Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Wedding

On June 10th of this year, I officiated the wedding of my friends David Huff and Josephine Zarkovich, one of the great honors of my life. I wrote the ceremony after a number of hours' conversation with the couple and some consultation with my father, so a great share of the credit for it is of course due to each of them for many of the ideas that made it in (and many of my poorer ideas that were cut), but I'm quite proud of the final result.
About the performance of the ceremony, I'll only say that I was surprised by how palpable was the energy of the moment. It seemed magical, at the time, weaving the attention of a hundred assembled guests into a transformative event, and afterward the couple seemed, in some tangible, detectable way, to be different. It was awesome.
So, with no further ado, here's the text of David and Josephine's wedding:

Dave+Joe are offstage, looking into each others’ eyes, preparing to get married, while I talk to the washed and well-dressed masses.
Hi. Welcome. Thank you all for coming. D+J will be out in a moment, and we would all like to give them our full attention and support. Today is a gathering of the tribe, as they put it, and we are each enriching the events to take place here by adding our own presence and attention.
I’ve been asked to officiate the ceremony this morning and bless the couple, but it is really we, as the tribe, who are marrying our dear friends today. It is by our recognition and celebration of their vows to one another that they will truly become married. So I’ll be talking to David and Josephine for a while once they come in, and I’ll be saying the magic words “Husband and Wife” later on, but I’d like You all to vest in me Your authority as their friends, family, and tribe, and allow me to act for today as your deputy. If you are ready to give me that consent, please say “I do.”
Everyone says “I do,” we hope. Or we lynch ‘em.
Thank you. A wedding is necessarily a social event. We here have struggled with David and Josephine in hard times, made good times by celebrating with them, and connected them to themselves and the world. We are the people who have held them up, and they are asking us now, and from now on, to hold them together.
This wedding is also a spiritual action. David and Josephine don’t identify with any church or denomination, but they intended that the presence of God should be felt here today. I don‘t know what God is, or what sense can even be made of such a question, but I believe that God‘s touch can be felt wherever it is made welcome. So I invite God into this room, to bless each of us and bless the couple we are honoring this day. For many people, religious language can be suggestive of judgment or narrow-mindedness, but I hope we all can allow those connotations, for today, not to color our appreciation of Spirituality.
David and Josephine share with me a sense that spirituality lies at the meeting of the sublime and the ridiculous. At spiritual moments like this one, we surrender in gratitude, to forces that we do not understand, but which lift us up as we let go. Spirituality liberates us, even as it boggles our minds.
That meeting of sublime and ridiculous can be seen in D + J’s lives and choices. They value art that relies on accepting some absurd premise, but where the oddness that follows is self-consistent within the whole. David  and Josephine have made a choice to accept a basic, absurd premise of human life, that we can join for life with some one other person, to become more ourselves by changing for them, become freer in binding ourselves to them, and in this way find happiness. We hope and trust that their choice today will prove sublime, and that they will be able to laugh off as ridiculous whatever struggles inevitably challenge their union.
We are here today for a holy task, to change the lives of two dear souls, and we should bring our highest faculties to bear. I believe that attention leaves a residue, and the attention we give to David and Josephine today will continue to mark their life together for years to come. If you’re here with your own partner, maybe take their hand and think of some of your happiest times together, with the intention that David and Josephine can have a share of that happiness. If you are one to pray, please join me in praying that only good will come of what takes place here this morning, and that the couple will have a long, beautiful, and joyous life together.

Before David and Josephine join us, let us please take a moment of silence together to clarify and sanctify our minds.
[We do a minute of silence. Then music, and the couple walks down the aisle together.]
You may be seated. [I turn to face D+J]

David, Josephine, welcome to your wedding.
We are all happy to be here with you. It’s wonderful that so many people were able to come here from so far away for this delightful occasion.  It’s a true sorrow that you both lost a grandmother in the past few years, who of course would have been so happy to join us today. We’re so glad, David, that your grandfather is with us, and we are surely aware of the presence, in spirit or memory, of those who could not be here in flesh.
We are here with you today to welcome you to your new lives together, to celebrate the wonderful choice that you have made, to bear witness and sanctify this transformation of your relationship. We are here, your friends and family, to participate in your becoming family together. We know that you are not entering into this action lightly, and we applaud you in your courage. We offer our support to keep you together through hard times, and our joyous expectation that hard times will be rare and fleeting.
Tomorrow will be different, for you, than yesterday. You’ll surely spend your next few weeks, months, and years defining the roles of your new relationship. We each came here to embrace you in community at this pivotal moment, and to strengthen, with our recognition, the foundations you are laying today.

You have both chosen to work in the world as curators, and I think there’s something revealing in considering this day as an act of curation.
A curator gathers together pieces of art which previously stood alone, and adds a new meaning to each of them by their context. So it is that the two of you are each whole, healthy human beings, choosing to add new meaning to your lives by living them together. You will be seen, from now on, in the context of your partner. I can assure you, at this moment, that the new light is very flattering.
You met one another at a time when each of you was newly independent and ready for change. You had each let go of old, painful habits and you were actively seeking something new. You entered into a relationship predicated on self-reliance and exploration. Part of what first got you excited was how little you needed each other, and how much that allowed you to give yourselves freely, creatively,  playfully. Five years later you stand here today, with a commitment offered and received, but never demanded.
So in curating your marriage, we honor and affirm you as strong individuals, offering new meaning to one another, but remaining whole and good in yourselves, living two lives better and not one life fused.

