Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Real Beginning

Perhaps this is where I should have started my recaps. The ceremony. The ritual. The moment of marriage. For us, the ceremony was so much more than a prelude to the reception. It was (and is) the time when our promises were made real. It was (and is) the crux of our wedding and the beginning of our marriage. Yes. This is the real beginning.

We started with a welcome and a prayer. And then, because we originate from a place of “yes,” we began the affirmations. I am a woman, a feminist, and an adult; I am no one’s gift to give away. But it was exceedingly important to my father and stepfather that they have the opportunity to affirm their support for the marriage. They did. Then the Mister and I affirmed that we intended to enter into the covenant of marriage, and we said our “I dos.” Right at the outset. Do you take this man? Do you take this woman? Yes. We do. Finally, we asked the congregation if they would give their encouragement. They did too.

Next, a bit more tradition and heritage. While I will always remain a part of my own family, I wanted to make an outward sign that I joined with my Mister’s family. So, in the ancient Scottish tradition, my mother in law, Momma Mac, pinned the Mister’s family tartan on my dress.

After which our celebrant read this prayer of thanksgiving by ee cummings:
i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

I’m going to interrupt the recap to give some unsolicited advice. Choose your celebrant wisely. Pick someone you love and who loves you. Someone who knows you. Someone truly extraordinary for an extraordinary moment in your lives. I realize that very few people in the world could have a celebrant like ours. You see, we didn’t pick a celebrant who happened to be our friend. We were blessed to have a friend who happened to be a celebrant to perform the sacrament of our marriage. And that, dear readers, is how we ended up with the most beautiful sermon I couldn’t have imagined. It included elements like this:

I’m going to ask you to turn around and just take in the view that I see – all the faces of people who have joined both of you in this celebration of marriage. These are the people who have been with you and will continue to be with you, as you start this new life together.

Sometimes when I look out over the congregation, I imagine that the pews don’t stop at the church doors, but keep going and going and are filled with people, so I invite you to look past these sanctuary walls and to see the pews extending back and back, and see how they are filled with all the people who have gathered here for you: all the people who have ever loved you, all those who have shown you kindness, all those who have fought for your freedom and for justice, all those who have taught you and comforted you and been your friend, throughout the generations.

I invite you to see your brothers, seated in a pew, happy and glad for all you have become and will be together. These are the people in your life, the ones who will guide you in your marriage to each other. Take a good look at them, for they are here because they love you.

People always say to take a moment. To really experience the wedding ceremony. To take a deep breath. To let the love of your friends and family wash over you. In all the excitement, I would have forgotten to do just that, had our celebrant not reminded us. But when she did remind us, time stopped. The room was fairly glowing with love. Bright and shining and warm and comforting. It was the essence of Ahhhhhh.

And then. Then! We said our vows. Which we wrote together.

I choose you
To be no other than yourself,
Loving what I know of you,
And trusting who you will become.
I will respect and honor you
Always and in all ways.
With you I pledge to repair
One small piece of the world.
I take you to be my spouse,
To have and to hold,
In tears and in laughter,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
From this day forward,
In this world and the next.

We wanted to pledge something that was more than now. We wanted to acknowledge all that we did not yet know. We wanted to use traditional words, but add modern feelings. Because we have lost loved ones, for whom and from whom we still feel so much love, we wanted to promise a love that went beyond “until death do us part.” And my very favorite part of our vows? All the Mister’s idea – to pledge to repair the world. There is no greater healing than that.

We know that not everyone shares our spiritual beliefs, and we respect differences out in the world and here in our own communities and families. But for us, the marriage ceremony included God. And so we had communion. We had to fight with the church lady about the logistics. We wanted to be served last, after every single one of our guests had the opportunity to partake. She argued and wheedled and moved things around. But we stuck to our guns. And in the end, it worked just as we knew it should. It. Was. Right.
After all the solemn words and promises, it was time for a huge helping of joy with more than a sprinkle of humor. Our celebrant pronounced us husband and wife, we kissed (and kissed!), and the organist launched into our recessional. The Hallelujah Chorus. I can’t imagine a happier husband, a more cheerful wife, or a merrier congregation. To see people who have known sadness find true happiness? There were tears of joy and hoots of laughter. I may have even hopped up and down a bit. We sealed our marriage with mirth.