Thursday, March 8, 2012

Can You Feel the Love Tonight: The Ceremony

The ceremony was absolutely my favorite part of the wedding.  Daniel's too.  We wrote the whole thing ourselves (minus a brief introduction from our officiant), and we're darn proud of it.

At first, we (mostly I) did research online about other people's ceremonies from traditional Catholic to quotes about zombies.  But nothing really seemed right.  We knew there were things we didn't want in our ceremony.  Neither of us is religious, and I'm anti-organized religion, so anything along that route was out.  We thought about including some Jewish traditions for Daniel, but in the end, there was only one he decided to go with, and it was barely part of the ceremony.  We both like books, but we didn't want our wedding to be overtaken by Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings quotes (though to be fair, we had one from each).  And any other examples of ceremonies we found just didn't feel quite like us.

So in the end, we threw out the book on how to write your own ceremony and wrote about things that were important to us.  Our ceremony told the story of our relationship--past, present, and future--interspersed with quotes we thought were prudent to us and our story, presented by the people most important to us.  It was like nothing we had ever seen, but it truly represented us and our relationship, and we were very proud of it.

The most touching thing we experienced during our wedding was how much our guests loved it too.

I would never expect someone's favorite part of somebody else's wedding to be the ceremony, but we had quite a number of people tell us how much they loved ours.  Several people said the ceremony was their favorite part of the wedding.  A couple of people, including Daniel's grandmother who has not only watched her three children get married but also two of her other grandchildren, told us that they had never cried at a wedding before, but that our ceremony brought tears to their eyes.

I cannot tell you how much it meant to me that our ceremony meant so much to so many people.

But at the end of the day, all that mattered was how much it meant to us.

I debated how to present our ceremony to you.  I know reading someone else's ceremony is not the most exciting thing ever, but because it was so unique, I feel I should share it in case it inspires someone else.  And so, I am recounting pretty much everything to we wrote ourselves, but I promise not to be offended if you just look at the pretty pictures.

As per usual, all photos by Stephen Cheng Photography.

We are here to open a new chapter in Daniel and Nicole’s relationship.  For the last five years they have been committed to each other, but today they affirm that commitment before their family, friends, and the world.

They stand before you because they know their lives will be better together than apart.  They are prepared for all the hardships life might throw at them.  Theirs is a union that will endure: Through happy times, hard times, new jobs, new places, and new adventures.  Nicole and Daniel are here because they are ready to face them all, as long as they can do it together.

The vows they make today are both promises for the future and reminders of the years already shared.  From today, Nicole and Daniel choose to walk a single path.  To appreciate that choice, we must look back at the two paths they walked before.  For each step along those paths, they have chosen a fitting passage to be read by a loved one. 

It all started with a group of students who loved fantasy books.  They taught classes on books like The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and formed a club called BookWorlds.  It was in BookWorlds where Nicole first saw Daniel.  She was immediately struck by his passion for the books she loved, and his sparkling brown eyes.  Daniel took a little longer to notice her, but once he did, he was smitten, not knowing anything about the enchanting young woman or where she would lead him.

(Groomsman Andrew) 

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say

(Bridesmaid Megan)

There is a room in the Department of Mysteries, that is kept locked at all times.  It contains a force that is at once more wonderful and more terrible than death, than human intelligence, than the forces of nature.  It is also, perhaps, the most mysterious of the many subjects for study that reside there.  It is the power held within that room that you possess in such quantities....That power took you to save Sirius tonight....In the end...It was your heart that saved you.

Their first date soon followed.  Like many couples, they began with dinner and a movie, though Thai food and The Lion King are a bit atypical.  Before the first scene ended, they had already shared their first kiss.  They never could agree on who started it.  To this day, Nicole insists that Daniel pulled her while he claims she jumped in his lap.  But they quickly overcame this great debate as that first summer progressed.  Those who watched them can testify to how quickly Nicole and Daniel fell for each other. 

 (We had Joey and Heather, married friends of ours, read the following passage together.  Imagine them alternating lines in the first stanza and reading the second together)

The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
Oh, the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove

But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.

