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How about Ford's Theatre? Lincoln inspired the IRS and was shot at Ford's, making it a darkly romantic nexus of death and taxes. Alas, it's closed for renovation. The nearby house where Lincoln died? Even less tasteful, which, in the anti-wedding industry, is rather a plus. At this point, we are informed by the Department of the Interior that, though the house is open, we're not permitted to have a wedding there. We insist that we won't have any regulation wedding gear; we will be indistinguishable from a tour group. Sorry, no, Interior says. So we ask about outdoor weddings in D.C., and Interior informs us that there are only two approved sites for outdoor weddings on National Mall and Memorial Parks property: the Tidal Basin and the WWI Memorial. This is because weddings have setup, says one National Park Service guy. Chairs for guests. Napkins that blow away. The flowered altar, red carpet, all that. We deny we will have any of it, but no one believes us.
Clearly, the only difference between 40 people visiting a site for 15 minutes and 40 people visiting a site for a 15-minute wedding is the weight of the word "wedding"; it carries assumptions of crystal chandeliers and heart-shaped carriages drawn by swans. All weddings are tarred by Modern Bride's brush, inseparable from all the stuff presumed to go along with them, and therefore confined to places where they can be controlled.
The anti-wedding planners gnash their teeth. What exactly could be done to us if we show up someplace public -- no froufrou dress, no props -- and say the words that get Jaqi and Chris married? Surely, we wouldn't be arrested, right? And if we were, it would be ridiculous and unjust, wouldn't it? We are sure Thoreau and Gandhi would agree that if a law is unjust, the responsible thing to do is peacefully disobey in some flagrant manner.
For example, a sneak-attack wedding during a White House tour. Who could stop us? A brief huddle, a 30-second, carefully choreographed ceremony, and Jaqi Ross and Chris Rossi of Rosslyn would be the 10th couple ever to get married in the White House. Perfect! Jaqi has only one question: Could the anti-wedding planners please guarantee that she wouldn't get hustled away in handcuffs and/or lose her job?
Our heads hit our desks. Suddenly, it seems possible that we can't do this, that there is no way to pull off the sane, stuff-free wedding of our couple's dreams. We are stymied by the twin conformist monsters of The Knot and The Man.
All we want to do is gather 40 people on public property, say some words and have a ceremony. This is an issue of freedom of speech, religion and assembly. And this is America.
That's when it hits us. It might be the anger; it might be despair; it might be the head injury, but we start hearing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" in our minds.
It's a protest, right? Then let's protest this wanton abridgement of basic human rights, the industry and the government that make it near impossible to be sensible and get married. The wedding itself will be a demonstration. Signs. Chanting. Burning effigies.
Best of all: Where permits are concerned, the "demonstration" label liberates us. We are free to station ourselves at protest headquarters U.S.A., proudly beside the other indignant visionaries with lost causes but inextinguishable hopes. The protest and wedding will be in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House.
Jaqi and Chris are enthusiastic about the protest ceremony idea, but want it to be legit so as to avoid possible federal career suicide. We must file for a demonstration permit but be clear about the wedding element.
We also make arrangements for a reception at Bertucci's Restaurant in Arlington. This is bittersweet for the planners. Bertucci's is definitely a step up from PB&J, and the dinner will account for the vast majority of our under-$3,000 budget (roughly one-tenth of the average American wedding budget). But we're pleased that there will be no champagne, no canapes, no marinated salmon on a bed of fresh whatever. There will be pizza, spaghetti and beer. There will be readings of hilariously terrible love poetry presented by the bride's ex-boyfriend. There will be no wedding cake.