Monday, September 5, 2011

Rituals

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There is, perhaps, no greater time to practice rituals than when two people commit their lives together. Over time these practices accumulate and pass hands, sometimes with those practicing them not even aware of where they came from.

This past weekend I immersed myself in all things wedding, complete with shower, rehearsal, actual event, and all sorts of meals in between. It was a small family affair, with fewer than fifty people in attendance at the wedding—most of whom attended every event of the weekend. By the end of the four day event I knew the bride’s family and friends well enough to converse with them freely, associate appropriate spouses, children and cousins with the appropriate relatives and names, and find my way to their respective houses sprinkled around the small town.

Between the guessing games at the shower that required the donning and removal of plastic flower leis, to the rose petals that lined the aisle and were sprinkled by small girls wearing garlands on their heads, to the color coordinated tuxedos, small boxes of candies and labeled playing cards left on the tables for guests to take away with them as favors—these are images seen as conventional to the modern wedding guest, yet are odd random practices if you actually stop and think about it.

My new sister-in-law has been to more than her fair share of weddings, and has patiently waited for her turn to plan a monumental day. She was far from ridiculous about the details of the wedding, and when items couldn’t be carried out as planned it did not really both her. Yet, the reality remained that this wedding day was one that she had been looking forward to for a long time—not just for the event, but for the future it symbolized.

As we sat in church the morning of the wedding and stood in line for communion, I was struck by the presence of rituals in so much of life. We practice them in church, in the classroom, even in the day-to-day existence in our families. Rituals offer a structure for a symbolic event that while represented by a single evening on a single day, reverberates beyond that moment and comes into existence over time. A wedding may take place on a Sunday evening under blue skies, but a marriage—as most married couples will attest—is built over time from the fruit of shared experiences, good and bad. Just as the bread and wine do not create a spiritual reality, it creates an event to reflect on, a tangible reality to represent a truly immeasurable occurrence.

We are on the road again today, driving back from the small town wedding to the large city airport, where we will fly back to our everyday existence. And even though the exhaustion from four days of late nights and busy days will carry through the week, the trip was very much a success: a few nights away from it all, temperatures in the 80’s and 90’s, time with Curtis’s family and the addition of new friends all came together with the reminder that hopefully comes to all married people when there is a wedding: remember where you came from, remember how you felt, cling tight to the words that you spoke, for today is merely a symbol—now you go out and bring it to life.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like such an amazing way to spend the weekend! And I LOVE that picture!

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