I have the privilege today of performing the marriage ceremony for my very good friends Joe and Amanda. They’ve dedicated a portion of their scripted ceremony for me (of all people) to give my own remarks. Here’s what I’ll be reading:
“You’ve got to hand it to Amanda and Joe, the brilliant strategists that they are, picking the guy most likely to tell embarrassing stories in front of their family at the wedding reception to instead perform the ceremony.
A large proportion of my friends that are at that point in their relationships where marriage would seem to be the appropriate next step are instead living together. They are no less committed to each other than my wife and I, no less in love, yet they still have no plans to get married.
Some dismiss marriage as an old-fashioned, over-romanticized display of human connection. While I don’t share this view, I think it is fair to ask ourselves, ‘Why get married?’. Does matrimony have any meaning today beyond that of a legal contract?
Perhaps marriage is an homage to our past, like any other tradition. A way of saying to our parents and grandparents, ‘This is important to you, and it is also important to us.’ It is also a way of declaring to society a deep commitment: ‘This is my wife,’ and ‘This is my husband.’ It’s also a way of proclaiming your own adulthood to the wider world. I know it’s helped me in more than one job interview (‘Oh, this guy’s married, so he’s probably not a flake’).
There’s also an element of the sacred, outside any religious context. An institution that’s been carried through every government and every religion since the dawn of civilization must have something to it, right? There is a sanctity surrounding two peoplecommitting the rest of their days to one another. After all, you’re pretty much deciding here and now that you want to be buried next to this person. (I hope that thought gets less creepy with time)
With all of these questions, why are we here today? I find a few answers in the lessons that Joe taught me at our college paper. We worked together at the beginning of a major shift in how people perceived journalism and media in general. We had many of the same questions that I have about marriage: is journalism really necessary today? Is journalism going away?
Joe taught me about the role of the press in a liberal democracy, about the beauty of an informed populace being able to govern itself. But most importantly, Joe showed me that the institution of the press wasn’t going away, but was being given to our generation, and that it was our job to continue to shape it into something useful for society.
And so it is with marriage: and ancient tradition, lumbering its way through the ages, arriving here and now for us to use as we see fit.
So what will Joe and Amanda do with it? What does it mean to them, and why have they chosen it for themselves? I suspect we’ll want to ask them again in thirty years after they’ve had a chance to take it for a spin. But I am glad that they have chosen it, for we decide as a society what marriage means by taking an active part in it. I’m glad that Joe and Amanda have meandered their way back and decided to commit to one another. And I’m glad that marriage, it being so important to me, is in the hands of people like Joe and Amanda.”