Gloria and I didn’t talk about wedding planning until after the holidays. We spent Thanksgiving with her family and Christmas with mine. We enjoyed a quiet evening celebrating the New Year together in our apartment watching Carol and eating yet another cheese board. I enjoyed Britney Spears’ New Year’s Eve performance and had to wake Gloria up to watch the ball drop in Times Square. We kissed and ate our 12 grapes for good luck at midnight. For two months, our engagement was perfect and stress free.
At the start of every year, I feel an itch to plan and make vision boards and examine my life and my goals. I knew one thing on my 2018 to-do list was certain and it was getting married and having a wedding. Even though Gloria and I weren’t in planning stages just yet, I started casually perusing venues all over the Dallas-Fort Worth area — it’s natural for me to research and incessantly and I needed to know what the hell was even out there. I knew weddings were expensive but wow, they’re SO EXPENSIVE. I literally had no idea what renting a venue would cost and I was shocked. I researched quietly and didn’t share what I found with Gloria. I knew if I told her then, it would stress her out.
I knew from the beginning Gloria didn’t want a Wedding™ but I did. And the biggest reason she didn’t want a Wedding™ was because she couldn’t justify spending so much money on such a thing. She wanted to save it for a house. I justified the spending by thinking it was an extravagant party for us and it was only gonna happen once, so why not go all out. Not to mention my family celebrates every accomplishment, every birthday, anniversary, new baby, just everything! It’s in my DNA to throw a big party. The wedding was important to me, so even though her family doesn’t celebrate as much as mine, Gloria agreed to try to make this happen.
We needed to talk about wedding planning soon though, because the time was ticking if we wanted to get married in the fall, so we intentionally set up a meeting for ourselves and went to the fancy park with food trailers to discuss our visions for the wedding. We packed up our sarape blanket again and paper and pens and found a spot on the lawn with our dog. After we settled in with our snacks, I made a tiny agenda for us: sharing our top three priorities for our wedding, making a tentative guest list, and creating a plan for the next action steps with deadlines.
Gloria and I were quiet as we meditated and wrote down our top priorities. I pretty much knew mine: an outdoor ceremony, a fun dance party, and I wanted our favorite taco place to cater it. When we revealed our answers to each other, we had one thing in common and that was we wanted the wedding to speak to our Mexican culture and feminist values. Gloria’s list differed in that she wanted the wedding to be “simple and clean” and cost under $4k. Based on my cursory researching, most venue fees alone started at $3k. Where were we even supposed to host a fab party with all the people we loved for under $4k? I took note of her budget and, even though I was skeptical that we could create a wedding for that much, I told her that I’d be willing to aim for it.
We moved on to creating a guest list. Our friend list was incredibly easy. The only hard part about that list was figuring out if all our many single friends truly needed a plus one! But making the list of who to invite from our extended families proved to be difficult because we were so unsure of who to invite. We both have a ton of relatives, like so many tios and tias from both our parents’ sides and like hundreds of cousins. I knew I wasn’t going to invite everyone, but who exactly did I want to invite? I never formally came out to my relatives, except one cousin that I’m close to. My tios and tias don’t really know me or the life that I’ve created in Dallas, but they did help raise me for 18 years. Did I want them at this really intimate thing where I professed my love to another woman when I haven’t even had a conversation with them about Gloria? Would they respect us and our queer and trans friends at our wedding? I wasn’t sure at the moment. I listed my immediate family, a few cousins and my mom’s brothers and sisters. Gloria was also anxious about her family list. Her parents weren’t exactly fond of me and only started interacting with me when Gloria had cancer. (That’s a whole other personal essay.) She wasn’t sure how they would react to a wedding invitation. She listed her immediate family anyway and some tios, tias and cousins from boths sides of her family. At last, we came up with a tentative guest list of 100 people.
We were off to the races. Our first goal was to find a venue on a budget and set a date. The venue search was bleak from the start. I used two super popular websites, Wedding Wire and The Knot, to find venues in our area. They both have standard culled information in one place so it’s easier to look at things at a glance. I filtered the results to show the most affordable places that had the capability of outdoor ceremonies. It’s Texas, so I found a lot of ranches that hosted weddings. The scenery — majestic trees, beautiful landscapes — was breathtaking in photos and pretty affordable, but they were all located miles away, most of them an hour outside of the city. I also had to wonder who the fuck owned the land, you know? In rural Texas, I wouldn’t gamble on the owners being queer-friendly. Their websites practically catered to white heterosexuals based on how much they loved to showcase their bride and groom suites in their photo galleries. I kid you not, in one photo we saw the bride and groom saying their vows underneath a purposefully hung haystack? Like it was a giant ornament in the middle of the barn?? All joking aside, we have black and brown friends and immigrant family members. Did we want to make them drive to a ranch in the middle of nowhere Texas and onto the land of someone who doesn’t think their existence is valid? I think the hell not.
