We Did It!

23 08 2018

Since the last installment – we are governmentally sanctioned – married!!

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Appropriately enough –- While my granddaughter and I were ooh-ing and ahhhh-ing at July 4th fireworks from a rooftop in New York City, Peter received the news of the approval. This irony of the timing is not lost on me — An American marrying a Brit, and the approval comes on our Day of Independence from England.

Hmmmm….serendipity.

As a flash-back – Before officials would interview us, we had to determine the wedding date and venue, with the caveat that we could later change the date but not the venue. Thus, we somewhat randomly settled on August 28, which was more than 70 days past the interview – because the government may have needed that much time to set up more interviews and perhaps a home visit.

We prepared invitations and planned an August 28 Pub Party for friends from throughout England. But Life somewhat interfered, with family illnesses and pressing needs. So with The Government’s Blessing, we moved the date to August 9 followed by a small celebration for local friends. We’re planning a series of smaller get-togethers as we travel to different areas of the country – culminating with a ceremony and celebration at our home in Guanajuato next summer.

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People asked, “What are your colors?” Well. My ensemble was aubergine (eggplant) and pewter, which sounds so much more posh than purple and gray. However, we didn’t have “colors” as much as a theme – Clothing purchased from charity shops. (My Elisa Cavaletti label jacket was by Italian designer Daniella Dalavalle.) Big Hats for the women and a Wild Waistcoat for Peter. We picked hydrangeas and lavender that morning from various gardens in Cedar Park where we live.

To paraphrase from a dear friend: “I may be old – I can’t help that. I may be ugly – I can’t help that either. But I can still dress up!”

August 9 was perfect — friends and family, ceremony, reception, weather….

We’d selected the Registry Office Basic Ceremony for ourselves and two witnesses. I was a bit dubious, expecting only a “wham-bam-thank-you-mam” quickie service based on the informational brochure:

  • The Superintendent Registrar will say the preliminary announcements.
  • You will be required to say one form of declaration and one form of marriage contract out loud in the presence of two witnesses plus the Superintendent Registrar and the Registrar.
  • You have the option to exchange one or two rings and the option to make a promise to one another.
  • The Superintendent Registrar will announce that you are married and ask you to sign the marriage register.
  • There will follow a limited photo opportunity.

Not particularly Warm and Fuzzy.

But the ceremony was actually very meaningful. The registrar who had helped us through the interrogation interview process was the one who conducted the ceremony. And even though the rules dictated only two witnesses in the room, we did, of course, convince them to allow in two more very special friends/family.

Another brochure stated: The short ceremony will last approximately ten minutes in the presence of the bride and groom and their witnesses. There is a limited time for a photograph of a mock up of the signing of the register.

 Yes, they did let our friends take pictures in the office – but there was also a garden for celebration photos. Who knew?

Had we known, we’d have planned a bit differently. We bought bubbles rather than confetti because – well, surely no one can complain about a few disappearing bubbles. The hobby store was out of wedding bubbles, but we figured that little kid ones were just as good. These, however, had the consistency of glue, adhering to our clothes and drying to look like dandruff. Margot did bring a popper of glitter confetti — just as she snapped it, a gust of wind puffed it backwards onto her instead. (Note to self: stand up-wind.)

Needless to say, we all laughed a lot.

As for the reception – what could be more appropriate in England than celebrating at a pub?

We’d arranged with our favorite pub, The Mussel Inn, to prepare a salad and ploughman’s lunch for us to “break fast” before the arrival of guests.

The meal that follows your wedding ceremony is known as the wedding breakfast. The name comes from the past when traditionally the wedding ceremony was held after mass; the whole wedding party would fast before mass, and so for the bride and groom this was their first meal. Today the name is kept as a reminder that this is the first meal for the newly married bride and groom, the first meal after the ceremony as man and wife, and so the name breakfast is kept.

They greeted us with a complimentary Gin ‘n Tonic for me and a Guinness for Peter. Thus, the celebrations began….

Persistence pays off.

Life is grand.

 

 

 

 

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The Interrogation — oops — Interview One More Time

15 06 2018

It’s been three weeks since we saw our heroes leaving the UK Registry office carrying a list of additional required documentation (passport photos and proof of residence consisting of a council tax or energy bill because providing title to their house was not sufficient).

So. Here we are on June 5, back at the Registry Office. As required, before coming to this meeting, we confirmed and paid for the wedding venue on a date well past the up-to-70-days waiting period: August 28.

We’re feeling confident because our previous interviewer had said that all we’d need were the photos and proof of residence, although we again brought along everything (plus some).

Promptly at the scheduled time, 4:00 pm, we are greeted by Louise, another of the personnel in the Department of Marriages and Civil Partnerships. Her style is totally different from Carol’s three weeks ago. And, since we were unable to complete the previous interview (and, thus, did not pay for it), there were no notes from that meeting.

Complete Start Over.

Louise begins with me individually. After accepting my new photo and comparing it, me, and my current passport, she begins.

All questions relate to Peter – his full name (why no middle name?), birth date, occupation, previous occupation, about his life. Because, I suppose – do I really know this person I’m hoping to marry?

