My kid, not my husband.
In retrospect, if you are a disability advocate, never, ever, EVER plan a wedding during IEP season when clients are calling nonstop (in different states, mind you!) about their IEPs, ARDs, IEEs, FBAs, FAAs, MDRs, TAs, and any other acronym that you can think of. And if you are a community organizer on top of your disability/civil rights work, never, ever plan a wedding while you are organizing a new project. AND if you have a teen with autism like me with all of THAT going on, well, maybe you should just give up getting out of the house at all, much less the idea of a wedding.
Saying goodbye to our old kitchen crap was just an excuse for a wedding, really. We wanted a wedding: we’ve each been married before but my husband had never had a big public ceremony and I fell in love with our location in downtown L.A.: Union Station, just perfect since we both have adopted this city and love it. We planned it for May 4th, our first anniversary.
On top of the wedding, I had to figure out how my boy Aidan was going to be cared for during the event itself: something hard when you want a child with AU to have meaningful participation but not overload him—if you know Mexican weddings, that means a LOT of tequila and mariachis. I’ve been training a new attendant AND a new behavioral trainer to work with him and was stressed that I wouldn’t have backup during the wedding and/or my ex-husband would be difficult to work with because I was asking him to pick up/deliver Aidan at all times during the rehearsal/dinner/and wedding reception itself.
We practiced with Aidan’s behavioral trainers, school, and attendants for weeks leading up to the wedding: using social stories, practicing walking around the house, etc. Aidan had been a ringbearer in his aunt’s wedding last year so he had to constantly be reminded that he wasn’t going to be carrying a pillow and to hook his arm through mine. We talked about the tuxedo, the big white dress, the tuxedos, the CAKE. Dear god, we talked nonstop about the cake. Aidan had been looking forward to this for a year now and I was tired beyond belief about reassuring him each night at bedtime that there would indeed, be a cake for him to eat.
All that said, FOUR wedding coordinators later, we we had a fun and memorable wedding, of course
with a few mishaps. The wind blew out our ceremonial decorations and, because we had our wedding in the former Fred Harvey Restaurant—there is no working kitchen and fire code wouldn’t allow our caterers to cook in the huge cavernous interior kitchen. This meant that the food all had to be cooked OUTSIDE and while we planned for rain, no one foresaw the winds that blew the fires out repeatedly, making food late for some guests.
2) Being introduced in our classic 40s car with the mariachi walking in front of us and our wedding party (including Aidan) waiting on us. Not to mention the tourists and audience we gathered along the way that security had to keep from crashing our wedding.
3) Our 40s/Pachuca/chola/zoot suit theme that fit our Union Station wedding.
4) Related to #3 but really deserves its own post: my bridesmaids’ hair and dresses. Look at the pictures so you know what I mean.
5) Being married by one of my best friends in the world, who is a combo of a brother/cousin to me: thank you, Reno! (And thanks for saying “By the powers invested in me by Aztlan, I pronounce you two husband and wife.” Nice touch.)
6) Reading our vows off our cell phones to one another.
7) One of my bridesmaids (@tigercrush on Twitter) posting repeatedly DURING the ceremony because we asked her to (good work, Cedar!)
8) Johnny doing the hang loose sign during our vows. Yes, he did.
9) My friend Amanda doing a reading from my FAVORITE book in the world: Jazz by Toni Morrison. The passage about old people love.
10) Mentioning Match.com during our vows—and by the way, Match.com, you missed an awesome wedding that would have made for a TERRIFIC commercial: downtown L.A., Latinos, MOM OF A CHILD WITH DISABILITY. Seriously you could have hit SO many markets with us. !!!
11) My husband waving like he was El Presidente to the crowd as we entered the reception.
12) My husband singing “You and Tequila (Make Me Crazy)” to me.
13) Aidan making us rush the cake cutting so he could leave to go to his dad’s.
15) Running out of tequila—we bought CASES, people! But a Chicano/Mexican wedding requires way more than you will ever know so we sent my best friend’s hubby and my brother to get more. Luckily the guests were fine with the vodka, beer, whiskey and wine that were still flowing during that time.
16) My sister and brother-in-law’s AWESOME photo booth and their memory book they gave me that they had people sign !!! And posted the photos online! I had no clue they do so much work in their business. Aidan’s former therapist was there to help him in the booth–like most families with AU, our therapists and teachers become integrated into our family life.
17) Johnny’s best man’s speech (who happened to be his older sister, Tina). She made both of us cry talking about how happy her brother is and welcoming me to the Stewart family.
18) Dancing with my friends from Austin and my cousins from Dallas in my new adopted city. ❤ ❤ ❤
19) Passing out on my maid of honor’s lap in our hotel room at the Biltmore in downtown L.A. Yes, on my wedding night.
Ultimately, it was worth it. My husband told me a couple of days later: “I know we’ve been married a year, but I feel MORE married now.”
Truer words have never been spoken: we got married a year ago in a private ceremony after knowing each other only 4 months. (We ran, we didn’t walk, to the altar.) But doing it again with our friends/family and having a celebration—that’s what made it perfect for us. It doesn’t matter how much you spend or what you do, it’s the public act of a commitment ceremony that makes it right, at least for us. I also appreciate now that I am ahem, older, being able to say and do things that mean things to both of us as a couple.
And now? After days of almost 15 people in my home, things have settled back to normal–if you can call a household with multiple staff and visual schedules and sound machines in most rooms normal.
One of the items we registered for and received was a quesadilla maker that we are using in Aidan’s ABA and attendant care sessions. It’s teaching him to make his favorite foods ON. HIS. OWN.
He’s not allowed to use the stove yet, and a tortilla in the microwave is completely gross (mushy tortilla anyone?). I’m unwrappinh color-coordinated RED appliances and dishware gifts and donate my 80s crockpot that I bought 14 years ago in a thrift store–and it was old even then. (One of my friends said it was from the 70s but I refuse to believe her.)
So we go on living our lives with AU (along with those of us without it) and enjoying every minute that we can.
xoxo, Gloria Perez-STEWART