Someday, we'll build a home
On a hilltop high, you and I,
Shiny and new, a cottage that two can fill,
And we'll be pleased to be called
The folks who live on the hill.
—"The Folks Who Live On The Hill," Oscar Hammerstein III [Spotify link]
A little less than a month ago, I got married. I haven't been blogging much as a result.
Anna and I had the enormous privilege of getting to plan our wedding with little interference from relatives. When we told our parents what we were planning on doing—a quick ceremony with a modest guest list, and a potluck reception afterward—they were like "You kids do you," which was a real relief, since we'd heard many peers' stories of parental demands for blah blah from friends.
We both wanted the ceremony to be relatively simple and reflect the things we actually like about weddings. (Unfortunately, I suffer from a tendency to get a little judgy at weddings, as if my particular tastes were what mattered at all.) Some things we decided to do without:
- Anna is not a fan of being the center of attention, especially for a crowd of people, as it makes her feel scrutinized and judged. So we didn't have a processional or a recessional.
- I have a knee-jerk reaction to cliches, so we did not have the love chapter from 1st Corinthians read, nor did anyone play "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."
- We didn't want everything to be focused exclusively on us, so we avoided anything where the two of us would have been doing something on our own and facing away from the congregation. There was no communion off to one side or couples prayer time with our backs to the crowd. (The vows and the rings were the only thing we were even up front for; we sat in the pews the rest of the time.)
Our officiant, the wonderful campus ministry pastor at the church I've been attending for the past few years, pointed out in her wedding homily what we were trying to do instead of these things:
Anna and James, more than any other couple I have ever married, understand the reality that the meaning of this celebratory day is not about looking beautiful or spending thousands of dollars on cake and flowers or giving out the perfect favors. In fact, as we planned the wedding ceremony, they insisted on downplaying all of the theatrical elements that some brides and grooms love. If you look in the liturgy book for today, you’ll see phrases like these: “As the prelude ends, Anna and James enter unceremoniously and quietly sit in the front pew” and “immediately following the benediction, James and Anna sneak out through the side door.” They didn’t want this church service to be about them: they wanted it simply to be a church service where God’s everlasting love for all people is evident, a church service where they happen to get married in front of those people who they most love and rely upon for support—all of you.Instead of going hard for all things traditional, we leaned heavily on the wedding elements we really cared about. In particular, music. We both love organ music, and my church has a lovely organ and a great organist, so we asked him to play a bunch of our favorite organ tunes. We also selected some hymn tunes from each of our musical traditions to be played as preludes; I particularly enjoyed friends' reactions when they realized "Joy in the Salvation Army" was coming out of the pipes in a Lutheran space! Together we chose several hymns to sing that we felt fit the occasion ("Gather Us In," "What Is This Place," and "Borning Cry"). These were not about marriage specifically so much as the process of coming together for celebration and fellowship, and the presence of God in all the stages of human life. I cried a little during "Borning Cry," but I think a lot of people did.
We also had scripture readings. Anna's chosen reading was from Proverbs. Most translations render it as being about "the wife of your youth," but Anna decided to use the Inclusive Bible translation—I gave her an Inclusive Bible for Christmas when I found out she wanted a translation that referred to God in gender-neutral terms—so the reading talked about "spouse" rather than wife, and could nicely be taken to apply to both of us rather than just me. I chose a reading from Jeremiah that spoke of celebration after a time of trouble—hope for the future. I asked that this be read in the Geneva Bible translation, which I love both for its beautiful language (the KJV translators drew heavily on it for their own translation a few decades later) and for its politically subversive footnotes (the translators had fled religious and political persecution in England, and they tended to note anti-monarchic sentiments when they showed up in scripture). Inadvertently, we both chose passages heavy in fertility imagery, which the pastor helpfully pointed out to the congregation in her homily. We do want kids, though, so whatever!
As a result of cutting some traditional elements, the ceremony was pretty short; about 20 minutes. Afterward, Anna and I escaped to go be by ourselves for a few minutes and cool down from all the excitement and stress.
We then proceeded to the reception, which was a blast. There was music from my friends in Families, a keg of root beer, and a pair of lovely toasts from two of our best friends. We walked around a greeted and sat with our friends, to catch up and celebrate together. I kept my bowtie on throughout, because it was a beautiful, 70-degree spring day. We'd worried a little over whether people would bring enough food, but folks brought so much that we had to ask them to take their leftovers home, since the church had far too little fridge space to store any of it.
In other words, it was a good, good, day, blessed by God and celebrated by many. We came away pleased, honored, thankful, and 100% married!