For first same-sex couple to wed at St. Paul’s Como Conservatory, it’s also an anniversary

Courtesy of Reid Bordson
Reid Bordson, Paul Nolle and their daughter Anna.

In May, Paul Nolle and Reid Bordson were trying to figure out what to do for the 10th anniversary of their commitment ceremony, which took place at the late, lamented Bobino’s wine bar a stone’s throw from the Mississippi. They were a little at sea.

Their dream destination was Europe, but their daughter Anna is 21 months old. Neither taking her along nor leaving her for two weeks seemed like a good idea, so they were thinking about a long weekend — maybe in Napa or Mexico.

That the Senate had just voted to allow all Minnesotans to marry wasn’t really part of the discussion, as Nolle tells it. He and Bordson are private, low-key people so they figured they’d just traipse down to the courthouse one day.

And then Bordson, who is an elementary school teacher in St. Louis Park, got a call from a colleague who is married to the head of marketing for the City of St. Paul. Gov. Mark Dayton was soon to sign the marriage bill into law.

Would they consider coming to a press conference to take place soon after to promote the city’s “I do St. Paul” campaign? If so, they could be the first couple married in St. Paul’s premier venue, the Como Park Conservatory.

Like pretty much everything else in their life together, it was kismet. The commitment ceremony took place Aug. 2, 2003. The legal renewing of their vows would turn that 10th anniversary trip into a honeymoon.

St. Paul hosting all-nighter

Ever Minneapolis’ less glitzy, more grounded foil, St. Paul’s civic leaders have also arranged to welcome marriage equality with an all-nighter. But in contrast to Minneapolis’ 62-wedding blitz, St. Paul is opening the city’s destinations to full-scale, 90-minute-long, private weddings.

No doubt they’ll all be fairy-tale events; Nolle and Bordson’s story is a sweet one. When they met in October of 2000, courtesy of some friends, the connection was immediate.

“We’re both very family-oriented people,” recalls Nolle. “We love sports. We love good food, travel.”

A Green Bay native, Nolle was earning his teaching credentials at the University of Minnesota. Bordson had just moved to the Twin Cities from Duluth and was already teaching.

(Nolle no longer teaches. His first job was at a Catholic school — an uncomfortable fit for a young gay man. When a student’s parent offered him a good sales job, he took it.)

“After a couple of years we said, you know, this is real,” says Nolle. “As far as the relationship piece of it, we viewed it as a wedding.” Or as close as they imagined they would ever get.

Daughter enters the picture

That presented all kinds of issues. But after Anna’s arrival the lack of legality started to feel even more precarious.

Hennepin, Ramsey and St. Louis counties all automatically recognize adoptions by same-sex couples, for example, while in many other places it’s up to the judge who handles the file. Neither envisions moving, but if they did it could be a problem.

And on a more bedrock level, there was the question of how to let Anna know that her family was no different from any other when it was treated differently.

“We planned to tell her, ‘Your daddies love each other and there are lots of mommies who love each other and mommies and daddies who love each other,’” Nolle recounts.

And to the harder question: “Sometimes it takes society a while to move in the right direction — and not just with this issue.”

“Now we can tell her we are a legally recognized family,” says Nolle. “We have been truly humbled by the love and support we’ve received during this time. It feels like our friends, family and those that supported gay marriage have wrapped their arms around us.” 

At the same time, they’re glad their ceremony will be a stand-alone event. Loved ones are flying in from around the country, taking time off of work and renting hotel rooms.

“We’ve battled with you guys through this for years,” Nolle says friends are insisting, “and we’re going to be there now.”

90-minute ceremonies, back to back

And so 98 of their nearest and dearest will be at the Conservatory’s stunning Sunken Garden from 11:30 p.m. July 31 to 1 a.m. Aug. 1. At 1:30 another party will occupy the space for 90 minutes, and so on through the night.

Weddings will begin in the morning at Irvine Park, the zoo and other locations throughout the city. Each will be different, each designed by its betrothed.

Bordson’s and Nolle’s will have champagne, hors d’ouvres and the donated services of a St. Paul officiant who interviewed them on the phone and then drafted vows that made it seem as if she’d known them for 20 years.

“We’re kind of blend-into-the-woodwork type people, so it’s been surreal,” says Nolle. “We were just going to go to the courthouse and get our certificate. People have just been so generous.”    

Comments (2)

  1. Submitted by Beth-Ann Bloom on 07/29/2013 - 09:31 am.

    How sweet

    Best wishes to Anna and her dads!

  2. Submitted by Rev. Leslie Ann Johnson on 07/30/2013 - 11:05 am.

    A Celebratory Season!

    It is such an exciting time in our state’s history! It is going to be a very happy and celebratory season ahead and for all the years to come! I love being part of a culture where our fine Mayor waits at city hall to honor the first couple to tie the knot in a new era of inclusivity! Cheers!

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