Today’s post from Mary Via encapsulates what for me, are the most important parts of the wedding tradition. Weddings give our relationships the context of community— they are about standing up in front of our loved ones (literally, or figuratively, in the context of elopements), declaring our intentions, and asking for help. Weddings acknowledge that no partnership is simple and that our marriages require support to thrive. In turn, weddings give our community hope, and that hope helps see us all through. Mary Via’s post is about more than religious traditions: it’s about the ties that bind.
With just over a month to go until my wedding day, I want to say that I am actually very optimistic about my marriage. I really do think we’re going to make it. I also suspect that we’re going to be happy together. Very happy even. This might seem like a funny thing to say, but you should know that there are several reasons why I might reasonably have come to a gloomier conclusion. Not because there is anything glaringly wrong with my relationship, but because it’s been, shall we say, an “off-year” for marriage in our families.
My fiancé and I are all too aware of the ways in which marriage can both atrophy and erupt. This year in particular we’ve watched our families cope to greater or lesser extents with the darker side of marriage. We’ve witnessed a sibling’s explosive break-up and impending divorce after only a few months of marriage. We’ve also watched a thirty-year marriage strain under the weight of deep emotional pain, frustration and co-dependency. None of this has been reassuring for us as we prepare to get married ourselves.
What I’m saying is that I feel as though I’m going into marriage pretty clear-eyed. I’ve seen and considered the bad and the ugly. But there is also something to be said for the good.
Which brings me to, of all things, our marriage ceremony and the traditional Episcopal liturgy we’ll be using from the Book of Common Prayer. My favorite part of the service is the prayers that follow the marriage vows. The congregation makes these prayers on behalf of the couple, as if to say, “We just watched these foolish young people make some crazy promises to one another, and although we are tickled pink by how much they love one another, we know they are going to need our prayers.”
And so on our wedding day, someone will pray that my husband and I will be for one other “a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy.” And I will think of my grandparents who have been married, dare I say happily, for over sixty-five years, who survived the tragic death of their son, who still make one another laugh.
Someone will pray that our life together as husband and wife might be “a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair.” And I will think how grateful I am to have a true partner, someone I trust will always stand up for me and for our relationship. I will quietly acknowledge and give thanks for the deep peace I feel when I hear him breathing beside me at night. There are so many precious moments like these when I feel much less alone in the world. I will remember all the times he has forgiven me, in small and large ways, and I will celebrate the joy that multiplies just because it is shared with the one I love most.
And finally, someone will pray, “Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours.” And I will be grateful that the prayer reads when, not if, they hurt one another. Because I know all too well the ways in which we are capable of hurt and spite. But like I say, I’m optimistic about my marriage. We’ll hurt one another, but we’ll also be kinder than we ever imagined. We’ll be more generous and more patient than we thought we could be. We’ll do so with God’s help and, as the song goes, with a little help from our friends.
And when the music starts to play and my newly minted husband and I turn to face the congregation, we will see the faces of our family and friends. There’s a lot of good in this, they’ll seem to say. So go forth and for goodness sake, love one another.
Photo: Emily Takes Photos