As a non-denominational wedding officiant I get to meet many people – it’s one of the reasons why I love what I do!
After a ceremony I’ll sometimes be stopped by a guest who wants to share their story with me and sometimes I’ll get an unexpected email from a person who attended one of my ceremonies.
Vivian (name changed) is a friend to the mother of one of my brides from earlier in the year. This is an excerpt from an email she wrote me:
Four years ago my husband Jake was terminated from his job at the age of 59. As you can imagine, he experienced depression and a loss of identity. Because he had two open-heart surgeries in the previous ten years, he didn’t have it in him to begin a new corporate career. He prayed for direction, asking to be shown a way.
Originally, he came to LA to be a comedy writer. Through a series of events, he now has his work on GoComics.com. He receives mail from many who thank him for the smiles, saying his cartoons helped them through chemo and other difficult life events.
The inspiring thing about my husband’s journey that motivates me is that life is full of opportunities, often unknown, and that every day is a new beginning – perhaps the opportunity to reinvent oneself, to dare to try something we always dreamed about.
I am moved by Vivian’s tribute to Jake – which was really her tribute to their married life.
As a wedding officiant I am privileged to witness the giving of so many couples’ vows. And while those vows can swerve from the very silly to the very profound, Vivian’s admiration of Jake reminds me that in its essence the marriage vow is grounded in thanks and hope.
Vivian reminds me that there is no gratitude without hope.
To give thanks for what we can see also acknowledges that there is more to come because “every day is a new beginning.” However, I think it’s easier to say, “I’m thankful” than it is to say, “I’m hopeful.”
That’s because real hope is always big and it requires that we have a generous attitude looking to the future. And that takes courage. Vivian and Jake, each and together, are courageous people.
I’m challenged by Vivian’s story because I don’t think I’m a hopeful person. I think “to hope” can seem like it’s leaving things up to chance and I don’t want to take a chance on chance because I’m never lucky!
And I don’t think I’m really a grateful person because I’m never satisfied. I keep pushing myself without pausing to take stock of what I’ve accomplished and what has been given me.
So what to do?
Live from cautious hope?
Live with meager thanks?
That simply won’t do.
I think we’re asked to do what Jake and Vivian did.
Vivian loved her husband by bearing witness to his pain and struggle. And in Vivian’s unwavering gaze, Jake was able to remember what he’d forgotten – his love of humor.
And so, somehow, in that mixture of faith and hope, fear and love, together they were able to strive to create anew their life – present and future – despite the sirens of the unknown.
I think that this is the truest of loves – the love that a wedding honors and celebrates!
What about you? What are you promising in your vows??
I am a Los Angeles-based non-denominational wedding officiant. During the last twenty years, I’ve officiated over one thousand non-denominational, inter-faith and cross-cultural weddings.
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