Wedding witness

This is a true story.

Once upon a time (two years ago), I was down at the city clerk’s office on this day, November 14th.  Among all the people there that day I instantly noticed these two girls; one very fair and wearing a fabulous hat, the other was shorter, darker, and not so fabulous a hat.  I knew they noticed me right away too because I was wearing a velvet cocktail hat that I’d purchased at a vintage store earlier in the year.

As people lined up for the varying reasons you’d have to be at the city clerk’s office in downtown Manhattan, I silently watched the two women.  They seemed worried, you see, and they wore that worry plainly.  After about ten minutes, a man came and brought them something in a brown paper bag.  Initially, they looked very happy to see him.  Unfortunately, the happiness was short lived.  He left in less than five minutes, and the worry returned to their faces, panic slowly creeping in as well.

You do not have to be a psychic to predict what happened next.

The taller lady (aka “fabulous hat”) walked up to me.  “Hello, may I ask you for a favour?”  A very quick explanation revealed that they were to be married that day, but the man they had chosen to be their witness could no longer serve the purpose because something important had come up.  And, unfortunately, there was no other day to be married because a) neither of them live in the New York City and they’d taken the train in just to do it that day  and b) the shorter one is actually Indian and she is booked to go home that week, and it is through their being married that day will they be able to get her the proper visa so she can stay in the country and they can live together as wife and wife.

Yes was the only answer.

Lining up with them, giving my ID for the clerk to record, watching my name go on record, I was thankful for my hat.  I honestly believe that the hats are what gave us that sense of camaraderie, the “this person will understand it” feeling.

When their number was called, I walked with them to the chapel, and asked them for their mobile phone.  “Why?” the shorter one asked.

“So I can record this ceremony for you,” I said.  And they complied.

These women did not write their own vows.  Neither of them wore wedding dresses.  They did not have any rings for each other either.  But the emotion I felt in the room, as they both said “I do” was so genuine, the intensity and passion with which they kissed each other… vows, rings, dresses… absolutely not needed.

As I gave them my congratulations and hugs (because at that moment we were not strangers), and as they thanked me, I realised that I had done and witnessed one of the most beautiful things I will ever have the privilege of doing in my lifetime: gave a little bit of my time and supported true true love.

‘Fabulous hat’ said: “We owe you everything, but we’ll never see you again.”

“That’s okay,” I replied. “If you really need me, you can always ask the city clerk for the name of the woman who witnessed your ceremony.  I’m on Facebook.”

We all laughed at that and wished each other good day.  It was early afternoon, and in the city that never sleeps, there was still a lot to do.

I have never received a Facebook message request or friend request from either of the ladies.  But on this day, the one that marks their wedding day, I am sharing this story as my own way of saying Happy Anniversary! wherever you may be.

The hat that started it all!

The hat that started it all!


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