Everything about New York City seems epic, so I was mindful of the small things: sidewalk gardens of succulents, fireflies at Battery Park, the soft gleam of my brother's new wedding ring.
During a flash trip to the city, I also gained a brother-in-law, Steve. He and Bill have been together for 28 years, and they'd long talked about getting married. This month everything fell into place, and they bought the rings, booked our flights from Utah and Florida and met me at the hotel.
On July 5, we took a cab to the Marriage Bureau and got the number, A103, that would be called. You should have seen the crowd in all its variety: a dapper, elderly man waiting with a woman his age, gay men wearing their best suits, brides posing for portraits and a pair of lovely women, likely in their early 30s, leaning into each other as they waited.
After an hour or so, Bill's and Steve's number came up. They got everything squared away and we were sent across the street to the courthouse. We found the right clerk, who had them fill out more paperwork.
Then he left the counter for a bit and came back to tell us a judge was available. (Bill claims the clerk did that because he took a shine to me; I think the shine was to Bill.)
Thence to the courtroom, where Bill and Steve bantered with a clerk before Justice Milton Tingling of the New York County Supreme Court arrived, swathed in his black robes, the collar of his orange polo shirt peeking out.
Tingling, addressing me as "the witness in the purple shirt," waved me to his side. Bill and Steve faced us intently.
The vows were traditional: "Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
"Yes," Steve said.
The same to Bill, who hesitated for an instant, then said "May â¦ YES." We all roared.
Then Tingling told them that given all their years together, they had the responsibility of telling other couples how they did it, of helping others understand how it could be done. Bill and Steve nodded.
Tingling continued: What has been joined here, let no man put asunder. But, he told them, only one of them would be that man. Take care of one another, he said, and do not let love slip away. More nods.
At that, I started taking pictures, then we shook the judge's hand and left, elated.
We jumped into a cab and hurtled back to the hotel, changing into shorts in the New York heat. I can't remember where we had lunch, but dinner was at an exquisite Italian restaurant just a short walk from the hotel. Afterward, we went to the hotel bar, where a witty bartender served drinks and Bill got talking to a native New Yorker who taught us all the phrase, "It was haurrible!" the watchword for the rest of our stay.
New York is wonderful, of course, but the greater wonder belongs to people like Bill and Steve, who met all those years ago and decided within two weeks that they'd never part. Like me and my husband, they've been through smooth and tough times, but their devotion endures.
It doesn't take a wedding band to seal lovers to one another.
But in these times, when so many states (Utah included) have banned gay marriage, it's comforting to know New York has become an oasis for people who are simply meant to be together.
Peg McEntee is a news columnist. Reach her firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/pegmcentee and Twitter, @ Peg McEntee.