She was beautiful and he was handsome. The excitement was palpable as we celebrated the beginning of their married life. As we celebrated my cousin's wedding, I could not help but recollect weddings past while celebrating the wedding present and looking forward to weddings future.
While my wife was picking out a dress while we were getting ready for the wedding, she paused next to her wedding dress in her closet and asked if she should wear that one. We chuckled and I commented that even if it wasn't appropriate for her to wear that dress on this day, it was a good time to recall the day she did wear that dress.
With my own bride standing beside me, how could I not recollect my own wedding from the past as I watched my cousin walking down the aisle? When infants are baptized we are invited to renew our own baptismal promises. While we are not invited to renew our wedding vows aloud as the bride and groom profess their vows, I think it is similarly a moment when all the married couples at the wedding can recall and recommit themselves to their own marriage vows.
We recognize that the bride and the groom are not learning about these vows for the first time as they hear and speak them at their wedding. They have spent a lifetime being formed in their understanding of this vocation as they have witnessed the marriages of their families and friends. They have learned more about the vows by seeing them lived out by those closest to them than they have by listening to the words spoken at the ceremony. Their marriage is therefore connected to all the marriages that have come before them.
As this bride and groom are married we celebrate with them in present. When a new Christian is baptized, I feel excited to know that we are welcoming another member of the family. There is a new Christian who will join us on this journey that we make together. This new Christian will learn from me and I will learn from this new Christian. Similarly, as a married person attending a wedding, I feel like we are welcoming this bride and groom to the family of married couples. They have chosen marriage as their life vocation as I have chosen marriage for mine. From now on we will journey in this vocation together. They will learn how to be married by watching my marriage and I will learn how to be married by watching their marriage. We will encourage and support one another when marriage is challenging and we will celebrate with one another when marriage is filled with joy. We will understand each other as we talk about our marriages in a way that no single person can completely understand. As a community of married couples we work together to understand how we all best image Christ's love for his Church.
A brief moment struck me during my cousin's wedding. The bride and groom crossed a small bridge to the place where they would make their vows, and the groom briefly bent down and picked up the train of his bride's gown. The act of service for his bride only lasted a moment, but it struck me as a beautiful image of his commitment to spend the rest of his life giving of himself for his wife. As married couples, we not only give of ourselves in the fantastic ways such as raising children together, but also in ordinary and mundane ways like helping each other keep our clothes clean. A lifetime of combining each other's laundry is a simple reminder of how our lives have become one in even the most ordinary aspects. He was barely seconds into his marriage and he was already witnessing to me and challenging me to more fully give of myself to my bride.
Finally, as I was holding my baby daughter during the ceremony, how could I not imagine walking down the aisle with her someday as I watched my uncle walk down the aisle with his daughter? This image of that future wedding can quickly bring a lump to the throat or a tear to the eye, to think that I could be giving my daughter away to another man someday, but it is also a joy filled image to think that the traditions that have brought us to where we are today will continue to carry our children and grandchildren into the future. Just as this bride and groom have been formed by the marriages that came before them, my daughters are being formed by the marriages that now surround them. This new bride and groom will be a witness to my daughters of a loving marriage that will prepare them for the possibility of a marriage in their future. I am challenged to be the best husband and father I can be knowing that they are watching me, and consciously or unconsciously I am teaching them how to be married. If they do choose to marry someday, then their marriages will witness to me as well.
One of my favorite moments of the wedding reception is the anniversary dance. The DJ invites all married couples to the dance floor and throughout the song he tells couples to step off the floor if they have been married for less than a certain period of time. It's a moment to mark the passage of time by celebrating how long you can stay on the floor with your own spouse. My wife and I were thrilled to be on the dance floor for our first official wedding after our fifth anniversary, so we could continue dancing after he told those who had been married for less than a day, less than a year, and less than five years to leave the floor. But even after we stepped off the floor, I love to continue watching the other couples dancing has the DJ announces twenty, twenty-five, thirty, thirty-five, and forty years. What a powerful image of all the marriages that have brought this bride and groom to wear they are today! I love cheering loudly for the successful marriages that have stood the test of time through the decades! This bride's grandma and grandpa were the last couple on the floor having been married for fifty-nine years! Fifty-nine years later they still danced beautifully together. What an inspiration to us young couples!!
Celebrating with a bride and groom at their wedding is a great moment for us to recognize the interconnectedness of all marriages. All of us married couples will witness to each other, encourage each other, challenge each other, pray for each other, celebrate with each other, laugh with each other, and grow with each other until that day when we all join together at the Wedding of the Lamb!
In her book Where Two or Three are Gathered, Florence Caffrey Bourg wrote "What makes a family a domestic church is a habit of interpreting its ordinary life - for better or worse - as the means through which family members are to seek, know, and love the God made known in Jesus Christ." This is one example of how I interpreted an ordinary experience from life in my domestic church. Have you had a similar experience in your domestic church?