Another guest post from my partner. Check out his writing on secular spirituality at his blog, The Empty Throne.
My wedding will happen in 21 days. But as far as I’m concerned personally, the beginning of the rest of my life began a little over a year ago, when my partner and I began living together. That was the day my bachelorhood ended, even though I am still technically a bachelor today. We moved in together after getting engaged six months earlier, so the domestic move was not one of trial, but of commitment. So, for me, all of the major life changes that come with marriage began on that day, not on the upcoming day of my wedding.
The above sentiment has greatly affected my hopes and expectations for the wedding. And it leads to an interesting riddle I’ve been thinking about—will I cry at the wedding?
My money is on yes. I think of myself, watching my one and only person walking down the aisle to me (walking down to a song that I also know will make me cry); I imagine myself, standing under the chuppah, looking at my life partner looking at me, surrounded by our family and friends… I tear up now thinking about it. And I know, I just know, that many times during the ceremony, I will think about how real this all feels. Real—meaning, this is happening, this is it, this is that transitional ceremony, that threshold I step through with my partner, into the adventure of life together. This is real life happening before one’s eyes, major life moment, check.
The irony should be obvious—real life is not standing under the chuppah. Transitional rituals work by serving as a discontinuity, a moment in which we mark life change by stepping out from everyday life. But “real life happening before one’s eyes” is what happens every day. The process and substance of partnered domestic life—that is the adventure of life, and I have been watching and participating in it for over a year now. Throughout the wedding planning, one of my favorite lines to repeat to my partner is that the wedding will change nothing. That the wedding, rather than move us from unmarried to married, will simply be a party we throw to celebrate something that happened last year, when our lives began again. So why this crying about the beauty of “real life” at the wedding?
The answer has to lie in the public nature of the event. If, as children, we gain our sense of self from experiencing the gaze of the other, this is surely a life-long human phenomenon. While my partner and I live day-to-day in the reality of our love and the new life together it has produced, we are almost always the only ones watching it happen. Our engagement was also something conducted privately, announced to a (mostly) unsuspecting family ten minutes later. But, when I think of the wedding, my goodness, all those faces watching us “become partners”! Nothing like an audience to make you very self-conscious. Our life together happens every single day, and I feel that reality every single day. But the wedding day is the day that our life together has its biggest audience. And, especially in our media-mediated reality, that will make it feel more real. There is just so much focus at a wedding, and the ritual, along with the gathering of family and friends, will invariably heighten our sense of life. Everyday life includes my commitment to my partner, the love and happiness, joy and excitement that life with her brings. But the wedding day— that seems to be a day solely dedicated to all this love and happiness, joy and excitement. This focus, and the step away from mundane reality that is necessary to keep such a focus, will impress the reality of it all upon me. So I expect to be crying.
Just to clear up the blind-spot lurking in this post, the wedding (with the consequent official legal/religious status of our marriage) will, indeed, change my life. When I say it will change nothing, I am thinking of life in a very small, private sense, of my day-to-day interactions with my partner. But just as the wedding holds meaning as a public event, legal/religious marital status greatly affects our experience as public individuals, which will also have its effect on us in our private lives.