Still an Elde, but, as of last Saturday, I am one with the Sylvester family as well. The weekend was sublime, affirming, and full of love and support, and before taking off for my & my love's brief honeymoon stint out in Montauk, I thought I'd acknowledge it in this here blog. Figured I'd also share how our ceremony, with my lovely and amazing friend Amy F. at the helm as our officiant, more or less unfolded. Here 'tis:
On behalf of Kristen and Ray, I'd like to welcome you and thank you for being here on this happy day.
Kristen and Ray, I think I speak for everyone present when I say we are honored to be here to share in your wedding and we thank you for including us.
The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote of marriage, "For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.”
Rilke wrote this about marriage between two people specifically, but I see room for all of us here, present today, to be included.
We, all of us, love Kristen and Ray. We are their family, their friends, their friends as family. We are all pieces that blend together to enhance who they are, just as they are integral parts of each of us. We are their Seattle selves, their DC selves, their New York City selves, and their Massachusetts selves. And today, through the beauty of their love for one another, we have been entrusted by them to come together, meet or re-meet, laugh and share stories, eat and drink, sing and dance and be present for, as Rilke says, the ultimate task, what Kristen and Ray have been working a lifetime in preparation for--their marriage, their expression of deep love and commitment.
As Rilke continued, "The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries. On the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his or her solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
As I sat with Kristen and Ray to talk about the details of today, as I listened to their thoughts about marriage and love, as I watched them negotiate and navigate even the smallest of ideas, as I read their vows and began to find a deeper understanding of who they are as two people in love, I myself began to see their immense sky and all the possibilities that exist for them.
They speak to one another with care and appreciation. They trust in the importance of shared decision-making while honoring their own desires and self-worth. They laugh and touch and smile in adoration. Over the course of their relationship, they have valued openness and honesty, patience and devotion, both when the experiences were joyful and exhilarating and when they were painful and scary. They have guarded one another's solitude and allowed for their own timing, trusting in the moment. Kristen and Ray have already succeeded in loving the expanse between them, keeping it spacious and breezy and full of fresh air, cultivating that immense sky in which beauty and love can’t help but flourish.
We are witness to their guardianship of one another and the nourishing of their open sky. You were invited today because Kristen and Ray have always valued your support and encouragement. You have added beauty to their lives and, for that, you are their beloved guests. Kristen and Ray ask that you acknowledge your faith in them--as individuals, as guardians of one another, and as a married couple. Do you, honored guests, join me in recognizing and supporting the marriage of Kristen and Ray? [We do.]
The Irish poet, philosopher, and scholar John O’Donohue has written of the notion of Anam-Cara, part of the Celtic tradition and representative of the circle of belonging of which we’re all a part. I would like to ask Ray’s best man, Owen, to share some of O’Donohue’s words.
[Owen reads O’Donohue quote.]
Thank you, Owen.
As we gather today in this lush backyard, we’re easily reminded of the beauty and sacredness of nature, and its ability to inspire in us joy, calm, and thankfulness. In this vein, Kristen’s and Ray’s friend Tim will read a poem by Ursula Le Guin that reminds us of the wonder of creation, and the awe it can evoke regardless of one’s beliefs about its origin or its meaning.
[Tim reads Le Guin poem.]
Ray’s sister, Layli, will now share a marriage prayer from the writings of the Baha’i Faith. Although neither Kristen nor Ray professes a particular religion, Ray’s mother, father, sister, and grandmother are all Baha’i, and the Baha’i Faith was a formative element in Ray’s life. This prayer, in a way not entirely dissimilar from the poem we just heard, draws on the imagery of light to express the beauty and capacity for growth latent in the loving connection that Kristen and Ray share and nurture.
Thank you, Layli.
Many authors and philosophers have offered an interpretation of marriage--what it is or may be, what it can or should provide for those who have embraced this sacred bond. In the succinct and poignant poem “Habitation,” the writer Margaret Atwood suggests that marriage is both a haven and a space for growth, a place of learning and of warmth. I’d like to now ask Ray’s and Kristen’s friend Laila to share this piece with us.
Thank you, Laila.
Poet Mark Strand has described the private life of two soulmates as a true “masterpiece” of existence, underscoring the depth and meaning that true partnership can confer, through both the joys and the sorrows that two people may experience in their shared life. Kristen’s maid of honor, Erin, will now read this poem.
Thank you, Erin. And thank you, all, for those lovely readings.
Kristen and Ray have prepared their own vows that they would like to share with each other in the company of all of you today. Kristen, will you now share your vows with Ray? [Yes.]
And Ray, will you now share your vows with Kristen? [Yes.]
Now that you have shared these vows with one another, I ask that you confirm your commitment to one another:
Do you, Kristen, take Ray to be your husband from this day forward; do you promise to be faithful and honest, to be brave and kind, and to help him grow with compassion and awareness?
[Kristen: I do.]
And do you, Ray, take Kristen to be your wife from this day forward; do you promise to be faithful and honest, to be brave and kind, and to help her grow with compassion and awareness?
[Ray: I do.]
EXCHANGE OF RINGS
Kristen and Ray, I now ask that you seal this commitment that you have made by exchanging rings. Owen, may we have the rings?
[Owen hands the rings (on pillow) to Amy. Amy removes rings from pillow and hands Ray’s ring to Kristen, and Kristen’s ring to Ray.]
Kristen, please place the ring on Ray’s finger and repeat after me: This ring is a token of my love. I marry you with this ring, with all that I have and all that I am.
Ray, please place the ring on Kristen’s finger and repeat after me: This ring is a token of my love. I marry you with this ring, with all that I have and all that I am.
By the power vested in me by the state of Massachusetts, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Please feel free to begin smooching.