By Mark Jason Williams
I was excited about going to England for my one-year wedding anniversary this week–until the Royal Wedding eclipsed our celebration.
We chose London because of its significant role in our relationship. Three years ago, a misty Christmas night in Mayfair inspired me to propose to Michael. When he said yes, I felt like running through the streets with glee like Ebenezer Scrooge at the end of A Christmas Carol.
Michael promised Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s nuptials wouldn’t interfere with our plans. I wanted to believe him, but when friends and co-workers asked us to bring back commemorative tea sets, magnets, and other wedding-themed souvenirs, I felt like our trip was reduced to a royal scavenger hunt. Instead of feeling excited, I became anxious about large crowds, paparazzi, and hotels and restaurants filling up and raising their prices.
I was determined to compete with Harry and Meghan and deliver a celebration that matched their pomp and circumstance. I researched elaborate feasts and lodging at fancy palaces. Unfortunately, with my salary as a legal file-clerk, I could only afford plastic crowns and a cardboard castle from Party City. Getting more creative, I realized that combining my name with my husband’s spelled “Markel.” I launched an Instagram named #OriginalMarkelWedding. Unfortunately, only three people followed us, as opposed to the real Markle’s millions. I should have known better than to go up against a literal prince and a beautiful television star.
To make me feel better, Michael said he’d boycott the wedding, too. Yet he was a 45-year-old Anglophile who binge-watched The Crown and still owned a copy of Charles and Diana’s wedding on VHS. I often teased him for wearing frumpy sweaters like an English grandpa and drinking afternoon tea, but Michael’s British mannerisms were also incredibly charming. I loved that he used words like “kicks” and “jumper” and decorated our living room with wing chairs and settees that looked like something out of a Buckingham Palace tag sale.
I felt bad about spoiling his chance at experiencing another Windsor family milestone. Like a true Englishman, I made a pot of Earl Grey, pouted, and passive-aggressively agreed to join the Brits in celebrating Harry’s marriage to Meghan. Once we arrived in London, however, it annoyed me to see their faces every time I turned on the television or picked up a newspaper. Then I actually read one of the stories.
As a playwright, I was intrigued by the drama of Markle’s father. I loved the scandal of him staging photographs for the media, the nail-biting tension of his heart condition, and the cliffhanging suspense of whether he’d show up to walk her down the aisle. (It turns out that her father-in-law-to-be, Prince Charles, will do the honor.) Yet as a gay man who’s had my share of daddy issues, I also empathized with her. I suddenly became emotional, feeling fortunate that my dad was there to see Michael and me tie the knot, despite dealing with a severe medical condition of his own.
I applauded the future princess for her graceful comments and wanted to know more about her. After a quick Google search, I spent hours reading about Markle’s humanitarian efforts, her speeches on women’s and equal rights, and her acting career. I was as horrified when I read stories smearing her biracial heritage. At the same time, knowing that she and I were often treated as outcasts made me feel a closer bond with her.
Days before the wedding, Michael and I celebrated our first year of marriage with at a picturesque castle. Around us, people chatted about the royal couple, but it no longer bothered me. I looked forward to watching Meghan Markle marry her prince, grateful I’d found mine.
Mark Jason Williams is an award-winning playwright and essayist. In addition to Honeysuckle, his work is published by The Washington Post, Salon, The Denver Post, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Out, The Daily Dot, Stuff, and Good Housekeeping. For more about Mark, please visit markjasonwilliams.com.