July 31, 2011: we got a “save the date” notice, and then we got a pre-invitation with an English language guidebook. Our friend Matt was getting married. What makes this event even more remarkable is that Matt was marrying a man, and in Canada!
Since 2005, Canadians have enjoyed full marriage equality. They have had time to show what works and how to do it properly. But I’ll get to the Main Event in a bit. First, here’s what we had to do.
Matt had the most difficult job–he had to find the man of his dreams! Luckily for him, July 31, 2009 was the day that happened. Eric, whom I call EriQ—because he’s from Québec… -- , was in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Massachusetts: the first of the United States to exercise its state’s rights and become the state that offered full marriage equality. Meant-to-be? Perhaps. They met, they fell in love, and were on their way to making history.
Everyone who met EriQ, and heard Matt go on at length about him, knew they were in love. Truly, madly, deeply in love and what do couples do? They get MARRIED! New York State had not yet granted that basic human right to Lesbian and Gay citizens, and Quebec has had that capability for some time so the die was cast. We were going to Quebec City.
The Château Frontenac is considered to be the most-photographed hotel, and for good reason. Nestled in the heart of the walled portion of Quebec City, it hearkens back to a much earlier and more gracious time. Quebec City itself is one of the oldest in North America, dating back to 1608 and its clean streets and public squares are rivaled in their beauty by the wealth of churches that abound. The walls of the homes are uniform and vertical, magnifying the sounds. Narrow streets, like those found in the European cities, have windows that open screen-free over the cobbled streets.
We were there during an uncommonly hot time–the days were in the humid low 80s and the nights dipped only into the 70s, necessitating open windows. The city is “open late,” so horse-drawn carriages on cobbles two blocks over could be heard. The sounds of the church bells ringing in the afternoon on Saturday floated in on soft, warm air and lent the otherworldly feeling that transports a traveler. There’s nothing like that happening in my home town, where traffic noise and honking horns are far more common.
When we arrived on Friday evening, the wedding party convened on the elbow of the Terrasse Dufferin at the Château. We had an amazing view of the St. Lawrence River as well as the lower town and the upper station of the Funiculaire. The Funiculaire is the Canadian version of the Duquesne Incline–a small glass booth that is the love child of an escalator and a glass elevator–nearly vertical but not quite. It’s how you travel scenically from the upper part of the old town to the lower. When you debark, in a small, crowded souvenir shop, you emerge into a shopping area that could date back to the town’s origins, with some modern touches.
Small shops abound in the area and while you’ll see the same t-shirts (only here they are emblazoned “Québec” or “Canada” where elsewhere they might say “New Orleans”), some of the crafts are unique to Canada. Bonn and I were fascinated by the Inushuk figures–stacked stones in the shape of a person, and that’s literally what the name means. They were used in the wilderness to let people know that humans had been through there and could point to a fishing place, a cache, or just that the territory was known. Now it is considered to be a symbol of peace and prosperity and once we’d seen them and knew their story, they seemed to pop up everywhere including one that dominated the yard in a neighborhood on the Grand Allée!
A group of us had rented a house just down the hill from our friends staying in the Château (thanks Jim and Bill!). The late Victorian townhouse accommodated our group of couples and friends and had gorgeous stained glass windows in most of the rooms and featured a lovely garden where we had our coffee in the morning. On Saturday, we were free to acquaint ourselves with Quebec City, so our “house” took a look inside the beautiful Cathedral of St. Anne and then had breakfast at a small café paneled in dark wood and looking very Art Nouveau. Bonn and I had our first cocotte–eggs with hollandaise and in our case, Swiss cheese over asparagus, mushrooms and fried potatoes in a good sized ramekin covered with melted mozzarella! WOW! When we parted from the group to meet another couple, we met them at Le Petit Chateau where they were finishing breakfast, serenaded by a troubadour singing Cat Stevens and Simon and Garfunkel songs en Français! We were well and truly on vacation!
We wandered the city, took the Funiculaire to the lower town and enjoyed soft vanilla ice cream with a maple swirl. Throughout the day, we never traveled much beyond the shadow of the Chateau Frontenac. This is definitely a walking city, and while you should take the same precautions you would walking in New York, the street players in the square perform until quite late–whether it’s the one-man band to the woman on 3 foot stilts skipping rope and doing tricks with her topknot ponytail, you will have a blast! But what of the wedding?
We met other members of the wedding party Saturday evening for a dinner where the cocktail hour was outdoors. The Grand Allée is like a northern version of South Beach in Miami, with a French Canadian flair and a very active café society. Lovelier still was the opportunity to really get to know EriQ’s family, who were all gracious in exercising their English while we of Matt’s family had even less French with which to return the compliment. EriQ’s family inspired Bonn and me–we are planning to acquire at least conversational French when we return. There were toasts in French, English, German and Portuguese and great opportunities to learn more about one another. Early to bed—all right, it was 11pm—to get a good night’s sleep before Sunday morning’s wedding.
We awoke Sunday morning, to the sound of church bells. As I yawned and stretched, I thought how appropriate that bells should be ringing for the wedding of two most amazing men! Jim and I had parts to play in the ceremony, so we made ourselves beautiful and hiked up to the Château.
We found our grooms well-groomed with the photographer, Sophie, recording their final “single” moments. Watching EriQ get ready, and interact with one of his younger nephews reinforced for me that love is love, weddings are weddings and it’s that love for one another that truly makes a family. Children don’t care whom their elders love, and the love between Matt and EriQ was tangible. The maelstrom of emotion swirling in the room, mixing with General Matt giving last minute instructions to his Best Man Jim and EriQ’s Best Man, his brother Bernard. I got my marching orders as well, and we were off!
The Salon where the ceremony took place had tasteful sprays of white and yellow roses and as Matt’s and EriQ’s families greeted one another, I marveled at the bonding that had taken place in only three days among our two families. We met on Friday as newly minted friends, and met on Sunday as beloved family. We took our seats, and the first notes of the “Feather Song” from “Forrest Gump” floated over the crowd as Matt and Marijane, then EriQ and Rolande walked each other down the aisle.
Louis, the offiçiant, performed the ceremony in both French and English. The readings were paired as well and again, our families became more and more entwined. Those of us doing the readings each did what we needed to do, saving our tears of happiness for when we were done. The greatest reminder of the solemnity of the occasion was when Louis read the legal articles that govern all marriages in the province, and Matt and EriQ signed their contract. They were well and truly wed!
The cocktail hour that followed, the dinner, the dancing–well, you’ve been to weddings and you know what that’s like. Our party traded cards and email addresses and we are still “friending” one another on Facebook–this is what love is all about.
Interesting facts on travel–we took Porter Airlines from Newark, switching in Toronto to continue to Quebec City. Porter is definitely the way to go to many parts of Canada–it is polite and civilized and the experience was amazing. We were queued up in Newark to check in for our first leg and we noticed that there were traveling cases with “Joan Jett” on them. Sadly, while we traveled with her roadies and musicians, Ms. Jett was nowhere in sight! When we arrived in Quebec City, however, friends rode the Château Frontenac elevator with Rod Stewart! We have pictures to prove it, and you have to know–when there’s a wedding like that of our friends Matt and EriQ, everyone is trying to crash the gate!
Whether or not you agree with marriage for yourself, understand that marriage equality is a civil right. We should have the choice to do whatever anyone else can do, with the same name, or we are not truly equal. That said, watching Matt and EriQ, and the love that beams from both of them I am looking forward to keeping these two men in my heart and in my life for a long time to come. Love makes our family whole.