Sunday, August 16, 2009

Advice about marriage from a son to his father on the father's wedding day

Last weekend I attended the best wedding weekend ever, including my own. This was not only my opinion, it was shared by many who flew from far corners of the world - South Africa, Malawi, Israel, California, the state of Washington and many more - to attend. I will call the couple who were married, Edward and Alyssa. Edward’s son and his wife I will call Justin and Kaitland.

For me, a high point of the weekend - at a reception following the ceremony - was a speech that Justin gave to the assembled guests, both acknowledging his father and advising him on marriage. Their relationship was an unusual one. Edward raised Justin as a single father for most of his life. When he and Kaitland decided to share the same home, Edward offered to share his modest home and they all lived together for several years. When Edward and Alyssa, too, decided to share the same home, she, joined what became a close and supportive community of four. Eventually Justin and Kaitland married and, sometime afterward, purchased a home of their own, though Kaitland reported that she grieved for weeks at the separation.

Eventually, Edward and Alyssa decided to culminate their many years of friendship by marrying, occasioning the celebration I have been describing. By this time, Justin and Kaitland had been married several years. In an unusual ceremony that combined multiple ethnic and religious traditions, Kaitland and Justin ‘gave’ Edward to Alyssa at the moment when that traditionally occurs in Christian ceremonies.

Here is what Justin said to his father, culminating a moving acknowledgment of their years together. ‘Even though you and Alyssa have been friends for many years,’ he advised. ‘Marriage is different. Before you are married, even if you share the same home, you know there is the possibility that she will pack up and move out. The marriage commitment, which I know you both take seriously, changes things. Be sure you use this as an opportunity to deepen not only your love for one another, but your friendship with one another. Don’t let it become, even for one moment, an excuse to take each other for granted. In all the years we lived together,’ he concluded, ‘though you are both strong individuals, sometimes with differing views, I never heard either of you say a mean word to one another. Your relationship has been a model of how love, friendship, mutual respect and sometimes independent lives can go hand in hand. I pray that marriage will not change that.

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