Wedding Bells

February 15, 2012 in General

Courtney (L) and Mel both made amazing brides! (Nelson Wedding Photography)

Gay weddings are amazing.  Perhaps it’s the fact that they’re not something we’ve always been able to take for granted, but to me they seem so much more special than straight weddings.  I was lucky enough to be able to put this theory to the test when I attended Courtney and Mel’s wedding in Nelson last week.  I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve known Courtney and Mel for around three years.  I first met them at a Mexican party hosted by SGnLS (Southland Gay ‘n’ Lesbian Support).  They were new to Invercargill, and I was new to the gay scene.  (Such as the gay scene is in Invercargill.)  I learnt that Courtney was a clinical psychologist.  That impressed me.  Her partner Mel was a gorgeous Welsh girl who had decided to permanently relocate to Aotearoa.  We became friends on Facebook after the party, and then they receded to the back of my mind as life carried on.

Everything changed a few weeks later.  I was in Australia on holiday when I received an unexpected phone-call from my father.  Our relationship had become increasingly strained since I had come out as gay, but in spite of that nothing could have prepared me for what he said.  Dad flatly told me that it was their desire that the family remain “free of evil contamination” and as such I was no longer welcome in their home.  I was instructed that all my belongings had been emptied into a storage unit in town and that I was to collect the key.

In my devastation I turned to Facebook, posting what had just happened.  There was an immediate outpouring of support.  Responses ranged from anger to disbelief to shared heartbreak from others who had been through similar experiences.  In the midst of it all Mel posted a message on my wall.  It read:

“Hi Craig, me and Courtney have just read your status and it sucks. We’re really sorry. If you need somewhere to stay please please don’t hesitate to ask. We have a lovely spare room with a warm bed and would be happy to have u. Text me anytime. xoxo”

Their offer saved my life.  I returned to Invercargill a few days later secure in the knowledge that I had somewhere to go.  Courtney went so far as to take time off work to meet me at the airport, for which I was deeply grateful.  One of the first things I saw as I walked into the arrivals hall was Courtney enthusiastically waving a sign which had my name painted all over it – “in case you’d forgotten what I looked like!”  I held my head high as I walked past the dozen or so Exclusive Brethren who were assembled to one side and fought back the tears as she threw her arms around me.

The time I spent living with Courtney and Mel marked one of the hugest transitions I’d ever been through.  No more were the suffocating strictures of the Exclusive Brethren, the brow-beating visits from priests, or the refusal of the people I lived with to acknowledge my presence.  For the first time in my life I was truly free, cast adrift in a world I knew almost nothing about.

It was terrifying.  I had no idea how to do laundry, no idea how to cook, no idea how to look for a job, no idea how to socialise, talk to or interact with anyone who wasn’t an Exclusive Brethren.  The church had controlled every aspect of my life, so to be suddenly released from that control was frightening and bewildering.  Courtney and Mel were responsible for teaching me a great deal about how to live my life in the “outside world”.  They put up with my initial fumbling attempts to care for myself, and patiently explained when I was screwing things up.  It came down to little things like being taught how to use a TV remote for the first time.  A lot of ground has been covered since then!

It was therefore a huge honour to be invited to attend the girls’ wedding at Little Kaiteriteri Beach last week.  Over the ensuing years I’ve continued to feel indebted to the girls for all they did for me, so I was delighted to be presented with an opportunity to see them again.  It was the first time I’d seen them since leaving Invercargill and they were both as I remembered them – happy, radiant, and madly in love with each other.

The weather was perfect, with fears about forecasted rain proving unfounded, and around eighty people attended the beach ceremony.  The brides ended up running an hour or so late, which gave the guests time to catch up for a chat on the beach beforehand.  Many jokes were made along the lines of “double the brides, double the waiting time”.

The ceremony itself was short and simple.  The girls exchanged their vows, and a lump rose in my throat as the celebrant announced “I now declare you wife and wifey!”  We all cheered as they kissed.

Love doesn’t have any boundaries.  A wedding as pure and simple as this one is a timely reminder of that.  This wasn’t about two girls getting married.  This was about two amazing unique human beings whose love for each other was so great that they were prepared to pledge to spend the rest of their lives together.  The importance of minor details such as gender and sexuality pales in the face of love such as this.

Rock on, girls.  You deserve it.

P.S.  Courtney and Mel now live in Nelson.  Courtney has a special interest in sex therapy and in helping people with sexuality and relationship issues.   If you’re in the Nelson region and would like to seek her professional assistance she can be reached via email –

NB  Lainee Hermsen was the dressmaker for the wedding.  Photograph used courtesy of Nelson Wedding Photography.