When you and I first met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing into something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes in me all my days till then–that is the real meeting.
The other is only the beginning of it.
C.S. Lewis – Out Of the Secret Planet
Having officiated over one thousand non-denominational wedding ceremonies here in Los Angeles and throughout the country, I’m now convinced that no one really knows what it is they’re vowing when they offer their vows!
How could they?
There are many versions of the traditional vows, and here’s the simplest:
I ___ take you___to be my wife/husband. I promise to be true to you in god times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life. This is my solemn vow.
Lovely. Moving. Inspiring.
But what do those words mean?
You don’t really know what they mean until you actually set about living your married life.
Last year I had the honor and delight to officiate the 20th Anniversary vow renewal for Jean and Curtis (names changed). I officiated their wedding twenty years ago. . .
They invited thirty close friends to come and celebrate their twenty-year adventure.
What made the celebration especially poignant is that Multiple Sclerosis has now confined Curtis to a wheelchair and he lives in a nursing facility that offers him the care Jean is no longer able to provide.
Twenty years ago they vowed to each other the words I wrote above. On that glorious day they weren’t able to imagine what “good times and bad” or what “sickness and health” would look like and feel like.
Their anniversary night was luminous – to be with them and see that they are living with grace and humor and generosity the life they had vowed to live.
For those of us who celebrated with them on their sunny Los Angeles wedding day, we had no way of knowing that twenty years later we’d be celebrating with them at a health care facility – we had hoped for Bora Bora! But we were there and would not have wanted to be anywhere else than with them.
In a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things—all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying, ‘your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.’
From the movie, Shall We Dance?
Think on it – is there really a better definition of marriage than this?
After 20+ years of officiating non-denominational wedding ceremonies, I’m now prepared to say that THIS is THE definition of marriage. Jean and Curtis have confirmed this for me.
Their being a witness to each other’s life is a gift to each of us who are privileged to be their friend. They anchor us as they remind us what life is all about.
The goal of our life should not be to find joy in marriage, but to bring more love and truth into the world. We marry to assist each other in this task.
Simply put – our world is a better place because of Jean and Curtis.
What we wished for them on their wedding day, at its deepest level, has come to fruition. They are each other’s partner – true and loving.
As I prepared for their vow renewal, I wondered what now, what more, could I wish for them? And then I came across these words:
To love someone deeply gives you strength.
Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage.
And so in the name of all present I wished Jean and Curtis ~
Continued strength and courage, day in and day out,
all the days of their life together.
It is also my wish for you and your partner. . .
If you’ve been asked by a friend or relative to officiate their ceremony
and you’re not sure even where to begin,
I invite you to check out my book –
How To Officiate A Non-Denominational Wedding Ceremony
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