I married someone today.
No, I am not a wife now. I work at a town hall in a very small town and I performed a wedding ceremony as part of my job. It was a beautiful day, and the couple was so very sweet. She was in her 50’s and so nervous and giddy. He was a bit younger and beaming like luckiest man in the world. They were in love. They had waited for this day. They were confident in each other and what they share. Just being near them was intoxicating.
I don’t have any desire to remarry. I know that is an unpopular thing to say and that some would assume that I had exited my marriage a cynical and negative person who had lost faith in the institution of marriage.
On the contrary.
I am still very much a romantic and I believe — strongly and without reservation — in the existence and power of true love. I believe in the wonder of a marriage as a “forever” bond, between the right people at the right time. My friends all know that I am a champion of every kind of happy ending there is.
I think that being in love is one of the small miracles of the world. I don’t know why God blessed us with the ability to connect to someone so deeply, to desire their happiness even above our own, to discover in ourselves a selflessness that we’d never seen, to be childlike and joyful in a way that we might not be in any other area of our life. It is amazing to me that we cannot quantify it or fully describe it or capture it or synthetically produce it, and yet love is a currency valued in every culture known to man. For every person that values money above all else, there are 10 others for whom the search for a true love is their life’s ambition. More poems, songs, sonnets, and odes have been written about love than about any other condition or being. Even God is only a close second.
For me, love and marriage proved to be two very separate things. I like who I am when I am in love. I am a good girlfriend. I did not like who I was when I was married. I was a “good” wife, but I was a miserable wife. And I have no certainty that I would know how to do it differently. So, for me, marriage is off the table. I do not want another wedding because I do not want another marriage.
But I do still love weddings. I love the optimism and the hopefulness and the bravery of that act. I love that, in our culture, it is one of the only times that the open and unabashed display of love is acceptable and celebrated. I love that, in spite of our collective pragmatism and cynicism, we have held onto the wedding ceremony as a means of shouting to the world that we love each other and we are going to try our damnedest to make our own happy ending.
I am not naive. I know what our divorce rate is and I fully understand why it is so high. I get that at least half of us make a mess of our first marriages, and around 75% of us do the same on our second marriages. But that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with marriage. That means there is something wrong with us.
I have known some amazing marriages…. quiet fairy tales in the midst of everyday, common life. They weather the ups and the downs, the “I-Can’t-Get-Enough-of-You” and “I-Never-Want-to-See-You-Again” moments, the highs and lows of sexual attraction, the challenges and victories of child-rearing. And when I have seen those couples look into each other eyes, when they think no one is watching, and I have witnessed the tenderness between them, my heart has melted. Every single time. Cinderella is all fine and well, as is the hoopla of the royal wedding. But the real miracle comes later, as the fabric of the marriage is woven and the texture acquired and the life lived side by side.
I watched my couple today, as they held hands and smiled at each other through tears during the service, and I said a silent prayer for them…. that whatever happy ending they were mutually imagining could please come true. That they could find in each other their own special fairy tale. Because I still believe in weddings. And I still believe in marriage.
Below is the text of the wedding ceremony I wrote for our civil wedding ceremonies.
Hello everyone and welcome.
We have gathered here today to observe one of life’s most precious moments: the decision of two people to join their lives together in the covenant we call marriage.
This decision is not to be entered into lightly. It deserves the benefit of long hours of soul searching and thoughtful contemplation. It calls for knowing oneself and what one needs and desires and has to give another. It requires an appreciation of the promise that is being made and the bond that is being formed.
Finding that person that we each believe to be perfect for us is truly a miracle. The world is large, and growing. To realize, just for a moment, that the two people before us somehow managed to find each other and recognize in each other a specialness, a “rightness,” a “fit” that surpassed what they had found or encountered previously… it is truly awesome. The story of how they met, got to know one another, fell in love, and began a journey that brought them to this place on this day is no doubt one of life’s most amazing little miracles. Whether simple or complicated, mundane or extravagant, it is a testament to the universally human desire to love and be loved.
Love brought them here, but love will not be enough to sustain them. It will have to be joined by respect, compassion, empathy, support, and patience. It will need constant nurturing and attention. It will need each of you to recommit, every single day, to its well-being and good health. And in return, it will sustain you and comfort you and enrich you.
Are you prepared for this commitment?
[Couple responds, as one, ‘”We are.”]
As marriage is necessarily the joining of two individuals – with separate identities, personalities, and ideas, I now ask each of you:
Do you, __________________ and _______________________, promise, to each other and the world as a witness:
- To love one another and show affection to one another and prioritize the physical and emotional connection you have with one another?
- To comfort one another without criticism or negativity, but from a place of love and support?
- To honor and respect one another’s feelings, concerns, beliefs, opinions, talents, and needs, whether you share them or not?
- To hold as sacred whatever aspects of your relationship you mutually agree should be so?
- To banish sarcasm, cynicism, and contempt from your arguments and debates, so as to cultivate respect and courtesy for one another?
- To support each other’s personal growth and self-awareness as being necessary components to the growth and sustainability of your union?
- To be even more patient, more kind, and more loving to one another than you are to the rest of the world?
- To be one another’s soft place to land when the world seems hard and unyielding?
- To strive to make one another feel special and desired and important?
- To be the one person in the whole world that each other can count on unconditionally and without reservation?
- To nurture and protect and guard your love from the stresses and pressures and temptations of life, such that your union grows stronger and more powerful over time?
[The couple answers, one at a time, “I do,” and exchange rings, if desired.]
[Optional: The couple has expressed the desire to each make a personal declaration.
The couple takes turns making their declaration, if desired.]
By virtue of your love for one another and the commitment you have just made, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may seal this bond with the eternal symbol of a kiss.
[The couple kisses, if they so choose.]
Now go forth and share this wonderful journey of life together. Congratulations!