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I recently returned from one of my best friend’s weddings on Sunday. Aside from enduring the necessary stress of performing the functions as the best man, I thoroughly enjoyed every precious moment of my college buddy’s wedding.

The wedding ceremony itself was elegant, simple, and touching. Two acoustic guitars set the mood as the prelude, relaxing anxious attenders with their light picking. The church hall was adorned with paper flowers and origami that hung over the heads of the congregation. And everyone looked their best, as anyone who was sending off an old friend to a new life of marriage should. The program went fairly smoothly, except when a certain best man nearly scared the wits out of everyone (including himself) when he could not produce the bride and groom’s rings in a timely manner. Oh well, it proved a comic moment that helped release some of the tension in the room.

Perhaps the greatest highlight of the day was the groom’s father’s toast during the reception. His self-poking jokes and insightful wisdom delighted the crowd. My eyes actually started to mist up during one particularly touching part of the speech, and would have welled-over into tears were it not for manly pride to curb such weakness.

The father gave thanks to the bride’s father and mother for accepting his son as a future son-in-law, and went on to proclaim on behalf of his own family his own acceptance of their daughter as a future member of the family. He said he understood that a father’s role in life is to protect his daughter, and empathized with the bride’s father, knowing how hard it was to let a daughter go to another man for that protection. A father’s livelihood isn’t defined simply by his work, but by his role as a protector for his family. “Losing” a child to marriage, can possibly be seen as losing half of your identity, your livelihood.

But to see marriage as the transference of the daughter from one man to another would be limiting and inaccurate (not to mention misogynistic). My parents have always told me that when we marry someone, we are not merely committing ourselves to that individual but to the spouse’s family as well. The groom’s father made this exact point, but illustrated it in a different way. During a part of his speech when he was expanding on the idea of protection, he reassured the bride’s father that his daughter was not only gaining the love and protection of his son, but through the extension of his son she has entered into his family’s protection as well. Two have become one, and both families will now treat each newly grafted family member as one of their own. What a beautiful thing marriage is, for it is not only the union of a man and a woman, but of two families as well.

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