My eldest son and his lovely lady married last week. They dated for a long time, and were engaged a good while after that, but it’s been hard for me to get past the mental image of two kids just hanging out together.
Was I ever that young? I forget.
They spent a lot of time planning and making preparations, and everything felt much more deliberate and responsible than the days leading up to my own wedding. They also had very definite opinions about how things should go. As families are wont to do, we bumped heads over small details that seem trivial in retrospect. We argued and fumed and cried…and then apologized and hugged and found compromises. I tried to warn my son that there was no such thing as the perfect wedding, and something was bound to misfire along the way…probably many things.
And, yes, there were a few hiccups, but it all came together as perfectly as any wedding could, I think.
The biggest crisis emerged thanks to a rusty garden chair that tore my son’s trousers during the pre-wedding photos. There was some minor comedy in our frantic attempts to improvise a repair in the absence of a sewing kit. Duct tape? Epoxy? Band-Aids? Fortunately, the venue’s manager found a needle and thread, and the tear was mended invisibly with the aid of a skilled grandmother. Huzzah! Go family!
My son swore all of us to silence—he’d worked so hard to create a flawless wedding with his new bride, and she was not under any circumstances to know about this until after the ceremony. When she did find out, they had a good laugh together. I hope he discovered that sometimes it’s okay when life doesn’t measure up to our standards. Perfection is overrated, and our inflated expectations often rob us of our joy.
But it’s a joy of a different sort when our expectations are exceeded. I watched my son’s face as that graceful young woman came into view and swept into the wedding garden, radiant in all her bridal glory, and I knew what he was feeling. I remembered how I felt when my beautiful wife made a very similar entrance to our wedding, and I’m certain I wore the same expression of delighted astonishment.
For all the flak that traditional marriage has been drawing from the chattering classes these days, I was struck by how these two strong, independent young people constructed a wedding that affirmed its power and acknowledged that neither of them was complete, in and of themselves, without the other. For them, marriage wasn’t irrelevant, it was essential. The ceremony was anchored by this passage from the Bible, found in Ecclesiastes, chapter 4:
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
The minister talked about the significance of the third strand in that braid, of the need to keep God at the center of their relationship as an active help and participant in their marriage. He also reminded us that their marriage linked not just two individuals, but two families, each made stronger by their union. Her parents gain a son, we gain a daughter, and everybody wins.
The rest went by in a blur, but concluded with them pouring sand from two separate containers into a tall glass vase, yet another apt metaphor brought to life as the blue and white grains swirled together into a harmony of color—united, yet distinct, more beautiful together than either alone.
It was also more practical than the traditional Unity Candle for an outdoor wedding on the windswept plains of Kansas.
Afterward, at the reception, Mr. and Mrs. Warren moved from table to table, greeting all their guests and ensuring everybody was comfortable and having a good time. No, these certainly weren’t children I was watching. The wedding was well attended—they’ve made many mutual friends during their courtship and engagement. The food was good, the music, oddly, was heavy on the ’80′s, and I saw a few dance moves from my son and his college buddies I’d never before encountered, including a group dance that was equal parts half-court basketball and street theater. Don’t ask me to explain. Words fail me.
Sadly, I can’t dance, and I proved it once again that evening.
They will fall, and they will lift each other up. They will sleep warm in winter. They will stand back-to-back when enemies beset them, and with God’s help, they will conquer. Most of all, when the confusion of life in this troubled world threatens to pull them apart, they will not break, because they are woven together, along with all of us on both sides of their new family, into a triple-braided cord.
Godspeed, my son and daughter. Live long, love well.