When Kate and I decided on a quick and simple wedding, it just made sense to have it in Edmonton. This is where we live, after all, and this is where we met and fell in love. Edmonton may not appear at the top of anyone’s “queer friendliest cities” list (after all, our province is sometimes referred to as the Texas of Canada), but we were hopeful that our wedding day would unfold without incident.
We stacked the deck in our favour. We only invited two guests: a couple of confirmed non-homophobes (my sister and Kate’s bestie). Kate’s a Unitarian, which is like, the queerest church there is, so we knew her minister wouldn’t have any qualms about marrying us. The fine people at Derks had been friendly and professional in helping me find a suit, and our stylist (Jaclyn from Kinetic Salon) had been tickled to help us figure out wedding hairstyles. As I emerged from her swivel chair on the big day, legs slightly wobbly, she handed me a wedding card.
We felt supported by the small network we had assembled. But we had no idea what the rest of the city had in store for us.
The MacKenzie Ravine has always been one of our special places. Kate took me walking there on our second date, and we’d done our engagement photos there (with Kate’s camera on a tripod). We always seemed to find ourselves there in autumn, when boldly-coloured leaves would wave at us from above and scrunch underneath our feet.
Once we decided to have our slapdash wedding, we knew the ravine would be the perfect spot. It was lovely (and free!) and it held meaning for us. The fact that the trees were at their most stunning in September was just a bonus!
As with most scenic spots nestled in the city, the ravine always had its share of visitors. You couldn’t stand in one spot for long without someone’s dog wandering up to you, or a jogger briskly barrelling past. Such was the case on our wedding day. I didn’t notice anybody during the ceremony itself, but plenty of folks strolled through in the midst of our photography session.
Some commented about how good we looked. Some just said congratulations. At least one woman ducked to avoid ruining one of our shots. We didn’t hear a single negative word the whole time we were there, nor did we receive any strange looks. Instead, people were all smiles, wishing us the best and complimenting our snappy attire.
After the photo shoot, we breathlessly climbed the wooden stairs up from the ravine and made our way to the car. Drivers who passed us offered friendly honks when they saw us. Part of me wondered if they could tell we were both women from far away, since I was wearing a men’s suit. I then remembered that I have an enormous rack. Chances are good they knew I was a chick.
All things considered, we were feeling good! And, after trudging around the ravine for a couple of hours, we were also feeling hungry.
Rather than go to a fancy restaurant together, my introvert wife and I decided to pick up some takeout to bring back to our hotel room. Red Robin makes a mean veggie burger (apparently) and a delicious beef burger (definitely), so it wasn’t a hard decision where to go. The restaurant was our first stop after the photos, so we were both still in full, fabulous wedding garb.
The hostess ushered us to the bar area to place our order, where the waitress commented on how awesome we looked. We explained that we had just been married. She congratulated us, took our payment, and then left us to wait for our food.
We sipped on delicious cream sodas at the bar, taking selfies and giggling. It wasn’t long before our waitress was handing us our bag of burgers. Before we left, she handed us a $30 gift card and once more wished us well.
Metterra on Whyte
Whyte Ave is a terrible place to park, so we were delighted to roll up to Metterra and discover that they offered complimentary valet parking. Kate and I gathered up our overnight bag (and burgers!) and made our way to the front desk.
When booking our room online, I had made a note in the “special requests” section that this was our wedding night. I can’t say for sure whether the desk clerk had read that memo or whether she was just putting two and two together based on our clothes, but she greeted us with warm congratulations and handed us our room key.
We had booked a standard room, but we were given the key to a suite. The hotel had upgraded us without saying a word! Wide-eyed, we surveyed our surroundings with childlike giddiness. There was a large sitting room with a fireplace and comfy chairs, a spacious bedroom with a king-sized bed and a gorgeous view, a bright and beautiful bathroom with separate shower and tub, and a granite wet bar.
As if that weren’t enough, there was one more surprise. We found an artful arrangement on the bar: a bottle of wine, two small jars of jam (from Rainbow Acres – coincidence?), a sampler-size box of fancy chocolates, and a card from Metterra, congratulating us on our wedding. Indeed!
I knew our wedding day would be magical. After all, I was marrying the woman of my dreams. But I had no idea our fair city would show up for us in such a big way. It was a pleasant and eye-opening surprise.
We were treated like any “normal” couple might be on their wedding day. That might sound unremarkable, but it matters. I was in my twenties when same sex marriage first became legal in Canada, and I remember what people were saying back then. The first couple to marry were male, and their wedding kiss graced the front pages of most of the nation’s newspapers. Some Canadians celebrated, but many expressed disgust. I cheered, but only on the inside. I was afraid to do it out loud.
That was the climate in 2003, and although a lot has changed since then, the fear stayed with me. From the moment I woke up on our wedding day, my excitement was tempered with anxiety. I was nervous about having our ceremony in a shared outdoor space. I was nervous about entering a restaurant in my (super queer) formal wear. I was nervous about checking into a hotel with my wife. I was nervous, but at every turn, my city was there to reassure me with a smile.