As a newly married couple, one of the first questions you can expect to be asked is ‘where are you going on your honeymoon?’ But what happens after your eighth wedding? That’s the question I posed to Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer prior to the Atlanta screening of their documentary Married and Counting, a film that follows the couple’s journey to become legally wed in every state that permits gay marriage for their 25th anniversary.
“We’ve had one honeymoon and it’s lasted for twenty-five years,” Mosher shared with a tangible passion in his voice. You could just imagine Mosher squeezing Dwyer’s hand as he took the lead to answer the question.
Ultimately, Married and Counting was the culmination of circumstance but the idea of multiple marriages evolved from a joke Mosher made at a party.
“As our 25th anniversary was approaching we thought ‘hey, we’re going to make it to 25, let’s do something special. Let’s have a wedding’,” Dwyer shared. “Our initial thought was a traditional, gather our friends for one ceremony as big as we could afford, splashy wedding. Different circumstances arose in our life where that wasn’t going to work out. So on a goof at a party, Stephen said we should just go everywhere and get married wherever it’s legal. The idea of the documentary occurred to me later but it was just an idea that evolved.”
Part of that evolution included Mosher and Dwyer reaching out to a close set of friends asking them to officiate their ceremonies and eventually tailoring the ceremonies to each of their respective locations. “We just knew that Vermont had to be Laurelle and we just knew it had to be something tree-huggy,” Mosher explained of the various themes. “[They] just sort of all came together like a puzzle with perfectly fitting pieces.”
But anyone that’s been in a relationship for any length of time, let alone 25 years, knows things aren’t perfect all the time. In the beginning of the film, Mosher and Dwyer are filmed scrambling to make it to Vermont and New Hampshire to secure marriage licenses prior to their ceremonies. With a finite window of opportunity, tempers flare at each other and the GPS. It’s a humanizing moment that illustrates the universal aspects of relationships.
Married and Counting is the perfect mix of passion and politics as the couple not only challenges the broader political implications of marriage equality with a commitment ceremony in California in response to Prop 8 (complete with rings worn on their middle fingers) but attempt personal challenges by returning home to Texas to reach out to their families in hopes that they’ll attend their weddings. These moments personify the struggle for marriage equality as you watch both Mosher and Dwyer wrestle with their upbringings.
The film continues its evolution as one happy ending begets another when history continued rolling after the cameras stopped. Although the wedding tour was set to end on the day of their 25th anniversary as Mosher and Dwyer exchanged vows on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, history unfolded shortly thereafter when New York State made gay marriage legal and they were married on Coney Island. A perfect ending to Married and Counting but just another step in the evolution towards marriage equality.
While filming may be over, the spirit of the film is still quite alive. “We had begun planning our trips to a couple of other states but then a couple of referendums got filed and so we’re on hold,” Mosher explained of trips planned to Maine, Maryland and Washington. “But we absolutely plan to continue this journey.”
With film screenings planned in battleground states this year, it’s a journey that we hope one day will result in 50 weddings for Mosher and Dwyer and at least one for everyone else if they so choose.