On the day before our 40th-wedding anniversary at the beginning of August, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean with a hundred guests there to celebrate, I’ll be officiating my niece’s wedding. By the time you read this, they’ll be married.
It’s a new experience for me and a bit out of my comfort zone. Not the speaking to a hundred people so much, but the tear-free challenge it poses. Let me clarify. I’m good at crying. I cry at weddings, cards, movies, news, stories, graduations, Christmas, and most anything that touches my heart. Some might label me a sentimentalist, an empathizer, or a soft-hearted person.
It’s part of who I am and I’m good with that; it even helps me as a writer. But sometimes my heart connection brings challenges. At my son’s wedding, I only managed not to cry by biting the inside of my cheek harder and harder until that overwhelmed-with-love-emotion was calmed. But I can’t bite my mouth while conducting a wedding ceremony.
While profoundly honored to be asked, the crying-question lingered after my enthusiastic “yes” months ago. How will I stop tears from coming when I see my granddaughters walk the aisle as flower girls, or my 93-year old mother arrive at her only granddaughter’s wedding? Can I remain tearless speaking about marriage while my best friend and husband is listening in the audience, or refrain when the bride and groom’s statements of love and commitment are exchanged? How will I manage my feelings of love for them when pronouncing them married without sharing my joy-filled tears?
When posed with unfamiliar challenges or problems, I often start researching. So, that’s what I did. I explored books on what an officiate does and how to be a good one, and took to the internet for “tricks of the trade” from people who do this more than once in a lifetime. It was helpful to discover I shouldn’t wear transition lenses at an outdoor wedding since an unwanted sunglasses look is then captured for posterity. It was comforting to read about not-so-perfect ceremonies and humorous, good-natured responses to the unexpected.
But, when I stumble upon posts about “wedding horrors” and read about some officiant-friend who cried throughout the ceremony, was nearly impossible to understand, and frequently wiped blurred mascara from her face, it shifted my perspective. I realized I was obsessing about what I didn’t want to happen to me at the wedding, rather than staying focused on how I could best support my niece and her future husband through their envisioned ceremony.
In the scheme of things, I may shed a tear or I may not; I’m not certain. But I’ve come to understand no one will even care or notice. The couple’s goal isn’t a perfect wedding production, but sharing with friends and family their joyous and heartfelt life commitment to each other.
Anyway, after years with my wonderful husband, Dan, I’m certain of this: a great marriage is never about the ceremony. When I wake the day after that hilltop wedding to celebrate with my husband our 40th anniversary, I’m also certain there will be tears as we share anniversary love letters. But mostly, after four decades of married life together, I know with great certainty that a lifetime of loving and being loved by him will never be long enough.