Saturday, March 10, 2012

Til Death (or money) Do Us Part...

Last night as I was getting ready for bed I had on a TV show called Four Weddings. If you don't know the premise, it's basically four brides who attend each other's weddings and then rate which ones they liked the best. There are safeguards in the grading system so that a bride can't undercut everyone else's wedding in hopes that she will win. In the end the bride with the most points wins a pretty impressive honeymoon for her and her new husband.

Last night's show was not a typical Four Weddings show; it was a Four Weddings special. It was a review of many episodes in the form of "blunders" - what not to do (and specifically what cost brides points in the evaluation process). One segment in particular caught my eye. It was called "for richer or richer" and it was literally a string of brides who refused to say the "for poorer" part of the traditional wedding vows. I was floored. Some women just said "for richer" and then after a pregnant pause moved on. Others said "for richer or for richer", slyly replacing the dreaded "for poorer" part with what she thought would be the circumstances for her continued commitment. Now I have to assume that these brides thought they were being funny, but it got me to thinking.

My brain was going into hyperspeed thinking about how this "for richer or for richer" sentiment is really a symptom of a bigger problem in our think of yourself first, do what makes you happy, immediate gratification culture. It made me very uncomfortable. And it wasn't just because I thought these women were horrible, but because in different ways I saw that same sentiment in myself both currently and at various points in my life.

Then, this morning I saw the counterpoint. My mother-in-law gave an eloquent eulogy for her Uncle Pat at his memorial service. Part of the eulogy was talking about his courtship and marriage to his wife of nearly 47 years. During the eulogy, Mom talked about the vows they took and the part that struck me hardest (probably for obvious reasons) was the "til death do us part" part. Tears were streaming down my face as I stood in the back of the Church holding my son while she spoke. She talked about how it's hard to do that and (maybe I'm embellishing a bit here), but how you have to work at having a marriage like that.

It got me to thinking about my first marriage to an emotionally and verbally abusive husband, a marriage that while it didn't end well, has left me nothing but happy at a second chance.  I then, of course, think of my marriage to Joe - one in which no matter how difficult things got - we were in it together. A marriage in which I had someone to challenge me to be a better person and to dig deeper in everything I did. A marriage in which I found everything I had been looking for - literally everything. I knew that ours was a "til death do us part" kind of relationship, but I never thought that time would come as soon as it did.

The traditional wedding vows that couples take are very difficult. They run counter, I believe, to our nature as human beings. Sickness, poverty, death. These are devastating, hard things. But, that is why these vows are so wonderful. It's because they bring us to something bigger and deeper than ourselves. Perhaps the amazing part is that I believe I can have those same counter-cultural, earth-shattering relationships as a single person. I find that the Jesus I have come to know is that way and that we are called to do the same while we are here. I think we could turn the world upside down by committing to love people (all people) for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do us part.


  1. In April, I will be the officiant at my nephew's wedding in New York City. I have been mulling over the remarks I plan to make and you have given me some more fodder to consider. One thing I know is that the people who love the couple enough to come and be part of the wedding, need to be available to the couple when the going gets rough. And I agree whole heartedly that the vows do bring us to something bigger and deeper than ourselves. Thanks for posting.

    1. Your post reminds me how particularly blessed my husband and I were to be surrounded by such faithful people on our wedding day. Each, in their own way, stepped forward to support us during Joe's illness and my pregnancy and now after he is gone. Their commitment to us lives on in a powerful way.

  2. Powerful post Anne. I was not aware of the circumstances of your first marriage. I am so sorry that you had such a difficult time.
    I believe that what you say is true. Imagine a world where everyone applied those same vows to each and every one of their relationships.
    Something for me to think about when I get hung up in my own little world.