“She’s not really mine to give away anymore,” the bride’s father said to me this afternoon, as we waited in the back yard for her to complete her transformation from jeans-and-flannel to white lace. “But I’d like to.” Adding the note to my scribbled-in Baker’s Wedding Handbook, I assured him with a grin that he would have the opportunity. “May I say, ‘With pleasure‘?” he wondered. I assured him with a grin that he could.
To borrow the bride’s phrasing, she has been married twice, but this is her first wedding. Embarking on a new life in middle age, she wanted to do it “right” this time—with family and cake and a veil and a minister instead of a judge.
The groom (for whom this is the first wedding and first marriage) simply wants to be married to her.
I was there to supply the minister-instead-of-judge component of a “proper wedding,” though faced with the unusual challenge of having the ceremony left entirely in my own hands. The bride had opted not to meet ahead of time, focusing her fluttery energy instead on the planning-details which wouldn’t take care of themselves, and leaving me to make my best-guess selections for the ceremony.
This is where I love my Baker’s book–a veritable buffet of prayers, vows, traditional ceremonies from different denominations, and “contemporary” alternatives… So left to my own devices, I mix-and-matched what I consider the best bits of each. Still, my usual list of logistical questions (Do we have rings? Music? Specific readings? Are there children? Is anyone giving the bride away?) were still unanswered when I arrived, so I had hooked her father to help me to fill in the blanks. Five grown children between the groom and bride, and Dad will finally get to give her away.
My greater challenge this morning was the blank page on my lap as I sat on the front porch with my coffee, looking for my own words to offer this couple whom I hadn’t yet met. (Well, I had met the bride last year, when I made a deathbed-visit for her mother—but our coffee-and-conversation on that occasion weren’t exactly suited to wedding-preparation purposes…)
My pen stayed still for some moments, empty of information about this pair. But then… I have plenty to say about Marriage itself, and so my pen began to flow. And though it was late in the morning, an owl began to call as I began to write. The owl—my ‘aumakua, or totem, or guardian—chose that moment to “make a joyful noise,” which (along with the “WoodOwl Drive” address of the wedding location) struck me as a positive omen indeed.
On an occasion like this, the pen doubles as a magic wand… The marriage itself now belongs to this husband and this wife, and it is their Calling now to nurture it—and each other-–”for as long as they both shall live.” But I’m still awe-struck and honored by this ability to speak the words that create a marriage. There’s magic here, as surely as there is in childbirth or any other act of creation.
It wasn’t a Sermon the owl helped me write. It was a spell. The magical making of a new marriage.