This the summer of weddings for Paul and I. We have reached the age where the children of our friends are beginning to marry, but we are also colleagues and friends with young people who are taking the big step. Between June and October, we will be attending six different weddings. Six!
While all of this nuptial joy can be expensive (think new dress, new shoes, shower gift, travel costs, wedding gift…..!) and a little tiring, it is also the most incredible reaffirmation of the power of human love. Next to the welcoming of new life (which I suspect will be happening in droves in a year or so…!), participating in a wedding is the most touching of social rituals. I love the whole thing!
Every wedding is unique, which is part of the fun. Our weddings this summer will include an outdoor Orthodox Jewish ceremony on a farm, a backyard secular ceremony in the Maine countryside, a formal Catholic ceremony at a grand hotel, a semi formal morning wedding at a country club and two more traditional church and reception weddings. They are all different in tone, style, menu, music and guest lists. One was even in another language, requiring us to read the translations in the books.
But they all share a common core, a common heart, a common purpose.
And this commonality is what I love.
It is not the chance to dress up fancy that makes weddings so special to me. It’s not the flow of cold crisp wine, the delicious foods or the gorgeous settings. It isn’t even the chance to dance as if I was still 25, making a happy fool of myself and usually wrenching my back for a good cause. None of that is what I find so exciting when I open up those wedding invitations.
I am humbled when I am asked to attend the wedding of a friend, or a cousin, or the child of my childhood buddy. I feel pride, and joy and usually some surprise when the brides and grooms reach out to ask me (me!) to be a wedding guest. I always feel as if the cool kids have invited me to the party!
See, when you go to a wedding, you are participating in an ancient ritual that has existed in every society in the world, since probably about the time when humans emerged from our caves.
When you listen to the service, (even if you don’t know the language!), you are asked to say ritual words, or to sing, or to raise your hands up high, holding them out to form a canopy over the heads of the lovers, blessing them and wishing them joy and prosperity and fertility.
Through these rituals, these words, we are welcoming a new family into the greater family of our community. By raising a glass and shouting “mazeltov” or “cheers” or “salut” or “slainte”, we are saying, “We are all here to help you, to support you, to get you on the road to a happy future.” By allowing us to participate, the couple is telling us that they are happy and willing to join the community of families, the community of our churches, our towns, our country. Every new family unit strengthens the family of humanity, it seems to me.
I am so happy and proud to have been included in the six weddings of this summer. Weddings mean hope and love and sharing, and they reinforce my faith in the future.
Why would anyone want to deny these beautiful ceremonies to couples who happen to be of the same gender?