I love weddings, which is good, because I'm up to my eyeballs in them. In the last few weeks, I've done premarital counseling for two couples, attended a bridal shower, navigated the protocol for a same-gendered blessing from a different diocese, and helped out as a liturgical deacon* during a high mass wedding; in the next few weeks I'm officiating at two weddings, and tonight I'm going wedding dress shopping with my future sister-in-law.
Like I said, it's a good thing I love weddings.
But what is it about them? Well, first of all, you've got the regular reasons -- weddings feel hopeful, and full of love. But more than that, weddings are a liminal time, and everything that happens around them feels meaningful. In the time between being single people and being married people, there's a feeling a movement, transition and living with deliberateness. Loved ones take time to say things that go usually go unsaid, and to tell family stories that haven't been told in years. Loved ones who are gone are remembered, and their impact on the lives of those gathered are marked in formal and informal ways. Overall, weddings are one of the few times that sincerity is welcomed in our irony-laden culture, and I find that refreshing.
Being a priest at wedding is a unique experience -- you get brought into the sphere of the family, and you have a specific task before you. Not only do you teach the couple the rituals to becoming married, and guide them through it, prompting vows and the taking of one another's hands, but you have the privilege and the terror of saying something meaningful about it all, how God is working in the lives of the couple, and the lives of the families gathered.
The other piece, though, is often navigating through a whole wedding full of people you've never met before. Some people really hate this part, but once I get my feet under me, I enjoy it. Even though at the last wedding I was at, I had an animated ten minute discussion with a six-term retired senator before he had to spell out that he was a senator, after I asked what projects he was working on, oh, running a hugely influential lobbying firm... even though he had told me who he name, and I really, truly, should have connected his name to the senate. (Seriously, as an avid NPR listener, I'm still appalled at myself, but I wasn't really looking for a senator to pop up, you know? I thought he was a great uncle or something. I had been talking to his wife all afternoon. She was lovely.) But despite that huge failure as a Washingtonian, I still managed to have some other really meaningful conversations with people, the down-in-the-trenches-I've-never-talked-to-a-professionally-religious-person-before sort of conversations. I love the curiosity and the diversity of world views, and the willingness of people to step up and talk to a stranger. If you're one of those people who talks to the officiant at a wedding, thank you.
And today I'm gearing up for the next wedding, with a rehearsal tomorrow and the wedding itself on Saturday, getting ready to dive into a time of sincerity and love, with all the privilege (and, sometimes terror) that entails.
I love weddings.
*liturgical deacon: a priest that does what a deacon does during a specific service, which for a wedding means, read the Gospel lesson, pray the prayers, and help out during communion.