By the spring of 2000, Brandon and I had settled into the routine of living together and by all accounts everything was perfect. Not only had I found the man I was looking for my entire life, but my relationship with Brandon was playing a huge role in what I felt was my long overdue development into adulthood. Yet for all this, there was a nagging feeling developing that there was something bigger missing, something else that I should be doing at this stage of life.
I had a long discussion about this with Brandon one night in the summer of 2000. I explained that I felt our families and other straight peers had very significant markers that moved them forward through the process of aging – starting a career, getting married, becoming parents, becoming grandparents, retiring and so on. I bemoaned the fact that the gay version of aging only had the superficial work-related events to mark the advances in one’s life. When Brandon pointed out that many childless married couples do just fine I had to agree but at the same time knew that they still shared something crucial that their gay counterparts didn’t have, something I just couldn’t put my finger on. Then it suddenly struck me – Brandon’s description of the couples as “married”. No matter how much our commitment to each other paralleled that of these straight couples, Brandon and I did not share a marriage like they did.
The significance of a wedding became clear immediately as I remembered two couples who I had seen marry over the previous years. One couple had very traditional views and couldn’t wait to graduate from college to get married. By being involved in their ceremony as an usher I was able to realize for the first time the calculated brilliance behind the rite I had taken for granted for so long. By wrapping a standard legal procedure in a cloak of ceremony involving a house of worship, a sanctified celebrant, centuries-old pageantry and the couple’s families and many friends, the church deliberately adds a profound psychological effect to the process. And the result of that effect on the couple is to maximize the potential for the marriage to succeed. Technically, whether a couple gets married in minimal civil procedure or in a full-blown ceremony like the one just described, all they have to do to end the marriage is to file for a divorce. Realistically though, by choosing to make their vows public and religious, a couple will feel far more bound to remain committed during difficult times if for no other reason than the sheer humiliation of having to tell their priest, family and friends that they had in effect reneged on the solemn promise they had made in front of them all.
Brandon and I, on the other hand, had no more outward motivation for making our relationship work than we had a year prior. No matter how much we loved each other or what we said to one another in private, technically we would be doing no more than dating for the rest of our lives.
I had also come to realize that even non-traditional weddings have a significant impact. The second couple I knew involved a co-worker who had been in an obviously loving relationship for years but who had no intention of getting married as she could see no practical reason for it, particularly because they had no desire to have children. She also hated all the hype and ceremony that came with a typical wedding. Then one day she announced that she was getting married after all. Just as with the first scenario, my friend’s love for her partner didn’t change one iota from the day before the wedding to the day after, yet my perception of her relationship and commitment, along with the perception of all her friends and family, changed forever precisely because of their decision to exchange vows and rings. (And I didn’t even attend the wedding!)
This outward perception was also very important to me. While Brandon and I knew we’d be together forever, I needed my friends and family to know that too. It was important to me that they became aware that this was not just another boyfriend in a series of life-long short term relationships. This was different. This was it!
The evidence was inarguable to me – marriage was exactly the component that was missing from both the relationship and from my life. But although Brandon had agreed that he would like to be married, I very deliberately refrained from setting a date during our conversation that night. This was because of another epiphany I had while arguing the merits of marriage: I needed to officially propose to Brandon in order to prove to myself that I was ready to commit to marriage. A great sense of peace came over me as I sat there watching him as he continued the discussion and thought to myself “I’m going to marry you Brandon.”
My decision to wait turned out to be absolutely the right thing to do. By making myself propose I was forced to take concrete steps such as setting an date and putting a down payment on a ring. This in turn ensured that not a day went by for months when I didn’t think of the implications of what I was doing. I was like any other man preparing to propose, I imagine. Although you don’t doubt your love for your partner, you do take a long hard look at yourself, your hopes, your dreams and your readiness to take such an irrevocable step. And though it was often nerve-wracking, over time the doubt decreased and the certainty that Brandon was the one for me only grew stronger. While Brandon went about his life in blithe ignorance of what I was planning, I was using each day to examine him and our relationship under a microscope. And all I saw were wonderful things.
I had originally planned to wait until our anniversary on November 27 but the more confident I became about my decision to propose, the more I realized I should do it on my birthday on October 4. This would give me an excuse to set up a special evening without giving away my true intentions and it would also allow him to give the news to his family in person when he left for Victoria the next day.
