My best friend recently got married. I was Matron of Honor (or Best Woman, as the bride and I both prefer). Cindy and I have been friends for thirteen years, almost half our lifetime, and I know her better than many. Helping her plan things from half a world away was difficult, but she managed, and I helped most in the two weeks before the wedding when I flew back to California to deal with the details.
Her wedding was exquisite. Absolutely one-of-a-kind. For the last several years she has worked for an architecture firm doing space planning, a job that required all of her artistic ability and attention to detail. She brought those skills to the crafting of her wedding, too. Every element was handmade, plucked from her imagination. And in keeping with the spirit of making everything one-of-a-kind, when she asked me to do a reading in the ceremony, she also asked that I write it myself. I did. What I wrote came to me easily because it is precisely how I feel true, lasting love begins, grows, and endures in real life. I watched it in Cindy and her husband, Brad. I've seen in happen in the lives of many of my other friends, too. And I've lived it with my own husband, Jonathan.
It was Jonathan who stole my heart and made me realize that, while marriage done wrong can be an archaic institution which disenfranchises women in favor of maintaining a damaging patriarchy, when done right, it is also full of potential for fun, support, adventure, and peace. Together we're focusing on maintaining our own as the latter.
Love is all in the look.
The first glance is sidelong.
Is she pretty? Does he have kind eyes?
A quick glimpse is all you need to answer
these questions. But love requires more.
The second glance across the room
is more daring. You will her to look up.
You want to catch him rather than
to be caught yourself. Staring.
Over dinner you look deeper. Does he
prefer dogs or cats? What is her favorite
ice cream flavor? And deeper. What is this
woman's dream? What is this man's passion?
After a while, you feel comfortable enough
to look away from each other. Back to the world.
What do they think of you? How do you look
standing there side by side?
But you soon realize the appearance doesn't
matter. It is what he sees in you, what has
piqued her interest, which really counts.
You seek it, digging for the foundation
of your attraction, and along the way you
discover flaws. She may be quick to anger.
He may not be apt to listen.
But because this is a path to true love,
you take the time to look again.
And you see in the flaws the potential
of your own best self. He is eternally patient.
She knows how to give you your space.
Now, when you look at one another,
you see everything. The children you were.
The young people you are. The man and
woman you aspire to be. Best of all, you
want to be there to see it all unfold together.
So you join hands before this alter,
in front of your families and friends,
and seal your love with rings and a kiss.
And so-joined you turn again,
bound by name and vow, and stand
shoulder to shoulder, anew.
From that place and time you look
down the road, the one that winds out
away from this day of declaration.
It shines with optimism. But you know,
because you've seen others walk it,
that the journey will take both luck and effort.
And you're more than willing to begin.
Because now you have a partner, a playmate,
a confidante, a darling. You're looking
the same way and you're hoping
for the same things.
He will look after your heart as long as it is beating,
and she will look after your soul so long as it remains.
And love, true love, is all in that look.
I know how hard it can be to find something to read in a wedding that isn't 1 Corinthians 13 or a poem that nobody in the audience will get. If you come across this piece in your hunt for the perfect ceremony reading as a Maid of Honor, Matron of Honor, Bridesmaid, Friend of the Bride, and you'd like to use it... Please do! I'd be honored. Post a comment and let me know how it goes for you!
Cindy will kill me for putting this in print, but when we were teenagers we cut up bridal magazines and taped pictures of flowing white dresses and bouquets of roses into our notebooks. Before you judge, let me just say that I was a budding feminist at that point, one who wanted to rule a courtroom and the volleyball court before I would think about signing my life away to a man (And I'd certainly never take his name, whoever he ended up being). Cindy was a beautiful, funny girl, an artist, and didn't necessarily want to rule anything. I played sports and she did ballet. Together we went to youth group once a week. We were good Christian girls. And we spent the occasional Sunday afternoon cross-legged on the carpet cutting up bridal magazines because that was one of those sweet, senseless, innocent things good Christian girls did. Like saying our prayers, taking Communion, honoring our fathers and mothers.
It wasn't an obsession; it was an assumption. We would both marry good, strong, godly men. We would bear children. We would take those children to Sunday school and then, afterwards, we would comb the bits of graham cracker and solidified paste out of their hair. Marriage was in the cards. It wasn't a question. And since we just plain knew true love was assured to us because we were good, we didn't worry about the love part. We worried about the tough stuff... like deciding exactly how pink and fluffy those inevitable weddings would be.
Cindy has always preferred things pink and airy. That applied to the bridesmaids' dresses, the bouquets, the centerpieces. I liked classic silhouettes and long veils. In reality, though, it meant nothing. And the relationships we had with boys at the time meant little more than that.
As a rule we dated nice boys, most of whom would grow up to be good men. But we didn't know them as men. We knew them as the goofy, lanky, happy-go-lucky teenage boys they were at youth group and in class. They sneaked into movie theaters, cut second period to go to Donut Wheel, played basketball or StarCraft, loved The Matrix trilogy, and called our fathers Mr. Pancoast and Mr. Gavel. And our dates ended long before anything could go awry. We told these boys we loved them, and I believe we thought so, too. We were too sincere to play emotional games.
So what's the truth? Love is more complex than the average teenage mind and heart are able to understand or navigate. Not until college and after did Cindy and I learn what romantic, lasting love meant, and we learned it at different speeds, in different places, with different people.
I shocked my family and friends when I fell in love and got married at twenty-one, before I even graduated from college. That was seven years ago. (And yes, I did take his name.) Cindy went through two long term relationships and graduated from college before she met the guy I believe was absolutely meant for her. I watched her during that time from the vantage point of my marriage. At turns she admired what I had and resented it, loved the stability of the home I had and rebelled against it. It is a true testament to the simple foundation of our relationship that we remained friends anyway. Today, she is Mrs. Lackey and I am Mrs. Camp. Our true best friends are our husbands. But even from a world away, we share something important, and it began with youth group, prayers, intricately folded notes, games of Life which required us to name all 15 of our tiny pink and blue plastic children. And cutting up wedding magazines.