I’m not sure how many weddings I’ve attended in my lifetime. When I was very young, I paid attention to how comfortable the seating was and how long the service “droned on.” As an adolescent I paid attention to the dresses, hair and makeup of the bride and her party. In college I paid attention to the ideas of the service, cake, programs and invitations as I began to plan my own wedding. And now, having been married 25 years and been a family therapist for almost ten, I pay attention to the system.
I am fascinated by the rhythm of certain weddings, the families involved and the styles or personalities of the combined group of “his and hers” parties and guests. Simply sitting back and taking it all in is pure joy, especially when I notice the one thing that I want to take away as food for thought. Two weeks ago, I enjoyed an especially flavorful bite…maybe dessert. I didn’t attend the reception, but felt as though I already got my wedding cake. Here’s the story:
As the service began to get started with introductions and welcomes my mind turned to those getting married rather than those giving the bride away. The pastors and the betrothed were smiling occasionally, and some of the narrative was interjected with talk of “wedding day jitters.” At one point, one of the pastors made a comment about the groom feeling anxious and excited about their big day. I noticed that both the bride and the groom’s body language matched the conversation. My mind flashed back to my niece’s wedding last year where she bounced slightly and swayed from side to side during the wedding because of her sheer happiness and excitement. Her body movements kept us entertained the entire service.
These particular wedding day jitters weren’t that overt, but they were definitely a part of the discussion. I smiled again as the groom agreed about being excited for the wedding as the speaker noted his visibly heightened mood.
This shot shows the bride and and groom just as they began to pray together. Her grip is tight, his face is flushed and they aren’t quite centered yet…still approaching God through their prayer.
I was grateful for the length of the song because I was witnessing something amazing. As the prayer continued, his head bowed slightly more, the flushing on his face disappeared and his body got quiet. Her shoulders relaxed, her elbows dropped a bit and a peaceful smile replaced the smile of excitement there only a minute before. Their heads leaned in a bit closer and my sense was that the chapel full of people were disappearing in their minds. It was just the bride, the groom and God. There must have been an “amen” because they both took a deep breath and lifted their heads – more sure of themselves, relaxed and ready for whatever would meet them next.
This shot was taken close to the end of the song and their prayer. Kiley’s face and arms are relaxed, Josh’s shoulders and neck are relaxed and even the maid of honor is quiet and focused.
Long after the introductions of the newly married couple and the recessional of the wedding party, the prayer scene played over in my mind.
As a therapist, I had witnessed a “symmetrical to complementary shift” take place…the individual and couple anxiety that had been rapidly cycling was released over to a higher power they trusted to manage their next steps. As a Biblical scholar, I thought of the numerous examples I’ve read about in the scriptures of godly men or women wrestling with an issue, praying it through and then celebrating their relief as they are redirected with a renewed purpose or vision. As a family scientist, I was glad they had spirituality as a core element and resource in their relationship – a strength that would get them through many times of anxiety or stress they would face down the road. And as a friend, I was grateful (and emotional) about the thought that the children of our younger selves were growing up and prepared to begin their own lives.
What can we learn from Kiley and Josh, the praying newlyweds? Well, I suppose that when we’re considering our own food for thought, prayer is certainly an excellent ingredient for a well balanced relationship. After all, wouldn’t most of us appreciate a way to externalize our anxiety and place it on shoulders much bigger than our own? Knowing God carries what they can’t is a sure-fire way new couples can walk with confidence through their newly-wedded life.
And for me, I suppose another thing I’ve learned is that when attending the weddings of my friend’s children, carry the super jumbo pack of tissues. If this generation continues to teach me lessons such as I witnessed this time, I’ll be keeping Kimberly Clark in business for a good, long while.