Before you get the wrong idea, you should know this isn’t a raunchy, zany collection of zingers à la The Wedding Crashers or Bridemaids.
I was asked to write a speech for a wedding last year. This was the version I presented, but the couple did not like it. I came up with an alternative.
This original version, however, really came from the heart. I am proud of it and thought it should see the light of day, so to speak. I’m revisiting it now because I celebrated my ninth wedding anniversary last month. I have long thought weddings were stupid. A lot of pomp and expensive for a day. It’s the anniversaries that count.
We, in this room, are privileged to live in a time and place where we can pretty much do whatever we want. No longer, as it was in history, are we restrained by the occupations of our fathers. Nor are we anymore bound by a rigid social class order. No more lord and servant. But on the flip-side of life operating according to immovable constraint, of restriction, of suffocating tradition, the weight of generations–we are caught in a disorienting storm of freedom.
When you are given the wide range of choice, when life is presented as a menu of seemingly infinite possibility, how can we ever be sure we are making the right –the absolute best– decision? It used to be that you made the best of the cards dealt to you. Now, you are the master architect of your life. That is a lot of pressure to do the right thing. It’s a lot of responsibility to construct and maintain this house, our individual lives.
Then comes the subject of marriage. It used to be that everyone married who they were told to and that was that. It wasn’t about romantic love, it was about economic necessity or political alliance. Such were the demands of traditional societies. But now nobody in our country is under duress to get married.
So what now is the meaning of choosing to be unified for life in the form of marriage? Is it the certificate, combining of assets, and other practical matters?
We have all heard it. “So and so are getting married, but I don’t understand why. Who needs to?” Nowadays there is no stigma, you can live together forever as boyfriend and girlfriend. Have children and buy a house together. Why go through the fuss, when it doesn’t “matter” anymore?
It doesn’t help that there are negative portraits of marriage in films and television. It seems everywhere we look, there is the representation of marriage as a jail sentence, as preventing people from reaching their highest potential and causing more strife than joy.
What then is the meaning of marriage in our modern world?
Marriage is the union of two human beings at their deepest core, the ineffable essence of ourselves we call the soul. It means more than a lawyer’s contract. It is stronger than the bonds of any other man-made distinction. Stronger than armies, more clear than the borders of nations such forces fight over. I resist the painting of marriage as a shackling, of limitation. No. It is the greatest freedom we can ever experience. It is to be completely accepted, understood, loved, just the way we are. Marriage is the courage to face each day knowing the entire world could turn against us, and yet we would still have one person on our side. You will never again be alone.
Ceremony. Duty. Honor. Promise. These words we have heard so many times repeated throughout history, they have lost some of their potency. Here, today, we listen to these words as if they are brand new. Untethered to any old notions, wholly for our millennium. Each marriage is an opportunity to begin again, to define family the way we choose. Because it is in choosing it, when it’s no longer “necessary,” that makes is so singularly special, so weighty with meaning. So wondrous.
This day is for (name) and (name), who are here before us in complete freedom, to seek and meld their destinies together, for the rest of their hopefully long, healthy, joyful lives.
Written for Christopher, I just didn’t know it at the time. He’s not afraid of the heavy stuff. Together since our first kiss in February of 2001.