November 5, 2023

It’s wedding season here in Texas. The temperatures have returned to the land of sanity, the color palettes have gone beautifully autumnal, and we, as professional wedding officiants, are spending our days marrying our beautiful couples with ceremonies we’ve custom written for them. This writing, of course, has me living deeply into wed/ing language, and has me thinking a lot about what we are doing that day.

What is the anatomy of a wedding? Well, I could be talking about logistics. When do you do hair and makeup? When does the wedding party arrive at the ceremony site? What time can the caterers and florists arrive to set up? When will you do the Chicken Dance at the reception? 

But no. That’s not what I am talking about. That is the provenance of a professional wedding coordinator. Which I highly recommend you hire.

Maybe I am talking about the framework of the wedding ceremony? This is my domain, after all. And I have actually done a series on the layout of a wedding ceremony, and will likely revisit this worthy topic. Welcome, wedding address, consent, and vows, all fit into that subject.

But no. That is not the anatomy of a wedding. That is the anatomy of a wedding ceremony.

I am talking about the wedding . . . the wed-ing of two people. What makes a wedding . . . a wed-ing? What is at the core of this joining? This is what I am talking about. 

Well, I certainly need two consenting adults. Legally, it’s required. It’s why you hear some form of “I do,” in a legal wedding ceremony: “I do consent to what I am about to do.” It’s important. It matters. It’s why professional officiants do not want you drinking (or ingesting any sort of mind-altering substance) beforehand. It’s why we have a waiting period in Texas between the purchase of a license and our ability to legally perform the marriage. It’s why you need to be an adult, even as every state defines that somewhat differently. 

It’s also a little bit funny from my perspective, twenty-nine years into marriage. Because I consented to marry Joe. Wholeheartedly. But in retrospect, I had no idea what I really was consenting to. Not a clue. He didn’t either. We thought we did. We both laugh about this. A lot. In hindsight, we were two clueless young adults, full of dreams and hopes, high on each other and this baby love we were agreeing to cultivate. It’s true of most of our couples.

But, you’ve got to start somewhere. So, the consent of two adults is where we start. Maybe I’d call consent the “brain” in my anatomy analogy. 

So, then, what is at the heart? Vows. Vows are, without a doubt, the heart and soul of a wed-ing. Both the wedding ceremony and the wed-ing of two people. Vows are the promises we make to each other, to ourselves, to the space between us that is our marriage, and (this one is often forgotten) to our community of family and friends. Generally and traditionally speaking, we vow to be there for each other for better and worse, in sickness and health, in plenty and in want, until death parts us. These days, most of my vows are highly customized, making it my favorite part of writing ceremonies for couples.  I have had couples promise all sorts of beautiful things to each other. And over time, I’ve seen my couples have to live into their vows in ways they never imagined. The vows, the core of any wedding, and the blueprint for a couple’s marriage, are the living and breathing part of a marriage. And it’s at the wed-ing where those are agreed upon, blessed, and sealed. 

Finally, we don’t marry in isolation. Even elopements require a witness (most often that is me, the professional officiant). This is because marriage lives and thrives within the community. Most of my couples happily tell me they are better together, as a team, than they ever were apart. The truth is the same for a marriage itself. Marriages are stronger and better when they live within a community. After all, we need witnesses to affirm our decision, to promise to stand with us as we live into those vows. We need our friends and family to hold us accountable – to ourselves, to each other, and to those vows. We need someone to tell us, “Stick with it, it gets easier,” or “I know she acted carelessly, but she loves you, so what else might be going on?” We need community to say, “I’ve got the kids tonight. Y’all go on a date,” or “You aren’t doing well together right now, so how about a weekend away with just your friends?” We need voices of reason, and voices of caution. Even when a marriage reaches death, for whatever reason, we need the community to stand with us as we dissolve it. 

Consent, vows, community. When I think of the anatomy of two people wedding each other, these are the key elements. They are parts of a whole that a married couple will revisit over and over again as they journey through marriage. Which got me to thinking about . . . marriage.

If consent, vows, and community are the anatomy of a wedding, what is the anatomy of marriage? I’ll be tackling that in my next blog . . . or two, or ten!