part-one.html) so when it came time to get married, a drive-thru wedding seemed just right.
After all, it offered all of the qualities I value in any ceremonious event: ease, frugality and moderate food at reasonable prices. Perhaps the drive thru wedding does not quite meet all of that criteria, but neither does McDonald’s here in the hood, so let’s not judge.
Anyway, a drive thru wedding was just what Michael and I needed. And if you are wondering if a similar experience would be right for you, I am happy to give you the details of our special day.
Monday (4 days before W-Day) Decide to get married. Call Lucas County Courthouse (in Toledo, Ohio, a 45 minute drive outside of our metro Detroit hometown) and see if they are open on…say…Friday? Buy wedding dress online. Call up restaurants and see if we can make a reservation for a few close friends to drink and celebrate our nuptials therein. Order wedding rings online. Have a drink and toast to Amazon Prime.
Tuesday (3 days before W-Day) Casually ask people if they will be in town on Friday night (the day after the 4th of July). If they say “yes”, invite them for a teeny tiny wedding dinner. If they say “no”, say “ahhh I was just wondering!?! Have fun golfing/boating/resting this weekend!”. Receive wedding dress. Be thankful that it fits without application of a crowbar.
Wednesday (2 days before W-Day) Go to TJMAXX. Buy shoes. Go to thrift store. Buy tie for fiancee of 2 days. Consider cleaning out my car. Opt for preserving my beauty sleep with a nap.
Thursday (day before W-Day) 4th of July! Spend the morning at the Salvation Army (half off all clothes, people, nothing tops that!). Attend fireworks extravaganza with fiancee of 3 days. Spend time with and examine Civil War era cannons that are shot off during rousing version of William Tell Overature. Start our married life off with a BANG! Literally.
- 7 am Wake up, put on sundress, get Starbucks, drive to Toledo, Ohio to get married. (honestly. You’re disappointed aren’t you).
- 9 am Upon arriving at the beautiful, stately and very square building of the Lucas County Courthouse, we proceed to get lost. Which isn’t usually very difficult for Mike and I. But the place seems somewhat deserted compared to any Detroit courthouse I’ve been in. There weren’t even any bums to ask for directions. We just had to pull on random locked doors until one opened. Luckily we don’t mind looking like confused people from Michigan. Which we are.
- 9:15 am Enter Marriage License Bureau. Sit down in chairs to await our turn and proceed to eavesdrop on other couples being serviced at the counters. Of particular concern–the pair who needs a translator. He is english speaking; she speaks Spanish. The translator repeats the phrases from both the groom and the employee to the bride, even the question “What is your full name?”. When the employee asks the groom if they are getting married today, he looks helplessly at the translator and then shrugs his shoulders. “I guess so”. His finacee is wearing cut-off jeans. Somehow this feels like it does not bode well for their future ( I imagine the translator there on the wedding night, “He said, are you ready to consumate the marriage?”), but I am here for the second go-round so I ought not to be hypocritical. Still, the lack of any rings smacks suspiciously of “green card fraud”, but seeing as it is northern Ohio, I would surmise that would require the shuttling of illegal aliens to have expanded wider than even I imagined. Anyway, I digress. I am sure the three of them are very happy.
- 9:25 am Fraud marriage certificate obtained, Showtime Michael and Nicole. The employee is one of those curmudgeonly older gentleman that seems, from first look, to be the sort for joviality and pleasantries. Not this chap. Apparently, years of illegal aliens, underaged runaways and general apathy has contributed to a hatred of his job that is transparent in everything from the way he greets us (“You know it is $50 CASH for this?”) to the way he types (angry hunting and pecking with one middle and one forefinger). I nickname, silently, Mudge.
- 9:31 am Mudge: “Either of you two’s ever been married?”. Excessive sighing as he we produce our respective divorce decrees and he realizes he must hunt and peck the word DIVORCED two times.
- 9:40 am Mudge: Either of you’s have children?” Again with the sighing. Mike goes first. It takes Mudge only 7 minutes to enter each of their two, 4 letter, names. He turns to me. “I have four.” I say, smiling sweetly. Mudge’s liver spots quiver.
- 9:51 am Mudge can not seem to enter all four children’s names without the program malfunctioning. Apparently nobody in the state of Ohio has ever had four children. His associate, a nice heavy-set lady with a buzz cut, tries to help him but he waves her off. “Let’s call Jeff!” says old Buzzy. “Jeff doesn’t know what to do!” grumbles Mudge. He finally decides to handwrite the last child in. I feel as though things are not going well until I look at Mike and see him smiling with his eyes. I know he can read my mind. “Blog post material” he mouths and I love him gangbusters, so big it hurts to be near him.
- 9:59 am Mudge produces the document, snatches the $50 and sends us on our way. “Go outside this door and make a left. There’s a minister around there. Wave your document in the air and he’ll find you”. This sounds like a highly unscientific process, but after the hour I have spent in the Lucas County Courthouse I would expect nothing less.
- 10:01 am We wave the document and no one comes.
- 10:02 am Still waving
- 10:03 am My arms get tired. Still no minister.
- 10:05 am Another couple who has been advised to perform the same dubious wandering/waving process turns up. They are also from Michigan. They are a pair of Royal Oak hipsters who woke up that morning and decided to “get hitched”. Mike and I feel an immediate level of superiority, having planned our marriage 4 whole days prior to them.
- 10:07 am The minister turns up from having performed a ceremony somewhere in the building. He is sweating. “Hello, hello, howdy!” he says. “I can take you all this way. Would you be liking an outside wedding today?” he looks at us and The Hipsters. “Uh. Sure?” we reply. “Which way did you park?” he asks, clasping his hands together, as those this question alone dictates where the location of our permanent bond will occur. He leads us and The Hipsters past security and out into the courtyard. I can see Mike’s Jeep on the road. We were waving first, so the minister leads us to a spot under a big tree.
- 10:12 am “Join hands and look at each other. Here, I’ll take that document. Now lets see….Michael E and Nicole J…hmmm” and it pretty much takes 90 seconds to seal the deal. But here’s the thing, it is Friday morning and we are in the middle of Ohio and the grass is wet so I am holding my purse under my arm–but when I look at Michael, with his kind mouth and strong chin, all I am is alone with him. I can look in his eyes and he can look in mine, and in that moment we both know that what lay behind us was far bleaker than what could ever lie before us. When the minister says, “You may kiss your bride” Mike is almost shy. He takes my face in both his hands and presses his warm lips to mine. The Hipsters clap. A family waiting for the release of an inmate nearby clap. The minister bows.
- 10:17 am We are headed back to the car with rings on our fingers and the right to never have to testify against each other in a court of law. It feels surreal. And quick. Suspiciously quick.
As we drive off from the Courthouse, I can’t help but think of all the people who must come here to be married every day, every week, every year. Does it really matter how much you plan for a wedding day, how much you spend or what you wear? Does it mean your marriage will last longer if you invest 18 months in the planning and two thousand dollars on the dress? I don’t think it can. But I also don’t think it is wrong to want those things either.
All I wanted was him and I, alone in the morning. All I wanted was to look ahead and see something better than what I had left behind. As we crossed the state lines and headed back to our lives and our friends and our children, I held hands with my husband and closed my eyes.
|Lucus County Courthouse|