Margo Foster and Taryn Pimento on their wedding day, June 2nd, 2012. Photo credit: Erika Jacobs
It’s wedding season! As everyone who’s watched a reality TV show knows, it all comes down to the dress. But what do you do when there are two brides instead of one? In this first half of a two-part series, I explore how my friends confronted the challenges and opportunities of a lesbian wedding.
I’m an odd person to do this, as I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my dream wedding. Okay, that’s a bit of a lie. Most friends know my intense desire for an Indian wedding. Since I can’t bring myself to change my relationship status on Facebook, I’m clearly not ready for the commitment of marriage. Because most of my friends are gay guys and artsy, independent girls, I’ve been spared the deluge of wedding invitations that descend on most people in their twenties–a relief, as I’m not a huge fan of the Wedding Industrial Complex. I especially resent the whole Stag and Doe tradition of pressuring guests to pay for the wedding in addition to buying gifts. For me, weddings are the original unsympathetic Kickstarter.
But I had only happy thoughts when I opened my invitation to the wedding of Taryn Pimento and Margo Foster. Taryn and I went to elementary school together. (For the plays my friends and I staged, the two of us would split the boy parts.) She was a skilled athlete, a talented musician, and a kid wise beyond her years. Taryn met Margo, a redhead with a innocent face and a quick tongue, in the Adult Education program at OISE/UT. The rapidity of their relationship makes sense when you witness their love first hand.
The wedding, held last June at a restaurant in the Distillery District, was the most elegant one I had ever been to. The couple went to Spain afterwards, and I barely saw them before recently showing up at their house in the East End to interview them. As we spoke I played with a rescue dog with the face of an Ewok, named Coco.
“Taryn and I met in grad school,” Margo said. “She made the first move by inviting me over to watch The L Word.”
“Why are you telling this?” Taryn asked. “All you have to say is we met at grad school. It was your idea to watch The L Word. For the record, I hadn’t seen it. Margo owned all of the boxed sets.”
Speaking of stereotypes, the two shortly moved in together. About six months later, they were engaged. They talked about getting married eventually, but Taryn wanted to spring the question out of nowhere because she knew how much Margo loved surprises. She planned an elaborate scheme that incorporated Margo’s family, who flew in secretly from New Brunswick.
“I told Margo we were going to dinner with my family,” Taryn said. “We went for a walk through Cabbagetown on the way to the restaurant, where we didn’t actually have reservations. We stopped at this fair trade jewelry shop. It was really important to Margo that she have conflict-free diamonds and gold that was ethically mined.”
“Lesbian!” Margo cried. “Usually I can read her pretty well. I had no idea. We’d been to the shop before, and in order to get in she says ‘Do you want to go look at rings?’ And I said ‘No thanks! I think I’m just ready to go to dinner.’”
“For a second I was like, Panic! Every other time she’d go out of her way to go there! I had to say ‘Oh, we’ll just stop in quickly.’”
Taryn had a musician friend begin to play as they entered the shop, and then asked the question.
“And I started to cry,” Margo said.
“Weep,” Taryn corrected. “And then all our families burst out from the back.”
“How early did you start visualizing the wedding?” I asked.
“About the second I got the ring on my finger,” said Margo. But they gave themselves plenty of time to plan, which made up for a couple of false starts.
Taryn said, “We mistakenly went to one of those giant wedding vendor shows…”
“…at the Ex. Never go to the Ex.”
“First, it was stuff that we wouldn’t want anyway. Secondly, people actually could not understand that we were together.”
“I think it’s because of the way we present,” Margo theorized. “Maybe they had ideas that we should be a really butch-looking couple. We’d be walking by a tuxedo vendor and they’d be like ‘Ladies, do you need tuxes for your fiancés?’ And we’d be like ‘No thanks.’ ‘Are you sure? We have really great specials on now.’ ‘No, it’s not…we’re marrying each other so we don’t really need tuxes.’ And they’d just be like, ‘Oh, you’re getting married on the same day? So you need two tuxes!’”
“It’s not like we were beating around the bush about it. But we had to repeat it over and over. And there was a point where we had to go into the washroom because Margo was crying.”
“I burst into tears,” said Margo. “This was pretty soon after we got engaged, so all I had experienced before then was our families being fantastic, and our friends being so happy for us. We’ve had experiences in this city before with people being not that happy that we’re gay. I was kind of insulated from that, even though we knew it would come with planning a wedding ’cause it’s such a hetero-normative thing to do. Coming face to face with it, right at the beginning of the process, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I feared that this is what it would be like the whole time we planned our wedding–fighting with people to try to make it the day that we wanted. We didn’t go to any wedding shows after that.”
“I thought one reason you got so upset is you felt like you had to legitimize our relationship every time. When that many people seem surprised that you’re there, it makes it seem like it’s not okay.”
After that, the couple sought out vendors on a case by case basis, fully vetting them for queer positivity. Eventually, they started to enjoy wedding planning and ended up making a lot of things themselves.
“Taryn’s Dad made all the centrepieces,” Margo said. “We thrifted all sorts of things. We collected the little glass bud vases from antique dealers. We had vintage hankies.”
“…for the wedding party?”