Then she moves to my details. Have I gone by any other name? Duh. This is not my first rodeo. And to husband-Jim’s death certificate. It’s déjà vu of the last interview: “Why does the death certificate say Mary R. Denton rather than Mary Denton Jordan?”

“I don’t know, it’s the way Colorado did it. Here’s my birth certificate showing name Mary Raye Denton.” Having been through this before, I quickly produce what worked the last time: bank card with name Mary R. Jordan.

“Oh, this won’t do. We need to see a government-issued card.”

After several back/forths, Louise excuses herself to check with a superior, documents in-hand. Eventually, they agree that I am, indeed, the same Mary R. Jordan, Mary Raye Denton, and Mary Denton Jordan.

Then, to our place of residence.I tell her the address, carefully explaining that because this is a “holiday home,” there is no mail delivery. “That’s fine,” she assures me. “We just need to know where you’re living.”

We, naturally, must show proof of address. During the last visit, we could not use the Council Tax bill which includes both our names because it is mailed to Peter’s sister at her address, not ours. Which of course has — No mail delivery. We had provided the title to the house, but that was not acceptable. They needed a current energy bill. It’s issued quarterly (most recently, February 22), and I receive it online. So I’d called EDF, the energy company, to find out when the next bill would arrive. June 7, two days after this appointment. The EDF lady kindly agreed to provide an interim bill. It arrived, I downloaded to a memory stick and went to the local library for printing. So I confidently hand her this document.

“Why is only your name on this?”

“Because it comes to my email address.”

“We need something showing Peter’s name at this address.”

“Well, I have title to the property.”

“Yes. That will do.”

I just smile. I feel like screaming! It didn’t “do” last visit – otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted half a day on the phone, downloading the bill, having someone drive me to the library, and then figuring out how to use their printer.

Having (finally) satisfied these legal requirements – so far – she states that we both may need to be available for further interviews or perhaps a home visit. “You will be here during the next 70 days?” My heart drops. I’m flying to the USA to take my granddaughter to New York City to celebrate her 10th birthday. I may be out of the UK as long as two weeks. Louise frowns. “Maybe there won’t be any problems. Or maybe they can work out the schedule. If not, you’ll have to start this entire process over again.”

She thanks me and asks Peter to come in, alone.

I again remind her that we receive no mail delivery at our address. Again, I’m reassured that this will not present a problem.

Peter flows through the interview with flying colors. After all, I’m the possible-problem immigrant from the USA.

Exactly at the end of the allotted one-hour interview, Louise escorts us to the payment window, £46 each, She informs us that the Plymouth UK office is now officially out of this process; it’s all up to the London Home Office. Everything we need to know is in this leaflet, Home Office Referral and Investigation Scheme. (Interesting title. Especially the word “scheme.”)

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We walk out of their office approximately 5:15 pm.

The leaflet explains that “The Home Office is taking tough action to tackle sham marriages….” It also states that it may decide to investigate further and that “The Home Office will make this decision and inform you of it in writing before the end of the 28 day notice period.” (Italics mine.)

In writing.

To our address.

Where we do not receive mail.

Probably to be returned as “undeliverable.”

Think this might be a Red Flag to the Home Office?

Danger! Danger! Danger! Sham address! Sham marriage!

Permission denied!

Lovely.

And, of course, the Plymouth office is now closed.

Promptly at 9:00 am the next day, I call to see if they can put a different mailing address on our application – perhaps get it changed before it gets to London. I am informed I need to talk with someone in the “marriage and ceremony team.” Not available, of course, but someone – yet a different person – calls back in late afternoon. After being told the previous day that this office is now completely “hands off” the process – and reading in the Scheme leaflet that “Staff at the Designated Register Office you attended or wrote to will not be able to tell you how your referral is progressing” — this lady on the phone says not to worry. “They write us at the same time, and we call to let you know.”

Needless to say, I’m not confident.

To be continued (once again)….





Should be simple….

19 05 2018

Peter and I have decided to get married. Finally.

Why would anyone our age bother with marriage?

We’ve been friends since 2011 — and lovers living together in Guanajuato since 2013. We’ve talked about getting married. Yes. No. Yes. No. Yes. But — why?

Pragmatically, marriage makes sense. Peter and I want to make decisions for each other without legal hassles of “relationship.” He’s a British citizen. I’m an American. We live in Mexico. We travel the world. His children live in Mexico. Mine live in the USA. I’m 70-fucking-2 years old. He’s five years younger. Anything could happen – from old-age maladies to being run over by a bus.

I can’t imagine life without him.

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We want to do this in England, his country of citizenship where we own a “holiday home” in Devonshire, on the beach of Plymouth Sound overlooking Cornwall – where his sister, his cousin, and childhood friends live. When we return to Mexico, we’ll have a Vows Ceremony with other family and friends – and, of course, a huge celebration.

Silly me. I thought making the decision was the hard part. After that — we just get a marriage license and Do It.

WRONG.

