Practicalities Reflections

Chris’ mini blog – Tuesday

I’ve just spent a very pleasant morning working on signage for the venues. Nothing gets you into a more romantic mood than creating signs to tell people which toilet to use.

I’ve also been working on speeches for the day. Donny and I will be attempting to do two speeches together – which could be either end up an almighty mess or else be the best comedic double act since Morcambe & Wise (and I love that Donny will have no idea who they are). Speeches are actually my favourite part of being involved with a wedding. I’ve always loved public speaking and a best man’s speech is a brilliant opportunity to show off a bit. The grooms’ speech is generally just a long list of thankyous (which we are doing as there are so many people to thank) but we are also doing our own personal little spin. Again – could be brilliant, could be terrible. Either way – there’s wine to drink.

Like Donny, the stress and activity of the last few weeks is starting to take its toll a bit physically and I’ve been having real problems sleeping recently. It’s not that I’m dreading it, it’s just that there are so many details whirring round my head it’s really hard to switch off. Still, I’m off work this week so it’s an opportunity to chill out and reflect a little on the important things about getting married – such as the fact that I have forgotten to make the seat reservation signs…


Monday 13th Mini Blog

Inspired by various daily Olympic micro-podcasts I’ve been enjoying over the last couple of weeks, I’m going to have a go at writing a mini blog update each day this week on the run up to the wedding. I probably won’t be blogging on Friday – you know how it is.

Today there are just four days left before the big day, and bizarrely we’re finding that the closer we get to it, the more relaxed we’re feeling about the practicalities – mainly because most things are nailed down now. We’ve briefed our key helpers, done our final confimation with the registrar and venues and it looks like we will definitely have a wedding on our hands come Friday.

Having said that, last night I only slept about two hours, which is probably down to my sub-conscious doing cartwheels about the epic implications of the week ahead, but hopefully that’ll sort itself out. Or I’ll have a flask of espresso with me on the day itself to take sneaky sips from.

Today I will be spending most of today in a cinema watching The Dark Knight Rises on IMAX – it’s important to have your priorities straight 🙂 Also today I will summon up the courage to have my final pre-wedding haircut. Probably nothing too radical – unless the mood strikes me.

The only other big outstanding job is writing some personal vows for the ceremony. It’s been a real challenge this and I’ve been umming and ahing and trying ideas out for weeks. I’ve tried trying to do something funny, and that didn’t feel right, and I’ve tried something with more formal composition, but that felt stuffy and contrived. This is a bad time to get writer’s block. Maybe I will end up just reading out the end scene from When Harry Met Sally after all…


Pre-Wedding Photographs

Last weekend, Donny and I went to Clissold Park with our lovely friends Sally and Pat. While we were, Pat (who is going to be our photographer on the big day) took some fab photos of us – some of which you can see below. (There are loads more, but I’ll just post some of the best)

You can see more of Pat’s work at


I, Chris, Take You, Pikachu

The wedding is so close now, and we’re starting to flesh out some of the finer details. One of our most recent discoveries is that (in Islington at least) a civil partnership ceremony doesn’t have to follow a fixed format, and our registrar has encouraged us to make the ceremony our own. The only bit we actually have to have is a few specific legal declarations that must be made in order for the partnership to be valid in the eyes of the law.

So if we wanted our ceremony to be a tribute to the last scene of Star Wars (with Donny as Luke, and me as Han, obviously) we could.

A New Hope Final Scene

But we won’t.

We did play with some ideas, but we soon realised that the traditional format of a wedding service is so firmly embedded in everyone’s minds, if we stray too far from that we could end up reaching the close of the ceremony just to discover that everyone is a bit unsure as to whether we have actually got married or not!

So what we’ve come up with is a fairly conventional ceremony with a few creative twists. The biggest change we’re making (compared to the example ceremonies the town hall sent us) is to switch the order of everything round. Most of the examples finished with the legal declarations and the signing of the schedule, but we’ve decided to do that bit first. The reason for that is to make it very clear to everyone which part of the ceremony is about us entering into a legal partnership, and which part of the ceremony is about us making a personal commitment to each other. We want to keep the two parts separate, and the signing of the schedule will provide a convenient interlude between the two.

It’s the second half of the ceremony which is the most important part for us. That will be where our friends and family will witness our promises of commitment, and where we have the symbolic component of giving and receiving rings. We want this section to be the climax of the ceremony – rather than finishing up with a rather dry and stiff signing of a legal contract.

