A few years ago I attended a wedding with a really memorable homily. The rest of the wedding was apparently less memorable, because I can’t remember whose it was. My brother-in-law’s?
Anyway, the priest talked about how, by attending the wedding, we were all making a promise to root for the couple in their marriage. In the Book of Common Prayer marriage ceremony, there’s this bit:
The Celebrant then addresses the congregation, saying: Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?
People: We will.
This meant, and means, putting their marriage ahead of our individual relationships with the new husband and wife. If it was my brother-in-law’s wedding, this message especially made sense because the bride and groom were very young, and for many of the attendees, this was one of the first weddings of their peers they’d ever attended.
Now that I am no longer a 24-year-old sitting in the pew beaming up at my devastatingly handsome be-tuxed (tuxed-up?) husband but rather a 30-year-old pulled in a thousand directions, a tiny hand clutched in each of my own, this message seems particularly relevant. Today, on our eighth wedding anniversary, I’m grateful for my sweet, strong, dedicated husband, but I’m also brought back to that priest’s words.
So many people have upheld our marriage. We’ve been blessed to come from a long line of healthy marriages, and we have a lot of folks to look up to. J’s mom advised me that she and J’s dad have a rule: Only one person gets to be mad at a time. My dad advised me that if you don’t feel like you’re giving more than 50% to your marriage, you’re not giving enough.
We’ve also been upheld by friends: friends who are transparent with their marriages, without being whiny, and talked openly about conflict in finance and parenting style and life goals. Friends who have modeled the difficulty of out-of-sync conversions, and marriage that sees career as a shared means toward an end, not an identity. We have friends who have prayed for the conception of our babies, and their safe delivery, and spoken frankly to us about their experiences with that marriage grenade, NFP.
I’ve had reading to guide me — though it seems like basically every recent novel is more about a marriage irreparably imploding — and even found encouragement in fluff like Parenthood, which reminds us that a marriage is worth fighting for.
I want to remind you all that how you live is building up or tearing down the marriages around you. Whether you pretend that marriage is effortless for you while a friend struggles, or indulge in cruel remarks about your spouse that open other marriages up to criticism, your actions affect the unions around you. Remember, please, that vow you may have made even if you’ve never married, simply by attending the wedding of someone you love — to do all in your power to uphold these two sweet, imperfect friends in their marriage.