Planning a Surprise Gay Wedding in the Caribbean Isn't Easy
By Lee Arnold
“Surprise… we’re getting married on Saba!” That’s what I said to my partner Neal as we headed south to wed on the Dutch island of Saba. What makes this humorous, and a tad cruel, is that Neal had been telling everyone that Canada was going to be the site of our vows. So let me explain.
In May of 2013, while in Paris celebrating Neal's 50th birthday, I decided we should elope to Saba in 2014 and be married on the 16th anniversary of our first date. The only catch was that I had no intention of telling Neal any of this.
In February 2014, I handed a form to Neal and said "Here, sign this." He asked what he was signing; I said that I needed a copy of his birth certificate. He asked, “What for?” and I said, "None of your beeswax.” He signed reluctantly.
In March I told Neal to take June 10-13 off from work. He asked, “If this is for my nephew's wedding on June 14, why do we need to take so much time off just to fly to Wisconsin for the weekend?”
“Just do it and don't ask any questions,” I answered. But suddenly a light went off over Neal's head: “Hey wait a minute...you're getting a copy of my birth certificate and now you want me to take off a week in June which just happens to also be the anniversary of when we first met — are we getting married?”
"Maybe," I was forced to admit.
Then in April I said to Neal, “I need you to meet me at Philadelphia City Hall tomorrow morning. We need to get a ‘Proof of Single Status’ at the Philadelphia Marriage Registry office.”
"But why?" he asked. “I never heard of anyone getting married in America who needs such proof.” Then the light bulb again: “Hey, are we getting married in a foreign country?"
So then came weeks of Neal saying things like: “Where are we getting married? Is it in Canada? I bet it's in Canada! Should I brush up on my French? Does this involve fresh Nova Scotian mussels or just-caught British Colombian salmon?”
“You know, it is now legal for two men to get married in Uruguay,” I said, “and you always said you wanted to eat steak in Montevideo.” Neal, who never said such a thing, was not amused.
This game went on for months, with Neal trying to guess and me not letting on. Neal, in the meantime, was convinced that we were headed to Canada (since it was in the vicinity of Wisconsin, and his nephew's wedding). I let him believe it and did not correct him when he said this to everyone he came into contact with. On a side note, getting married in the Caribbean on June 12 and then being in Wisconsin on the 14 for another wedding was a logistical nightmare: six days, eight flights, and one three-hour bus ride.
Imagine Neal's surprise when we boarded a plane in Philadelphia that was heading to North Carolina. Luckily for me in the terminal, deciphering airline codes is not one of Neal’s forte. Here is how the conversation went, 30,000 feet in the air. "Lee, why are we heading south, when Canada is north?"
"Surprise, we're not going to Canada. We're getting married on Saba." Silence...