A Wedding Ceremony

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I recently had the incredible honor of officiating the wedding of two close friends from college. Here is the script of our ceremony.

1) Opening

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bear witness to the marriage of Alexandra and Robert.

I would like to begin by thanking all of you, who have traveled from near and far to share this beautiful day. You are all part of Alex and Rob’s story, and it is you that makes today special for them. To all of the loved ones who could not be here, we recall their memory, and we keep them close at heart. In respect for the bride and groom, we humbly request that you turn off your cell phones, unless you’d like to take more videos of the bride crying.

My name is _____, but to Alex and Rob, I am Wylie. I am a friend from college, where we met through a cappella. While my part in their story is minor, I have had the pleasure of watching them evolve from naive, starry-eyed freshman to the adult-ish people they are today.

2) Address

Rob and Alex’s relationship was born from a love of music. The two met at callbacks for the best a cappella group on our campus. After hours of waiting to audition, Rob was bored and looking for something to do. And there, across from him on the floor of Dana Hall, was this cute girl, sitting by herself. Out of the perfect combination of fate and boredom, Rob decided to pick on her, and they ended up falling in love.

Their first date was at the Coop. Rob remembers wanting to hold her hand, and trying to sneak in a kiss goodbye, but Alex was conflicted, not wanting to ruin their friendship, or whatever. Later that fall, the faculty brought Colin Powell to campus. The couple decided to get together, to pregame the event, just like everything else that year. The former Secretary of State’s aphrodisiac voice proved more than their fiery loins could bear, and the late-evening found them having yet another conversation about whether or not they should date. As Alex wavered between two romantic poles, Rob took a firmer stance, demanding, “why don’t we go get goddamn dinner.” As Rob would later add, “I don’t like to talk.” Fine. He would stay for the night, but they would only cuddle. When the sun rose the next morning, filling the hazy dorm with welcome light, they realized that this was something good.

April 4th, 2009 marked the official beginning of their relationship.

We are all familiar with the phases of love: the rosy enchantment, the infinite wonder the world assumes, the late-night-getting-to-know-you talks, and the way the excited heart feels as it comes to understand the soul of another. But ultimately, it isn’t the first fruits of affection that give a relationship the strength to endure; it is the foundation you build together.

When that Spring semester ended, the couple decided to take a road trip out west. Rob’s family was shocked; one said,“this can only end in marriage or a breakup,” and another, “you guys are nuts!” If that road trip trip did one thing, it helped accelerate them towards their future. Rob and Alex grew from an ambivalent hook-up to a road-tripping couple that seemed destined for anywhere.

That August, Alex’s grandmother passed away. Dutifully, Rob tended to Alex’s needs, entrenching himself by her side when they returned to campus. By then, it was apparent that they would be dating indefinitely, and to those who knew them, the benefits of the relationship were obvious right away. With Rob, Alex had found a strong, grounding force to expose her to the high philosophies of Futurama and the Simpsons; with Alex, Rob found someone who was always there to listen, and who could nudge him, ever so gently, to deal with human beings outside of his apartment.

Then in the spring of 2010, Roberta, Alex’s mom, was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. A year later, Roberta’s sister died of a sudden heart attack.

Rob stood steadfast by Alex during this period. As Roberta drove herself to her treatments, and denied her suffering so that her daughter would have the courage to take a Manzi scholarship in Boston and a semester abroad in India, Rob surprised Alex with a patience and understanding that she hadn’t realized he’d had. And Alex, remaining true to herself, showed Rob how strong and certain their relationship could be.

In January of 2012, a week before they were to return to campus for their last semester of college, Alex’s mother passed away. In the wake of what followed, Rob was never without help: his family stepped in, to assist with preparations and planning and to make sure that Alex never felt alone.

When people get married, somebody usually makes a point of wishing the couple the best through not only the good times, but also the bad. Rob, Alex: you have already dealt with the bad. Whether it has been the devastating loss of family or the near-loss of a beloved cat, if you can do this well together when things are crappy, you have a beautiful future ahead of you, for you already know that you can weather anything. Even in the face of tragedy, you know how to nurture the best in your partner.

Alex: in the world history of moms, there are but few that have been as dedicated to a child as Roberta was to you. She spent your whole life not just sacrificing, but surviving, for you, to give you the best possible, to shield you from the injustices of the world, in hope that one day, you would have a big, loving family of your own. Today is the day when your mother’s dream becomes a reality, as you are forever joined with Rob and his family. Alex, if she could see you now, she’d be radiant with joy, and cry tears in knowing where you are headed. Today, your mother’s inextinguishable spirit is reborn in the love that you have found for one another.

