“Humanity is unique in its institution of marriage. Monogamy, of course, is out there; many birds, for example, exhibit partnering patterns similar to our own. But as far as I am aware, we are the only animals who, upon choosing a mate, gather their clan to proclaim their union formally to each other and to the world. Today, we gather with Matt and Erin to share in this pivotal moment in their lives.”
And so we began our amazingly awesome wedding ceremony.
“Note that when I say this is “pivotal”, I am not merely substituting for a more mundane word such as “important”. Marriage represents both a culmination and a beginning, and crucially, a shift in emphasis from one to the other. It is the culmination of a long process of introduction on the part of the participants. At the outset, each acts as an individual. As they learn each other, they notice where they overlap. They come to find that they are reliably in-phase with each other. And they each discover, bit by bit, that as this connection grows deeper, it becomes part of their very identities. This is falling in love.”
“Naturally, we will be using the L word quite a bit today, so it deserves some attention. We users of the English language attempt to unify a vast range of human emotion under the banner of a single, beautiful word. It is arguably inconvenient, but I think I like it. We are surrounded by a broad spectrum of love. It is love amongst family and love amongst friends which connects us all to each other here today. But the love which places Matt and Erin before us in this moment: that is a special one.”
“For falling in love is, in many ways, the easy part. As it unfolds, we have the sensation that gravity is on our side. Marriage, however, is the acknowledgment of the resulting deeply connected state coupled with a commitment to preserve and to enhance that state forever. That is the shift. Years of experience have led up to this singular point, and now we mark the beginning of a new journey.”
“After marriage, love is not just something to be welcomed when it is observed, but a goal towards which to strive. It’s something to continue to learn about, always with the understanding that two are learning it together as one.”
“Of course, there are as many versions of love in this clearing as there are individuals in attendance. Let’s now welcome Zach, who will share with us a version which strikes a chord with Matt and Erin.”
Zach’s reading was from Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres. It was one of the first things Mr. Whale and I knew we wanted to include in our wedding.
“Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”
Zach did such a fabulous job. Then it was back to Mike, who was ready with a little joke.
“Thank you, Zach. That passage is a beautiful way to say poetically what I struggle not to express mathematically.”
Like Mr. Whale, Mike is also working on his PhD in physics. To say that math enters our life a lot would be a vast understatement. Mr. Whale and I both shared a smile when he said this.
Next up was a reading done by my brother, Kyle. We chose Kyle for this for two reasons. First, he’s my brother, and I wanted him involved in some way. Second, he’s already married, so it seemed appropriate that he be the one to do this next reading, which is the excerpt “Union” from The Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum.
“You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks — all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” — all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” — and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed — well, I meant it all, every word.”
Look at one another and remember this moment in time.
Before this moment you have been many things to one another — acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.
For after today you shall say to the world — “This is my husband.” “This is my wife.”
And now it was time for Mike to say a few words to us. We had discussed the structure of the ceremony with him but never what he was to say specifically. He truly went above and beyond our expectations.
“That moment is now almost upon us, but first, I should say a few words about my personal experience with Matt and Erin. I’m standing here today, and taking this role in their wedding, because of my unique relationship to them individually and as a couple.
Erin: we met first, just as we were starting graduate school. Matt: I met you one year later as you joined the graduate physics program. You each were pulled into a social group centered, at least from my point of view, on students from my class in physics, and naturally you met each other during that fall of 2008. By then I knew you each as individuals; already I had every intention of getting and staying close to each of you. We were all close friends by the following spring, when you took that first step of becoming a couple.
Since then, the three of us have spent a tremendous amount of time together. For two years, Matt and I lived together, with Erin asymptotically becoming an additional roommate.
And it’s hard to remember our band before Erin joined us. To my eyes, your connection matured very rapidly. After not long at all, it felt to me like you had always been together, and always would be. It simply made sense.
I have been a witness to you acting towards each other in every role described in Kyle’s reading, but I’d like to comment specifically on one: the role of teacher. For a pair who collects degrees like sea shells, a future of learning could only be essential. And I have seen that across the board, everywhere from talking politics to working out an intricate instrumental piece for our band, you are both always learning from each other. And at least as importantly, if you’ll abide a brief second order diversion, you learn from each other about learning (possibly without even noticing). I believe that this will be the key to the success of the promises you make here today.”
Now it was time for the declaration of intent. Matt and I wrote them together. We considered each saying the same thing, but since we both have different strengths and weaknesses in our relationship, we felt it made more sense to have them be different. I was up first.
“Do you, Erin, knowing Matt’s love for you and returning it, realizing his strengths and learning from them, recognizing his weaknesses and helping him to overcome them, take him to be your husband?”
“Matt, do you take Erin to be your life’s complement? Do you promise to be a source of comfort and reassurance to her, to hold her close, to listen deeply to her dreams and aspirations, and to love her with all of your strength until the end of your being?”
“Now that you have made your intentions clear, I invite each of you to express the nature of your promises through your vows.”
And so with shaky hands, Mr. Whale accepted the cards Mike handed to him and began his vows. This is where we pick up next time.
*All photos by the phenomenal Brenda Upton Photography
If you missed any part of this whale of a tale, get caught up here. Previously…
- My underwear was nabbed by the underwear bandit.
- We did last minute errands in Atlanta, then drove to Blairsville, where I had an emotional moment in the courthouse getting our marriage license.
- I got emotional at our rehearsal. Then it was off to bed, where my Ambien caused some unexpected weirdness.
- I awoke on my wedding day, and headed off to get ready with my bridesmaids (and give them some gifts!)
- My braided hairstyle was everything I ever dreamed of.
- After putting on my veil, it was time to head over to where I was getting married!!
- The bridesmaids got dressed, and then I got dressed!!
- I showed off my accessories, which featured turquoise tights, a fab hair flower, and a bright pink crinoline!
- The bridesmaids and I took some super fun photos, and then I took some solo shots. And then the guys got in on the photo fun.
- I squealed with excitement over our wedding video sneak peek.
- The girls feasted on snacks while the guys panicked.
- We processed in for the ceremony.