We all have pasts. In my past, I was married. It was a very good experience and even though the relationship did not last, we kept in touch and I'd like to think that neither of us bears any ill will towards one another. We met young, had a very good relationship, but as life experiences took hold, some different directions were sought, and rather than remain together and grow bitter, we had enough maturity and strength of communication to see that which couldn't be "fixed" and went our separate ways.
What many people tend to forget is that modern relationships are less and less about the people, and more and more about the paperwork. Indeed, I know of many couples who get married purely to acquire that paperwork.
Proving that you're a couple, for how long, with what level of mutual dependence, financial connections, and so on and so forth, all part of establishing yourself, getting credit, making large purchases, etc.
When a relationship comes to an end, there is just as much paperwork, albeit with a more poignant purpose.
Nook and I knew we wanted to get married, we procured the bands, but I also knew that before getting (re-) married I would have to sign something saying I was not married any longer, and likely substantiate that with actual paperwork as proof.
I've moved around the world a few times now, and one thing I've tried to do each time I move is take less and less with me. I try not to collect too much "stuff" and focus on the essentials, and moving "data" rather than dongles.
That means that as I realised I needed proof I was divorced, I had to reach out to a variety of people and make a very peculiar request: Can you help me prove I'm not married?
Insofar as I could tell, the critical thing was merely to state it, sign a document, and have the exact date when my divorce was finalised. Oooooooboy. Dates.
I am bad with dates. Ask me where I was on June 18th of any year and I'll have no idea. Heck, ask me where I was a month ago and if I don't check my calendar application, I won't be certain. I just don't associate the events of my day with a number on a calendar. I remember the events, the important interactions, but the fact that it was a Tuesday in August means little to me.
Anyway, because the ending of that previous relationship was on such amicable terms, I wasn't one of those men who had a huge party to celebrate "freedom" - I honestly have no idea what date things took hold, as when you get divorced there are all sorts of dates which signify the various levels of divorcedness that you have achieved. I remember going to the courthouse. I remember about three sentences from a judge, and signing a document or two. I also recall that that was just the first stage, and there would be more paperwork in a few months, and that would be the official "date" of the divorce. Again, it really didn't register with me.
Thankfully, I'm a moderately resourceful sort of person. With a bit of a rushed flurry of activity, I was able to reach out to the clerk in the county that I likely had my divorce registered. Coincidentally, she had the same name as someone who was a former colleague, and I actually thought it was the same person. I left a telephone message, rather a familiar one as I thought I was speaking to someone I once worked with, and included my email address. This was the exact date that I was getting on the plane to fly off to Nook and maybe, just maybe, get married.
It was a longshot, would this clerk get my voicemail, would they reply, would it be enough? It turned out all I needed was the exact date of the divorce in order for the State to grant the marriage license...
But I also thought I'd reach out to the ex-wife. Explain the situation. She had a better memory for these sorts of things, and I was hopeful she'd know.
And then I got on a plane.
At my first stop, many many hours later, I had an email from the ex-wife. She had a date, but wasn't entirely sure, and would check her paperwork when she got home from work.
And another email. From the county clerk I left the voicemail for.
I had the wrong person, it wasn't my former colleague, but, she DID have the information I needed. She thought it was a very nice voicemail and wished me all the happiness with my new relationship. Gave me all the details I needed in email. I still have that email. I'm somewhat sentimental (just ask Nook).
So that was that. Divorce date known, and no further proof or documentation was required.
However (you knew there would be a however) there were other bits of paperwork which were required in order for this potential plan to move forward. Birth certificates. With fancy stamps to prove authenticity. Fancy stamps that cost money.
You see, the world has become a very big place (but also a very small one). People move from location to location much more easily than ever before. Every community/region/country has their own requirements for proving your identity and becoming known to The System. In many cases, they want documentation "proving" that you were born. I've never really understood this. It's not like a birth certificate would have a useful photo ID associated with it. A passport from a recognised authority should be more than enough.
But not in the case of getting married. To get married, you need to get an original copy of your birth certificate, and since one town to another (much less once country to another) really doesn't know what the authoritative document looks like for a given issuing authority, it needs to be authenticated by the application of what's known as an Apostille Stamp. If you're curious, go see the WikiPedia article...
The point for our story, though, was that Nook and I both had to go back to our very beginnings, find an issuing authority capable of the production of such documents, get them ordered, and delivered, in time to get married. The shorter the notice, the higher the processing fees. I'm not entirely sure how many hundreds we spent on this, but it was necessary and we didn't complain. It was just another one of the many pieces which needed to slot together if we were going to make this happen.
We were lucky. We were resourceful, the Internet was our friend, we were actually able to order all of the documents we needed online and get them processed/sent where we needed, when we needed. In another era, this would no doubt take months. Nook and I didn't want to wait months. We just wanted to get on with our life together.