Over the last few days we’ve been writing the ceremony and timing out everything, with one of us standing in for the registrar, and the other repeating the vows. The one problem we found is that saying the vows directly to each other was a bit intense, so we found an appropriate stand in:


Pikachu! I choose you!

Practicalities Venue

Work Work Work

We are discovering that the more actual work there is to do for the wedding, the less we are updating this blog. Sorry about that. Here’s an update on where we are.

First of all our fabulous invites eventually arrived from the US and they have gone out.

We just love the ‘I DO’ idea that our friend Kiki came up with, and we’ve loads of positive feedback too. I expect that it’ll find its way into other things like the orders of service and place settings, and all those other things we should probably think about at some point. Working with a professional designer for the invites was a bit of a luxury, and we could have probably done something ourselves for a bit less money. But just having a dedicated and creative person coming up with all these fantastic ideas has meant that the finished result is streets ahead of anything we could have achieved on our own. And having someone else sort out the printing for us was just amazing. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Kiki at Alternate Greetings if anyone out there needs some fresh and funky graphic design.

And on other areas of wedding preparation, it has to be said that we are doing pretty OK.

We have paid the final deposit on the town hall so we are definitely getting married. Phew. And we have suits to wear! Hooray for not being naked! And we’ve got some rings on order too. From Hawaii of all places. Now comes the fun part of customising the ceremony to make it reflect our personalities a bit. Surprisingly, the standard civil partnership ceremony wording they have at Islington isn’t actually that bad – they’ve made it sound just like a wedding ceremony. The driest part of the whole thing is the legal part which we can’t change – it goes something along the lines of ‘by signing this piece of paper you are confirming your desire to enter into a civil partnership’. That’ll have them weeping in the aisles… But aside from that we are coming up with some readings and music to make the thing really feel like our day.

And figuring out how to enter from the ceiling on abseil ropes. Obviously.

Lunch is pretty much sorted too, and people seem keen on the lunch options we picked out. All we really need to do is figure out some content to entertain people with between courses. There will be a few traditional speeches, but we are also going to try something a bit unusual with a bit of audience interaction. Should be fun.

The only things I am losing occasional bits of sleep over are the drinks reception and the evening. We’ve paid deposits for both venues, but whereas the Almeida has a dedicated person for us to deal with, with the other venues we have been dealing with lots of different people, who sometimes tell us different things. I’m sure it will all be OK on the day, but we may be recruiting a few friends to run ahead to the venues early and make sure they know we’re coming and have everything ready.

Worst comes to worst – all back to ours…?

One of the biggest challenges I’m personally facing is keeping in mind why we are actually doing this. A wedding is such a powerful cultural institution that runs deep in everyone’s sub-conscious. Everyone has an opinion on what makes a good wedding and a bad one. When thinking about the day I can’t help but compare it to ones I’ve been to, or ones I’ve seen in people’s Facebook photos. How will we measure up? Should we have spent more money? Is a pub really the right place to spend a wedding day? Shouldn’t the manager have called me back by now? (That last one is going through my mind right now as it happens).

But then I take a deep breath and remember that as long as Donny and I actually get married at some point, the rest of the stuff is just details. We aren’t creating a moment for the ages. We’re providing an opportunity to have the people we care about be with us as we start the next stage of our journey together. If we can have a laugh and eat some good food as well, that’s all to the good.


Start the Countdown!

It’s now less than 100 days till the wedding. Crumbs! And as Donny and I count down to our big day, our minds turns to a countdown to another high profile event happening this summer.

That’s right – the new Batman movie!

I am, of course, lying. It’s the Olympics!

And it’s interesting to take stock of what the impact is of having a massive global spectacle happening up the road when you’re getting married.

For one thing, it’s already had a pretty dramatic effect on air-fares. It’s meant at least one good friend has been priced out of coming over from the US – and we imagine a few more will discover that as they take a look online. It’s gutting, but having the wedding during the summer (rather than during the school term once the Olympic hoo-ha has blown over) meant an entire family group from the US was able to re-jig their summer vacation to Europe in order to swing by beautiful Islington and join us for the wedding.

On the big day itself, Olympic activity will mean that there are a lot more people in London than usual, so tubes and buses will be lot more crowded. But other than travelling to and from the wedding, we will be on foot the whole day so we shouldn’t be too affected by that.

