The Wedding Day: Letting Go of the Magical to See the Sacred

I wanted a strapless, A-line, sweetheart neckline wedding dress, so I wasn’t sure why the fitting room attendant brought me an ornate 3/4-sleeve trumpet gown. But when I stepped out of the fitting room and saw myself in all the mirrors, it happened just like they say it’s supposed to: my eyes spontaneously filled up with tears as I started laughing with pure delight. I felt like a bride, in a way I hadn’t in the other dresses. This was the dress…my dress. It fit me perfectly and wouldn’t even need any alterations, so I figured it was okay to spend a little more than I was planning on.

When my dress came in three weeks later, I reverently lifted it from the box and my mama helped me into it. We sighed happily and dreamily as she buttoned up the back, and – OH. Something was terribly wrong – the top of the dress was standing out about 3 inches from my bust. Like it was 2 sizes too big. My heart sank. “My dress is an impostor!” I wailed. I had been so ready to love it, and now I…didn’t. This wasn’t my dress. This wasn’t The One.

We asked if we could exchange it for the floor model, since we knew that it fit perfectly. They assured us they would clean and repair any damage and ship it to my parents’ house. When it came in, Mama and I took a look at it together. What we saw was a gray-ish train, torn beading, and a spot of pink makeup right on the front. We took it back, and the manager told us it was beyond fixing. It must have been a fluke that the first one we ordered didn’t fit, she assured me. So we ordered another one.

When I got that one, I was hardly even excited anymore. My mindset was more like, “Hmm, I wonder if this one fits. Maybe third time’s the charm?” No. It wasn’t. This one was too big as well. I had the alterations specialists assess the fit, and they quoted me a price of $160 to fix it. I asked the store manager if they could do the alterations for free, since it had been such an ordeal. She said no, because there was no guarantee that dresses would be manufactured the same. I whined and said nobody told me that when I ordered it either time, so she said she would see what she could do.

“It all just feels stupid!” I wailed into JP’s lap as he patted my head patiently and, I’m sure, wearily. “Like I don’t even want to wear it if they get away with this, it’s like the Dress of Deceit and Evil Corporate America! I don’t want to be thinking as I walk down the aisle, ‘I can’t believe they soaked me for $160.’ They’ve completely ruined the magic of the whole experience!”

In the in between days, while waiting for the manager to call me back, I had to do a lot of thinking. I really couldn’t – and didn’t want to – pay for their inconsistency, so what could I do if they said ‘no’ once and for all? The whole negative experience had already made the dress less special. I had been so sure it was The One, but I’d gotten three impostors now. Maybe The One didn’t even exist. With the wedding just six weeks away, I didn’t even have time to order a new dress. I toyed with the idea of exchanging the dress – just walking into the store and saying, “Okay, pull all the size 4 dresses off the rack, and I’ll get whatever actually fits.” Hey, if I could save $500, why not? Maybe I would bond with an Honest, Friendly, Down-to-Earth Dress in a way that I never did with the (as I now thought of it) Untrustworthy, Arrogant Impostor Dress.

For me, the whole process of planning the wedding has been letting go of one “important” thing after another. A lot of little girls grow up thinking their wedding day will be perfect and magical, and when we actually start planning, that translates into obsessing over every single detail. I wasn’t super controlling about everything, but there were a few things that I was set on. A white church in Nashville, for one thing. Gray suits. Save-the-dates. Wedding favors.  The Perfect Dress. One by one, I had to compromise, to let these things go. What had once seemed so important, I learned to shrug off. The Dress was the last thing I was holding onto for dear life – and now the magic of The Dress had been disillusioned too. I felt like sad Cinderella, standing in the middle of the road staring at a giant pumpkin.

My friends were kind enough to mourn with me, but the kindest thing they did was to remind me of the sacredness of the wedding event.

“If you go a little over-budget for food, don’t stress over it,” Samantha reminded me. “It’s not like you’re spending thousands on decorations to impress everyone or make your friends jealous – you’re feeding people, inviting them to the table. It’s Eucharistic. Think of your reception as your first act of hospitality as a married couple.”

Mama found a book at the thrift store called A Wedding with Spirit and sent it to me in a care package. It couldn’t have come at a better time; it was all about remembering the sacredness and the symbolism of a wedding rather than following the hype of the wedding industry.

And I came to understand something. I had wanted my wedding to be magical, forgetting that to be sacred is a higher transcendence. Magic is…well, shallow, really. The magic is gone in an instant when something goes wrong – as it always does. The flower girl will refuse to walk down the aisle, or someone will make an awkward toast, or maybe your Perfect Dress will tear or catch on fire or fall in the toilet (yes, I’ve heard all three from friends!). The reality is, we cannot make anything perfect or magical, because as humans we are limited by our finitude and imperfection.

The sacredness of an event, however, does not depend upon us but upon the work of the Spirit in that moment, sanctifying us and making us new, infusing us with the beautiful mystery of grace. I realized that whatever dress I happened to wear on the day of our wedding – whether second-hand, second-choice, A-line, trumpet, or one that cost me extra for the company’s mistakes – would become a sacred symbol of love and covenant and our new life together. No dress inherently possessed the qualities that made it The One – rather, whatever dress I chose would become The One. There would be nothing magical about it – but in years to come, when I lovingly pack up the memories for our next adventure together, or one day give my dress to a daughter or granddaughter to wear – it will have been steeped in love and excitement and joy and thanksgiving, christened with the blessings of a God-ordained marriage. Because of what it represents, the dress will be sacred just as the sacrament of marriage is sacred.

