November 21, 2014
Efrem and I are taking a longer than normal Thanksgiving break, because this will be his first one, and because as a family we decided to try and do a repeat of last year (having an extended family Thanksgiving). This year my cousin, who lives in Virginia Beach, decided to host it. So we had a pretty long (15 hour) drive ahead of us, that we were going to do with my parents. But before the long drive, my parents, invited us to this fundraising dinner that was going to happen before the Thanksgiving trip, so we drove over to Destin a couple of days early.
We’ve been debating for the longest how we wanted our “legal-day” to go. “Legal-day” meaning the day Efrem and I get legally married. We realize that married is really only married if it’s done legally and that calling it a “legal-day” is a bunch of semantics, but that’s how we think of it. We don’t view it as our wedding day because that will be the day (next year) when all of our family and friends will be there; and it will be planned and fun. The “legal-day” for us is just another hurdle we have to jump over (within 90 days, hence “90 day fiancé) so we can file the adjustment of status (AOS) paperwork. BUT, we know that our nonchalant attitude towards it is difficult for others to understand, namely family and folks who don’t really get the process. For them it is a big deal.
My mom really wanted us to get married in a church, which is not something I ever envisioned for myself. Nor have I ever been too keen on getting married by a religious official. Some of the more “traditional” language utilized in the marriage ceremony makes me uncomfortable. But given that nothing about our relationship has been typical or traditional, and since Efrem is quite religiously inclined, I conceded, or rather compromised, to having someone from the church officiate our legal-day. (I still wasn’t getting married inside of the church walls themselves).
We had discussed this point awhile back, before Efrem had even arrived in-country, because we knew we had such a short time-frame with which to make these decisions and develop a plan of action. So my mom started speaking to the minister of her church back in the summer to let him know what was happening and how the K1 visa process worked. She made the effort to keep him informed of the progress of our case: when we got our appointment date, when Efrem had his interview, when his visa was approved, when he had his visa in hand, and when he landed in the US, which would officially start the 90 day countdown.
The first roadblock to his officiating our wedding was the fact that he typically liked to counsel couples for at least a year. While we understood that was his practice, we didn’t even have 6 months to devote to counseling, let alone a year. We had 90 days. Well, not even the full 90 days because you need to leave yourself enough time to file for AOS. Despite this, he agreed to perform the ceremony on the condition that we do a few counseling sessions with him, which presented the second roadblock: distance. My parents live in Florida, and we live in New Orleans, and I wasn’t going to have the time off from work to go there to attend weekly sessions. However, we agreed we would try and schedule some times in between my other commitments to drive there. I tried to uphold our end of the commitment, but through all the back and forth with my mom and the minister, it was looking like counseling sessions weren’t going to happen, since no dates and times were ever offered or discussed.
We also couldn’t seem to get any clarity on the date he would be available to actually perform the ceremony. Efrem and I thought a good time would be sometime during this weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving since we were going to be home anyway, or immediately after we got back from Thanksgiving. But again, we just couldn’t seem to get a clear answer.
By the start of this month (November), Efrem and I started getting frustrated, and worried about what we were going to do. Our 90 days is coming to an end, and while we’re both completely content to just go to the courthouse, we didn’t want anyone to be disappointed by our doing that. We also still had to coordinate getting our marriage license if we were going to do it in Florida. The marriage license application is only available during the week during normal 9-5 working hours, and there’s a 3-day waiting period between filing for a license and its being valid. As we got closer to this weekend, it became pretty clear that the minister wasn’t going to perform the wedding ceremony, even if he wouldn’t explicitly say so. We could never get a clear answer from him about his availability. So we decided that if we didn’t hear anything from him by the time we got to Destin, that we’d go forward with the courthouse wedding.
We got to Destin. He was silent. We went to the county clerk’s office and filed for a marriage license and decided we’d get married after we got back from VA Beach. At some point I suppose he realized that he wasn’t comfortable with marrying two people who he didn’t know well and who hadn’t gone through his extensive counseling. And that would be a fair sentiment IF he wasn’t well informed of our situation well in advance, which he absolutely was. We didn’t pick the time frame, the government did. From the time I started the application back in January, everyone was clear that as soon as Efrem landed we’d have 90 days to get married in order for him to remain in this country.
When we saw the minister at the fundraising dinner, he told us that he was sorry he wouldn’t be able to perform the ceremony, because on the date “we chose” he would be out of town. The date we chose. The date we chose?? We only chose that date, at the very last minute mind you, because he wouldn’t tell us a date that would work for him! And instead of owning that he didn’t want to participate, he shifted his inability to participate on us saying that we voluntarily picked a date that wouldn’t work for him.
I get that not everyone is going to be understanding, or may even take issue with how quickly we have to get married for the sake of the immigration process, but if you’re not on board, then the respectful thing to do is to just get out of the way. Don’t be an obstruction. If you don’t want to be involved, then be up front about it and say “no” in no unclear terms, rather than holding up a crucial part of our timeline and our lives by trying to maintain the appearance of being supportive while actually being incredibly evasive and inconsiderate.