I'm often asked why I like officiating weddings. Well, I can't imagine not celebrating wedding ceremonies. And while it's not the only thing I do -- I also teach, write, consult and speak -- it's a dimension of my life that gives me life.
Why do I love weddings? The simple answer is that I love stories. Every couple that comes to me not only has a story, every couple is a story!
I love listening to the myriad ways in which people first met, and I especially enjoy having them tell me the story of what happened after that first meeting -- the story of how they've gone about creating a life -- oftentimes a life that has surprised them in terms of where it has taken them.
Why do I love weddings? I love them because I continually stand in awe of people's courage and daring and hope. It's simply not possible to commit to another person without the courage, daring and hope that necessarily undergirds all faith and love.
I love weddings because I love looking at a couple's guests as they mingle about before the ceremony and then as they sit in anticipation of the ceremony's start. I love feeling the wave of emotion that ripples throughout the gathering.
I look at the guests and I know that they know how brutally tough and demanding life can be -- that not every day can be as joyful as that day, BUT I see the hope and the excitement in their eyes.
I love standing in the middle of so much hope.
The painter Vincent Van Gogh believed that "The best way to know life is to love many things." I love weddings because they help me love many things and many people.
In 2012 I met some wonderfully interesting and interestingly wonderful couples. Here are 10 things about weddings (in no particular order) that these couples taught, reminded and showed me.
1. The greatest gift parents can give to their children are the words: "This is your wedding, so whatever you want is fine with us." These generous, selfless words relieve pressure, diffuse tension and let a couple plan from a place of fun and enjoyment.
2. There is no one "correct" way to celebrate your wedding -- the only right way is the way that makes sense to you. Trust your instincts. Be creative. Be you.
3. A groom needs to do more than just "show up." I'm suspicious of a bride who doesn't want input from her fiancé and I'm disappointed with a groom who is too above it all to have an opinion. If your wedding is not your shared vision, then I'm really not sure you can have a shared vision of your life together.
4. No 2-year-old should have to walk down a long aisle by him or herself with a hundred "giants" looking on, oohing, ahing, and snapping photos! I've seen too many bewildered, terrified 2-year-olds -- let them at least walk with another child who is a few years older (and WHY would you want to entrust real rings with a toddler?!)
5. The money you spend on a wedding coordinator is the best money you'll spend on your wedding! A coordinator is there to worry about the details that you, your mother, or best friend should not have to be concerned about on your wedding day.
6. I've yet to meet a bride who was myopically obsessed with having the "perfect" day who truly enjoyed the day or who didn't turn into a Bridezilla. Your goal is to create a memory that will cause people to smile five years later. From that goal perfection will flow. But if you begin with focusing solely on the perfection, you'll soon forget what "magic" looks and feels like.
7. You don't have to believe in God to have a ceremony that is warm, gracious, inviting and that celebrates you as a couple.
8. It is also possible to create a ceremony that honors different cultures and traditions in a way that unites rather than divides all present. It is possible to weave varying traditions in a way that doesn't create "dueling deities" or one-upmanship.
9. Your wedding really is a gift to family and friends -- no matter how jaded we can get, we all hunger for meaning and for something/someone we can place our hope in.
10. Lastly, couples that try not to cry in the ceremony make some very odd faces! I've looked at brides and grooms and thought they were bored or angry or on the verge of having a seizure. Then, they later explained: "I didn't want to cry so I tried not to blink." You've spent so much time, energy, emotion and money on this moment and then you go ahead and focus on not blinking?! I say, cry all you want -- besides, if the groom cries guests feel like they got their money's worth and will slip an extra $50 into the envelope!
Here's to a new year of wonderful stories!
Front page photo by Flickr user Monica Arellano-Ongpin.
JP Reynolds, M.Div. has officiated more than one thousand weddings and has coached hundreds of people in how to create and deliver heartfelt, personalized ceremonies. If you've been invited by a friend or relative to celebrate their wedding ceremony and are wondering what to do, visit JP's website: http://ceremonymadesimple.com