(My Parents)

Finally, the new school year began, and they were together.  Sooner than anyone expected, they were living together too.  Nicole would like to take this opportunity to thank her parents for allowing such a young woman to move in with her much older boyfriend.  She would also like to establish that no 19-year-old daughter of hers should expect the same generosity.  But thanks anyway, because those months brought great happiness to them both.

(Father of the Bride)

Because I love you truly,
Because you love me, too,
My very greatest happiness
Is sharing life with you.
Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll taste your bright eyes, my sweetheart fair.

Months later, tragedy struck.  Daniel was accepted to law school, over 2,000 miles away.  In August of 2007, they packed their bags and moved, him to Chicago and her to England.  Their greatest challenge had arrived, two years of long distance, first separated by an ocean, and then by a continent.  They missed each other desperately.  Even with letters, cell phones, video chats, and email, the absence was overwhelming.  They needed each other.

  (Groomslady Becca)

To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.

It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

 (OK, so I don't know when this actually was during the ceremony--I think it was actually during the vows--but I just have to say, "What the Hell, Man!"  Seriously, Father-in-Law, you musn't look at your son and new daughter-in-law like that!  And you're corrupting Heather!"  Haha, the sun was pretty bright in everyone's eyes, but it was the worst in mine, and I don't have any pictures like that.)

A little worse for wear, they survived their separation and continued to think about the future.  Showing great wisdom and foresight, Daniel asked Nicole to marry him.  A few months later, Nicole exhibited an equally great amount of idiocy by breaking off their engagement.  Of course, all was well in the end, because Nicole corrected her most grievous error.  On Christmas Eve of 2009, she asked him to marry her.  This time, the engagement stuck.  Or at least it will have if we can get through the next 15 minutes.

  (Father of the Groom)

Ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk of any human relations. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

After two years apart, they were together and engaged.  Nicole joined Daniel in Chicago where they faced life’s hardships together.  After mountains of job applications and the brutal experience of law school, they happily returned to California where their future awaited.  They vowed never to part again.

(Maid of Honor Seema)
When buffeted and beaten by life’s storms,
When by the bitter cares of life oppressed,
I want no surer haven than your arms,
I want no sweeter heaven than your breast.
When over my life’s way there falls the blight
Of sunless days, and nights of starless skies;
Enough for me, the calm and steadfast light
That softly shines within your loving eyes.
The world, for me, and all the world can hold
Is circled by your arms; for me there lies,
Within the lights and shadows of your eyes,
The only beauty that is never old.

Nicole and Daniel are here to show their commitment to a bright future together.  They stand in front of you, their family and friends, as a couple that is ready to withstand whatever life has to offer.  They have faith in this marriage and in each other.  From this day forward, all their joys and all their tears will be shared.  And they intend to have lots of laughs along the way.
 (Mother of the Bride)

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies, but there is only one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

(Side note:  this was my favorite quote when it was delivered.  This is a Native American wedding blessing, and when I was young, I was really into Native American culture.  My mom and I would read their stories all the time.  When my mom read this blessing, it was like a return to my childhood, reading those stories together again, but even those who knew none of that were touched by her rendition.  She utterly nailed it.) 

(Finally, we had my brother perform "The Book of Love."  When Daniel first said he wanted to use that song in the ceremony, I was against it.  The two renditions I'd heard of it depress the Hell out of me.  Still, I started to think about how we could make it work.  Then, I thought of Cody.  He is a musician, so we wanted to have him play for us already, and "The Book of Love" was perfect.  It's the only lovey song I can think of that Cody would ever agree to play; his music could depress the Hell out of a rock.  It was a match made in...I don't want to say Hell, but it sure wasn't Heaven, so...somewhere nice.)

Finally, it was time for the vows!

How did you choose your ceremony?  What was important for you to include?  Also, if you want to know where any of the quotes came from, ask in the comments.

1 comment:

  1. It's true -- I loved and cried during your ceremony!!


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