March 1623, 2000
by Fern Sternberg
They met on a blind date, took their first vacation two weeks after that, moved in together four months later, and celebrated their wedding night before the wedding. Clearly the union of Center City residents Katharyn Arbour and David Kalal was anything but traditional.
Even the proposal was unique. After living together for nearly three years, Dave and Kat, as their friends call them, had talked about getting married a lot. "It was in the air," says Kat. But she never expected what was to come.
Over a romantic dinner in a restaurant just outside New Hope in March of 1997, on Kats 30th birthday, Dave, 28, whispered: "I want to share a life together. I want to braid your gray hair." Dave never actually uttered "Will you marry me?" and there was no diamond engagement ring to seal the pact that was too "I own you," says Dave. But a stunned Kat, who never thought shed get married, knew exactly what he meant and said yes to his very personal proposal. Popping open a bottle of bubbly afterwards was just about the only "traditional" thing this bride- and groom-to-be would do over the next two months.
Daves an adult psychologist at Hahnemann Hospital with a private practice at The Cochè in Center City. Kats a physical therapist who owns a figure skating training company called Ice Dynamics. Many of the things that drew them together set them apart from other couples like the fact that they are both non-theists. While both were raised Catholic he in California, she in Connecticut neither felt any religious ties, so getting married in a religious way didnt make much sense to them. Getting married, to Dave and Kat, was about the ritual marking of a moment in time, a transition in their lives, and a way of deepening an already existing commitment to each other. They wanted their wedding to reflect who they are and what they believed in. And to them that meant no religion and a big party.
So what was the solution? A Quaker wedding. The idea came from their mutual artist friend, Marne Ryan, who made their wedding bands. Ryan was quick to explain that they could avoid involving a religious officiator since a Quaker ceremony requires none.
Because of its Quaker beginnings, Pennsylvania offers two different marriage licenses. One, used by most couples in the state, requires an officiator (priest, rabbi, justice of the peace); the other, created specifically for the Quakers but available to anyone, allows couples to be married with legal witnesses.
According to Peggy Morschek, director of the Quaker Information Center, a traditional Quaker wedding is performed as part of the community meeting. The couple says their promises before the assembled Friends. Then two witnesses chosen by the couple sign the Quaker certificate, along with the entire congregation. The certificate, usually an ornate calligraphied document, basically says that these two people have committed themselves, before God and their friends, on a particular day, and includes the signatures of the witnesses as proof of the unity. That certificate is then presented to the county as part of the legal application for a marriage license.
While Kat and Dave are not Quakers, they chose the method as a way of creating their own wedding "from scratch" one that had meaning and significance to them. They kept the spirit of the Quakers but eliminated the references to God.
"We dont identify with the Quakers. [They] offered a way out for us to get married in our own way," explains Dave.
A friend offered his Queen Village home for the affair. Dave arranged a light lunch through the health food store Essene at the time Kat was vegetarian and he arranged for a cake from the Chefs Market on South Street, minus the little wedding people on top. The guest list would be small, just close friends and no family due to the long distance. However, family would get a reenactment a few weeks later. Thats why there were so many invitations, says Dave four sets of them, in fact. There was one for those invited to the ceremony, one for the after-party, and one each for parties in Connecticut and the West Coast scheduled for later on.
In lieu of a bachelor and bachelorette parties, the night before the wedding Dave and Kat decided to celebrate their wedding night by pampering themselves in a suite at the Four Seasons Hotel, courtesy of Kats parents. Their luxurious pre-nuptial night included, among other things, dinner at The Fountain, full-body massages and breakfast in bed.
The next afternoon, on May 24, 1997, two months after they agreed to legally unite, Kat and Dave were married. Guests were greeted with a large poster board that explained the ritual they were about to witness. It began by welcoming the 30 or so guests to "our patriarchally dominated, superstitiously dogmatic ritual role transition to a union of civil utility" and went on to explain the forthcoming ceremony and how it was created. It also included explanations of why each was keeping his or her own name "in order to keep parity in our relationship" and their strong beliefs about keeping government out of private affairs such as marriage.
She wore a black Jones New York halter dress "I always wear black" and he a dark Italian suit from Wayne Edwards. She walked down the aisle or rather the staircase carrying a presentation of calla lilies to music of Handels wedding march. As she took her place beside Dave on the outside deck, he was already tearing up "I cry at everything," he says. Witnesses, the couples close friends Jim Sanderson and Dede Greenstein, opened the ceremony by reading Tracy Kuharsli-Millers poem, "When Two People Fall in Love." Dave and Kat exchanged self-penned vows and rings and sealed it all with a kiss. Jim and Dede then read and signed the marriage certificate, an intricately handcrafted document with a delicate flower border. Afterward, all the guests were asked to join in and sign the certificate. Then, it was party time. And party they did.
"We knew we wanted a party more than a wedding, so we had 20 minutes of a ceremony and 10 hours of a party," says Kat.
The Quaker Information Center, 15th and Cherry Sts., 215-241-7024.