3) Readings

We will now listen to a reading from Rob’s sisters…

And now, we will listen to a musical selection from Dvorak’s “New World” Symphony…

4) Reflection

A marriage ceremony isn’t simply the joining together of a husband and wife. It is a commitment to a partnership. The power of this partnership lies in its ability to combine an individual’s unique talents with another’s, extending their potential beyond what either could achieve alone.

After my dear friends asked me to officiate their wedding, we arranged a weekend for me to come visit Portland. Alex picked me up from the airport and welcomed me to their new suburban home. When I went back outside to get my bags from her backseat, I had a brief moment of confusion as I tried to recall the distinguishing features of her car: in the driveway stood two sedans, side by side, both trunks brimming with miscellaneous belongings. I chuckled to myself, thinking “how suiting!”; but upon closer examination, I realized how wonderfully the assortments fit together: in Rob’s trunk, tarps, wood, a surveyors helmet, and in Alex’s, paints, strings, and what was this? A climbing harness? These two were complimentary even in the junk they left in their cars.

I remember watching as Rob and Alex opened a new wedding gift. It was a pair of hammock swings, and they came in two rectangular boxes. As Alex first procured a knife, then began analyzing the box, finding that perfect point of entry, Rob was tearing apart the packaging, head-first into the problem. I realized then that much of their strength came from this duality of approach: Alex, the planner, careful and gentle, taking her time; and Rob, the do-er, logical yet savage, fiercely determined not to waste a minute without a guitar in his lap.

When Alex first led us upstairs to their master bedroom, I was impressed with how orderly the space seemed…until I opened the walk-in closet, and saw mounds of shopping bags, and mountains of clothing. I turned to ask, “how do you guys find anything?” “Easy,” Alex answered. “This is my closet, Rob’s is down the hall.” Sure enough, adjacent to his office, was another walk-in, overflowing with pants, books, and instrumental cases. They had found the perfect system.

A successful relationship is about balance. Rob, you are a contradictory, stubborn, musician, bent on preserving your corner of the world. And Alex, you are a bubbly, social, survivor, a future crazy-cat lady, and current crazy cat-lady. Whereas you are a rebellious, take-it-or-leave it hippie, you see the value in cultivating relationships, and in occasionally doing dishes. In your love lies the recognition of another, who will take your hand in partnership, and stand at your side in the face of all the unknown.

5) Unity Ceremony

Alex and Rob, today, your relationship is symbolized through these two containers of sand. One, representing you, Alex, and one representing you, Rob: all that you were, all that you are, and all that you will be.

Throughout your lives you have been two amazing people, whole and happy on your own – just as the two containers of sands stand separate. But today, as you become husband and wife, you create a new, beautiful combination of your colors.

I will ask that you each pour the contents within your own vase into the middle vase. As the sand from each individual is blended together, it symbolizes the joining of your separate lives, friends and family, into one union, in the beginning of your journey as husband and wife.

These blended particles of sand, numerous as your dreams and your memories, will be blown into glass. This glass will be as colorful as your personalities, as beautiful and special as your love. As these two containers of sand will never again be separated, neither will you ever be.

6) Vows

Rob and Alex, you have each written your own vows that you will be sharing today…

7) Legalization

We have assembled here today to join Alexandra and Robert in marriage. If there is anyone gathered amongst us that does not believe that these two should be married, I encourage this person to vacate the premises, or face forced evacuation at the hands of their familial clans.

Please face one another.

Take a moment to really look at each other. Take in all the love that surrounds you. Feel all the life within you. You will remember this moment, until the end of you days. Marriage will be the journey of a lifetime that will happen in the blink of an eye.

Do you, Alexandra, have Robert to be united as one in your marriage?

And do you, Robert, have Alexandra to be united as one in your marriage?

Repeat after me: “I, Robert, take you, Alexandra, to be my spouse in our marriage, to have and to hold from this day on, for better, for worse, to love and to cherish forever.”

Now, repeat after me: “I, Alexandra, take you, Robert, to be my spouse in our marriage, to have and to hold from this day on, for better, for worse, to love and to cherish forever.”

Now, first Alexandra, and then Robert, please present your other with your rings, and repeat after me: “With this ring, I join with you in our marriage.”

By the power vested in me by the state of Vermont, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

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