I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational wedding ceremonies here in Los Angeles and throughout the country. More times than not, couples inevitably tell me that they’re worried they’re going to cry their eyes out.
I laugh and encourage them not to worry because my experience has been that the brides and grooms who say they will cry often times don’t while the ones who say they’re not going to cry end up needing a paper bag to breathe into!
I say, “cry!” – make-up can be reapplied.
But why are weddings such an emotional experience? Maybe it’s because a wedding, in its essence, is a breathtaking act of generosity and courage.
After all these years, after all these weddings – non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural – no matter the size of the guest list, no matter the faith, culture or sexual orientation of the couple – here are
8 Things I Know for Certain About Weddings
Every couple has a story AND every bride and groom IS a story.
We need a witness to our lives. 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.”
Shall We Dance?
I love listening to a couple tell me the story of how they met because in the telling I get a glimpse of who each person is. In listening to how they were surprised by love, listening to why they are grateful to their partner, I get a glimpse into the story of who they are.
I marvel at how all couples are similar AND how all are vastly different. Each has a story of how they got to the point of planning a wedding with this person out of all the billions of people in the world.
Because a wedding celebrates the co-mingling of stories I feel inspired and cheered, challenged and moved!
The planning process gives clear evidence
of the strengths and weaknesses of the couple – as a couple.
To fall in love is easy,
But it is a hard quest worth making
To find a comrade
Through whose steady presence
One becomes the person one desires to be.
Anna Louise Strong
No matter how intimate or how large the guest list, a wedding presses buttons that trigger everything from anxious insecurity to indescribable joy. And if you pay attention, all those stressors, all those reactions to those stressors, indicate who the person you’re marrying is at this point in time.
The quality of how you communicate during the planning reveals the quality of your life after the honeymoon!
A wedding speaks to the core aspects of a couple’s identity –
family, culture and religion.
Explore and discover that which is within.
When we find ourselves, we are more easily found by others.
In order to say “I Do!” there needs to be an “I” and the planning of a wedding invites, challenges and demands that each person ask, “Who Am I?” in relation to their place within a family, within a culture and within (or without) a belief system. What have you incorporated from each? What have you rejected? And how has all of that gone into making the “I” who will say “I Do”?
A wedding calls forth memories – good, bad and glorious.
In that book which is my memory,
on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.
A wedding is a grateful celebration for the past. From the moment of the proposal on up to the last dance, accurately or inaccurately remembered memories trigger emotions. And all those memories influence how you react to stress, along with what you expect and ask of your partner, your family and your circle of friends.
A wedding challenges a couple’s relationships with family and friends.
The best part of life is when your family become your friends
and your friends become your family.
People can forget that the wedding is not about them. People you thought you could rely upon disappear because of their own mystifying reasons. People on your “B List” generously surprise you. Parents speak and act out of love laced with protective fear in ways that can confuse, exasperate or delight. Parents want the celebration to reflect a reality that simply doesn’t exist or that doesn’t match the reality of who you are as a couple. Weddings challenge your capacity for surprise.
A wedding is an act of faith.
However richly inspired by love,
Marriage is a high wire act
That is usually attempted by two nervous wrecks
Who just go for it,
Reeling with bliss and blind with the hots.
The rest is work, faith and destiny.
Each of you only knows so much of who you are today. There are aspects of “you” that you’ve not yet explored and figured out – and so it is with your partner. The great act of faith is that you say, “I’m going to create a future with you. Of all the people with whom I could create a future, I choose you because you have, united with me, what I need to create a life-giving future – for me, for us.” Because we can’t predict the future a marriage is a glorious high wire act.
A wedding challenges a couple to ask what they want from and for their own life.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it in another. The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love. Whoever loves is more alive and more real than when they did not love.
If you don’t have goals and dreams and hopes, then why bother getting married? The great gift of marriage is that it gives you the safety to become who you desire to become – provided you and your partner have shared with each other and have already learned how to encourage those goals, dreams and hopes!
A wedding allows us to fulfill our collective, innate need to celebrate.
There are only two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as though everything is a miracle.
Ritual (religious or not) grounds us and helps us make sense of life. In a world seemingly gone mad, a wedding has the power to reassure us that life is good – and worthy of our best. Every wedding reminds us of the lasting truth stated by Emily Dickinson:
That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love.
Given these 8 certainties, is it any wonder that we cry at weddings?!
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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