I send out a survey of questions to couples that book me as their wedding celebrant. This is a regular practice and really helps me to create a personalised and unique ceremony. Of course I always include the proviso that all of the questions don’t have to be answered, I know how annoying it is to have to write a response to a question that is irrelevant or that is difficult answer. However, putting thought into constructing a response is really helpful to me as the celebrant and I think it can also help the couple in the process of preparing for marriage.
One of the questions I include is, what will marriage add to your relationship that you don’t already have? For some reason, the question stood out to me this week and made me think about the answer in a personal context, what did marriage bring to my relationship that wasn’t there before? You see, I didn’t come to marriage in a traditional way. The order in my life was way out when you consider what is usual.
My husband and I married after 15 years together having had our children, building a mud brick house together and establishing our careers. There was no order to these life achievements, things unfolded and over those fifteen years we built a life together. Eventually, after a previous conscious decision as young adults that we didn’t need a legal certificate to make our relationship a strong and lasting one, we finally decided that we wanted to marry.
Why? We thought it would be a nice thing to do. We knew our families would like it and we wanted to publicly declare our commitment to each other in front of our families and friends. I think that we finally knew that we wanted to grow old together.
Our wedding was very moving for us, both my husband and I cried, a lot. It was a modest affair, informal, a civil service followed by a backyard party. There were no attendants, I didn’t wear a dress and my husband didn’t wear a suit. Our children were there with us to witness the ceremony and celebration. We didn’t have a honeymoon until 15 years later and on our wedding night our toddler was in our bed.
So what did marriage bring to our relationship that it didn’t already have?
What it meant to us was profound. Our commitment was stated and witnessed, not just implicit, as we promised to be there for each other, forever. We had been totally committed already, to each other and to our children but the act of our wedding consolidated this in a real and powerful way. In that moment we were choosing to celebrate what we had become and what we were looking forward to in our future. We had survived substantial challenges and overcome personal tragedy and we had survived. We were okay and we knew we always would be. Of course, the main thing was the celebration of our love and our confidence that this love would stand up to anything that life dealt us, as long as we stayed true to the promises we made on that day.
Janne Sverdloff Celebrant