I caught up with a friend today who I haven’t seen since the wedding and she said something that made me very happy. She said how much she had liked our ceremony. How it started unexpectedly (in a good way), how people leaned forward to listen and how she noticed that, as it progressed, people started to hold hands and put their arms around their dates/loves. How, she said, it made everyone feel addressed and included. As she talked about it, tears came to my eyes, and I hung my head, overcome with post-wedding emotion.
I knew how much the ceremony meant to me before the wedding, as we made choices about what passages and words would be said. I read it tearily to myself a few times, imagining the words being spoken on our wedding day. What I didn’t imagine was how powerful it would be to me after our wedding, how special and how meaningful.
At my first marriage we didn’t really have to say anything when we got married in City Hall except “I do.” We did exchange some sort of vows in our backyard quite a few months later–that was the extent of the ceremony. I put off writing my vows, then did it quickly that morning. They seemed less important than picking up the indian food from around the corner.
I no longer think this. I think the ceremony is the heart of the wedding. It contains a legal act–and potentially a religious one–but also, perhaps because it is ceremonial, something magical. The ceremony is a spell you weave over yourselves and your audience. The ceremony is powerful; the vows are binding. It is worth spending some time on, because it is infused with great joy and emotion that lasts long after the wedding.