Smaller ceremonies planned for many same-sex marriages

08/31/09 8:57AM By Ross Sneyd
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Michael Sheppard (left) and Jace Sheppard

(Host) Many gay and lesbian couples will hold small, low key ceremonies when they gain the legal right to marry this week.

Some say they've already had several celebrations of their relationship over the years and don't plan a big wedding.

VPR's Ross Sneyd has our story.

(Sneyd) Eileen Blackwood and her partner, Lynn Goyette, had a big commitment ceremony with family and friends on their tenth anniversary together.

That was 13 years ago. When civil unions came along in 2000, they had another ceremony, this one smaller, mostly with friends.

This week they can get married. And they will. But pretty simply.

(Blackwood) "We just have this feeling that trying to do a big celebration at this point is not something that we want to do. We've been in a relationship for a long time. We don't feel a need to recommit because that sort of implies we haven't been committed and we have."

(Sneyd) Blackwood and Goyette aren't alone. In the state that invented civil unions, a lot of couples have already had their celebrations.

This week, for many, is about gaining the legal rights that they believe one day will accompany marriage across the country.

And many aren't really sure how to mark the occasion. Big wedding? Small party? Just the paperwork?

(Blackwood) "Certainly I think it's a big debate among couples as to what to do. And part of it I think has to do with how long people have been a relationship, how big a do they did for civil unions, or if they did anything for civil unions. Some people didn't and were just waiting for marriage. I think it's a little bit different for every couple."

(Sneyd) Jace and Michael Sheppard are among the couples who weren't sure they'd ever be able to get married.

So they decided to go with a civil union. Here's Jace, and then Michael picks up the story.

(Jace) Jace: "We had our civil union last summer in June, in my parents' back yard, nice 80-people thing."

Michael: "Yeah, it was a big nice event. It was really great. We hadn't really known the marriage law was going to pass. And so we'd wanted to do a big thing when we decided to get married. And then of course it got passed relatively soon after. And now we're like, I guess we'll do a quick little wedding."

Jace: "June 7 of '08 will remain our anniversary date. That's definitely the day that's special to us."

(Sneyd) The Sheppards discovered they could get their license in advance. So they've already got it and plan a very brief ceremony in their house in Colchester. They'll repeat their vows from last year and exchange the same rings they exchanged last year

They want it to be simple, but friends and co-workers will be there.

It's what's right for them and many other couples. But some still wonder whether they ought mark the occasion again with another party. Eileen Blackwood says she and Goyette keep going back and forth and may still change their minds.

(Blackwood) "Well, we haven't yet. There's still a few more days before Sept. 1 to do that."

(Sneyd) They have decided for certain that they will get married on Tuesday, the first day they can.

For VPR News, I'm Ross Sneyd.


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