Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
Shakespeare sonnet #116
to me it seems like some kind of bio-cultural timer went off in my mid-twenties. it seems like over night the vast majority of my dear friends wound up with some kind of diamond between them and their significant others. many of our dear male friends, once the first lept into the married world, followed suit. like lemmings. the fruits of that timer are manifesting themselves this summer. i went years without attending a wedding, and this year i have been invited to thirteen.
my friends have planned all kinds of celebrations, from vows spoken on the shores of maui, to full catholic masses. they have send me different tokens of welcome by post, inviting me to share in the joys of their special day. i have attended weddings at which every detail is attended to by skilled and experienced veterans of the wedding world. and i have attended weddings planned by new brides who are so overcome with joy that the details fade into nothing. i have tasted wedding cakes from creamy layered apricot tarte napoleon, to traditional genoise with chocolate creme filling. my friends are religious, and atheistic. they are well-to-do, and less well-to-do. they have different tastes and styles, and register for all manners of china patterns. the take their first steps as husband and wife to different songs and melodies, fantastically choreographed sometimes, and sometimes just swaying and holding each other to current of the music.
i have a love/hate relationship with weddings, to be honest. i love that weddings seem to be one of the only american cultural institutions that can bring family, scattered all across the world, to a single point to celebrate together. i love the flowers, details, the full skirts of wedding dresses, and cake. i love how the happiness of the families spreads like a warm glow to the guests throughout the night, and we all go home with smiles on our faces, or reliving the love between ourselves and that one other. i love to wrap wedding gifts and place them on the gift table at the reception. i love the thousand little details that come together to make one day that stands as a symbol of a new beginning for two people. earrings, chocolates, name cards, ties, handkerchiefs, lip gloss, flowers. rings. i love these things, but i hate the pressure and disappointment that the industry causes brides who cannot afford to have their dream wedding. i hate how those same pressures can push the disappointment forward before the significance of the tangible love that day should be about, the love between a couple, and the love of everyone who comes to support them in their new life choices. like all things, i wish that we could be socialized to only worry about the meaningful and important details of the day, and not whether all the details are important and perfectly executed.
while i have attended many beautiful weddings, and every wedding i’ve attended was beautiful, i was struck, in particular, by the wise word of my husband’s aunt at her daughter’s wedding. she quoted the lebanese-american poet khalil gibran, from his work “the prophet”
Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
weddings might be earrings, chocolates, name cards, ties, handkerchiefs, lip gloss, flowers, and rings. but a marriage is something completely different and i would ask that we not confuse the two. it’s my fondest wish that marriage will be a right that every human being can enjoy. and my wish for new brides is to look beyond the day and to appreciate how much privilege we exercise when we are able to participate in this institution.