It all started quite innocently. We planned a trip to visit T’s adult children in Manitoba: one in Winnipeg, another in Morden. T would travel from Ontario and I would travel from Saskatchewan.
About three months ago, we spoke a little about getting married, about how much fun it would be to have a special ceremony on some exotic island, about whether it was easier to just live common-law, the merits of formal comittment for our children and families vs a silly piece of paper. We have been together, so to speak, for over eight years, mostly travelling wherever and whenever we can, because we’re still working. He was a traditionalist, he said, and would prefer to get married. I had mixed feelings about marriage, but could not picture my life without him in any case.
With retirement on the horizon, we started attending pension seminars, talking to administration, and getting our pension papers together.
One evening, T called and asked if I knew that only a spouse can be a beneficiary of your pension should you die. Not a child, or a dependent, or the neighbor down the street, only a spouse.
“So what if I get hit by a bus the day after I retire?! That means nobody receives all that money that I worked so damn hard for, for years and years!?”
“Well, that would be the same for both of us!”, I responded.
T proceeded to rant about the unfairness and ridiculousness of such a policy. I agreed, but since there was nothing we could do about it, I went back to – what can we do?
T stated that he was told to just say we were living common-law on the pension application, and ask family/friends to verify it, after all we had been dating for almost nine years.
“But we live in separate provinces!!!” he protested to his advisor. Then T asked if I would be comfortable asking friends/family to warrant that we were living common-law.
“No”, I said, “I am not comfortable doing that. It would essentially be fraud, and illegal. I couldn’t ask people to do that.” He said he felt the same way.
“Well then, why don’t you just get married now for Heaven’s Sake!” was the response from his advisor.
So we talked. “I want you to be looked after if something happened to me,” he said. (so sweet). “What a shame that nobody would have that money we spent years and years earning if one of us dies!” Ridiculous.
“Well,” I said, “We have the perfect opportunity to get married when we meet in Manitoba.”
We hummed and hawed. Really?! Really? No, too soon. No time to plan. Maybe in November or January. But we have to put our pension applications in now, with the name of spousal beneficiary. We were going to get married anyway; now we’d just be doing it sooner. But I always pictured us getting married on some exotic island somewhere… yes, me too. Well, we can still do that, just later. This is the practical solution. Ok, let’s do it. Are you upset with me? No. Giggling. This is hilarious, and fun!!! More giggling.
It would take some fanagling though. We were only in Manitoba for four days – two in Morden, and two in Winnipeg. Research online revealed that we needed to have the Marriage Licence 24 hrs before the ceremony, and we could get the marriage licence at the local jewellery store (only in small town Canada). Then we had to find a registered Marriage Commissioner, have the ceremony, and hopefully take the documents straight to Vital Statistics in Winnipeg to be registered and, with a fee, we could get our actual Marriage Certificates (required to submit with pension applications) in a 24 hour window. It looked like it just might be possible.
What about the kids? No, we can’t tell them – neither mine nor yours. We can’t tell anyone. But how will we get away when we’re in Morden to actually get married? Not too worry, I’ll make-up some excuse to be alone, T said.
We found a fantastic Marriage Commissioner who organized and made calls, sent emails and encouraged. G was even sweeter in person. She called Vital Stats and was told we could not take the documents to Winnipeg ourselves – they were legal documents and had to be couriered.
After endless inquiries and misdirections on same day courier service, it seemed awfully complicated from a small town in the prairies. They said they would have to hire an individual to drive it there. Well, we were individuals driving there!
I decided to call Vital Stats again. Like G said, sometimes it depends on who you talk to. The woman answering confirmed that no, we could not bring the documents ourselves. I asked if she was certain, and she said she would ask the manager. A few minutes later she came back saying, yes, we can bring the paperwork to Vital Stats ourselves. Great! One problem solved.
OMG! What about clothes? What will we wear? The next two weeks I spent hours shopping for a new dress, but they were all either too formal or too casual. Finally, I decided on a long print dress I already owned, and I would find a nice short jacket or wrap for it. That proved much more difficult than I imagined, and finally, in exasperation, I opted for something that would do. After all, it was just us two.
