While we’ve all been to weddings that have dragged horrifically along through all the various traditional rites and rituals, occasionally you attend one where people really mean what they say, and feel the weight of the moment.
At all such ceremonies, people say vows that will potentially shape the rest of their lives, and that of all their descendants, while also determining for good the genetic characteristics of those offspring through the intertwining of their DNA. That is, if those reproductive considerations apply.
But, as we all know, some weddings convey this meaning more than others, and communicate to the participants and those watching that these words, these vows, are real. For all time.
I had the privilege Saturday of officiating the marriage of two good friends, Jereb and Charity. As part of my duties, I crafted the ceremony and officiated the exchanging of vows and rings.
I took it seriously, and felt that I needed to convey both the miracle of lifelong love and the struggle. For my wife and me, we’ve had the good and the bad, learning patience and humility along the way. It seems to me that every marriage worth the certificate must go through the same kinds of shifts and stages, and where you end up is never quite where you started. Couples should know that from the start and prepare to surf life’s cycles together. That, or your marriage will drown alone.
I crafted the following to serve the occasion:
Marriage is a human contract, signed in blood, tears and the sweat of a thousand episodes, both good and bad, that make up two human lives.
On the surface, it’s an agreement between two adults who decide that they want to come together as a legal and spiritual union and be together until the end of their days.
So, at first it’s a simple decision. Jereb takes Charity to be his wife, Charity takes Jereb to be her husband. Let the marital bliss begin.
Yet marriage amounts to so much more than this initial ceremony. Anyone who has been there knows that it entails all the difficulties and joys of a lifetime.
This union you forge today will have to withstand every manner of challenge, from the petty daily collisions of personality and taste, to the long-term drift of character and growth. Where one of you goes, the other must follow.
If this marriage is to last, as I believe it will, both of you will need to exercise loving patience, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and respect.
You both will make mistakes, some big and some small, and this will require your partner’s spiritual generosity to make things right. Bear that in mind in the future when it’s you that has been wronged.
There are only two true motivations in the human soul: fear and love. Marriage to me is the celebration of love in the face of all that there is to fear in the world.
It’s the ultimate expression of hope, optimism, and joy. Yes, times may get hard. Money, sex, children, mortgages, in-laws, broken cars and broken bones, mood swings and every other detail of your life will conspire at times to turn you against one another.
By exchanging these vows, the two of you loudly proclaim the belief that your marriage, an alloy of two different people with different histories and various fears, will not only withstand all these challenges but help the both of you emerge on the other end unscathed: Whole, healthy, and loved.
It is marriage therefore that lifts love to victory in the long struggle between these polarities. As long as you two remember each other, and your commitments made today, this union will last your lifetimes and that of your descendants, a legacy of hope in the face of life’s many challenges.
As for your descendants, let’s not forget them in this unification of families. Both of you are parents of wonderful, curious, beautiful children — some still small and one nearly grown.
As we sanctify your relationship, it’s vital that it be understood how this affects your children.
It’s not enough to tolerate one another’s little ones, to smile and make nice in the face of frustration and, at times, resentment.
As much as you love your future spouse and all their many particulars, like the scent that drapes that nape of their neck, so too must you love and cherish the child.
They are no less a part of your betrothed than an arm or leg, their heart and head.
As a new spouse, both of you are interlopers at first in a unit that precedes you. Tread carefully, show love and respect, offer patience, and put their needs first at all times. Earn the position of co-parent and family member.
Charity would you like to share your vows? Jereb?
Sometimes it is the simplest of symbols that mean the most. Rings such as yours are not complicated bits of machinery or meaning, yet they convey in a little package much that should be said about marriage, and the two of you.
You realize that the metal in these rings arises out of a rare and spectacular process in the universe? Gold is not made on earth, or in our sun. It’s is not smelted on the event horizon of a black hole, or born when planets collide. One of the heaviest of materials known to man, it can only be formed in supernova — when a large star has breathed its last, performed its final unification of atoms, and explodes in a fiery cauldron of absolute power to seed the surrounding universe with the elements for making worlds like ours, people like the two of you.
This star dust is found in pockets throughout our planet and carefully mined from the ground to form rings such as yours, an endless circle to symbolize through their material and form how sacred and eternal marriage must be to survive.
Ready your rings and repeat after me:
I, Charity, take Jereb to be my husband, to honor him in all my endeavors and forever pursue his needs as well as mine. I promise to stay honest in all things, communicate when necessary, support him in achieving his dreams and doing the very best I can to ensure him a lifetime of happiness and safety. With this ring I thee wed. (She places ring on his finger)
I, Jereb, take Charity to be my wife, to honor her in all my endeavors and forever pursue her needs as well as mine. I promise to stay honest in all things, communicate when necessary, support her in achieving her dreams and doing the very best I can to ensure her a lifetime of happiness and safety. With this ring I thee wed. (He places ring on her finger)
Now you’ve said the words. You planned the barbecue, and brought the meat. Soon enough all your friends will gather to congratulate you on a job well done, a task accomplished.
But, as we know, vows do not a marriage make. It’s the daily exchange of love and support, patience and empathy. It’s remembering your partner’s best when they are positively at their worst. It’s putting their needs above all others and relishing that chance to serve. At times, it can even weigh heavy.
Yet the reward — a lifelong commitment and a companion for the ages, one person in this vast world who has you above all in their hearts — is worth the hard work.
You guys are totally married. Suck face.
It was an honor to take part in Charity and Jereb’s wedding, and I congratulate them. I also wish them the absolute best in the long, thrilling journey ahead. Stay golden, you two.
James Faulk is a writer living in Eureka. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.