Planning a wedding is always stressful. Organising a ceremony and wedding reception is an arduous task, not to mention catering for all your guests to make sure they are all free to attend the happiest moment of your life. But the average wedding will feel like a walk in the park compared to what Victor and Fernandez, the subjects of Cristina Herrera Borquez’ documentary No Dress Code Required (Etiqueta no rigurosa), had to go through in order to finally walk down the aisle.
After meeting in the early 2000’s and living a happy life together since then, the couple decided to finally tie the knot in 2013. The supreme court of Mexico had declared same sex marriage a constitutional right, so they planned to finally go ahead and get married – unfortunately, they lived in the state of Mexicali, which did not subscribe to the court’s ruling, objecting to their marriage on religious grounds. Over the course of two years, the pair were followed by the director on their lengthy battle for marriage equality in their hometown, a process that quickly turns in to a silently horrifying Kafkaeqsue nightmare.
No Dress Code Required (Etiqueta no rigurosa) works extremely well due to how likeable its central subjects are. Victor and Fernandez both own and work in a beauty shop, with a relationship so strong, their appalling treatment by their state’s bureaucratic lawmakers doesn’t threaten to tear them apart. You can sense that they love spending time together; even as they openly admit that they argue just like any other couple, they have a strong, loving bond that’s apparent in every frame. This might be the strongest argument for marriage equality in the entire film, as their relationship is depicted in a manner divorced from the political proceedings they have found themselves in the centre of – but with an emotional strength that’s only reinforced by the nightmare they are living through.
As their efforts to get married turn increasingly drastic, their situation turns from an oddball comedy to a nauseating panic. One of their first steps towards getting married involves sitting in a mandatory pre-marriage class, where the speaker claims that when having sex you should “invite God in to the bedroom”, before inexplicably comparing sex to a salad, where lettuce and tomato can help make a satisfying whole. After struggling to suppress laughter at these outdated marriage opinions, presented with a lack of self awareness delivers some of the film’s mightiest laughs, later attempts to get married are as far removed from comedy as you could possibly imagine. The simple process of getting married turning in to an epic, years spanning, David vs Goliath tale.
For viewers the world over, No Dress Code Required (Etiqueta no rigurosa) acts as a feature length explanation as to why we should never take marriage rights for granted. We’re living in an age where a growing number of people in the western world are now fortunate enough to marry the person they love – and the cause for marriage equality will only be amplified after seeing what Victor and Fernandez have to suffer through to have their basic human right of getting married to be approved by the authorities. Love will always be stronger than the bureaucracy that aims to undermine it, and there is no doubt that this ordeal made the love between the couple stronger than ever. No Dress Code Required (Etiqueta no rigurosa) will leave audiences in equal parts angry at the behaviour of the local government, and moved by the strength of Victor and Fernandez’ love for each other despite it.
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Cristina Herrera Borquez