OMG! What about rings? T had bought me a beautiful ring several years ago – we could use that, but I did see a diamond ring that I absolutely fell in love with, and had saved a picture of it.
“Get it,” T said. But when I saw the ring in real life, it didn’t look nearly as nice. Then, a few days later, when I stopped to have my rings cleaned, I saw exactly the ring I was looking for! A ring with twisted sides covered in diamonds, a square diamond setting on top, and under the top setting was nestled a little tiny sapphire, my birthstone, and to me, perfectly symbolic of our secret rendez-vous, as it hid surreptitiously under the top of the ring.
“If you love it, get it,” T said. (You can see why I was ready to marry this guy.)
Then I found a ring for him too, and a tie for him that matched my dress.
OMG! What about pictures? G to the rescue, as she arranged for two witnesses, one of which was a good photographer.
OMG? Will we be outside or inside? G to the rescue again. She worked at a place with gorgeous park-like grounds, ponds, little bridges, benches, big trees. Perfect.
Now I could barely function. Nervous! Excited! Couldn’t focus properly.
I was also having an extremely hard time not telling my kids, my family, my friends…
What did I forget? Oh, a purse and shoes.
OMG, and vows! The most obvious thing of all! This was hard enough to plan a simple simple wedding. I can’t imagine planning a big wedding.
Then it hit. All of a sudden, like a black cloud creeping stealthily over the sky on a sunny day, like a pleasant dream interrupted with a nightmare, like having a drink of water that tastes like salt. The doubts.
I instinctively knew T was feeling the same way, and asked him. Yes, he was scared too. What if we couldn’t get along? Well, worst case scenario, I suddenly realized, was that we go back to living separately just as we have been for the past eight years.
And the doubts passed quietly into the night.
G, the Marriage Commissioner, sent us a half-dozen samples of ceremonies and vows. We read through them, changing, adapting, removing and adding, to make them our own.
OMG! What about names? Nowadays, he can take my name, or I his. I suggested he take mine, but from his humming and hawing and throat-clearing, I could tell that he was not too cool with that. We decided to keep our own names.
The biggest snag came at the jewellery store when, much to my surprise, they said something was missing from my divorce document. First of all, it was not the final decree, and second, it had no file number. Oh-Oh. But it had the official stamp, and it was in 2000, for God’s Sake, 13 years ago.
She said she would have to call the court house in Saskatchewan. We twisted and turned, anxiously waiting.
“It’s your lucky day!” she shouted, “They verified your divorce document.”
Onward soldiers. Marriage licence tucked away for tomorrow, we met with the kids and went out for supper.
They had plans for the next day. They wanted to meet for lunch, go to M’s Audiology office, go to the dinasour museum, maybe bowling, maybe drive out to the lake nearby. We had to make some excuse for not joining them!
“Um, well we’ll look around town on our own…” T mumbled.
(Note that there was only one main street and about 50 houses. Surveying the little town could likely be done in about ten minutes.)
The kids frowned. “What??” “Huh?” (Blank looks.) “Whatever… “
T snuck away to meet them for lunch while I got my hair done. That would take away a little of the suspicion, we hoped.
We ran around getting some last minute things – a rose, envelopes to pay the marriage commissioner and photographer, a tie clip, a pair of very nice shoes for T.
As we were getting ready to leave, we realized T forgot his cuff links! Great. Oh well, he would just have to roll up his sleeves. Besides, he already looked way better than I did.
We were like two little kids… nervous, excited, twisting and turning… eyes wide… repeating things…
What time is it?
And then we were there, facing each other, standing on a little stone bridge in the park, with a little pond under the bridge, and under a soft warm autumn sun we made life long promises, realizing the serious committment we were making.
Most importantly, we promised to always remain best friends, and to always be on the other person’s side, even if that meant bailing the other out of jail!
Our final promise was that our families and children were now shared as one, like two pails of sand being poured into one pail.
In my head, I could hear CBC’s Stuart McLean, in his decidedly unique cant of voice, saying…
“And that’s how they decided to get married in….
Morrrrrdennn, Manitobbbbaaa. “
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