Day 39: Obstacles to Getting Married

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 our “legal-day” is going to play out. “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 out and fun. Our “legal-day” for us is 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…itch (Man and wife?—why does he get to be a human while I’m just some extension of his humanity?) But given that nothing in our relationship has played out in the most straightforward or traditional manner, and since Efrem is quite religiously inclined, I conceded, or rather, compromised on 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 mother had started speaking to the minister of her church back in the summer to let him know what was happening, how the K1 process worked, and what the time frame was. She kept him informed of the progress of our process—when we got our appointment date, when Efrem had his interview, when he was approved, when he had his visa, and when he landed, which officially started our 90 day countdown.

The roadblock to his officiating our wedding was the fact that he typically liked to counsel the couples for at least a year. While we understood his practice, we knew we didn’t even have 6 months to devote to this endeavor, let alone a year. We had 90 days, and not even the full 90 days at that. We also, of course, do not live in Destin, nor have we had the time off to spend over in Destin to attend weekly sessions. However, despite all of this, he still agreed to perform our ceremony, with a redacted counseling process. So we went back and forth with my mother trying to settle on times we could do a session or two and a date for when we could do the ceremony, trying to time it for when we could get back over there in between our other commitments. We thought a good time would be sometime during this weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving, or immediately after we got back from Thanksgiving, but we couldn’t seem to get a clear answer from him either way.

Naturally, during the month of November, Efrem and I began getting a bit frustrated, and a bit worried about what we were going to do. Time was ticking, and while we were both completely content to just go to the courthouse, we didn’t want anyone to be disappointed by our going that route. We also had to coordinate getting our marriage license if we were going to do it around this time. The marriage license application is only available during the week during normal 9-5 working hours, and Florida has a 3 day waiting period between filing for a license and its being valid. Timing was key for all of this if we were going to get it done.

As we got closer to this weekend, it became pretty clear that he wasn’t going to perform the wedding ceremony. We could never get a definitive answer as to when he would be available, so both of us resolved to go forward with the courthouse wedding if by the time we got to Destin he hadn’t given us any feedback. We got to Destin, we hadn’t gotten any word from him, so we went to the county clerk’s office and filed for a marriage license with the intention of tying the knot after we got back from Thanksgiving break. I guess at the end of all of the back and forth with the Minister, 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, which would be a fair sentiment if he hadn’t been well informed of our situation, well in advance. Our time frame wasn’t a personal choice, it was a government requirement in order for us to be and stay together. The reason he gave us in-person for not  performing the ceremony, was that he would be out of town on the date we chose to get married…the date we chose at the very last minute only because he wouldn’t let us know a date that would be suitable for him.

I get that not everyone can understand or be on board with how our relationship is and has to be for the sake of the immigration process, but if you’re not on board, then the courteous thing to do is to just be up front and say “no” in no unclear terms, rather than holding up a crucial part of our lives by trying to appear to be accommodating while actually being incredibly evasive and inconsiderate.