why we wed: helen.

by Liz on 02.15

Helen from Bettencourt Chase has a very different story from my own, yet one that really resonates with me. While each of the Why We Wed submissions have struck a chord in their own way, Helen may be the first to have the same reasons for marrying that I did- which makes me want to take her out for a drink. Whether or not Helen’s wedding motivation mirrors your own, her story offers an interesting perspective of the decision to marry. Here’s Helen…


(wedding photos by Stephen Ironside of Ironside Photography and Darby Ironside)

When I was younger, I wasn’t the type of girl to dream about her someday wedding. I never imagined what my wedding dress would look like and couldn’t even necessarily imagine myself married to anyone, any time in the future. Then, I met Lindi. We were fast friends, and then more, and all of a sudden something clicked and we were looking at engagement rings on Christmas eve. All of a sudden, getting married was important.

When people in our midwestern state find out that I’m married to a woman, one of the most common questions I hear is ‘Where did you go to get married?’ Same-sex marriage isn’t legal where we live, but we didn’t go anywhere. Our marriage isn’t legal to our state or federal government and isn’t recognized by the companies we work for, and while that’s important, what matters the most is that in truth, we are 100% married.

Although it would be ideal if there was equal marriage in our home state or we could go to New York or Iowa or Massachusetts or one of the other states that recognizes same-sex marriage and then come home and have the license mean something (to anyone other than ourselves), it doesn’t work that way. So, then, why get married? We were already committed to one another; we were living together and had all sorts of plans for our future and knew without a doubt that the other was the one we wanted to be with for the rest of our lives. If it wasn’t going to add any of those handy legal rights afforded by legal marriage to our union, why get married?

I remember a conversation I had with my father before our wedding. He had been struggling with the idea of me getting married, although not, ironically, because we were both women– the ‘issue’ which had prompted several other family members to express their disapproval. Instead, he felt that I was getting married too young (a week to the day before my 22nd birthday.) During the conversation, we talked about why Lindi and I had made the choice to get married and what it meant that it wouldn’t be validated by a marriage certificate, and one of the things he said about legal marriage versus a union not recognized by law has really stuck in my memory ever since. He said that to him, when a person has committed themself to another and feel they are married, then it is so, whether or not the couple has a piece of paper saying its true.

That really resonated with me. After all, although the piece of paper means a whole lot, the vows mean more. Standing there, in front of our loved ones, and voicing my commitment to my wife was one of the most powerful and moving things I’ve ever done. In the end, I think that is the answer to the question ‘why wed?’ (at least for me): because marriage is a fundamentally community-based institution, and inviting the people who mean the most to us to hear us say out loud that we are in it for the long haul was important. Getting married didn’t change much about our relationship: we still are each others’ best friend, we still worry about money, we still want to have children together, we still dream about the kitchen and the backyard of the house we will own someday. However, marriage gives our partnership more weight in the world. It provided a sort of settling in, and it gives our relationship more gravity in the eyes of others. Marrying each other was just the next step that made perfect sense for us, legal or not.

For now, we are married, even without that piece of paper. Someday, when we can walk through the doors of our county courthouse and apply for a marriage license where we live, we’ll marry each other all over again.

you may also like::

  1. why we wed: jolynn.
  2. why we wed: novice wife.
  3. why we wed: sarah.

Your Comments | Add a Comment

Trisha says:
Feb 15, 2012 9:31 am

This is beautifully written. Thank you.

Although we started out getting married for different reasons, this turned out to be what getting married was about, and why we needed the wedding:
“In the end, I think that is the answer to the question ‘why wed?’ (at least for me): because marriage is a fundamentally community-based institution, and inviting the people who mean the most to us to hear us say out loud that we are in it for the long haul was important.”


Emily says:
Feb 15, 2012 10:05 am

Your dad is a wise man – it felt very different for me to sign papers at the courthouse (our officiant wasn’t ordained) and to have a ceremony with our community. Not that they aren’t both important; but the former did not overpower the latter.

Here’s hoping, and really believing, that you’ll “walk through the doors of your county courthouse and marry all over again” very, very soon.


Beth says:
Feb 15, 2012 11:19 am

How wonderfully written. I find all of these Why We We posts so fascinating because they’re all so different yet so the same.

But this one, Helen, really resonates with me. That’s not to say it’s my exact reasons but it is just one of those things I want to hold in my heart.

P.S. Those pictures of you and Lindi in the rain…man! They got to me on APW and I still LOVE them.


Helen says:
Feb 15, 2012 11:57 am

I know! The rain photos! It was supposed to be sunny and hot all day, and it was when we had the ceremony, and then a few hours into the reception the skies just opened up and it POURED. It was disconcerting for just a moment and then really, really fun.

Thank you. :)


Erin says:
Feb 15, 2012 12:02 pm

Incredible. Brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart — it’s a blessing to know you both! xoxo


Helen says:
Feb 15, 2012 1:42 pm



Dawn says:
Feb 15, 2012 12:17 pm

Thabk you for sharing this and putting it do perfectly simple. My wife and I married last year and made the decision to go to New York, we do plan on having something here when we can have the wedding we have seen in our minds together. And I too have been asked this question, which has sometimes driven me crazy or simply hurt me inside…. Why would I be asked this when the couple next to us is not….. But you explain it…. I thank you…. And congratulations to you both!


Koru Kate {Koru Wedding} says:
Feb 15, 2012 12:28 pm

Beautiful post &, oh my goodness, those rain photos are so incredibly romantic. May you “walk through the doors of your county courthouse and marry all over again” soon!!


Erin says:
Feb 15, 2012 4:29 pm

This post really got me. I haven’t really been able to articulate “why I wed,” to myself since this series started. But those vows, and the power they have even in the absence of the piece of paper. That explains a whole lot. Thanks, Helen!


Helen says:
Feb 15, 2012 5:06 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, everyone! <3 Some of them made me tear up a little. You're all so sweet.


Jo says:
Feb 15, 2012 8:19 pm

Tearing up. That’s beautiful.


Jessica says:
Feb 15, 2012 9:35 pm

I am proud to have you as a cousin. I am sad that I could not come to your wedding, but I hope that I can stand in support when it is legalized and stand at your wedding if you choose to have another when it is legalized. But I agree with your father, certificate or not, you are committed and love each other and that is what the true meaning of marriage is.


Helen Chase says:
Feb 15, 2012 10:57 pm

Oh, Jessica, thank you so much. <3


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