This past weekend we drove down to Illinois for the third week in a row, this time for a wedding. It is, by my count, the 20th wedding Evan and I have attended together. The day we got engaged we went to a wedding, and every year since we’ve been witnessing the sacred vows of cousins and aunts, former roommates and brothers, new church friends and old ones.
This wedding was a college friend from self-proclaimed “coffee club” friends—those of us who gathered two times a week for the better part of four years in undergrad to drink a pot of coffee and commiserate about the joyful and awkward parts of living. There were about a dozen of us, and so weddings become a mini-reunion as those of us who can gather to celebrate. And for the record, the coffee at the reception was good. (Actually it was all that I had there, but that was less a tribute to coffee club and more about being Paleo.)
One of the beautiful parts of participating in the sacramental life of the church, is that we get to renew and remember our own vows. At baptisms we get sprinkled with the water and say the creeds for and with those who are being brought in the Church. And at weddings, we too remember and renew as we pledge to do what we can to support the new couple in their life together.
Not all the weddings we have been to together used we used the vows from the Book of Common Prayer. But many have, and even those that didn’t—like this weekend’s—borrow phrases from that service. I hear the words, “Dearly Beloved” and then I am back seven years ago in Wisconsin, the day that seemed like it would never come. As the service progresses through reflecting on the wedding at Cana, and giving the intention to marry, through the Scriptures readings, I get to relive one of the most holy moments of my life: the ring vows.
I remember that moment so completely. I was facing west. My hand in Evans. The three hundred faces of friends and family out of focus as I only had eyes for him. My godmother’s voice prompting me, feeding me those beautiful words:
I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow,
and with all that I am, and all that I have,
I honor you, in the Name
of the Father, and
of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit.
Even then the words seemed so big, to invoke that all of me, all that have, in the sacred and powerful name of the Trinity. It was where in the service my voice broke in the beauty and bigness of what we were doing. I have never wanted something more, or been more aware of the great power of God promising to help me when I would inevitably be unable to follow through on that vow.
It is the same name invoked at baptism: the Name of the Father; and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. There too, we are ushered from death of one life—the life outside of the church—into a new life, a life in Christ in the Church. So at weddings we are ushered from the death of life one our own—the life outside of living with this other person—into a new life, a life together.
We are reminded at each new baptism, each new wedding, each sacred goodbye at a funeral, and in the weekly coming into the Eucharistic table that we are always in the process of entering into a new life. We are reminded about the power of words, the invocation of the sacred name of God who called life into being with the Word.
Weddings are a time set aside, to feast and celebrate life that comes out of the death. The decorations, the dancing, the decadent hors d’oeuvres all of them help us step out of our regular time and step into the sacred time. We shower the couple with gifts and receive the hard labor of their months of planning and their friends sweet service and parents generosity.
Weddings are extravagance, and at times stressful in how it demands so much time and energy and money.
But it is in celebrating weddings that we get a picture of Heaven. Not the only one, by any means, but an important one. We are reunited with friends, embracing those we love and haven’t seen in years. We sing together and celebrate and feast. It is a party—one that we don’t want to end.
Weddings punctuate our lives. We attend weddings from when we are tiny, the baby in the back disturbing the silence with our needs. We march down as flower girls and ring bearers, miniature and adorable reminders of how the bride and groom are someone’s babies. We stand up in stiff synthetic silk and watch our friends make recklessly optimistic vows and promise to help them keep them with God’s help.
We arrive exhausted and exuberant at our own day, a thousand details we hope come together. And then we are remembering back to that day as we watch those younger than us proclaim with untried youthfulness that they will be faithful. And then in a few decades we’ll be seated with gangly ushers to mark the start of the service, seating the parents and then in a blink of the eye we’ll be in the seating of the grandparents. And likely I’ll still cry when I hear those ring vows…a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have…
Weddings are for us all. They are to tie us together as a community. They let us joining the fulfillment of our friends and families hopes and prayers as the day the longed for finally dawns. Each wedding is a sacred reminder of how there is more to this world than the daily, weekly toil that takes up so much of our waking hours. Weddings anchor us together in hope that we will one day be at the great wedding. May we us them to remember how precious this life is, filled with love and the promise of how these shadows will one day become real.
What are your favorite moments at weddings?
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