Yesterday, I had the honor of officiating at my niece Clarissa's wedding. She and Johnny are two of my favorite people, and I was so happy to be a part of their wedding day. This is the text of my wedding talk.
Dearly beloved, we are gathered here before God to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony. I think that we all understood why we were coming here this evening. Did anyone just get up this morning and decide that you would get dressed up and go down and see if anything was happening at the chapel?
No, I'm sure that every one of you came here expecting to see Johnny and Clarissa dressed up and standing on this stage. But when you think about it the whole thing is a bit weird. What made Johnny and Clarissa decide to come here to this chapel and stand on this stage looking fancy and being stared at and commented on by you. I know that you have been whispering to each other, “look at Johnny in that tux,” “I never thought I would see him dressed up like that.” And, “Isn’t Clarissa beautiful in that dress,” “Her hair sure turned out great.”
Have you ever wondered why brides wear a white wedding dress? In the past, most brides didn’t have a special dress for the wedding. They would get married in the best dress that they already owned. The tradition was for the dress to be brightly colored. When Queen Victoria was married in 1840, she broke with tradition and wore a white satin dress with lots of lace. It was very controversial because at the time white was the color of mourning. Queen Victoria was very popular, and white wedding dresses quickly became the fashion among wealthy brides.
What about the veil? Why do brides wear a veil? Many years ago, most weddings were arranged, and often the bride and groom hadn’t met before the wedding day. The veil was used to keep the groom from backing out before the ceremony was completed.
Why is there a best man and a wedding party standing up with Johnny and Clarissa? The best man was chosen for his swordsmanship, and he was security and bodyguard along with the rest of the wedding party. Apparently, some weddings were quite contentious.
Although photography hasn't always been around, recording the wedding ceremony has a long tradition. Wedding portraits have been common for thousands of years. Since I have the best spot in the house, if you don’t mind, I’m going to take the opportunity to get a few shots.
Some of our traditions seem a bit strange, but I think that Clarissa should be thankful that she didn’t grow up in China’s Yugur culture. There the groom shoots the bride 3 times with a bow and arrow. Thankfully the arrows are blunted but it is still quite painful. After shooting the bride, the groom takes the arrows and breaks them in half.
And Johnny can be thankful that this isn't a traditional Korean wedding. He would have to endure having the bottoms of his bare feet beaten with a cane and dead fish.
In Scotland, there is a tradition of pelting the bride and the groom with trash, particularly rotten eggs, and fish. The grosser and smellier the better, for it signifies that the new couple can withstand anything.
Those of you who are related to Clarissa can be glad that you aren't in French Polynesia. There, the relatives of the bride lay down side by side in the dirt, and the bride and groom walk across their backs.
I think we are all thankful that these things aren’t part of our wedding traditions. But you don't even have to have a ceremony with a wedding dress, tuxes and flowers to get married. So why are we doing this today? The marriage ceremony has been important to nearly every society, religion and culture for thousands of years. Throughout our lives we have many important moments, but why is marriage so important that we mark it with a special ceremony and want to share the ceremony with our friends and family?
It is because of love. No matter what you believe, love is the great unifier. Love is the universal truth. In the Christian tradition, we know that the Bible says that, “God is love.” It also tells us that, “Three things will last forever – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love.”
So why are we here? We are here because one night, on Clarissa’s birthday, she was visiting some friends. There was this guy there. Clarissa didn’t think too much about it, but when she was looking at the photos of the party the next day she thought, “that guy was nice, and he was so easy going and easy to talk to.” For the guy, the evening was a bit more remarkable. When remembering that evening he said that when he saw Clarissa, he had “goosebumps and butterflies.”
After a couple of weeks, they exchanged phone numbers and seemed to spend more time hanging out together. After some time the guy asked, “is it just us?” “Are we boyfriend and girlfriend,” and she answered, “I think we are.”
Sometime later, Johnny was on a business trip in Atlanta. He realized that he was lonely being away from Clarissa, and he called her. He told her, “I love you.” And that, in a nutshell, is why we are here today.
Saying, “I love you,” is a powerful thing. The ability to love is the very best part of our humanity. All of us here have our own love stories. Some are short, some are long, and some haven’t been written yet.
Clarissa recently wrote, “I often get caught up in the busyness of life, and it is easy to focus on all the wrong things; But if you focus on love, your whole perspective changes!”
So, why are we here? We are here because we want to be a part of Johnny and Clarissa’s love story. We are here to love them, support them, be proud of them, and to hope with them.
Johnny and Clarissa, this isn’t the last chapter of the love story. There are big moments in a love story, like saying “I love you” for the first time, or standing up before God, and in front of friends and family, and committing yourselves to each other; but in reality, your love story is mostly a million little moments that come between the big milestones. It is those little moments that make a love story successful.
What makes a marriage successful, isn’t actually what happens today, it’s about what happens tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. It’s those little moments that make up a relationship.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes chapter four, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up.” The passage goes on to say, “If two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone?”
What a beautiful description of a marriage. We are here today because Johnny and Clarissa understand that two are better than one. If one of them falls they have someone to help them up. They are ready to announce to the world that together they are a formidable force.
They invited you here today because they want you to know that they are a team. They want you to know that this isn’t just another love story, but that it is a forever love story. I don’t know about you, but I can't wait for the next chapters of this love story.