Last week Tim and I went to Hennepin County Services for our marriage license. I had butterflies in my stomach and goofy grin on my face. Sure enough, it was a predictably unsexy setting. We were handed a number when we walked in and directed to wait in the standard cold plastic chairs to be called to the next available booth. By almost all accounts it was no different than waiting to get a driver's license renewed or a passport issued.
Maybe the setting wasn't anything remarkable or unique, but there was something incredibly different between Tim and myself. It was a moment of quiet nerves as Tim held my hand and smiled at me like a fool. It was the first moment since our engagement that a wedding task was 100 percent about the two of us. There was no reminder e-mail, no outside opinion, no one else's feelings to consider. Just the two of us, sitting together as a couple and a team, about to get our marriage license. This part was for us and us alone, and I couldn't have been more relieved.
The process itself was less than climactic. I didn't know what to expect, as I'm sure most engaged couples don't. So allow me to clue you in. You fill out an application with your names and addresses, and your names and addresses after marriage (yes, that means I picked a last name. And no, I'm not going to tell you what it is . . . yet). Then, at the bottom, you both sign and solemnly swear that you're not related. Seriously, the line says something about attesting that you are no closer related than first cousins once removed. I don't know what's more disturbing: that you can marry your cousin once removed, or that people wanting to marry their relatives is even an issue?
Once you've promised that you aren't related, the clerk does some busy work and makes you pay a fee. A couple signatures later, and they hand over a packet of papers. There's a copy for the officiant, and a copy for the couple to keep. There's some sheets of instructions, and that's it. It's amazing how unremarkable the manila envelope looks once it's in your hand, considering the weight of what's inside.
The most powerful part of the experience happened once we were walking out of the office. It was the realization that the most important wedding task was officially complete. Legally, all we need to get married is that piece of paper, some sort of ceremony and two witnesses. On my long list of 2,064 things to do, this is the only one that truly matters. It was amazing how much clarity and perspective came to me in that one moment. I've been spending months trying to convince myself that the wedding details aren't important at the end of the day, but it wasn't until we had that envelope in our hands that I really understood it.
The way that I felt when I watched Tim sign the papers, and the way that I felt when I signed them myself, was absolutely amazing. The pride that I had when I saw my new name on our license was unmatched to any I've felt in my life. Since we got the license, I've had multiple people ask me if it made the wedding seem more real. Sure, it does. But more than feeling real, it just felt right .