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Marriage and Community: the role of the gathered

December 17, 2020

Marrying among friends and family matters. We don’t do marriage alone. Photo credit: Weddings by Tony and Elena

With a global pandemic still raging, the role of “the gathered” at weddings has been altered. Our weddings in 2020 have been much smaller, incorporated Zoom, or simply been postponed. And almost always for the sake of community. Sure, elopements and micro-weddings are trending; understandably so. And they have their place. But what I find interesting is that most of our couples see elopements and micro-weddings as a compromise rather than the norm. The truth is that we want our friends and our families with us. All of them. Across generations and across social circles. Community matters; and not just at the wedding, but leading up to the wedding and then beyond that day.

Community and teamwork are at the core of the baumstamm sagen, or log cutting ritual. Photo credit: Tiffany Hofeldt Photography

In just about every ceremony I officiate, I talk about community. How it is addressed is often the result of asking my couples some specific questions before I begin writing their ceremonies. Not every couple is asked every question, of course. However, I do ask most of them to tell me about a married couple they admire and what they admire about the relationship. The answers are beautiful. I often wish I could contact the couples who are called out. My guess is that most of them don’t realize how they’ve impacted someone else’s decision to marry. As for admired traits? Perseverance, playfulness, and strong communication are cited most often. 

For example, my brides and grooms talk about watching other couples manage the ups and downs of life over time. They reflect on watching a couple ‘have each other’s backs,’ or make choices and decisions together. Teamwork and shared goals usually come up when we discuss perseverance, and this is often when parents and grandparents are mentioned. 

Humor and the ability to laugh with each other is also mentioned. My couples talk about seeing humor help connect and repair. When talking about a particular couple he admired, one of my grooms said this, “Life has not always been easy for them, but they laugh together as a way to see the bigger picture. We really admire that, especially this year.” It is true. Humor, even gallows humor, is quite an effective tool for calibrating marriage. Laughing together creates a subtext, and a shared language that binds people together.

And of course, my brides and grooms almost always point out their couple’s ability to communicate directly with one another. In particular, they cite the ability to discuss and negotiate the challenging stuff. It’s always worth reminding my soon-to-be newlyweds that those crucial communication skills, which require intense vulnerability, develop trust within a marriage. The “for better” part of marriage is easy. It’s the “for worse” part that requires strong communication alongside the perseverance and humor.

We do not learn how to be in relationships solely by being in relationship. We learn, too, by observation. We learn by example, modeling, mentoring. We learn from community. This is no huge revelation. Rather, in talking about it here (or with our couples), we hope to highlight the role of others, of the gathered, of witnesses in our marriages and our lives. We’d love your thoughts and comments. Who is a couple you admire? And tell us why.

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