I’ve been part of two weddings in the past month. One was my own, when I got married to Mary Melaragno on July 11. Then last weekend, I performed the wedding ceremony for my niece and her partner on August 8.
My wedding was a scaled-back version of the originally planned ceremony. Instead of a gathering of 75 people, it was exactly 5. By law in Michigan, that’s the minimum number of people for a wedding: the two people getting married, the officiant, and two witnesses—all of whom must be physically present, not just connecting by video conference. Instead of holding the wedding in Ohio close to family and friends, we were married at a venue in Lake Isabella, outdoors and socially distanced from the officiant and the witnesses. We managed to connect to dozens of friends and family on Zoom so they could watch the wedding and then celebrate a toast with us in breakout rooms afterwards. My niece’s wedding was not much bigger: 15 guests socially distanced in my sister’s back yard in Ann Arbor.
I have been thinking about the fact that a wedding is a mixture of private and public, and the unique circumstances of weddings in the time of COVID emphasize that. When Mary and I couldn’t have our big in-person wedding, we first thought we would just have a ceremony where no one else is present, but the minister joins by Zoom to marry us. It turns out the state of Michigan doesn’t allow that. The officiant and the witnesses have to be there in person. This actually makes sense to me, because a wedding is a public proclamation. Certainly couples make private promises and declarations of love to one another, but a wedding means that the whole world knows the two are together. At the same time, a wedding is private. For my niece’s wedding, we decided to a have a microphone for the officiant and the readers—but not for the bride and groom. The in-person guests and the Zoom guests could hear clearly what I said as minister. When the couple said their vows to one another, they repeated after me: me speaking into the microphone and them repeating the words to each other quietly. They were the ones who needed to hear each other’s vows. A wedding is public commitment, and the promises made by the couple are intimate, between the two of them. Both are true.
The other paradox of marriage is that people are joined together, but they still have to be separate in order to be healthy. My favorite wedding-themed readings is this passage from The Prophet by Lebanese poet Kahlil Gibran, which expresses this beautifully:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
May these words of wisdom inform all those who are married and partnered. Such is the paradox of being human: we must be self-sufficient and self-confident; and we need one another to survive.
Spirit of Life and Love, bless those who love and dare to make a commitment of their love. Bless those who are heart-broken and have been wounded and betrayed by love. All of us have loved. All have been hurt by love. May we dare to love again.
May we all be held in the greater love of the unfolding universe, of the mystery of life itself.
May it be so. Amen.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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Day off: Friday.
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