Nick Kluding and Ricardo Mendoza are getting married on June 2. For the past few weeks they've been meeting with caterers, hunting for a cake topper, and shopping for suits for themselves and their 21-month-old twin sons. The one thing they haven't had to worry about is the venue. They'll be getting hitched in the Kovler Atrium of the Museum of Contemporary Art and having the reception out on the terrace overlooking the sculpture garden, including the famous Sol LeWitt installation, and Lake Michigan. It's a gift from the museum, which decided to celebrate Illinois's Marriage Fairness and Religious Freedom Act in the most practical way possible: by throwing weddings for 15 couples.
"This is a truly historic cultural moment," MCA spokeswoman Elena Grotto says of the law, which takes effect statewide June 1. "The museum is interested in the local community. It's of great importance to celebrate." Before a federal court ruling last November permitted gay marriage in Cook County, June 2 was supposed to be the first day same-sex couples could wed. (Everyone is required to wait a day after getting a marriage license.) But, more importantly, it's a Monday, the day the MCA is usually closed, so the wedding parties won't displace other visitors.
In early April the MCA announced it was accepting applications for the 15 spots. Each couple had to write a brief essay explaining who they were and why they wanted to get married. More than 100 couples applied, 45 within the first 24 hours.
Kluding and Mendoza, both 45, have been together for seven years and were planning to tie the knot sometime this year, after the law went into effect, but hadn't made any definite plans. After a friend sent them a link to the MCA application, though, they were totally on board.
"It's important to us to have legal recognition and to have the same rights every other married couple has," Kluding says. "Our relationship is just as special as anyone else's." With their application, they also sent in a family photo with their sons.
Members of the MCA staff and Equality Illinois made the selections. "We were looking to reflect the diverse fabric of Chicago and Illinois," Grotto says. Kluding and Mendoza learned at the end of April that they'd been chosen. "It's been crazy," Kluding says. "But it's nice to get everything done in a few weeks. Some people take a year."
The weddings will not be conducted all at once, Moonie style. Instead each couple will have an individual half-hour ceremony in the atrium. The museum will provide nondenominational officiants. The music, decor, photography, and champagne and petits fours will all be donated. Afterward, the couples have the option of holding a reception out on the terrace, where they can stay as long as they like. Kluding and Mendoza have the 1 PM slot.
"A lot of people have been waiting for the time to come when everyone will be allowed to get married regardless of who they love. And now that day has finally come," Kluding says. "I hope years from now, people will look back and say, 'What was the big deal?'"