Every now and then, when someone learns I perform wedding ceremonies, the question comes up:
“Do any of your couples ever get divorced?”
Of course, I’d like to think their vows carry immutable weight, that the promises of that day, while undoubtedly tested over time, remain a tether, a rooted grace steering the ship of their togetherness.
But it is a strange if exquisite vocation, presiding over such unions. The intimacy and intensity of bonds forged during the planning and crafting of the ceremony can evaporate the moment the license is signed and the reception begins.
For months, I tend to these couples’ dreams, peel back layers of their histories, take what I can from their journey and strive to shape it into a tender and true testament to their love. And then the wedding day comes, and while I’ve often professed to becoming enamored with many a couple I marry, I may never hear from them again beyond the thank-you note that comes a few weeks later.
I have remained friends with some, gone on to bless the babies of others and will occasionally run into couples I’ve married at other ceremonies. But for the most part, ours is a sweet and fleeting attachment, so while it is possible their pledges may not withstand the hurdles to come, I usually don’t hear about the separations.
In the seven years I’ve been performing ceremonies with Journeys of the Heart, I know of only three couples I’ve married who haven’t endured. But my role, despite ushering them to a new beginning, is not to look forward. And while I tend toward optimism and rosy expectation anyway, I’ve recently realized I love that this is what I get to do: to stand in that place of hope, to reside in that moment of electric possibility, of communal affirmation and celebration — and then trust in an unspooling light.
I may not know what comes after the wedding when the hard work of marriage can surprise and unsettle the starry-eyed. But I have had a glimpse of what came before, of how the hollows of the heart, in all their lonely waiting, can be filled with gold — and how it is hope, as much as that ancient alchemy of love, that such commitments express.
That doesn’t mean the decision to marry comes easily. Some couples do sail to the altar, no wavering sea or wild winds to beset them. But many grapple with questions and uncertainty, stumble into obstacles, learn that stitching together a future is not all glamour and giddiness. And still they choose each other, invite their family and friends to bear witness to that declaration of choice and invite their blessings, and mine, upon the fullness of their hearts, even with a vast unknown before them. It all makes for an inherently hopeful occasion, for where else but at a wedding do we gather with so many good wishes and intentions, such pure joy and gratitude.
Even with our sundered dreams or unfulfilled longings, with whatever sorrows or fears we carry, we are moved by that spark of magic in our midst. And in a world that can break our hearts daily with its news of tragedy and mayhem, who doesn’t appreciate a story that celebrates love and what it can restore?
In January, I married Lynn and Josh, a warm and quirky couple brought together through friends after all but giving up on their dreams of finding lasting love. At 46, Lynn was entering her first marriage, Josh his second at 51. He had been scared of getting hurt again; she didn’t think she would meet the man who could love and accept her for who she was. And yet there they were, leaning into a startling vision of happily ever after.
For my second wedding of the year, I presided over the nuptials of Lauren and Brendan, who both grew up in the Philadelphia area yet met only after following their wanderlust across the globe to Australia. Brendan had been working in Sydney for two years when Lauren arrived, determined to go it alone and focus on herself for a while, but once they connected, romance quickly followed, and three years later, they were back in Philadelphia for their wedding.
And just two weeks ago, I watched Cathy, a good friend from college, walk down the aisle toward her fiancé Tom. Seeing her radiant face and the tenderness in his gaze — they who had risked their hearts in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and reaped a deeper love because of it — I was struck even more profoundly by their act of faith.
These are tales of love’s transformation and triumph. I honor all that brings each couple before me on their special day. But then I step aside, let go, leave them to the lives they’ll build — and hang tight to a hallowed hope.
– Life in LaLa Land, published in The Intelligencer and Bucks County Courier Times