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The Schneider-Hulse Wedding

Update: Also see Flickr set of additional photos!

(Sunlight on the Richmond Bridge)

March 5 dawned bright and beautiful, and even with last-minute e-mail and phone calls, extensive pantyhose issues, and a power-walk around the Miller Knox park, we were out the door by 9 a.m. (though not without checking our purses at least a dozen times to ensure we had our picture ID and our paperwork for our noon appointment).

Our first stop was rather prosaic–we delivered the Civic to our mechanic, as the car had problems that needed attention right away, and we knew we’d be busy all day. We hoofed it in our wedding finery to the El Cerrito BART (past the doll store, the car wash, and the Hotsy Totsy bar), scooting through Starbucks for caffeine and a stack of newspapers to devour en route.

We made it to City Hall by 10:45–a good 45 minutes before we said we would be there–and up walked Marsha Harris, a member of our wedding party! Apparently we weren’t the only ones with big-day anxiety. The three of us went to Rite-Aid for some under-eye cream Sandy had a yen for. And why shouldn’t a bride get what she needs on her special day?

We had this vision of sitting in the City Hall cafe quaffing some refreshment and quietly reading the Times, but several more members of the wedding party materialized in the lobby, so with joy we gathered a circle of friends and caught up on chatter. The Times is with us every day… good friends less often. A full hour before our appointment to fill out paperwork, we were deep in discussion with Marsha, Mark, Jackie, Marian, Fred, my sister Maia (you can see her hand), and her friend Mitch. We were soon joined by John, who with Fred took most of the ceremony photographs that day.


Just before noon, Sandy and I, with John and Fred in trail, went off in search of Room 168, where we would fill out paperwork for our license. We passed so many same-sex couples walking to and from Room 168 that when I saw a mixed-gender couple I felt a little confused. What were they doing here? Oh, right–they can marry here, too. San Francisco is simply a marrying city!

En route we encountered several other members of the wedding party, including Monique and her delightful crew of kids, and David from SFPL. (As a librarian, I keep wanting to write weeding party…). I was trying to be a limpid doe-eyed bride, but at this point, with the hour upon us, the Captain Schneider persona emerged, and I quickly directed our friends to the City Hall cafe without breaking step as I marched us toward 168. It was time to take that hill.

This was our first encounter with San Francisco County staff, and everyone was so wonderful. I had heard they had all sustained good humor even when they were processing dozens of marriages an hour. With the stream of couples slowed to seven marriages an hour, per the new procedure, they were absolutely delightful; we felt warmly ushered into the state of marriage. I have never felt better writing a check made out to the government.


Once we had filled out this paperwork, we had a marriage license good for 90 days. Given the tenuous legal environment, our plan was always to marry immediately in City Hall. The couples who wed in the first week were happy to be married on the spot, but due to the new appointment schedule, we had the opportunity to plan a little (though we kept invitations in-state due to our concern that any minute the marriages might be stopped).

It was now time for the great event! My sister Maia had brought us lovely matching wedding bouquets, but when we walked into the foyer, a volunteer noted that people from around the country were donating bouquets. Floral arrangements were piled against one wall, a colorful greeting from well-wishers everywhere.

A courtly gentleman, Bill Jones, approached us and asked us where we wanted to be married. My first thought was, “City Hall, right?” We actually had options: downstairs; on the stairs; upstairs… far too many options given that at this point my brain was one long high-pitched sound drowning out any reasoning abilities.

We decided on the stairs, and friends and family gathered around as we said our vows. We also picked up several Japanese tourists, who later congratulated us profusely and no doubt are back in Tokyo showing relatives pictures of the strange but wonderful habits of those funny Americans.


We were both in awe of what was happening. It is very hard to explain what it means to be able to marry the person you love, joined together in the eyes of society, when less than a month ago this right had seemed as remote as Pluto. Sandy and I have ties that bind beyond the power of any license or certificate. But it is very meaningful to us that in San Francisco we are able to become “spouses for life,” in the language of our marriage vows, just like any other couple–which is what we are.


Two more members of the wedding party caught up with us after the ceremony, and we then proceeded to a lovely luncheon at Citizen Cake, where we dined on fancy salads and panini, and then shared a wonderful chocolate confection complete with two little brides, washed down with champagne and cider brought by our friend Monique.


Afterwards, we resumed life. We took BART back to the East Bay, learned that the Civic had racked up a steep repair bill, took our aching feet home, pulled on jeans, and went for dinner at the Hotel Mac with our friend Mark. But everywhere we went, we said, “we were married today!” And everyone–mechanics, maitre d’s, friends on the street–wished us well.

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