When you first graduate from college, you attend many weddings. For the five years or so after college, several weddings seem to come every year—some weddings where you know the betrothed well and you are actually in the wedding party, and some where you merely witness the proceedings.
As you grow older, and most of your siblings and friends have already married or entered the religious life, attendance at weddings slows down. In the last few years, as I have aged, I have attended very few weddings, really only a handful in the last decade.
But now my children are reaching adulthood, as are the children of my siblings and friends. I have six brothers, and my wife has ten siblings, and so we will be spending many a Saturday at the happy events of nephews and nieces for the next score of years. Besides checking on which churches are available for the wedding and which hall is available for the reception, the espoused will also need to check the master wedding calendar to see when each of their cousins is getting married.
I’d say there’s probably an app for that, but in how many families do children have fifty or more cousins? I think I’d have to write the app.
In my lack of attendance at weddings lately, I had forgotten one very important part of the wedding and reception. That truly important part—that thing that is almost as important as consent given and received—is the smiles on the faces of the bride and groom.
When the organist starts playing the wedding march to announce the entrance of the bride, all heads turn to the back of the church. The bride, escorted by her father, or another attendant if the father is not able, slowly walks down the aisle. Upon her face is a smile that almost seems to be a reflection of the beatific vision.
While all eyes in the church are on the bride, her eyes are on the groom. And upon his face is a smile which is the mirror of her own, indeed made more radiant by seeing her smile, for how could he not be happy when he looks upon her happiness? The father gives the hand of his daughter to her soon-to-be husband, and there are smiles and tears, and when the two exchange their vows, more smiles and tears.
Although the tears may dry, the smiles will not flee from their faces all day, because this is their dream, which they dreamt together, and which is no longer unattainable, but has truly come to be.
The beautiful Song of Songs captures the feelings which pass between the newly married couple:
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling, my beautiful one,
come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
Song of Songs 2:10-14
After the weddings, the days go by, and children come, and bills come, and fights come. Sickness and health come, as do richer and poorer, and better and worse. Those marriage vows which seemed so sweet at the time, can become difficult. In the worst cases, that voice of the beloved, which had seemed like only sweet music, can now seem like discordant strains that can barely be tolerated. The relationship can fall into contempt and sometimes everything the other person says is taken in the worst possible way.
But this one thing is true, if nothing else is true. For one beautiful day, at least, that other person was so important to you, that the mere sight of the other was enough to put a daylong smile on your face. Your spouse, before God, held your hand and promised everything to you. Your spouse wrapped and tied up with a ribbon all of his or her hopes and dreams, good qualities and bad, sorrows and joys, into a gift and placed it into your hands.
St. Paul tells us to think upon that which is good, beautiful, and true. Surely this is one of those things.
On a personal note, my eldest daughter will be married in September of this year. Erin, I’m sorry you will be leaving our house, but I’m really looking forward to seeing the all-day smile on your face.
Header Image CC WalterPro4755