Luckily picking out the ring was a simple task because we had gone shopping for rings months earlier when we had decided that we would replace our original ones with something more substantial around Christmas. The young saleswoman at Birks didn't blink an eye when I told her the purpose of the ring I was ordering and congratulated me as I left the store. I took a deep breath when I returned to pick it up on the day of the proposal – there was no turning back now! By the time I arrived home to dress for our dinner date I was pretty much a complete wreck. I was literally trembling as I ran over the arrangements in my mind repeatedly to make sure that I wasn’t forgetting anything. Yet I also had to make sure to act like this was just like any other day or I felt Brandon would certainly sense I was up to something!
We had made reservations at Canoe, an upscale restaurant overlooking the Toronto financial district that I had wanted to visit for years. I had informed them that this was to be a birthday and engagement dinner in order to ensure a table with a view. I didn’t know how they would react when I showed up with another man but it turned out the staff couldn’t have been more supportive. Despite that, by this point I was such a bundle of raw nerves that I didn’t know how I’d make it to dessert without exploding. So much so that I seriously considered popping the question before I had even sat down just so I could get it over with! But I ordered a drink instead and that allowed me to relax and enjoy the thought of what a special moment was about to befall my beloved.
The service and the food were superlative, from complimentary custom made hors d’oeuvres to our Canadian cuisine entrées, Canoe’s specialty. Brandon had caribou and I had Alberta Angus beef – both done to perfection. Finally it was time. I placed the order for dessert - including two discreetly requested glasses of champagne - then turned to Brandon.
We had talked about a commitment ceremony quite a lot while dating and decided that eventually it would be something we would do. I assumed it would be a few years away and that it certainly wouldn't involve a real proposal. Not if Peter had anything to do with it!
I love birthdays, so I was very excited about going out for Peter’s. As he had planned, it made a good cover for his ulterior motive. He did a great job at hiding his strategy and his nerves – I had absolutely no idea anything was going on. Although I did find it very odd that he was so reluctant to check his coat when we got to the restaurant and then dashed away as soon as we sat down! He sure needed his Lactaid pills, I guessed. (He later told me he had gone back to get his ring out of the coat and was sure I’d see the square shaped lump in his pocket as he returned to the table.)
exquisite dinner went on without a hitch; it was perfect. After they cleared the main course Peter got a little quiet then
said that as remarkable as dinner had been there was one more thing he
wanted for his birthday. He
said he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me -
would I marry him? He
presented me with a small blue Birks box, and inside there was a shining silver band.
overwhelmed and searched for the perfect response to such a wonderful
question. “Sure!” was
what came out. Inside I had
an intense welling of emotion and I wanted to tell him YES with all my
heart. I think he got the
point from the huge smile on his face. That was one of the most amazing moments in my entire life. I
wanted to hold on to it forever because I knew that it would never
happen again. In that
instant the bond between us jumped to an entirely new level. For the next few minutes we were in our own world, filled with a
silent and pure understanding of our love for each other. And just as our eyes started to tear over a server came to our
table to offer some bread to start our meal! We laughed as the moment was broken
by this first lapse in the
outstanding service but the staff resumed their stride when they presented our
dessert with "Congratulations"
written in chocolate syrup around the rim of the plate. Pete told me the story of how he came to his decision and
I couldn’t stop thinking of how exactly “him” it all was. The evening ended as another perfect milestone on our journey
Next it was my turn to buy Peter his ring. We agreed that we’d both wear one as “engagement” rings on our right hands then change them to the left when we exchanged vows. I knew I couldn’t top his surprise, but I still wanted to make it special. I decided our anniversary in November would be the perfect time. I was so excited I ordered the ring the Monday after the engagement. It came a week later and I had to hide it for a month and a half! Finally, just after midnight on the morning of the 27th I gave Peter his ring as we were lying in bed. He was actually caught completely off guard! He wore it proudly all day at work and then that night as we attended Dame Edna’s "The Royal Tour" at the Pantages Theatre, which was great fun. (I wonder if she would have given us her blessing?) And so we started our third year together as an officially engaged couple.
Page last updated October 06, 2013