Homonuptial stories: Persian sugar cones, matching fedoras, and princess bouquets

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Janna Brancolini reports from City Hall

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Photo by Ariel Soto

At 3 pm, everyone in the City Hall rotunda erupted into cheers as two women in beautiful white gowns walked down the grand stairway.

I glanced over at a nearby sign, "Quiet Please. Business of the City and County of San Francisco is in progress," which was being thoroughly ignored despite its strategic location.

Cameras flashed as the two women pumped their brightly colored bouquets in the air, grinning and cheering like excited kids at a birthday party.

String music floated through the air, and the hall's echoing acoustics made it difficult to determine which direction it was coming from. I later identified the lone violinist on the second floor balcony, who was creating enough sound to be heard from everywhere in the room.

The women in white, like every other couple getting married today, were greeted with cupcakes, congratulations, and camera companies, in addition to the applause.

The marriage stations, unceremoniously identified with folding plywood chairs and "Ceremony Location X" printed on plain white paper, seemed to all be on the second floor.

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2 cute. Photo by Charles Russo

Although the sites of the ceremonies were less than impressive, they afforded an incredible view and an attention-grabbing exit. Every couple had to descend the great stone steps.

During their descents, the couples were backlit by a small dome, stone carvings, and arches. Cherubic stone carvings in the walls decorated the scene, and the third-story windows leaked natural light into the room. The scene kept reminding me of a fairy tale wedding, as the princess gracefully leaves the balcony and walks down the stairs with all eyes on her.

Standing at the bottom of the stairs, the two women's faces were radiant with happiness and the light of a television camera. Picture after picture was snapped over the interviewer's shoulder, and a small crowd formed around the two women.

More couples continued to come down the stairs, marriage certificates in hand. Proud ring bearers clutched now-empty red boxes and admired their former contents on the fingers of their loved ones.

Flowers were pumped, thumbs-up signs flashed, and cheers cried out over and over again. Yesterday's protesters seem to be gone, but the those celebrating were still out in full force midway through the afternoon.

I followed a crowd of about 25 people up to a ceremony station. As I approached, I realized I should turn off my cell phone. This was someone's wedding, after all. I could barely hear the ceremony over all the ambient noise, but I caught clearly, "I now pronounce you spouses for life."

This was the first wedding I had ever crashed, and I assumed it was your average, run-of-the-mill public, gay American wedding... until the couple brought out a white cloth and sat on the folding chairs while two men held the cloth over their heads.

I asked a member of the wedding party what type of ceremony it was. "Persian," she replied.

One of the newlyweds solicited volunteers from the crowd - "other happy people" - and invited them to participate in the ceremony. She handed the volunteer two cones made of hardened sugar and had the woman rub the cones together on top of the cloth. Sugar broke free from the cones and fell on the blanket like drifting snow.

The newlywed explained that the idea was to bring even more sweetness into the couple's lives, and to transmit that happiness to the guests. The people rubbing the cones said silent blessings, and the sugar was carefully wrapped in the cloth after a fair amount had been collected.

Then the brides threw their bouquets, and walked down the stairs in an especially thunderous wave of applause.

I wandered down after their party had funneled through, and almost interrupted a photograph being taken of two older gentlemen in matching fedoras. They had red roses in the breast pockets of their matching suits - one brown, one gray - and neatly trimmed gray mustaches.

At least one stereotype looks to be true: gay guys have great style.

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