Carol and John, I have to be honest with you, I know I told you that you were my first wedding but actually there was a wedding before yours. I’ve walked another couple through their vows. But you are my first wedding as a pastor. But here’s what happened. Friends of ours were getting married and they had hired a district justice. They had chosen an unusual place to be married- in a green house. The flowers were amazing but we had to create the aisle by moving the Burpee seed displays. The district justice was supposed to come but he never appeared. A call to his house revealed he was on vacation. Now before I became a pastor, I was a lawyer so I asked them where the marriage license was. They told me that they had met with him and he had signed it and told them he’d put it in the mail on Friday so it would already be on the way. What that meant was they were already legally married. So anyone could walk them through the rest. So someone jumped on a moped and went to the groom’s house and printed off the vows, and there next to the Burpee seeds I helped them say their vows. So far today we’ve avoided that kind of chaos.
And I want to congratulate you for your wisdom in avoiding two other things that can potentially send any well planned wedding into chaos- using very small children or dogs in the wedding party. When my husband and I got married, we had his three year old niece and five year old nephew as our flower girl and ring bearer. We practiced everything with them, but in truth we had so little faith they would make it, we had fake rings sewed on the ring pillow, and we had my maid of honor walk in behind them so she could alternatively nudge, pull or walk alongside them to get them from point A to point B. Sure enough, part way through the flower girl pulled off her garland and threw the basket on the floor and announced she was DONE! She was NOT going on. And my best friend Janet faithfully picked everything up, put it together and schussed them down the aisle to the end. It was crazy but in pictures they were adorable.
I know you have a dog you love and we talked about a dog in the wedding, but If you look on the internet I am sure there are wedding blooper videos of what happens when someone decides to use Fluffy as a ring bearer, only to have the dog stop and scratch or lick, or try to eat the pillow, or run off leash and off course. You have wisely avoided this.
You also have the benefit of avoiding the inexperience of youth. I hope I am not offending anyone when I say that with the exception of your matron of honor, Althea, none of us can do bbetter than to claim we are “young at heart.” And you know what that means when we put it that way. When we’re young, our inexperience leads us places we later see differently. In one of my favorite movies, “Keeping the Faith,” the character who plays Ben Stiller’s mom is showing her wedding photos to someone who’s admiring how beautiful and hopeful they looked. His mom ecxclaims, “Oh my God- we were such idiots! It took us 10 years to figure it out! We were so young.” You are older and wiser. And you have wisely chosen each other.
So what wisdom can I offer to you this day? Long after the finish on your rings is no longer perfect, when the little scratches and nicks start to appear, the pattern of the jewelry you have chosen to exchange will not be the most important thing. The pattern of how you live out your relationship will be what matters most. Wear your rings with pride and joy, but know that wearing the loyalty and faithfulness we hear of in Proverbs and loving as Jesus teaches is how your marriage will succeed. In the Book of Proverbs we hear we should wear loyalty and faithfulness around our necks. Luckily it’s not like having them tattooed there, but it conjures up the image of wearing something around our necks as a way of being led. Not unlike our pets, perhaps it’s almost like a leash. Let’s not get too literal, but we know that a leash is how we shape our pet’s behavior. It may not sit well with us to think we need to be led, but we need to learn patterns of behavior so we can learn what to do in expected and unexpected situations. In marriage there will expected and unexpected things. And we’ll need to learn how to respond to what love will demand of us. Love will demand a lot. And there will be times we don’t wanna do or say or listen to what love will ask of us. So the question is HOW will we be able to live this out?
The Book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings intended as a guide for living. I’ve put together a few more updated words from myself and others as suggestions for your journey together:
Blessed are you when you have little stumbles, it might save you from a big fall. (Hallmark)
Whether you stumble or fall, in love be the one to pick the other up and help them on the way.
All you really need is love, but a little chocolate every once in a while never hurt. (Lucy, in “Peanuts”)
Be the one to offer a sweet or unexpected surprise.
As important as it is to know the right thing to say at the right time, it is even more important to leave unsaid the wrong thing at a tempting moment. (Ben Franklin)
You don’t always have to have the last word. And if you think you REALLY DO, consider whether that word should be “Sorry.”
God will use all kinds of circumstances to communicate in your relationship- humor, tears, a hug or a look. Knowing which of any of this to choose will require tending another relationship – the one you have with God. God has given you this love- in this relationship, and in your family and friends. And God has given an even greater love in his Son, Jesus Christ who gave us and shows us grace and mercy and forgiveness. Which by the way are all things we will need to give and receive in marriage. God has also given you faith and the tools to deepen faith. God will come to you in prayer, in Scripture and in a community of faith- all ways you can remember what you need and be met by those who can tell you- “I’ve been there too and here’s what worked for me.“ As you prepare to continue this new part of your journey together, know that whether it requires nudging, or pulling or walking alongside of you, everyone here is with you and more importantly, God is with you each step of the way. May each day be blessed. AMEN