catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 12 :: 2010.06.11 — 2010.06.24


A good witness

Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed. Amen.

From the wedding liturgy in the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer

Clustered together in the humid cavern of a Pittsburgh Episcopal church on Memorial Day weekend, my husband Rob and I joined a few hundred others in witnessing and blessing a marriage.  We gathered with all of our hope and cynicism, with all of our hurts and joys around the beloved couple as they leapt from the height of a high church altar into the great unknown that lies beyond the aisle.

Rob and I have attended many weddings since our own on New Year’s Eve of 2000 and I’ve come to understand more and more deeply that a wedding ceremony is about the couple, to be sure, but it’s also always about us, the witnesses, as well.  We can evaluate the color choices, the décor, the choice of location, the quality of the music like the detached critics of a film or a play, but to keep our distance is to deny that we are part of the drama.  We are characters in the story who have lines to say and roles to play both within and after the moment of commitment.  A wedding ceremony not only binds two individuals together, but binds a community in love and accountability to help the couple cultivate a life-giving committed relationship.

One of the ways in which married witnesses carry out our responsibility to the vows we make with the marrying couple is to be attentive to the health of our own relationships.  In this context, witnessing a wonderful ceremony shouldn’t engender wedding envy and leave us wishing that we’d thought to include that passage or sing that song, perform that rite or find that dress.  Rather, we should be watching for what renews and refreshes and adds to our understanding or our own marriages, in the knowledge that such an infinitely complex relationship can never be fully grasped — a beautiful kind of mercy to those who have promised the rest of their years to a relationship with one person.

There will always be weddings we attend merely out of obligation, but my best hope is that every ceremony we witness will be like a mile marker for own journey as married partners, showing us how far we’ve come and how far there is to go, and reminding us that we’re never traveling alone.

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