Last Sunday I married my son . . .

31 05 2017

FlowersIt’s not the first time. I also married my older son a year ago, and I felt this same way then. Standing before children who have been part of your life, for all of their lives, and officiating at a ceremonies celebrating their desire and commitment to now be part of someone else’s life, is an overwhelmingly awesome experience. It is a privilege that I do not take for granted and I will treasure the memories the rest of my life.

Planning for such events comes easily to me because . . . I’m a planner. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m as type-A as they come. For years my mantra has been “excellence honors God and inspires people”, and those words motivate and guide all that I do. (I heard it at a church conference years ago and have not forgotten it.) I’m organized. I pay attention to detail. And I like every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed.

I’m also a ‘church/churched person’! Religion is my business and spirituality is my cause. After officiating at close to 300 marriages in my 30+ years of ministry, I have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Unity candles and sand ceremonies can be tasteful and meaningful; but trying to recreate the atmosphere of a Renaissance Faire by having all the men – including the pastor – wear tights, is neither!

So let me just say it. I have a few opinions on what should and shouldn’t be done at weddings. My daughter is already dreading the day when she has to work with my wife and me on planning her big day.

Actually, it’s more me than my wife.

Ok! It’s all me!

And that’s because my opinions really aren’t opinions.  At least not in my mind.  They’re facts.  And you just don’t . . . you CAN’T . . . argue with facts!

But this week I’m humming a slightly different tune. And here’s why.

My son and new daughter pulled off a beautiful celebration of their lives and their love in a way that accurately reflected the people they are and all that they value.  Jake has had long hair since he graduated from high school 10 years ago; so why would he cut it for his wedding.  To pretend to be something he is not?  And Alyssa’s everyday life and basic demeanor embody the ‘Live Simply’ attitude; so why would she want a marriage celebration that was anything but .. . . simple?

As Jacob’s brother said in his toast at the reception, and quiet eloquently I might add, “Jacob doesn’t care what people think, but he cares for people!”  That came through loud and clear in each and every aspect of the day’s festivities.

When I was told they wanted a pizza food truck to cater the meal, you can probably imagine my response.  “Jake, family and friends are coming a long way to be here.  You can’t just serve them a slice of pepperoni pizza!”

“Why not?” he said.   And then the chef/foodie in him really came out!  “Alyssa and I love pizza, and it’s the best pizza around.  We’re not interested in a huge buffet with mass-produced entrees and fake mashed potatoes!  No one is going to go hungry, and what is served will be delicious; so that’s what we’re going to do!”

With my wife kicking me under the table I said, “Ok!”

My son also lives in board shorts; and the leather shoes he owns are either Oleki and Sanuk, which means they look more like an extravagant pair of bedroom slippers than shoes.  And chinos?  Really?   “Those are not the kinds of things you wear to a wedding?”

“But why?” he said to me.  That’s who I am and that’s what I wear!  It’s my wedding, and I want to be comfortable.  I don’t want to pretend to be someone I’m not!  I’m not a suit. I’m not a bow tie.  And I’m certainly not penny loafers.

Who is Jacob?  He’s a hand crafted leather belt with little lavender squirrels that he bought the day before the wedding to wear with his lavender tie!  That’s who my son is. And that’s why I love him.  All three of my kids – as well as my two new daughters-in-law – are all very different; unique and their own person.  And that’s precisely why I love each of them.  They aren’t afraid to be who they are!

Then there was the ceremony!  “Dad, do you think you could tone-down the God stuff?”

I don’t think that’s exactly how he said it, but he very kindly and respectfully asked that his and Alyssa’s service reflect and respect THEIR beliefs and THEIR understanding of spirituality, faith, and God.  While all three of my children are extremely grateful for the lives they have lived, they are well aware that their privilege has often come at the expense of others, and that it is not the result not of a heavenly diety choosing to bless them over and above others.  So praising and praying to a sentient being is simply not an expression of their journeys.

As far as the Bible goes: God speaks in all kinds of ways, and their are countless other valid and acceptable expressions of truth and love and beauty.  “So how about a reading from JR Tolkien,” he said.

Again I said, “Really?”  You want me to read “The Lord of the Rings” at your wedding?”

But then I read “The Ent and the Ent-Wife”; and realized that it was perfect for Jake and Alyssa!

Last Sunday I married my son; and I think I learned more in those five hours than at any other point in my life.  He and his wife modeled for me what authenticity looks like; and how being honest and true to the Spirit of God that exists within them, is no less an expression of faithfulness than going to church every Sunday.  He and his siblings modeled for me what family is all about; and how children who are very different, can respect and care for one another when there is a common commitment to truth, goodness, grace, and love.   And he and his friends modeled for me how inclusivity has the capacity to change the world; and how seeing the good in everyone – particularly those who are not afraid to push back against a world that far too often reeks of conventionality, and where people masquerade in cultural and religious norms that deny the freedom and liberty, and the faith, hope and love, that is so freely professed – can bring a about a beauty that is nothing less than holy.

No!  I will never, ever wear tights to a wedding. Some things are indeed just wrong!

But this weekend I also learned that some things I thought were wrong, are actually pretty right!  I learned to chose authenticity over expected norms, to embrace truth above conventionality, and to serk beauty before conformity.   Who knew I would learn so much . . . marrying my son?



4 responses

31 05 2017
Barbara Cotter

This made me cry it was so beautiful and I wish all the parents who can’t see this in their children could read it. Thanks Bob, loved your suit and the whole family looked very happy on FB, I had 3 children get married in one year. Whew, know how you feel. Congratulations, will share with some friends, just in case they have any questions about their children’s wedding day.

31 05 2017

Congratulations! Loved this thoughtful blog so much that I read it aloud to Casey as we are driving back to Virginia. Thanks for your thoughts and hope everyone enjoyed the pizza.

31 05 2017
Kirsten Renee Melone

I love you Daddy – you are the most authentic and passionate person I know. I am so grateful for your patience and kindness, and gracious acceptance of all our unique personalities.

1 06 2017
Nancy Quigley


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