I've made it plain I love doing weddings. If I could plan, write, and perform weddings every day, that would be my ideal work (and if I could do that for the homeless and street folks, even better). I was honored to be asked to do a New Year's Eve wedding this past Monday, my first one. This is my homily for that.
It’s fitting we come together on this New Year’s Eve, a night of promises and resolutions and hopes for new lives, as we are privileged to share with [this couple] their moment of supreme joy in the new life they begin together. [My friends], you’ve expressed to me that for you tonight is the end of a search and the start of a new adventure. That is exactly what marriage is, an adventure. One embarked on, like many treks into the wild, not alone but with companions. Many poets and commentators have written that weddings are not for the bride and groom but for the guests, and to a certain extent that’s true. However, the focus and the hour of exultation is yours.
Still, I would speak of new hope for them. [My friends], in the years ahead I hope for many things. That your wisdom will be steadily increased. That your love for one another, strong as it is now, strengthens and matures even more. That your dreams for the future grow larger and more fully. We don’t choose our children or our parents. But we do choose our companions. We choose our partner. We choose one another. Today you look one another in the eye and say, “I love you and I want to be with you, and I want to share my life with you. The good, the bad, the swiftly-moving giddy days when I’m happy just to be with you and the long, never-ending nights when it seems I will never like you again. I want to share my greatest, my least, with you, because only with you do I feel complete.”
You’ve shared with me during our meetings together that you want to think of your marriage as a perpetual motion machine. You said, “Our energy circuit should be self-maintaining. We won’t be dependent on an outside source for our energy.” That’s important because that is precisely what marriage is. An energy-producing mechanism providing the magnetism that brings two people, already attracted to one another—perhaps, like the little magnets of our childhood, our southern and northern poles juttering one against the other—into proximity. But it’s also as often an energy-sucking appliance that can drain the last residue of strength from you just when you need it most.
You know this already; you told me “It’s not always gonna be sunshine and flowers.” Truer words were never spoke. Does this mean we should never marry? Of course not. It means we go into marriage with no illusions about it or about each other. You have been together for years. You know one another’s foibles and fortes. Just like when you played racquetball together, you needed to serve as one another’s best opponent, not in order to produce a kill shot—that’s not the point of conflict in your relationship—but to produce a consistent rally that makes you a better player, a player who has found his equal.
Marriage is a community, sometimes comprising hundreds. We would be less than we are if our lives didn’t include the companionship of our parents or our families. Our lives would be less if they didn’t include the moments we share with friends. But the community will always consist at its core of the two of you. Our lives would be less if they didn’t include the partner we choose beside us. We choose that partner because the thought of being alone is unbearable. Whether you think of that partner as Pinky or the Brain, as Fidel or Che, that partner needs to always be beside you even when, for the sake of peace of mind, you need to put a door or a wall between you.
[Friends], if I can charge you with one responsibility it is this: Remember this moment in the days ahead. Remember this is the person you love, the person who shares the way the world excites you and wants to be with you as you explore it. “We will sail pathless and wild seas” you promise one another today, and sometimes those seas will be the distance between the two of you. Be as unafraid of crossing those intimate borders as you are to take up each other’s wish to visit every country together. This person is your friend and is as anxious as you are that you win.