Aside from all the potential negatives, what I’m really hoping will be the main Olympic legacy as regards our big day is that our visitors from out of town will probably have never seen London so spruced up – and probably never will again! For a four week window this summer, the cones will go away, the scaffolding will come down, the workmen will stay in bed and London will look like an impressively shiny global city. It’s all an illusion of course, and as soon as the visitors go home the hoardings and diggers will be out again. But for that short window of time London will be a gleaming blemish-free backdrop to our wedding.

And quite right too.

Gay marriage equality Islington

In The News

Rather excitingly this week we’ve been mentioned in a couple of news articles.

First as Donny has already mentioned, there is the Islington Gazette piece about the blog.

I know we are meant to be terribly excited about being hi-tech and online, but I squealed like a little girl when I saw the print version this morning:

Islington Gazette

The same journalist – Andre Langlois – also quoted us in a blog article on the Huffington Post.

Exciting stuff!

Gay marriage equality Reflections Uncategorized

Why Are Some Christians So Angry at the Moment?

Given stories like this in the press currently, and all the ongoing hoo-ha about gay marriage, I thought it was about time I get my act together and write something about how my Christian beliefs work with the fact I am getting married to another man.

The first thing to say about Christianity is that it is – literally – a very broad church. It’s a label that is applied to all sorts of faith communities – from high-Catholic masses to small Quaker meetings – and what I talk about will only apply to a relatively small element of it. For my part, I grew up as part of a ‘charismatic new church’ (the cultural shorthand for which would be ‘happy-clappy’) in an environment where people regularly spoke in tongues, prophesied the future and prayed for healing. My church also did lots of good and practical things, such as lunchtime concerts for elderly people and going to Romania in the early 90s to bring plumbing and heating to orphanages, but in general the activity of my church was so focussed on the wider epic canvas of global revival that it rarely lowered itself into the down-and-dirty world of things like homosexuality.

My church was also part of the ‘evangelical’ stream of Christianity, which meant it was strongly bible focussed and believed that the bible is a handbook for everyday life. And so when I was in my early teens (and aware that I fancied boys rather than girls) and stumbled across this bit of Leviticus…

“Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.” Leviticus 18:22

… I found it bizarrely encouraging. You see, I was in a church that believed in healing, and as homosexuality was so clearly against the will of God all I needed to do was keep quiet and pray hard enough and eventually God would heal me. Brilliant!  So I never told anyone about what I was feeling at the time, and there was never any explicit condemnation from the front of the church, so I was actually shielded in a lot of ways from the worst that evangelical Christianity could have thrown at me. I firmly believe that had I told my church leaders in my teens what I was feeling, and they had tried to ‘heal’ me, it would have been a disaster and a one-way ticket to the loony-bin. Looks like my chronic fear of rejection was good for something after all!

It wasn’t until I was 24 that I decided to actively figure out what being gay meant for me as a Christian. I read a ton of books about what the bible has to say about homosexuality and came to the conclusion that – well – the bible has precisely nothing to say about homosexuality. On one hand you’ve got a load of ancient sacramental purification laws from the Old Testament, and anyone really enforcing those needs to take a long hard look at themselves, as well as changing their eating habits and ditching half their wardrobe (thank you President Bartlett). Then on the other hand you’ve got a collection of letters written two thousand years ago to a group of churches in the eastern Mediterranean. These letters by Paul do talk about how “homosexual offenders” as well as other miscreants (hello “drunkards”) will not inherit the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6 v9-10). But what I found in my research was that the Greek word now translated as “homosexual offenders” (‘arsenokoitai’ – fact fans) is still hotly debated as to what it means.

I was faced with a choice. Did I choose to base my entire life around a translation issue from a 2,000 year old letter just in case it turns out that one particular group of biblical scholars have got it right? Frankly, that just seemed bizarre to me. And still does. So I decided to play it by ear. I would still live my life according to the important bits of Christianity (you know: the stuff about loving other people, and trying to make the world a better place) but I would also start dating boys. I figured that if the two were completely incompatible it would soon become obvious. But 11 years later I still reckon I’m on the right track.

