Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Our Ceremony

Before we knew it, it was time for the ceremony to begin. We decided to have a traditional Episcopal wedding ceremony and took pre-marriage classes with our priest, Guy Collins, for a few months leading up to the wedding. Although we'd been together for more than a decade when we got engaged, it was still helpful to go over common problems that come up in marriage with an objective third party. The last meeting was to go over any changes we'd like to make to the ceremony and to select hymns and readings. We made selections that felt personal to us while still keeping the gravitas of the traditional ceremony.

Our wonderful ushers, Cece, Emily, and Laura, passed out our wedding programs and directions to the reception, and let people know there were no sides to the wedding and they should feel free to sit wherever they'd like.

Our processional music was "Air" by Handel, with a slight change of pace when my parents and I walked in. We decided that both of us would be accompanied by both of our parents as a way to honor our relationships with them and to eliminate the sexist heritage behind "giving the bride away."

Roger and the groomsmen walked in from the side of the church, while the bridesmaids and I walked in from the back because, as Guy had explained to us, this symbolizes that members of a couple are coming from different places and joining as one. And, as he put it, "women typically have the longer walk to make in general and this acknowledges that."

We had six (yes, six!) flower children, including two of my second cousins and four children of dear friends. People told us we were crazy, since they were almost all under the age of two, but having lots of children in our life is a delight and we couldn't imagine not having them be a part of things, even if none of them will remember it going forward.

After the processional, the ceremony began. I'll include it all here, but it's from the Book of Common Prayer, so it's easy to find online.

The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage

Dearly beloved: We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people. 

The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God’s will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God.

Into this holy union Kristin and Roger now come to be joined. If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace. 

I require and charge you both, here in the presence of God, that if either of you know any reason why you may not be united in marriage lawfully, and in accordance with God’s Word, you do now confess it. 

The Declaration of Consent 

Celebrant: Kristin, will you have this man to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live? 

Kristin: I will. 

Celebrant: Roger, will you have this woman to be your wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, in sickness and in health; and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live? 

Roger: I will. 

Celebrant: Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage? 

People: We will.

After this, we all sang "For the Beauty of the Earth." I'd first heard it at Meg's wedding in the 1994 film of Little Women, and it just felt perfect. We chose the "popular tune" as our organist called it and not the proper hymn, but the lyrics are the same. Throughout we chose music that felt true to us and highlighted a connection with the earth and creation. It was so powerful to hear the voices of all our loved ones singing this beautiful song.

The Collect

O gracious and everliving God, you have created us male and female in your image: Look mercifully upon this man and this woman who come to you seeking your blessing, and assist them with your grace, that with true fidelity and steadfast love they may honor and keep the promises and vows they make; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The first reading we chose was "Habitation," a poem about marriage by Margaret Atwood. The first gift Roger ever got me was Atwood's book Morning the Burned House, and we're both tremendous fans of her work. When I read "Habitation" many, many years ago, I knew immediately we'd include it in our wedding ceremony. It only took a few years to do so.

This reading was done beautifully by Roger's dear friend, Kevin.

The First Reading: “Habitation” by Margaret Atwood 

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

The second reading was from the Song of Solomon, and it caused a big of a kerfuffle the night before the wedding, when it became clear that we had failed to tell Danielle what she'd be reading ahead of time and also that the church wasn't giving us a copy of the reading and we needed to procure one for her stat. When we told her what she'd be reading, with less than 24-hours notice, she said something to the effect of "this is so pornographic." But we all made it through and her reading was lovely! Sorry, Danielle! You are a champion!

The Second Reading: Song of Solomon 

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 
For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; 
The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; 
The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. 
O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice; for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely. 
Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines: for our vines have tender grapes. 
My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies.

For our third and final reading, we just stole a page out of the Cambridges' wedding (and the BCP!) and chose Romans 12:9-18. It also felt perfectly fitted to our goals in all things. I read a lovely piece for Emily's wedding in 2014, and that wedding was an enormous part of what brought me to the Episcopal church and led us to have our wedding there. And, since she is truly my very first friend, having her give a reading was only natural.