“…for our snot. Like, for me to blow my nose in. You can get really sucked into the details.” Margo explained that you end up making countless decisions about the thousand shades of white. “When you get married, you get delusional and you think it’s important. One thing we said is that we’re lucky we’re both women and liked doing it. Can you imagine if you were a straight woman and you had some guy uninterested in how many shades of white there are? Imagine how devastating your life would be.”
There was no bigger challenge, in terms of combating hetero-norms as well as selecting the perfect shade of white, than picking the wedding dresses.
“We didn’t want to wear two long, white wedding dresses,” Margo explained. “We had all these funny experiences in bridal stores. First, the staff didn’t know what the hell to do with you because we’re two brides. They’d put you in things which were totally different. I would be in a beaded shift. Taryn would have a drapey, silky thing on. We’d stand together and it looked weird. They’d try to put veils on us. We didn’t want to wear veils. We knew we wanted to look like ourselves, not some crazy bridal versions of ourselves. And not like a butch-femme couple that we’re not. But it was really, really hard to find something in between.”
“I actually chose to wear a dress in order to basically not make…” Taryn began, then stopped and started again. “In an ideal world, I would be most comfortable in pants, like a women’s tuxedo that was tailored. Tighter, with heels maybe to femme it up a bit. We don’t define our relationship in terms of gender roles, but if I wear a tuxedo, other people are going to project them on us. And I don’t want to deal with that. So I was just going to wear a dress I was comfortable in. I deliberately avoided wearing probably what I would have been most comfortable in to avoid that sort of stereotype.”
“Traditional weddings are designed to showcase the bride,” Taryn continued. “Bridal gowns are really showy. It’s just too much to have two women in traditional bridal gowns. Way too much.”
“…for us,” Margo added.
“Yeah, for us.”
“We tried on dozens and dozens of things.”
“Was it at least educational for what you didn’t want to do?” I asked.
“Oh fuck, we tried on some ugly stuff!” Margo exclaimed.
“But mostly it was we had to choose stuff that worked with each other,” Taryn reiterated.
“When we’re talking about different shades of white, that was a serious problem. We’d ask, ‘Can they both be cream?’ There are 10,000 shades of cream. You can’t have one wedding dress that’s a different colour of cream than the other one!”
That became the problem when Margo eventually found the dress she wanted, based on a pattern from the 1950’s, at Vintage Cabaret.
“As soon as I put it on my body, I was sold a hundred percent. It had a tight bodice and a pouf skirt, big pockets (for all my vintage hankies), and a sweetheart neckline. We got to choose the colour.”Photo credit: Erika Jacobs
“They called it ‘Antique Ivory,’” Taryn offered. Margo put a hold on her bolt of fabric, but Taryn was still making up her mind. “I think I still wasn’t set on wearing a dress. My dilemma was being true to myself while representing our relationship.”
“We underestimated how stressful weddings are and the pressure other people put on you, their expectations of what you’ll look like,” Margo said.
“If I was someone who was like, ‘Fuck it all!’ and was super, super confident in what I wanted, I think I would have been fine. But because I’m sensitive I knew it would affect me.”
“Your parents are amazingly supportive. They did half of the work for our wedding. But they wouldn’t have been thrilled if you’d worn a tux.”
“My mom seemed to be on board,” Taryn said. “She was totally cool. My dad was like, ‘Oh really? I guess that’s cool.’ I could tell he still, even though I was marrying a woman, he wanted his little girl in a dress. Even though my parents are so not into stereotypical gender roles. They don’t play those in their relationship.” The couple ran into a similar problem when they said they were going to walk down the aisle together. Both fathers balked, so they settled on each bride walking with her parents.
“One thing about planning a wedding is how other people are going to take the elements of it, and what’s going to make them uncomfortable,” Taryn said. “It’s as much for other people as it is for you.”
Eventually, Taryn found an elegant pattern also from Vintage Cabaret she could get behind.
“I think it was called ‘Grace Kelly’. It had some elements of a tuxedo, like a built-in cummerbund.” They added a lace bolero at the last minute, which ended up being one of the most expensive items either of them wore.
On the day of, the women asked their makeup artist if they could cry. “Oh girls, don’t worry,” she said, “You can cry hysterically.”
They ended up looking so beautiful that they were even complimented by the wedding crasher. But the most lovely anecdote about their matching Antique Ivory dresses? Taryn and Margo intend to donate them to charity.
“I don’t get why you would keep them,” Taryn said. “Maybe if you’re holding onto it for sentimental reasons, but if you’re keeping it because you think you’re daughter’s going to want it…”
“I’m attached to my dress because I wore it for quite honestly the best day of my life,” said Margo. “And putting it on for something else it just wouldn’t feel right. We thought about the dresses more than any other part of the wedding, other than maybe the guest list. Both of us are people who don’t have trouble getting dressed. It shouldn’t have been so hard. But it was, I think because it was non-traditional in so many ways. And because it was so meaningful. Everyone cares about the dress. Without being Bridezillas, we also cared about the dress.”
Tune in tomorrow to read about a couple that had completely opposite thoughts on what to wear for a lesbian wedding.
Max Mosher writes about style for Toronto Standard. You can follow him on Twitter at @max_mosher_.