It’s a recipe for a perfect wedding.
I learned this recipe after officiating at a number of weddings this past year.
One featured a bride wearing a powerfully red dress. Her groom wore a kilt. The procession was accompanied by bagpipes. Another wedding I officiated took place in a horse arena (beautifully decorated, I must add) and featured my son, Erik, playing a Chassidic tune on his accordion for the wedding processional and a bluegrass band taking over for the dancing bit.
Just last weekend, I helped out a tad at the wedding of two devout and loving Christians.
The bride and groom were former students of mine – in fact, they had met in my class “Women in the Hebrew Bible” at UNC-Charlotte. Leah is an engaging young woman with a great gift: She is original. Steven is thoughtful, gracious, and gentle.
Both are all about tikkun olam. They work steadily and consciously to change the world in all manner of ways. When they got engaged, they asked if I could be part of the wedding.
I got to meet the gentleman who was responsible for the lion’s share of the ceremony just moments before the ceremony began. Dennis Teall-Fleming serves the Open Hearts Gathering (http://www.openheartsgathering.org). After a few minutes of conversation, I knew that Dennis was not the sort to read prepared text or drone on at the couple and their guests. I breathed a sigh of relief. I dislike when officiants drone.
Dennis opened the ceremony with one, simple word. First, he looked out at all the folks who had gathered under the dark, nighttime sky.
“Mehwidge…” he said.
After the laughter died down, Dennis announced that he had just learned a brand-new way to measure time. “One Kardashian,” he explained to all assembled, is the same thing as saying “seventy-two days.” This is the exact length of time that celebrity Kim Kardashian managed to stay married. More laughter.
Dennis had been married over sixty Kardashians, he said, and he was hoping that Leah and Steve would be blessed with many Kardashians of their own. (I started calculating in my head. My husband, Ralf, and I have about 150 Kardashians to our credit. Golly.)
As we both spoke about this couple’s commitment to the world around them, their passion for social justice, their willingness to love, their eyes – and the eyes of their guests – grew shiny. We had our cupful of tears.
Then came the dash of the unexpected.
I had been told that Leah and Steven wanted to read their own vows. When Leah looked at me in panic because Dennis had moved to the next part of the
ceremony, I turned to him.
“We forgot something,” I said. Then I boldly announced that that the couple would now be sharing the vows they had written to one another.
Leah looked at me in utter confusion. I looked at her in utter confusion. She explained.
They had fully intended to read them – but only to one another. Leah had thrown me that first anxious look because she thought Dennis and I had forgotten to give them a chance to kiss.
I promised Steven and Leah that they would surely get to kiss. More laughter.
“I am afraid you will not be privy to Leah and Steven’s vows, after all,” I said. “As we all know, it is the prerogative of the bride and groom to keep secrets from even their most beloved friends and family. Of course,” I added, “those who want to pry may do so… after the ceremony.”
Folks chuckled, Dennis played along nicely and we went back to blessing the young couple before us.
A cupful of solemnity.
The starry night sparkled over our heads. I stood before and with people who believe differently than I do. And yet, I am certain that holiness exists wherever commitment and love are found. The sacredness of life itself is revealed to us in such moments, no matter who we are.
We stretched out our arms. I sang in Hebrew; Dennis rendered in English that ancient and timeless prayer.
Y’varekh-khah Adonai v’yish-m’rekhah.
May God bless you and keep you.
Ya-er Adonai panav eilekhah vi-chunekah.
May God’s face shine upon and God be gracious to you.
Yisah Adonai panav eilekhah v’yasem lekhah shalom.
May God smile upon you and give you peace.
Then, finally, the kiss. Leah and Steven turned to their friends and families and the music began playing. We laughed as they raised their arms in triumph and walked down the stairs to the Star Wars theme.
A pinch of utter zaniness.
It’s a good recipe if you want to begin your life together with all the things marriage needs. Marriage certainly needs solemn commitment over the long haul. But zaniness and the unexpected have to be part of the mix, too; no one knows what life will bring. Couples have to know and cultivate humor – there is always a need for more laughter in this world. Tears will be part of your years together. Hopefully, most will be of joy.
This is my wish and my blessing: May the loving couples of the world be blessed with a good recipe.
And hundreds of Kardashians.