Thoughts Before a Wedding

My daughter is in town planning her wedding. This morning she made an interesting observation: many funerals make a deep impression, but weddings almost never do.

Despite the fact that wedding ceremonies are planned with great care, they end up gauzy creations, hard to remember. The readings, the flute solos, the carefully constructed candle lightings all blend into one undifferentiated haze. One’s mind drifts off.

Funerals, which are hardly planned at all, have far more solidity. Perhaps it’s because weddings are about the future, celebrating hope, while funerals are about the past, things realized. One is contingent, the other known.

In that respect all weddings are more or less alike, because the hopes are the hopes of humankind. But each and every funeral has its own distinct character, laid down in the life of the person remembered.

We live on the boundary between the future and the past, what we call the present. That thin and elastic membrane continuously and ineluctably converts hopes into realities. On one side we have our ideals and our illusions. On the other side, our honor and our regrets. Some of us have weddings. All of us have funerals.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts Before a Wedding”

  1. Yeu Ann Says:

    Touching. Love this. BTW I bought your book some time ago… (probably around 1998 or 99) I think it was called “Knowing the Face of God”. It’s one impactful book that has blessed me a lot. Thanks brother Tim! 🙂

  2. Cindy A. Says:

    This is very insightful of your daughter to make that statement. I agree. It makes me wonder why this may be true. What are the deeper differences between these two types of events. Could it be that one looks forward to hope-filled expectations, while the other looks to the past for hints or answers as to how one personally makes restitution or changes for the better? One difference is that weddings are photographed, and funerals and memorials are not. Although in recent years, I’ve enjoyed the incorporation of PowerPoint photo montages of the dearly deceased.

  3. David Graham Says:

    All weddings are more or less alike?! After living in Latin America for a decade, I have to say that this isn’t my sentiment. I have been to several weddings in Ecuador (and one in Israel) that were distinctly different from the ones I attended in the U.S. I have to think that group weddings (e.g., dozens of couples in China, wearing traditional garb, marrying in a group ceremony), lively Greek weddings, Orthodox Jewish affairs, the sad weddings to little girls (e.g., in India), etc. all have distinct flavors to them as well.

    Your daughter’s observation that many funerals make a deep impression but weddings almost never do no doubt reflects her experience. All I can say is that this does not reflect mine. Some of the most memorable and deeply spiritual experiences for me have come at weddings – occasions just as moving as any of the funerals I have attended (though the emotions are obviously different). In the best of weddings, “I feel God’s pleasure” (to borrow a line from Eric Liddell) and the sense of joy of life, the beauty of marriage itself, can at times come gushing in waves. Funerals have made me pensive, certainly, for they make us think about what we really believe with respect to a person’s life and our beliefs about life after death. Besides the sadness, for me, they are “theologically stimulating.”

    But some weddings (certainly not all) bring for me a great pleasure, a gratitude to God for this as one of the great gifts in life. Some are spiritually uplifting: moments where the experience of the numinous becomes real. And given the emotions involved in such celebrations, great weddings have made me question even more the materialistic view of life, especially the atheistic neo-darwinian view that humans are just here by contingency of evolutionary development, so that the “joi de vivre” we experience at certain moments in life (like weddings) is nothing more than a subjective experience produced by neurons built (by undirected evolution) into survival machines who are bent on inserting their selfish genes into recipients who will guarantee the survival of the germ line.

    I balk at that…

    So back to the original point, I suppose funerals make a bigger impression on some and weddings on others. Certainly both are capable of adding meaningful strands to our memories, as well as to our theological cogitations…

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