Friday, August 17, 2012

My year of weddings

Readers might recall a column I wrote about buying a dress for the wedding of my eldest son. Three months in advance of the big day, I went shopping for a dress only to discover that special occasion dresses need to be ordered 6 months in advance. This led me to reflect on weddings as an industry, where the focus is the party, not the marriage ceremony. Since I wrote that column, my family has celebrated two more weddings. Within a ten-month period, our eldest son, our daughter, and a sister tied the knot. I have come to associate certain symbols with each wedding.

A wedding is a journey

"Two Bright Coloured Suitcases and Sun"

One of our weddings was a destination wedding of sorts. Although it did not take place in an exotic, foreign location, it required travel for the majority of guests, who spent the weekend together at a resort. The symbol I associate with this wedding is a suitcase. While a suitcase is an unusual symbol for a wedding, I think it an appropriate one because a suitcase conjures up images of a journey. Marriages, like journeys, are full of adventure and discovery.

The marriage journey takes a couple to unexpected places. Along the way, a married couple may have to discard some of the proverbial baggage from the past, acquire new bags and repack. A marriage is a journey of mutual wonder when the suitcase is packed with the attributes of a loving relationship, with virtues such as patience, kindness, humility, and selflessness.

"Tying the knot"
During my year of weddings, I learned that the knot is a traditional symbol of marriage. Thus, the expression, “tying the knot” has become a colloquial way of saying that someone is getting married. At one of our weddings, the minister symbolically bound the couple together by placing a sash over their wrists, and saying, “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder.”

"Double Heart Shaped Silver Rope Tied" 

A well-tied knot fastens things together and is difficult to undo. A couple joined together in marriage is a bit like two pieces of rope knotted together. The two become one, while retaining their individuality. The knot is a symbol of unity and of the exclusive relationship of marriage.

A house built on rock
Rocks (not the sparkly variety) became the predominant symbol for another one of our weddings. Rocks are essential elements in construction. When hewn into blocks, rocks become cornerstones. Rocks, in the form of gravel, are an integral component of the concrete used in foundations. Rocks form walls that provide stability against erosion, and give shape to gardens and landscapes. The solid and enduring nature of a rock makes it an excellent symbol for the commitment required of marriage.

For one of the readings at this wedding, the couple had chosen a parable from the Gospel of Matthew. A wise man builds his house on rock, so when the storms come and beat against the walls of the house, the house remains intact. A good marriage is like a house built on rock. As the pastor at this wedding remarked, there are three rocks that are essential for a life-giving marriage: trust, forgiveness, and fidelity.

In what was surely an inspired moment, a family member brought three rocks, labeled “trust”, “forgiveness”, and “fidelity” respectively, to the reception, and invited everyone to sign a rock. The rock that quickly became crowded with names was “forgiveness”. Maybe this was due to the comment that “there is no love without forgiveness,” or maybe the desire for forgiveness resonates with our experience of relationship.

These rocks are a visual reminder of the promises the couple made on their wedding day. The sincere attempt to live their promises will help them to weather the storms that life offers up.

Departure and destination: wedding and marriage
In a perfect world, every marriage would be built on mutual patience, kindness, humility and respect, and every couple would be perfect soul mates. Alas, we live in an imperfect world, where sometimes the rigors of the journey, and the baggage that we pack around with us, erode the beauty of the relationship that a couple embraces on their wedding day.

The three symbols in my year of weddings, the knot, the rocks, and the suitcase, remind me that the wedding day is an exciting point of departure. The destination is the sincere attempt to live the vows over the course of the journey. With a securely fastened suitcase that includes trust, forgiveness, and fidelity, the couple is well on their way.

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