We got married outdoors in May in Portland, Oregon. The day could not have been more beautiful: Gray and chilly, with bouts of soft rain. It may not have been what most people would call great wedding weather, but it was the perfect weather for our wedding. The days leading up were sunny and hot, but the temperature dropped thirty degrees overnight and by Saturday, May 14th, the clouds had rolled in. We may have been a little worried about guests getting wet, but a rainy wedding was our secret joy and hope. As a relationship that hasn’t conformed to expectations in so many ways, the weather was the perfect reflection of us.
David and I were reluctant about having a wedding at first. We didn’t want to mindlessly adopt societal norms and perform rites that have lost all meaning. We wanted our wedding to reflect us and our values. We wanted the words of the liturgy to convey our understanding of marriage. We wanted to honor tradition, but not without examining it. We didn’t want to be pointedly different; we just wanted to be genuine. So when I felt the cold mist that day, it was as if God had smiled on me and said, “I know you, and this is the day I made for you. This day will feel like you.”
When we talked about the day, and the reasons to have a wedding, we decided we wanted to focus on two things: Our entrance into a holy covenant of marriage, and celebrating the loved ones who have supported us through this. We didn’t want the day to be all about us. We wanted, as much as possible, to redirect the spotlight. We wanted to be hosts more than we wanted to be fêted. And we wanted to spend time with each person there.
To honor our guests—and to avoid having all eyes on us—we had them process instead of us. This caught people by surprise, and truly delighted us. We had each guest announced by name, and small groups walk down a long set of stairs towards the altar. There, standing by the communion table, we took time to speak to each one, telling them why it meant so much to us that they were there.
Tears flowed. The first group was our pastors, and David started choking up right away. By the time his high school friends came down, he was full on laugh-crying. He couldn’t even speak! It fell on me to tell them how beautiful it is that they have all remained close all these decades. I lost it when my sisters got to the front, crying the ugliest ugly-cry known to man. It was a moment of healing, and my heart just burst as I held each of them tight. David’s tears returned as soon as his parents, sister, and dogs started walking down. We felt God’s presence in every hug.
The ceremony started with the words of Genesis 2:18: “The Lord God said, ‘It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.’” That day, as we helped each other set up chairs, carry boxes, and finish the table decorations, I knew, better than ever, that David is indeed that helper for me. We didn’t want to sit front and center, apart from our guests, so after I read the verse, we took our seats with the congregation.
The highlight of the ceremony, aside from taking our vows, was the music. Our pastor of worship put together a 10-person choir and arranged three songs for us. The first song, immediately following the verse from Genesis, set the mood for celebration: Hall & Oates’ You Make My Dreams Come True. Then, as we knelt after the marriage, they blessed us by singing a prayer. They asked that God, who is Perfect Love and Perfect Life, grant us faith, hope, endurance, trust, and peace. We ended the ceremony with a joyous rendition of Oh Happy Day.
Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.” He promised that if we keep company with him we’ll “learn to live freely and lightly.” That day, we wanted to share with our friends in “the unforced rhythms of grace.” We wanted to remember that Jesus “won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting” on us. So for the Gospel reading we chose Matthew 11:28-30 and the Beatitudes. And rather than have one person go up and read for a long time, we had a Gospel flashmob: a dozen friends stood up one by one and read a verse each. We did the same for the prayers of the people.
For the vows, we kept the traditional formula. As I wrote in my post about “The Marriage Triangle,” we like what that structure says about the nature of Christian marriage and the elements of the covenant. We started by making a promise each to God to care for the other “in faithfulness and holiness of life.” We then gave ourselves to one another, promising to endure all things and bear all things, in times of plenty and in times of want, and to forsake all others for as long as we both shall live. We made these promises trusting in God’s grace, Christ’s love, and the Spirit’s help. We exchanged rings as symbols of our vows, and our pastor pronounced us “kin, married in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Our first act as a married couple was to serve communion to our guests. The plates and cups we used belong to our church—our brave, beautiful, loving church. We served our pastors and elders, our home group, the friends we see every Sunday. We served our family, and we served friends visiting from out of town. At last, we served each other.
When we took our vows, we made a promise to become lifelong helpers to one another and servants to our community. The cross on the altar was also our church's, and as we stood by it, communing with our loved ones, it dawned on me that this is what it means to be married.
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