For my first entry of 2012, I want to tell you one of my very favorite of favorite wedding stories. . .
the truest of true stories. . .
Thanksgiving. I’m sitting at a long table, filled with deep-down good people. Anthony & Melissa have gathered us into their home. Across from me is a beautiful Indian woman. She has a disarming smile and a hearty laugh. She turns those clichés into something real.
I’m talking about this book, which then is half-written. The woman interrupts me. And with a directness not often seen between strangers, she asks: “what do you think is needed to make a marriage a success?”
Funny, this year I’ve officiated over 70 weddings. I spent the previous 6 weeks working on this book. And when she asks me her question, I fumble.
How do I answer her question, which I sense comes from a place of disappointment?
So, I tell her: “listening.” It’s both a true and safe answer. Besides, I do believe this is the key communication skill. Yet, somehow, when I give her this answer, it doesn’t seem adequate.
I glance at Anthony & Melissa. I flash on other couples who nourish me, Stacy & Eddie, Sarah & Buddy, Hanna & Bruce, Lyn & Brian, Clarice & John, Gina & Josh, “The Does”, Stephanie & Ray. And I wonder—what makes each of their marriages a “success?”
Hmm. . .they constantly support each other. Ah, but that, too, seems like a worn-out answer.
And then I flash on a moment Anthony & Melissa shared earlier. They had just finished setting-up this Tuscany-like family style table. I came into the garden and glimpsed them in a warm, hugging embrace.
Exhausted from the preparations, they simply fell into each other’s arms—and smiled. It was not so much a sexual embrace as it was intimately confirming that: we did it.
A seemingly eccentric woman from my college days once told me that real love is not those champagne moments filled with fireworks. Rather, real love is a reassuring whisper in the dark of night.
That is what I witnessed in their garden—the intimacy of a reassuring whisper.
This is our feast. In our home. Built on all the moments I wanted to kill you. Built on all your surprises that both delighted me and puzzled me. This night is our gift to these wonderful and wacky people, who, for better or for worse, are a part of our home.
As I looked down the table, with all its mismatched chairs and mismatched guests, I thought: “if we can’t give thanks for this moment, what can we give thanks for?”
And then, the woman again asked me, is that all that is needed for a successful marriage—listening to the other?
I look around the garden and think—no, listening is not enough. Rather, here, this table, this is what makes for a “successful marriage.”
Two people dedicated and pledged to creating a life—a life-giving life—that rises above the rituals of their individual pasts. A dedication that lets this day swirl with good, hearty questions: “do you have enough. . .do you need more. . .there’s plenty more. . .eat up. . .help yourself. . .don’t be shy. . .are you sure you’ve had enough. . .?”
Questions asked while serving and laughing.
What makes for a successful marriage? In that moment, as I flash on my family of couples, I’m reminded that it is the generosity with which two people ask these questions of each other. And in making their home in each other, there find comfort and safety in the reassuring hospitality of the other.
Your wedding is your Thanksgiving meal and its “perfection” comes not merely from all going “smoothly.”
No, it comes from all leaving feeling nourished. Feeling full from the reminder that life is good and worthy of our faith and hope and all that is good and true within us.
You take each other as husband & wife and in that taking you give to family and friends a “loud,” reassuring whisper that all is possible, as you urge them on-- eat, have more, don’t be shy. . .