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The Infectious Quality of Marriage

There’s just something about weddings that make you want to get married.

My friend Heather got married this past weekend in an absolutely beautiful ceremony, and it got me thinking (as weddings always do) about what my wedding would be like. The only detail I have set in my mind is that I want my processional to be This Marriage by Eric Whitacre, sung if possible by the chamber ensemble from my college, of which I was a member in my undergrad years. So yeah, just that one oddly specific detail. The rest I see in my mind as a sort of slideshow, but parts of it always change.

And of course, thinking about the how of your hypothetical wedding should (and for me, does) lead to thinking about why you would get married. Marriage is a very important concept for me. I am a feminist who thrives on tradition, and I love the idea of making a public declaration of your complete and utter commitment to another person, surrounded by your family and closest friends. I see it as the solemn undertaking of a partnership, the joyful celebration of love, and the beginning of the rest of your life. Marriage is not necessarily a goal, in my eyes. It’s a launching point.

Because I don’t see marriage as a culmination but rather as a commencement, I also give a lot of thought to what life would be like after marriage. This is why I support couples living together before they get married, or at least spending enough nights over at the other’s place to get an idea of what they’re like at home. I want to have as close an approximation to marital life as I can get before I get married, because I only want to get married once. I don’t want it ruined by something stupid like he or she whacks me in the face while we sleep. Or something.

The problem with going to a wedding and then suddenly getting all moony and wanting to get married yourself is that it tends to cast a pallor over any intimate interactions in the following weeks. Where I’m going with this is: get over it. I’ve always known that I want to get married. Going to a wedding does not mean that I want to get married tomorrow, or in the next year, or what have you. Because I want to do it right the first time around. I want to be prepared. I want my partner to be prepared. Because, you know. It takes two to get married.

That being said, Heather’s wedding has made me realize that I do want to find a relationship. I have been thoroughly satisfied with my dating life over the past few months, but I am settled and ready to be content and secure.

Just in case you didn’t watch the video I linked to earlier (which you totally should), here are the lyrics of the song I want to be my processional:

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.

May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.

May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.

I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

2 thoughts on “The Infectious Quality of Marriage

  1. Ah, marriage! At one point in history, it was all arranged, and the “I-doers” met at the altar. Love grew later, over the years and over the difficult terrain. Remember the song, “Do You Love Me?” in Fiddler?

    Today I daresay every couple, or at least a really high percentage of them, approaches marriage with the highest of hopes. But I think our culture is at least partially responsible for the very high divorce rate. We’re a fast-food mentality culture, and if we don’t like something, we can go to another restaurant. Pre-nups, for example, preset I-doers for the possible shipwreck of the relationship upon the shoals of various disagreements.

    Not too terribly long ago, divorce was taboo in this country. Not so, anymore.

    As much as a couple considering marriage can — anticipate. I agree with you that the homework of getting to know one another, and not being surprised by something monumental in the other, is critical to a wise decision. Pastor, rabbi, whatever advisor can help guide you through some of the obvious waterways, things are still going to come up.

    This from someone whose been married for more than 38 years of his adult life, albeit not to the same woman.

    I liken marriage to those rock polishing toys you can buy. You throw in a bunch of rough stones, add some grit, and turn on the machine.

    What a racket!

    But, over time the racket lessens, and eventually you have beautifully polished gems.

    Each person in a marriage is like one of those rough stones thrown into a polishing machine. Over time, each one rubs against the other until both are revealed as gems.

    Ask anyone who has been in a life-long relationship. They will tell you that it is work.

    At the end of “The Graduate,” Ben and Elaine are seated at the back of a bus, heading away from her intended marriage and headed towards — what? Their marriage? If you know the film, you know they have some big issues that are going to come up. If you watch their expressions as the scene ends, you realize they are realizing that. Like deer in the headlights. Like the day AFTER the big wedding and ceremony and music and festivities and honeymoon to Barbados and being the center of attention and all of the positive vibes and forces that attend.

    Two people, sitting at the back of a bus, not exactly sure where they are headed.

    My best wishes that you discover that person who complements you — fills in the areas that need to be filled — and that the two of you are willing to be tossed into that polishing event called marriage.

    Be sure to save this blog and revisit it every ten years.

  2. If I were still a parish rector, I would like your marriage to be in my parish church. The music you selected for your processional is just fine. To me being married is a special way of life. I am now in my 52nd year of married life and I do not regret a single second of the decision to ask the girl I married, who is now a beautifully mature woman, to be my wife. Now, she may have some regrets, but I do not. The marriage ceremony is best when done traditionally. For example, from the Book of Common Prayer. It is an ancient liturgy with both spiritual and civil meaning. What I like about it is the fact that when the vows are exchanged, the couple is connecting with all the men and women of the past who have said the same words over the centuries. Additionally, I like your idea that the ceremony is the commencement of a new life and not the ultimate experience. Having been a hospice chaplain I have seen love expressed between a husband and wife at the ultimate experience.

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