Sanchez and Stroh Wedding

 The Brownstone
Patterson, New Jersey
5 April 2014

Wedding Ceremony
for
Katie Vanessa Sanchez and Brian Joseph Stroh

Prelude

Processional              

Entrance of Bride  

Invocation:
Holy and beautiful the custom that brings us together,
In the presence of the Most Sacred:
To face our ideals,
To remember our loved ones in absence,
To give thanks, to seek reconciliation, to offer forgiveness,
To be enlightened, and to be strengthened.
Through this quiet hour breathes the worship of ages,
The cathedral music of history.
Three unseen guests attend:
Faith, hope, and love.
Let all our hearts prepare them place.

Welcome:
    Friends, we have been called together to bear witness to the happiness that this couple – Katie Vanessa Sanchez  and Brian Joseph Stroh – has found together, and to bear witness to their mutual pledges and their commitment to a shared future.  

We rejoice with them that, a friendship rooted in a childhood together has grown into a mature love and still deeper friendship that now holds the promise of a lifetime together.  It is our fondest wish that, from this day forward, they will find deeper meaning, richness, and joy in life for having shared it with one another.

Marriage is founded on an intimate promise.  It is a promise to a lifetime of love and support, of laughter and forgiving, and of fidelity and understanding.  It is a commitment that begins with a public proclamation but does not end there.  As they live forward together from this day of celebration, Brian and Katie’s marriage will bring many new discoveries and unforeseen compromises, unexpected joys and necessary adjustments.  

Through the years to come marriage vows will be an acknowledgment between them that they will grow together and indeed, will grow old together.
    

Affirmation of the Couple:
(. . . to Brian)    And so now I ask you Brian, do  you embrace Katie with your mind, body, and spirit to be your wife, to live together in the holy estate of marriage, to love, comfort, and honor her, through life’s joys and sorrows, and be faithful to her, as long as you both shall live?        I do.
    
 (. . . to Katie)    And so now I ask you Katie, do  you embrace Brian with your mind, body, and spirit to be your husband, to live together in the holy estate of marriage, to love, comfort, and honor him, through life’s joys and sorrows, and be faithful to him, as long as you both shall live?        I do.

To the congregation:
        It is appropriate that you, the families and dear friends, are here to participate in this wedding.  Your presence shows that Brian and Katie take with them into this marriage, not only their own commitment to each other, but also your commitment and encouragement to them.

        A marriage is, above all, an intimate relationship between two persons.  But it also has wider ramifications for all those whose lives touch those of the couple; the lives of relatives, friends, and the members of the couple’s larger circle of community.  

        Mindful of that, will the members of Brian and Katie’s families please stand?

Affirmation of the Family
    Do you, the members Katie and Brian families honor the desires of these, your kin?  Will you give them your loving support, respect the sanctity of their home, and grant your blessing upon their union.  
    If so, please say, “We do.”  Will the families please remain standing?

Affirmation of the Congregation
        I ask all of you who are gathered in witness to this ceremony, do you pledge your support to Katie and Brian in the commitment that they are making to one another today and freely offer your blessings upon their union?
        All:   “We do.”

    May these commitments enrich and ennoble all your lives.

Homily:
Katie and Brian asked me to offer a brief reflection on marriage and I am delighted to do so.  I’ve know Brian since he was in Junior High School, so this is a pretty special day for me.  And it’s been a pleasure to get to know Katie through Brian, and – as I told you both over lunch last month – I dream of one day seeing your children, maybe even attending one of their weddings. 

But I learned a long time ago that no one comes to a wedding to hear what the minister or rabbi has to say.  You – in attendance – have come to hear Katie and Brian exchange vows, to see them place rings on one another’s fingers, and to see them share a kiss.  If all you hear me say is “I now pronounce you . . .” then – for some – that will be enough.  So when Katie and Brian asked me to offer a brief reflection on marriage, I knew they meant BRIEF.

A lot of girls dream about fairytale weddings, and more of the guys do than are willing to admit it.  We all know how the fairytale wedding ends:  “And they lived happily ever after.”  So, what is “happiness”?

 In ancient Greek – the language in which the Christian Bible was written – the word for “happiness” is eudaemonia.  It’s one of my favorite words, because it translates literally to mean “a good spirit within.”  The prefix eu- means “good” and daemon (the origin for our English word “demon”) means “spirit.”  So, a happy person is someone possessed by a good spirit.  An unhappy person – and we’ve all met them – is possessed by a bad spirit.

Hosea Ballou, a great preacher in my own Unitarian Universalist tradition, said 200 years ago that holiness and happiness are God’s desire for all people and the two are connected.  When we choose godliness over selfishness, when we choose real love over fear, then the result is holiness and happiness in our lives.  Hosea Ballou believed – and I do too – that holiness and happiness are our natural state; but, too often we allow ourselves to be guided by spirits other than goodness and love.

