Part I: The Ceremony
Planning a wedding, we tend to focus so much energy and attention on the venue, the food, the guest list, the flowers, the dress – and not nearly as much on the ceremony itself. I sometimes felt guilty for not spending more time thinking about the fact that we were going to be married, and not just celebrating with our family and friends. Part of my hesitation in thinking about the ceremony came from the fact that we had no idea where to start.
Neither Jeff nor I are religious, and we didn’t want a religious ceremony. But what did a non-religious ceremony look like? Sometimes it seemed impossibly daunting to construct a meaningful wedding ceremony practically from scratch – but in the end, things worked out really well. We had Jeff’s father get ordained on the internet to officiate. We passed around our wedding rings for a ring warming (“a what?” people asked.). We didn’t have a procession. Jeff’s father said a few words about us, which included making fun of Jeff’s love of tofu and my board game negotiation tactics. We chose readings that spoke to us. Jeff's cousins played music for us, and his grandfather composed one of the pieces.
What we ended up with was short, funny, and very much representative of who we are. I’m glad that we chose to keep fighting some battles until we were satisfied. I was really uncomfortable with anything where the bride was featured more prominently than the groom, and I didn’t want people to stand up for only me during the procession – so we didn’t process (Jeff was okay with that). We couldn’t find readings we loved and I was ready to settle for “good enough,” but Jeff kept looking and found a wonderful one. I’m Japanese, but we didn’t incorporate any Japanese wedding traditions, because we couldn’t find any that were truly meaningful to us. Jeff is half Jewish, and we did have him step on a wine glass (or a lightbulb masquerading as a wine glass), because it was a tradition we both knew and liked.
I imagine that much of our lives will be spent figuring out what is important to us as we continue to grow and evolve as a family. Writing the ceremony together with Jeff, with some input from our parents, was an unexpectedly appropriate way to take our first step as a family. I’m sure we’ll sometimes want to just settle for “good enough” when we shouldn’t. I’m sure that we will come up with compromises that make sense to us, even if they defy traditions and expectations. And I can now say that we have successfully navigated both of these situations, and more. That’s not to say everything from here on out will be easy – but I feel better prepared.
If you are interested, here are the readings we used:
Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall, from Goodridge vs. Department of Health
Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations…Without question, civil marriages enhances the “welfare of the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” It is central to the way the Commonwealth identifies individuals, provides for the orderly distribution of property, ensures that children and adults are cared for and supported whenever possible from private rather than public funds, and tracks important epidemiological and demographic data…Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.
“Love,” by Shuntaro Tanikawa
(My mother read this in Japanese, and we printed an English translation in our programs.)
Love: easy to say out loud
Love: not hard to spell, either
Love: everybody knows how it feels
Love: to care for somebody so much it hurts
Love: to always want to be by their side
Love: to want them to live forever
Love: it's not just the word, “love”
Love: it's not just a feeling
Love: to always remember the distant past
Love: to believe in an invisible future
Love: to think, over and over again
Love: to live life to the fullest.
(As you can see from my mother's hair, it was a super windy day.)
Douglas Adams, from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
They looked at each other for a moment.
The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss Cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who awakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savannah stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.
He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
He hadn't realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “Yes.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, from The Little Prince
“Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world.”
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
“You are not at all like my rose,” he said. “As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world.”
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
“You are beautiful, but you are empty,” he went on. “One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you – the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose.”
And he went back to meet the fox.
“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important,” said the fox.
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose – ” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose...”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
Stay tuned for Parts II and III!!!