But many other vocal Christians out there appear to believe differently. Why? Well, I suspect it’s because they’ve grown up in a culture where homosexuality is seen as a bit ‘icky’, and because a few passages of the bible chime with their own personal feelings of ‘ickiness’, they have no problem believing that it is biblical truth, and therefore current and relevant. What this means is that if anyone comes along to challenge the evangelical church’s negative stance on homosexuality, this challenge becomes interpreted as an attack on biblical truth, and consequently becomes an attack on the entire belief structure. This goes some way to explaining the wide-ranging popularity of the ‘Coalition for Marriage’s online petition against gay marriage. The Coalition for Marriage have framed the argument for gay marriage as an attack on faith itself, not just a criticism of one specific inequality.

I must admit that for many different reasons, my sexuality among them, I’m not regularly attending any church at the moment. But I still would call myself a Christian and still spend a lot of time with other Christians. And the Christians I choose to spend time with are the ones understand that the bible says much more about including and loving everyone than it does about being gay. I’ve been totally accepted and encouraged by most of my Christian friends, and they’ve also welcomed Donny as well. I think there probably have been a few people who have a problem with me living openly as gay, but I guess they were the ones who stopped sending me Christmas cards, or have defriended me on Facebook. I can live with that.

But I do recognise this has created a tension for a few of my Christian friends. On the one hand they absolutely want to stay friends, but on the other hand there are these institutions they have always respected telling them that gay marriage is an attack on core Christian values. This leads to an unhealthy schizophrenia – the person who I sit down and have a natter with over a coffee is the same person who worries that coming to my wedding is against their beliefs. It’s unhealthy – and it’s really terrible of groups like the Coalition for Marriage and the ‘Core Issues Trust’ (who were behind the bus adverts) to put people in the position where they feel forced to choose between their gay friends and their beliefs.

I firmly believe you can hold on to both.

Practicalities Reflections

Bored of the Rings?

If you have been following this blog for any length of time you will know Donny and I are trying to do things a bit differently with this wedding. Our aim is strip away as much of the meaningless wedding flotsam as we can, and do an event which focusses purely on the elements that are important and meaningful to us.

So we won’t be having lots of flowers, there won’t be a big fruit cake and there will be a significant absence of wedding favours on the table. These are things we can live without. But when Donny asked if we wanted bother with wedding rings, I was really surprised.

I had just assumed us having wedding rings was a given. You see, I like the symbolism of a wedding ring – I like that it symbolises that we belong to each other. I also really like the fact that it is probably the only physical thing that we take from the wedding event into the day-to-day reality of our married life.

Having said all that, I guess the nature of what we are trying to do with the wedding means we need to challenge everything – even the elements I personally like. Donny’s point is that historically in heterosexual Christian marriage the ring would be worn by the bride as a symbol of her belonging to her groom – to represent sort of transfer of property. Much in the same way a pig or bull might have a ring through the end of its nose. It’s only much more recently in history that the groom started also wearing a ring. We don’t want to ‘own’ each other, so why would we wear something that has this strong historical connotation?

So the question is: do we reject a symbol that represents the heterosexual norms of marriage so strongly, or do we seek to take that symbol and somehow redeem it representing something much more progressive and meaningful for us?


Good News from Across The Pond

I thought I would give you a quick update on the Wong family situation.

There’s still no news from Donny’s parents – they are still not using the ‘W’ word at all – but the really good news is that Donny’s brother, Jimmy, is planning to come over and join us on the big day. So if you’re going to be with us on the day, make sure you say hello and help him to feel really welcome. It’s so awesome that he’s going to be there.

Also on the subject of Donny’s family, we got this thank you card through the mail a few weeks ago from Donny’s nephews:

It’s still so weird and cool to me that part of this whole marriage deal is that as well as gaining a husband, I gain a whole new family of in-laws – including two young nephews. And full credit to Jimmy and his wife Sharon for making the effort to really help me feel included in the wider Wong clan. To be addressed as ‘Uncle Chris’ is just awesome – it shows that Jimmy and Sharon have recently done a bit of explaining to the kids about the full nature of our relationship.

It is interesting that it’s only really since Donny and I got engaged that the thank you cards started coming addressed to us both. What that demonstrates is the cultural power of the institution of marriage – by getting engaged Donny and I have communicated to our families and the wider world that ‘we come as a set and that isn’t going to change’. And people have to decide how they are going to respond to that: Donny’s parents’ response so far has been to try and ignore it, but Jimmy and Sharon have chosen to embrace it. And that’s awesome.