I widened my search and brought my radius closer to the city. I looked at so many venues! I looked at cool urban warehouses, at restaurant patios, at fancy ballrooms, at country clubs, and they were all way over our budget and just didn’t fit us. They didn’t feel right. I asked Gloria what would be her ideal place to have our wedding and she said it would be at a friend’s backyard. The problem with that dream was we don’t have any friends that own a house in Dallas. I looked into renting a house and hosting a party in the backyard but that seemed impersonal and empty. We would have to setup everything and clean up everything ourselves. I also looked into renting a park gazebo but the city limited our time and how we wanted to party. And to be fair, they just didn’t match what I wanted. I admit what I wanted was a less over-the-top version of what you see in bridal magazines but I also didn’t want it to be like a low-key, guerrilla-style potluck in the park that Gloria had pictured.
Talking about the venue search with Gloria felt like pulling teeth. We had an argument every time I brought it up. But for Gloria it was a bigger issue than just a venue. Gloria kept questioning herself and worried she was compromising her own values in order to make me happy and it made her uncomfortable that I wanted a Wedding™. A month later, I felt like I had exhausted all my searches and felt hopeless. Gloria and I just couldn’t agree on a place. We found two very good contenders: an art gallery in Fort Worth and a super cute venue filled with plants and greenery in Dallas. They were the only ones that we both agreed felt like us, and where we felt safe — the only caveat was they were over budget, even if they were reasonably priced compared to everything we’d seen.
I suggested to Gloria that I ask my parents to help pay for the wedding so that way we could afford one of the options. My parents had offered to help pay for the wedding when I visited them in January and I told them that I would reach out if we needed their help. Gloria was resistant to having my parent’s contribute because she was afraid they would want to be extensively involved with the planning. Based on how my mom reacted to the first text about our engagement, I was nervous about that too. But I felt if I talked to my parents and explained what we wanted, they would understand.
We met with my parents over Facetime and talked to them about the venue search, about our new estimated budget which now doubled, that our wedding was going to be very different from what they’re used to attending, and then officially asked if they would be willing to contribute. After our whole spiel, my mom had other items to discuss on her own agenda. She wanted to get right to the heart of it, of course: what did we mean when we said we weren’t going to have a traditional wedding? We explained for one that we wouldn’t be walked down the aisle by any parents. That broke their hearts. But I mean, it also made my mom happy when we told her we would both be wearing dresses. In the end, my parents agreed to pay for the venue.
After a lot of back and forth, we decided on the the super cute house-like venue with lots of plants and greenery. It felt right and when we took a tour of it I pictured our entire party there and knew it would be magical. We looked at the contract and put the first down payment. The next day after we made the first payment, Gloria was having serious doubts about our decision. She recalled that on the contract it said we had to have an “officer” present because of some laws about high occupancy and alcohol. She was upset that we would have to hire a police officer for the event. I understood her, and I knew where she was coming from, but we had just put down a bunch of my parent’s money that we couldn’t get back. I felt like she could’ve said something before then. Also what if the venue meant we could get a “security officer” like a mall cop situation? I felt horrible, nonetheless. I felt horrible for going through with this, with making my partner so unhappy. I felt guilty for wanting such a lavish party and spending my parents’ money. I wondered if it was all a mistake. We seriously contemplated getting married at the courthouse and then running off to Mexico.
Then in the beginning of April, Gloria had an epiphany. She had an unpleasant phone interaction with one of her younger brothers that set off some necessary conversations. Gloria was inconsolable and angry after the phone call. Her argument with him reminded her of the many reasons why she didn’t want him at the wedding. She didn’t want to deal with him or her family’s bullshit on a day that was supposed to be about her. She was anxious about her family being at the wedding because she was afraid to be broken-hearted by them.
I encouraged her to have a real conversation with her mom because it seemed like the root issue was that she had avoided having a conversation with her mom about the wedding altogether. She finally called her mom and asked her if she was going to attend the wedding. Her mom said she wasn’t sure and told Gloria that her dad wasn’t going to be there. It was in that moment Gloria realized that her parents were more homophobic than she thought.
“I wish things were different and they’re not and I can’t force them to be,” Gloria texted me a few days later. “So I don’t have to have my family there. It doesn’t mean I don’t love them it just means that they haven’t contributed to this family I am building and that’s okay. Maybe they will in the future but at the moment they aren’t.”
After her conversation with her mom, Gloria and I decided we wanted to cut the guest list and only invite people who truly are there for us. We cut out about 20 family members, including Gloria’s brother. After the conversation with her mom, Gloria felt more at ease, like a weight had been lifted off her and she was free. After months of hurdles and having difficult conversations with one another, it felt like after that moment, there was a clearing in our path and we were able to move forward together.