We don’t plan to live in England permanently. I’m merely a tourist to this country who wants to marry a Brit. Not so in the opinion of The Government who, apparently, views me as an immigrant planning to suck the country dry.

Interesting — being on the receiving side of The Immigrant Issue.

The official government website has a Requirements section for those they envision as people like me. Confusing – particularly since I’m not trying to “immigrate” to England. Which of the multitude of requirements actually addresses our situation?

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Cousin Margot to the rescue! Margot, who lives in Plymouth, actually talked with Someone Who Knows. She set up our required appointment with a Registry Official who even provided a follow-up email with bullet-points and yellow highlights — outlining the specific documents necessary for our appointment to apply for marriage in the UK.

Needless to say, I carefully studied the information in this letter and on the website.

Do we have everything we need?

Passports. Check.

My deceased husband’s death certificate. Check.

Proof of residence. Check.

Plus everything else I thought might be necessary as back-up data to prove I’m worthy of marrying an exalted citizen of the United Kingdom: Social Security and bank statements

(I won’t be a financial drain on the British System), driver license, birth certificate. Birth certificates for Peter’s children. And. Having previously dealt with Mexican paperwork, I include multiple copies of each document.

We are prepared.

We think.

On May 18, precisely at noon, we meet Carol, our UK Registry Official.

First question: “Have you booked the venue?”

“Why would we book the venue before we have the government’s blessing?”

The reply: “Permission to marry is ‘venue specific.’”

Has this been referenced in any of the literature?

No.

Let’s clarify:

Before this meeting during which the government requires a full hour of interviews (Peter and I together, then each separately) after which the interviewer sends her recommendation to the home office in London — and then these government personnel review the information and make the final decision: Can we marry in England – or not? And. This decision may come as quickly as 28 days or may perhaps take up to 70 days. (I’m told that since I’m An Immigrant, the decision will take a while.) But – back to the point: Before this meeting in which The Authorities eventually decide our suitability to marry — Before this decision is made for us by a nebulous someone, at an unknown sometime, in London — which could take over two months — We have to book the marriage venue and date?!

This is a joke – right?

They’re serious.

Before Carol can even conduct the interview, we have to secure the exact location and the date.

Is it just me, or is this counter-intuitive?

Book the venue before we even know if we can get married??

Not to mention that nowhere on the website or in any of the informational documents is this “minor detail” listed as a prerequisite.

We can, however, book the Plymouth Registry Office for the wedding.

Great.

Do we want the Quick-and-Simple (my term, not Carol’s) that includes the happy couple plus two witnesses — or do we want the Wedding Party option with a capacity for up to 55 guests? For Quick and Simple, we pay £20 to reserve, then £46 more the day of wedding, plus £4 for each copy of the certificate. The Big Room is £140 plus-plus.

Quick-and-Simple sounds perfect. Problem solved.

Oh — wait.

What if we don’t get approved before the scheduled date? Not to worry. We can change the date for only £10. (Yes. We can change the date — but not the venue.)

Done deal.

Next question:

“Do you have your passport-size pictures?”

Another minor detail not mentioned in the informational documents.

Obviously, we don’t randomly carry passport-size photos in our wallets.

No pictures. No interview.

We can’t complete this necessary part of the process today. But Carol’s willing to check our other documentation to make sure we have everything.

Passports: Fine.

Proof of residence: I produce the Council Tax bill.

Not good enough. There is no mail delivery at our residence because it’s a “holiday home.” Thus, the bill (which references our address) goes to Peter’s sister. I’d anticipated something like this so I brought along the deed and title to our house and all related correspondence. Yes. This is good. (Although we found out later, it’s not. For proof of residence, we need a current energy bill. Go figure.)

My previous husband’s death certificate: I hand her the original, state-certified document. I’m confident. Nothing can go wrong with this.

Carol studies it closely. She’s never encountered one from Colorado before.

Alas. My name on this certificate as wife of the deceased is Mary R. Denton — my maiden name.

“Why the initial R?”

Because my middle name is Raye.

“Why is the name on your passport Mary Denton Jordan?”

Because they only have space for only one middle name; my maiden name makes more sense. It ties together all my accounts.

Long pause. She needs to talk with a superior.

Carol finally returns. “Do you have a copy of your marriage certificate?”

Jim and I were married in 1989. I do have this document – – somewhere in in the bowels of my Tuff Shed on the side of a hill in Colorado, USA. Not terribly convenient.

Frown. “If you don’t have the marriage certificate, do you have another official document to connect the dots: Mary R. Jordan to Mary Denton Jordan?”

Good grief. For many years, I’ve been doing my best to assure that all accounts and documents list me as Mary Denton Jordan.

Luckily, my efforts weren’t totally successful because after searching my computer records (Yes. I brought my computer), I found one account listing me as Mary R .Jordan.

Whew! (Saved from digging through my Tuff Shed nearly halfway around the world.)

So the only thing actually holding us back are the 2”x2” photos.

Can we get them now and come back this afternoon?

Of course not. This is, after all, Wedding Season. Lots of applicants.

Next available appointment is in three weeks – June 5. Then, of course, we have to await The Decision.

But.

We have the venue.

To be continued….