Ultimately, we always act out of one of two emotions:  love or fear.  Love, peace, patience, kindness, forgiveness, acceptance, humility, honesty, and gentleness . . . these are all expressions of the “good spirit within” us that leads to happiness for ourselves and others.  Fear, anger, resentment, jealously, pride, greed, deceit, intolerance, and shame . . . these are the bad spirits that can take over our thinking and run our lives.  

The key to living happily ever after together is being happy as individuals . . . together.  Nobody can make us happy.  We are either possessed of “a good spirit within” or we’re not.  We are responsible for our own happiness.  If we want our spouse to be happy, then we need to focus on being happy ourselves and sharing that “good spirit” with the ones we love, because happiness and unhappiness are contagious.  If you’re unhappy, then hang around happy people.  Sooner or later you’ll either catch the spirit or you’ll quit hanging around with them.  The same is true of hanging around unhappy people.

And here is the real key to being happy . . . learn to accept yourself, forgive yourself, and love yourself.  Because if you can do all these things – accept, forgive, and love – yourself, then it will be remarkable easy to offer these same things to other people . . . starting with your spouse.  So, cultivate “a good spirit within yourself.”  It won’t always protect you from hardship in life, but it will ensure that you don’t cause problems for yourself and the ones you love most.  Holiness and happiness are our truest calling, and our natural state, so work to be both these things.    
 
“Happily ever after” . . . really can happen for any couple, if they’re willing to work together, and individually, to cultivate happiness in their lives.  Be one such couple, and really be happy . . . together.  You deserve it.

Exchange of Vows . . . Please  repeat after me:
I, Brian, take you, Katie, to be my wife
And partner in life, love, and the future.
I promise to honor, comfort, and encourage you,
To laugh and cry with you,
To be honest with, faithful to, and forgiving of you,
And to be a trusting and trustworthy companion for you.
I pledge to be patient, understanding, and supportive,
To listen to you and love you,
To be strong for you and believe in you always,
Reminding you of your own strength, beauty, and best qualities.   
You are my best friend and true love.
As long as I have you,
I will be the happiest man/woman ever.

I, Katie, take you, Brian, to be my husband
And partner in life, love, and the future.
I promise to honor, comfort, and encourage you,
To laugh and cry with you,
To be honest with, faithful to, and forgiving of you,
And to be a trusting and trustworthy companion for you.
I pledge to be patient, understanding, and supportive,
To listen to you and love you,
To be strong for you and believe in you always,
Reminding you of your own strength, beauty, and best qualities.   
You are my best friend and true love.
As long as I have you,
I will be the happiest man/woman ever.

Blessing of the Rings:
Spirit of All that is Good and Holy, God of our hearts, bless these rings that they may be forever symbols of an unbroken circle of love.  Love freely given has no beginning and no end.  Love freely given has no giver and no receiver.  May this couple abide in an unbroken circle of love unto their life’s end.  Amen.

Exchange of Rings:
May he who gives this ring and she who wears it abide in peace unto their life’s end.  Please repeat after me:
        With this ring, I thee wed
        And pledge to you my faithful love.

May she who gives this ring and she who wears it abide in peace unto their life’s end.  Please repeat after me:    
With this ring, I thee wed
        And pledge to you my faithful love.

    
Prayer of Blessing:
    Spirit of Holiness that dwells within each
        and moves among all,
    God of our understanding,
we gather in celebration this evening
to invoke and offer blessings upon Katie and Brian.
May their life together be long, their love lasting, and
    may they be wealthy in all the humble things
    that truly make a human life rich.
Bless them with determination and courage;
    strength and faith.
May their trials be endurable, their hardships bearable,     
    and their sorrows surmountable.
Bless them with peace and prosperity;
    health and happiness.
May their joys be amplified, their hopes multiplied,
    and their love magnified always.
And may the assembled love that attends them
    at this very moment – in this very place –
be more than a mere memory,
may it be alive in their hearts
and a constant blessing in their lives,
on this day and evermore.        
      AMEN.

Hand Blessing Ceremony
Let us begin with a blessing of your hands…

{Drape cloth over their hands & wrap around once}

These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever. These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future. These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other. These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.

These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children. These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, with love, tenderness and respect. May these hands continue to build a loving relationship that lasts a lifetime.

{Silence – Remove cloth}

Pronouncement:
        Inasmuch as Brian and Katie have pledged themselves to one another in marriage, witnessed the same before this company, and sealed their union with the giving and receiving of rings, I do therefore, most joyfully, pronounce that they are husband and wife.  You may now kiss.

    
Presentation:   Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Brian and Katie Stroh.

Benediction:
May you find great happiness in your union.  
May you live faithfully together,
fulfilling the vow and covenant
you have made here today,
and may you ever live in sympathy, harmony,
    and understanding,
that your hearts may be rich in the joys of life,
and your days good, and long upon the earth.    
May the love which overcomes all differences,    
which heals all wounds, which puts to flight all fears,    
which reconciles all who are separated,    
be in us and among us now and always.     
Amen.        

Recessional 

Postlude