|I have photos from the reception, but the wifi is so flaky|
where we're staying I'm using this as a placeholder
This evening we attended the wedding reception of our niece, Malin Kjønsberg, and her husband, Stefan Skår. They actually got married last year (and now both use both last names). But this evening, I realized that, at least in Norway, it's the reception that cements the union. Because at the reception, speeches are made. And the speechifiers put a lot of hard thought and feeling into those speeches. They mean, in a way, as much as, if not more than, that simple civil-ceremony "I do."
Tonight, there were eight speeches: by the "father" of the bride (actually the mother, our sister-in-law Heidi, who raised Malin); by the groom and bride themselves; by the best man and maid/matron of honor; and by various others, including in this case the fathers of the bride, Gunnar and Geoff (Geoff being my brother-in-law, who is married to Heidi). The father of the groom would have spoken, but he fell ill, alas.
And although I did not understand what Malin and Stefan said to each other, I could tell that their words were from deep in their hearts and that they adore each other. It was beautiful to witness.
And after all, "witnessing" is a good part of what a formal wedding ceremony (or reception) is about. And becoming part of a larger family, a supportive community.
It took me back to my wedding day, August 1, 1981. We had talked with a pastor at the ecumenical off-campus Christian place (I can't even think of what it was called) at UCLA, Reverend Fink. And after a conversation with us, apparently he was convinced that we were okay, we knew what we were doing, and he agreed to marry us.
Which he did, at Topanga State Park in the Santa Monica Mountains. It was a small ceremony, maybe forty guests. I wore a handmade dress and David wore handmade shirt and pants, of light apricot material. I had flowers in my hair, which was braided and wrapped up around my head. (My mother-in-law thought it rather severe-looking.) My mother's best friend, Libby, and her friend Phyllis played recorders as we walked down the dusty "aisle." We had a homemade cake made by our friend Therese Adair, fruit salad made by us, champagne. The highlight of the day came when a herd of goats tumbled down a nearby hill.
We wrote our own vows. Which we used to recite each year on our anniversary—until, oh, fifteen years ago.
But tonight: I wished that we Americans, too, had the tradition of the bride and groom giving speeches to each other. Telling each other what they love about each other, and what their wishes are, and maybe reciting a funny anecdote or two. Speaking their love out loud to all the witnesses, the community that will continue to hold them and keep them.
I think that if this was part of our tradition, fewer people would rush into marriage. Or at least, they'd do it more thoughtfully.
It's easy to say "I do" and spend thousands of dollars on a fancy party. It's harder to spell out just what those two words mean, in front of a roomful of family and friends.