When I'm working with a couple to design their wedding ceremony, I'm always sure to ask two basic questions. While seemingly obvious, they are almost certainly questions the couple has not considered or talked about before, though the answers will help guide them as they plan their wedding. My questions are:
1) Why are you getting married in this way (i.e., your ceremony and wedding reception)?
2) Why are you inviting your family and friends?
There's usually an initial “Because that's just how you do it!" response...followed by deeper reflection...followed by some version of the answers, 1), “Because we want to share the day with everyone we love," and 2), “Because they mean the world to us."
Of course, I have some couples who tell me, “Our wedding day is just for us," as well as some for whom family does not provide close and comforting connection. But of the hundreds of people I've worked with over the past decade — couples having a wedding ceremony and reception, not eloping — when invited to consider what it means to be married before their friends and family, they almost universally reply:
“It means everything."
If we're fortunate, our marriage will not be only the two of us. It will exist within the fabric of many other meaningful and supportive relationships. When we recognize that, it can ease some of the more difficult aspects of wedding planning (e.g., why we're spending so much money, or making so much effort to consider all our guests).
In my last blog post, I talked about why connection will make (or break) your wedding. When we include family and friends in our wedding ceremony, acknowledging the meaning and support they offer us, we satisfy one of our deepest and oldest human hungers: to feel connected...to belong.
Connection gives purpose and meaning to our lives, according to Brené Brown's research. Connection allows us to experience happiness, joy, comfort and love. Connection leaves an imprint on our hearts: it's the weddings (not just our own!) that we never forget.
I'm working on a blog post for next time with specific ideas for rituals and elements to help you foster connection by including friends and family in your wedding ceremony. Until then, there's one more thing I want to share. This is something many couples do think about...although it's not usually something they want to articulate. When they do, this is what they say:
“This is one of the only times everyone we love will be together."
Surely one of the great poverties of this culture and time period, it is too often true: our wedding is quite possibly the one day when all the people who have meant something to us — people from all the different chapters of our lives, from all corners of the world — will be together.
Rather than avoiding this thought as pessimistic (of course we'll have another chance to bring everyone together again!!), or “too dark" (does she mean the only other time will be our funeral??), what if we embraced it as an opportunity; as powerful motivation to be totally authentic and fully ourselves; wildly present and brilliantly alive; deeply grateful and wondrously connected on our wedding day?
I follow a podcast by two relationship therapists who often say, “It's not the wedding; it's the marriage." But to me:
It's the wedding AND the marriage.
Embrace your wedding as an invitation to create a day the way you want to create your marriage, your family, your work and your life. Create something meaningful; something that matters. But remember: for that to happen, it must be rooted in two things -- love, and connection.