It is common advice for brides to live in the magic of the moment – this is your big day, your time to shine, your time to feel pampered and beautiful and be the center of attention. But to my fellow brides-to-be, let me urge you to live instead in the sacredness of the moment, orienting yourself not to the material details or the extravagance or the attention, but rather to the presence of the Divine, those thin places where you can see God crafting something beautiful. Your guests are not there to be entertained or impressed – they are there to witness a holy union. Receive the sacredness of their gifts and attention with humility and grace, rather than taking advantage of this magical “once-in-a-lifetime chance to shine.” Don’t look for ways to get the most out of your wedding day; look for opportunities to give, even as you receive the undeserved, unconditional blessings of God. Embrace the moments where you can say “thank you,” not presumptuously or hastily or with obligation, but with complete wonder and disbelief. Those are the sacred moments.

In case you’re wondering, I got a call yesterday saying that because of the inconvenience of multiple transactions, the company had decided to refund 20% of the original purchase price of the dress – which more than covers the cost of alterations. As I mentioned, I had become okay with – even excited about – the thought of starting over with a different dress. But as I sat on my bed, looking with wonder at the humble cardboard box on my closet shelf, I knew that this would be my dress after all. And suddenly, for the first time since trying it on, I loved it again – simply because this dress will be the one to usher me into a new name, a new family, a new life.

Published in: on April 24, 2015 at 1:09 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

As Long as We Both Shall Live: A Wedding Liturgy

Here’s another fun fact about my youth ministry professor Dr. Surdacki: he loves liturgy.  Like, a lot.  Having been raised in the Catholic church and now a member of the church of Christ at the opposite end of the spectrum, he embodies some of the best things from both traditions.  So for my Introduction to Ministry class, we got to do a liturgy project, which included writing a liturgy of our own.  Hopeless romantic that I am, of course I chose to do a wedding liturgy.  Unfortunately, I had to turn it in as kind of a rough draft since I’m going to SCOTLAND in 4 days.  But here it is.

depositphotos_4138729-Love-is-Patient-Bible-Verse-with-RingsBride and groom join hands at the altar before the pastor. Congregation is seated.

 Pastor: Friends, family, and witnesses, we come together today as a community to celebrate the sacrament of marriage as a testament to the unconditional love of God for His church.  In committing to spend the rest of their lives together in love and faithfulness, N and N are pledging their relationship as a living testimony to what Christ has done in their lives.

As we witness their vows, we are called into covenant with them to help them uphold their commitment, to live in community with them, to teach them to love and care for one another, and to learn from what their unique relationship has to offer.

N and N, you are entering into a covenant relationship with one another, but also with these witnesses here and with the larger body of Christ.  As you vow to love one another faithfully, you are taking on the responsibility of representing Christ’s love together as one flesh.

Reading from Ephesians 5:21-33.

 Pastor: Lord, we praise you for the gift of marriage and all that it represents. May you bless N and N as they begin their journey together, and may everyone here be blessed by their example of love and faithfulness.  Bless their lives with joy, their family with love, and their home with your abiding peace as they make you the center of their lives. Amen.

 Pastor: I invite you to join me in the reading of 1st Corinthians 13.

Pastor: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Congregation: Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Pastor: As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,

Congregation: But when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

Pastor: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.  When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. For now we see in a mirror dimly;

Congregation: but then face to face.

Pastor: Now I know in part;

Congregation: Then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

Pastor: So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three:

Congregation: But the greatest of these is love.

 Pastor: N, as you take N to be your wife, committing to be faithful to her, will you, to the best of your ability, love N with this kind of submissive and sacrificial love, honoring God first and her above all others?

N: I will.

Pastor: N, as you take N to be your husband, committing to be faithful to him, will you, to the best of your ability, love N with this kind of submissive and sacrificial love, honoring God first and him above all others?

N: I will.

Pastor to Congregation: Will you uphold N and N in their declaration of love and faithfulness, holding them accountable to their vows and encouraging them in their desire to live in holy union together?

Congregation: We will.

To the man:

Pastor: Repeat after me.

Before God and these witnesses

I make a covenant with you

To love you as Christ loved the church

And gave Himself for her

To love you unconditionally

To seek your highest good

To stand by you faithfully

Together or apart

For richer or poorer

In sickness and in health

As long as we both shall live.

To the woman:

Pastor: Repeat after me.

Before God and these witnesses

I make a covenant with you

To submit to you as to the Lord

To love you unconditionally

To seek your highest good

To stand by you faithfully

Together or apart

For richer or poorer

In sickness and in health

As long as we both shall live.

Exchanging of the Rings

Pastor: The wedding ring is an outward sign of an inward commitment to love and honor one another in a marriage covenant. The circle represents endless love; the gold, both the purity of their love and the refinement that will take place in this covenant relationship. N, you may place a ring on the finger of your bride.

N: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you.

Pastor: By the same token, N, you may place a ring on the finger of your groom.

N: I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness to you.

Pastor: Now that N and N have exchanged these vows and rings and thus made a covenant to one another before God, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.

Pastor: It is my honor to introduce to you for the first time, Mr. and Mrs. N. 

Published in: on March 11, 2013 at 8:50 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,