The Third Reading: Romans 12:9-18 

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 
Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. 
Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. 
Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. 
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. 
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

After the readings, we all sang our second hymn, "Morning Has Broken." Another song that focuses on the majesty of creation, it's also familiar to Cat Stevens fans, of which we know a few! Guy followed this up with a homily, and I'm a bit embarrassed to say I can't remember anything he talked about. Something I didn't realize before the wedding is that the ceremony was a little emotionally exhausting, and I think my mind just needed a momentary break. So ... after the sermon, it was time for the meat of the ceremony: our vows.

The Exchange of Vows
Roger: In the Name of God, I, Roger, take you, Kristin, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.

Kristin: In the Name of God, I, Kristin, take you, Roger, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow. 

The Exchange of Rings Celebrant: Bless, O Lord, this ring to be a sign of the vows by which this man and this woman have bound themselves to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

Kristin: I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Roger: I give you this ring as a symbol of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Celebrant: Now that Roger and Kristin have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring , I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Those whom God has joined together let no one put asunder. 

People: Amen.

A funny moment from the rehearsal: Roger and I hadn't decided if we would kiss during the ceremony ahead of time. (It's not really part of the Episcopal tradition but there's a space for it.) Guy asked at the rehearsal, in front of everyone, if we were planning on it and at the exact same moment, Roger said "yes" and I said "no." I guess you know who won:

We went off to sign the marriage register with Shelby and Rob while everyone sang our third hymn, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee." Another familiar hymn, we knew this was a moment in the ceremony of great joy and so it felt appropriate.

After signing the registers, the ceremony ended with prayers. Our dear friend Christine read them beautifully, and these prayers were one of the things that stood out to me as a most beautiful part of the ceremony. The words, and the knowledge that these were real wishes from our community for us, was very powerful to me.

The Prayers

Let us pray. 

Eternal God, creator and preserver of all life, author of salvation, and giver of all grace: Look with favor upon the world you have made, and for which your Son gave his life, and especially upon this man and this woman whom you make one flesh in Holy Matrimony. Amen. 

Give them wisdom and devotion in the ordering of their common life, that each may be to the other a strength in need, a counselor in perplexity, a comfort in sorrow, and a companion in joy. Amen. 

Grant that their wills may be so knit together in your will, and their spirits in your Spirit, that they may grow in love and peace with you and one another all the days of their life. Amen. 

Give them grace, when they hurt each other, to recognize and acknowledge their fault, and to seek each other’s forgiveness and yours. Amen. 

Make their life together a sign of Christ’s love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may overcome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt, and joy conquer despair. Amen. 

Bestow on them, if it is your will, the gift and heritage of children, and the grace to bring them up to know you, to love you, and to serve you. Amen. 

Give them such fulfillment of their mutual affection that they may reach out in love and concern for others. Amen . Marriage 429 Grant that all married persons who have witnessed these vows may find their lives strengthened and their loyalties confirmed. Amen. 

Grant that the bonds of our common humanity, by which all your children are united one to another, and the living to the dead, may be so transformed by your grace, that your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven; where, O Father, with your Son and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign in perfect unity, now and for ever. Amen.

The Blessing of the Marriage

Most gracious God, we give you thanks for your tender love in sending Jesus Christ to come among us, to be born of a human mother, and to make the way of the cross to be the way of life. We thank you, also, for consecrating the union of man and woman in his Name. By the power of your Holy Spirit, pour out the abundance of your blessing upon this man and this woman. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their life and in their death. Finally, in your mercy, bring them to that table where your saints feast for ever in your heavenly home; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

After that, we had our recessional, "Grand Choeur in D" by Guilmant. We headed down the aisle, drunk on happiness, and had a few moments alone together before everyone else recessed and met us in the churchyard.

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