One of the first questions you might expect to be asked after getting married is ‘where are you going on your honeymoon?’ But what happens when you’ve gotten married eight times and filmed every step of the way? That’s the question I posed to Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer last year when their documentary Married and Counting was making its rounds on the GLBT film festival circuit.
“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 pieces don’t fit together perfectly 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. Admittedly, it’s the moment where Mosher waits to see if the audience is with or against them.
Narrated by social activist and equality champion George Takei, Married and Counting is the perfect mix of passion and politics. On their journey, Mosher and Dwyer not only highlight the broader political and practical problems facing same-sex couples in post-Prop 8 California with a spiritual commitment ceremony, the couple also struggles personally with family when trying to get members to attend and accept their marriages. These moments personify the struggle for marriage equality as you watch both Mosher and Dwyer wrestle with emotion. Moments that Mosher admitted to not watching anymore.
The film continues as one happy ending begets another when history continued progressing after the cameras stopped rolling. 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 gave Mosher and Dwyer a new ending when New York State made gay marriage legal and they were married on Coney Island. A perfect ending to Married and Counting.
Even though the film was wrapped at eight weddings, Mosher and Dwyer have every intention of continuing their journey, noting that the spirit of the film is still quite alive. The couple has since been married a ninth time in Maryland and on the eves of the Supreme Court decision that is bound to make some kind of history in the quest for marriage equality, are still planning trips to Delaware, Maine, Washington and Rhode Island.
Recently, the film opened in New York and Los Angeles and while audiences can now download the film on iTunes, Married and Counting has several other festivals and screenings planned throughout the year including Philadelphia’s QFest in July.
On a trip last month to New York, I was able to finally meet Stephen Mosher and Pat Dwyer. Invited graciously into the Hell’s Kitchen apartment they’ve shared for 20 years, Mosher and Dwyer spoke passionately not only about the experiences Married and Counting has afforded them but also the platform. When asked their reactions to the upcoming Supreme Court decisions, both Mosher and Dwyer provided their insight into a pivotal moment of history’s progress.
“Like I said on the MSNBC interview, this genie is out of the bottle,” Mosher shared. “What I didn’t say is that they are not going to put it back in the bottle but there are people, there are states, there are legislators that are going to dig their high heels in as hard as they can and leave tracks all the way up the streets of history.”
“It’s going to be this very convoluted, layered thing because the federal government will recognize all same-sex marriages if Title III falls but the states will say ‘you cannot get married here and we will not recognize your marriage,’” Dwyer added. “I really think the end game will have to be a constitutional amendment.”
Regardless of the Supreme Court decision, Married and Counting is 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.