To all accounts, being together really has been a blessing for each of you.
It’s beautiful how you enjoy talking to each other, sharing insights and lessons, and developing ideas together, and it’s clear how much you enjoy access to one another’s minds.
I see in both of you a strong moral compass. You are both committed to service in your communities and thoughtful about your effects on others. You are both models of good action in the world, and being together clearly helps each of you live in better accord with your own principles.
I knew David first in high school, where he was a fiery leader of men, waiting for his chance to take on the world. I see in your work together how you, Josephine, have helped David focus that energy and draw it out into something sustainable and effective, just as powerful as before, but now slow and steady enough to make great changes in the world.
I wish I had known you, Josephine, before David entered your life, so I could better speak to his effect on you. From your own accounts I learn that David has helped you find greater joy and confidence in your creative work. I believe that the two of you together are capable of truly remarkable achievements, and I know that you will each be more successful in your work for the bond you share.

The three of us have talked more than once about a favorite museum of yours, and an exhibit entitled “The world is bound with secret knots.” This is a vision of a universe enchanted with spirits that want to be together, gravity, magnetism, and human companionship all reflections of a mystical pull towards oneness. We are each bound to you, and you are bound to each other, by more small and subtle knots than we could ever reveal or untie. Many of these knots will remain secret forever, but today you are tying a public knot between your deepest selves.
It is good, at these moments that change our lives, to reflect on the larger story we are living, to take stock of the forces that shape us and the purposes that drive us. We each have within us an urge to be more, to do better, to become wiser. This is the same urge that opens us up to receive love and inspiration, and release what we no longer need with us. This urge is what makes our story meaningful. Just as flowers, being heliotropic, grow toward the sun, so human beings are theotropic, and we grow towards God.
I believe, and I know that you believe, that joining one another in marriage is an expression of that Godly urge. We cannot know the mind of God, but we know there is Godliness in the harmony of each one of us with our surroundings. We can see today a deep Godliness the coming together of your two hearts.
Take a deep breath, both of you, and another. Feel, in your hands, the rise and fall of your partner’s breathing. Feel your motion together. Feel the exchange of heat and attention through your skin. Feel your love for one another in your fingertips. These sensations are your wedding presents from God, and they are always available to you. Trust and rely on one another, remain open to one another, and God will forever reaffirm your connection.
David, Josephine, may God bless you for a long and loving life together. May you never want for money or freedom, joy or inspiration. May you continue to discover secret knots that bond you together. May you raise happy children in good health.
In the language of my own tradition, Yevarechecha Adonai V’Yishmarecha. Etc. [This is a traditional blessing given by the priestly class. It sums up to ‘May God be nice to you,’ but it’s juicy.]

[long pause]

I turn to the audience. Before we read from a favorite poem and the couple exchanges vows, please let us take a moment to acknowledge that many gay and lesbian couples are not yet allowed all of the joy felt by David and Josephine today. May a time come soon and easily when all loving couples will enjoy the full protection and service of the law.
Sam comes up and reads the following Rumi poem:
You that love lovers,
this is your home. Welcome!
In the midst of making form, love
made this form that melts form,
with love for the door,
soul the vestibule. Watch the dust grains moving
in the light near the window.
their dance is our dance.
We rarely hear the inward music,
but we're all dancing to it nevertheless,
directed by the one who teaches us,
the pure joy of the sun,
our music master.

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insominias!
And the difference between them.

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

I want to hold you close like a lute,
so we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.

Josephine, do you have your vows?
Jo reads vows. [Blog readers: I’m sorry to say, I don’t have the vows. They were really good.]
David, do you have your vows?
David reads vows.
Josephine, do you take David to be your fully wedded husband, to love, honor, and serve from this day forward, through joy and hardship, as long as you both shall live?
Josephine: I do. David, with this ring, I thee wed. Wear it with love and joy.
David, do you take Josephine to be your fully wedded wife, to love, honor, and serve from this day forward, through joy and hardship, as long as you both shall live?
Dave: I do. Josephine, with this ring, I thee wed. Wear it with love and joy.
David and Josephine have asked us to make a vow to support their marriage as their tribe. If you are willing, please listen with strong intention and reply “we do.”
Do you, assembled friends and family, take these two lovers to be a fully wedded couple, and vow to hold them to the promises they have made today, support them in the hard work of marriage, and share with them the joyous fruits of that labor?
All: We do.

David, Josephine, By the power vested in me by the State of California, yourselves, and your assembled community, I now pronounce you Husband and Wife. David, you may kiss the bride.
The couple makes out for a minute, then wrap themselves in a conveniently placed shawl and run out of the room without making eye-contact with anyone (this is actually important, I hear). We entertain the crowd for a while, then they come back in to be toasted and stuff.


  1. Yotam, thank for sharing this. You put a lot of thought and a lot of yourself into it. May you be blessed with a marriage that is a safe and holy home to all that you are.