Of Course I'll Marry You
A marriage introduction and charge for my best friend and her fiance on the occasion of their wedding. Also, a swift kick in the pants for everyone doing the hard work of being in a relationship.
...what bwings us togevah today.
Few things happen only once in a lifetime. Not even those things we actually call “once-in-a-lifetime” necessarily happen just once.
…but “once in a lifetime” is the perfect phrase to describe the level of honor my best friend Claudette and her fiancé Mike offered to me when they asked me to help celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their (and our!) meeting by officiating at their wedding this weekend.
You heard me: they asked me to marry them.
Not only did they ask me to officiate, but they specifically asked me to write from scratch the Introduction and The Marriage Charge. The Charge, for those of us not well-versed in wedding-speak, is the the part of the ceremony where the officiant gets serious and says the important, hopefully non-corny bits about what the heck we are all doing here.
It’s like the warning (don’t take this lightly!) and admonition (do this and that to not screw it up!).
As if that weren’t enough, there’s more:
Claud and Mike didn’t want to hear what I would be saying to them until the ceremony.
Essentially, they gave me veritable free reign over one of the most important moments of their lives.
Let’s be honest: writing about modern marriage—and engaging in modern marriage—is incredibly difficult.
Personally, I do not yet have an incredible track record with it, but I think that's okay. That's reality. I spent weeks and weeks mulling this over, laboring over something I could offer on this occasion that would be useful, meaningful, and true about the practice of relationships-- whether inside a marriage or not.
I'm hoping you'll see that in The Charge and maybe even find something that's meaningful to you in your own relationships.
I feel amused at my own sense of vulnerability in writing this. After all, I'm the one whose nickname is "The Sledgehammer." I tend to be tough as nails when called upon. This piece, though, reveals a lot of underbelly.
The cat's out of the bag: I'm a bleeding heart.
While the first few sentences are obviously personal to my friends, the piece overall serves as a meditation on a wedding and the project of being wed to another. With their permission, I’m sharing here what I wrote for Claudette and Mike in their honor on this important day.
I wish them a lifetime of joy and love.
Tonight we’re here to pause and acknowledge a pivotal moment in a story that has unfolded over the course of two decades. I imagine many of you already know this, but Michael and Claudette actually met exactly twenty years ago today.
This specific moment in this story is particularly remarkable, though, because it fits perfectly in to the classic structure of a fairytale: we’ve watched and listened as a series of improbable events has stitched together people over great times and distances to lead to a true happy ending.
Stories are funny in that way; they don’t always unfold the way we think they ought to. In life, though, one must cling to the idea that each of our stories unfolds the way that it is meant to. Tonight we celebrate a special moment in the story of two people that has itself unfolded just as it should.
Claudette and Michael, before we begin, I’d like to both acknowledge the seriousness and importance of the decision you are about to make and attempt to articulate why exactly each of us is in this room.
We as your family and friends are here to witness the vows you’re about to offer one another, thereby actively taking part in the ceremony by promising ourselves to support you in making and keeping those vows. I speak for each person in this room when I say we arehonored to be invited to serve in a supporting role of the growth and strengthening of your marriage and beautiful family.
But we should be clear: what you are about to do is dangerous. It’s intense work to protect, preserve, refine and feed something so fragile and delicate as a relationship between two ever-changing individuals. You must offer a renewed willingness each day to share an incredible vulnerability with each other, every day deeper and more tender than the next.
I recently came across an observation that “a transformed individual demands transformed relationships.” It has been abundantly clear to all of us who have witnessed the growth of your love for each other that you have each already experienced so much transformation through your togetherness. You have been dedicated to seeing each other through incredible challenges, and you are surely doing the careful work of unearthing for one another the best each of you has to offer.
In just a few minutes you’ll say your vows to each other in the context of eternality; in the fairytale we’d call it your Ever After. However, I’d like to propose that you approach the work of this marriage present to our only reality, the here and now, and to consider that the life story of the love between you will be the sum total of the choices you make each moment of each day that you mindfully string together until The End.
What follows are seven specific challenges to act on each day, choices you can make in every here and now, the result of which will be your gift to each other and to the marriage which will begin tonight.
When you become so frustrated with an argument that you’re more desperate to end it than resolve it, avoid the urge to run, which negates your partner’s ideas and feelings. Remain present.
At those times when the opinions and beliefs that feel knitted into your very identity are challenged by the other, when you feel the urge to protect yourself at all costs, when you want to swing fistfuls of rightness, keep your hands in your pockets.
When you find yourself or your partner ensconced in an old pattern of habituated thinking that hurts or frightens you, accept it for what it is. Remember that simply having the eyes to recognize these cycles is a special gift, changing them, a blessing. Risk injecting compassion into the system.
When the day has been long—and the days always are—and you are frayed and worn thin by life’s tedious, interminable details, elect to let go of them. Turn your attention to acknowledging the beauty of a child’s laugh in the other room, the pleasure of a full house, the simplicity of a kiss. See what is in front of you. In doing so, you’ll
In the quiet moments when nothing is happening remember that you are not, in fact, bored. A lull, be it an afternoon, a month, or a year, is a lull. Don’t agitate. Celebrate the nothingness.
Remember that happiness is easier to retain than to reignite. Fuel it with abandon and avoid distraction. Look for meaning. Express gratitude without restraint.
Flee indifference. Unhand fear. Hold tightly to your curiosity about one another, commit to uncovering and discovering one another, and dwell in the dynamic energy that exists between you. Offer yourselves to each other with enthusiasm and without restraint. Know each other fully, and make the most daring choice: love.