Being that MS and MK had been in Nepal for quite some time, neither of them had a lot of money saved that they could spend on a formal wedding. Unfortunately the K-1 fiancée visa timeline doesn’t really care about money or planning, all it cares about is the 90 day window a visa holder has to legally wed before filing for a change of status to permanent resident. So MS and MK decided they would do a small “paper signing” marriage to satisfy the requirements, and organize a larger event at some point in the future.
P and I figured we would get a call about the paper signing at some point soon, so that we (along with P’s brother U) could “represent” the P family at the ceremony. However MK’s arrival in the US coincided with the early days of P’s post-operative recovery, and she saw him at one of his lowest points of physical capability, leading her to think he probably wouldn’t be well enough to travel up to Vermont any time soon. MK reasoned that the ceremony wasn’t a big deal anyway, so the couple thought that it would be easier to sign any paperwork while at MS’s parents’ house over Thanksgiving weekend. Yet while discussing their idea with MS’s family the couple realized it took a few days to get a marriage license, and other complications would probably make Thanksgiving an improbable time. “Plus wouldn’t you want your cousins there?” asked MS’s sister-in-law. MK told her she didn’t think we would make it, but they encouraged her to call and invite us anyway.
About a week and a half ago we got the call. “If you aren’t busy, we are thinking of getting married on Sunday December 11th. We would love to have you, but we understand if you can’t make it.”
We assured them that we would (of course!) be there, and organized to meet up with P’s brother and drive up together.
The night before the wedding MS’s band had a scheduled gig in Burlington, and the “wedding party” all went to the show—MS’s parents, his older brother and sister-in-law, us three “P family” representatives, and two friends. MS, who comes from a very musical family, joined this up-and-coming band a few months before MK made it back to the US, and plays guitar and sings backup vocals. The music was great—a bit folky and a bit punk rocky, but something fun you could dance too–and the Burlington crowd was lively, cheering for MS when the lead singer announced, “Did you know you were at a bachelor’s party tonight? MS is getting married in the morning!”
I spent a lot of time talking to MS’s sister-in-law at the concert. She was curious to hear about my experiences as a foreigner in the family, and wanted to contextualize MS’s experience. When you are unfamiliar with another culture, it can be challenging to keep a relative perspective. It was also interesting to hear more about MS’s experiences in Nepal from his family’s side.
The house that MS and MK are renting for the winter is a summer vacation cottage north of Burlington on the shores of Lake Champlain. MS found the posting for a “winter caretaker/tenant” on Craigslist, and thought it would be a quaint spot for their first married winter together. The bungalow is tucked away on a back road farm, and it is a cozy, quiet place, heated by a woodstove, with beautiful views of the lake. We got back from the concert around 2am, played a sleepy game of “Apples to Apples” in front of the roaring fire to wind down from the evening, then wrapped up in warm blankets and headed off to bed.
By the time we all rolled out of bed in the morning there were only a few short hours before the ceremony was due to begin. Luckily MK and MS are pretty laid back and informal (unlike yours truly). They were making us scrambled eggs and cups of chai in their pajamas shortly before the “guests” (MS’s parents, brother, sister-in-law, and niece, and two couple friends) started arriving.
The day felt very “homespun” and it was sweet to keep it simple but intimate. Everything was done at the last minute, but turned out so lovely… I actually felt pretty emotional watching the ceremony.
For example– The day before MK had decided it would be fun to make an arch decoration for the couple to be married under. She didn’t think we would have time to come up with something, but I insisted we drive to a craft store before the concert and buy some fabric. After eating our scrambled eggs, MK and I were outside in our pajamas, shivering in the thirty degree temperature, tying tulle between trees on the cottage’s porch. A friend of MS’s came over with a bag of clothing and jewelry so that MK could find something to wear—MK picked out her outfit a mere hour before the program began. The same friend and I ran up and down the road looking for last minute flowers and eventually picked a small handful of hardy geraniums and tiny white flowers from a neighbor’s garden and tied them with ribbon.
The music was also improvised, but lovely. MS’s parents and brother brought their guitars, and U borrowed MS’s, and the family jammed together after the ceremony.
One of the best last minute surprises of the day was that P and U figured out a way to Skype their family back home through an iPhone so that P’s dad, J Phupu and MK’s sister could watch the ceremony unfold through the internet.
The brief ceremony started with a song that MS wrote for his brother’s wedding. He sang it for MK, with a chorus that went, “there is only one woman you will call your ‘wife’.” Then the justice of the peace (another neighbor… luckily not the same neighbor we had just stolen some flowers from!) led the 14 of us outside and started the ceremony under our improvised “arch.” MS lit a large candle to represent the fire he had seen at Hindu weddings, and the justice of the peace introduced the ceremony, explaining it was six years in the making. MS recited his vows, and MK hers, then they exchanged rings that they had brought back from Nepal. MS’s parents offered a blessing, and then MS was able to “kiss the bride” after being legally declared husband and wife. MS’s dad played the guitar, while the family sang sweet love songs to the new couple (while walking back inside to warm up by the fire!)
We cracked open a bottle of champagne and offered a toast. MS’s dad said a few words, and then J Phupu—still watching via Skype on the iphone from Nepal—decided to say a few words as well. With P translating, J Phupu also gave the couple her blessing. It was a very touching moment… linking two families, even though it was rocky at first, and even with a distance of thousands of miles.
The rest of the evening we ate South Asian food, listened to music played by MS’s parents, brother and U, and got to know each other better. It was such a wonderful day, and my heart is brimming over with happiness for my—as MK introduced me at the wedding—“sister-in-law” and my new “jwain” (brother-in-law).