Renewal of Vows for Leslie and Patrick Wright-Riley

Wright-Riley renewal (2) Baltimore Museum of Art
Gertrude’s Outdoor Terrace
6 October 2012




Entrance (with Hannah & Zoe):  “The Water is Wide”

Welcome  (Justin)      

Friends, it is a truly happy occasion in the life of a very special couple that draws us together this evening.  We, the families and dear friends of Leslie and Patrick Wright-Riley, are gathered here tonight to celebrate and honor the notable success that they have made of their marriage over the past 20 years.  In particular, we are here tonight to bear witness to the renewal of their wedding vows to one another, which is the ritual through which they are recommitting their hearts to one another in love.  We are also here to bless them with our love and offer our prayers for their great happiness over the next 20 years of what we hope will be a long and joy-filled life together.

It is most appropriate that you are all here tonight.  The Wright and Riley families formed Leslie and Patrick into the people that they are today; the values that their families imparted to them are the strength with which this couple has forged this successful marriage.  If you feel just a little proud tonight, you should.

Also here are the stalwart friends who have sustained Leslie and Patrick over the years.  You have celebrated their successes with them, supported them during their struggles, shared in their joys, and comforted them through hardship.  The nineteenth century American poet Lucy Larcom wrote, “Many kinds of fruit grow upon the tree of life, but none so sweet as friendship.”  You honor your friends with your presence tonight.

And, of course, the jewel in the crown of this marriage we celebrate tonight is the family that Patrick and Leslie have created together.  Today, the wedding dreams of 20 years ago are fully embodied in Hannah and Zoe.

Leslie and Patrick, you have much to be proud of tonight and much for which to be grateful in life.  Congratulations on having chosen so well and so wisely 20 years ago.  And congratulations on having worked so well and so faithfully together to build this strong marriage and create this beautiful family.

Reading:         “This is My Wish,” David Wright

The autumn air is soft, and the old bell rings,
Our day of days has come, my heart of heart sings.
Today we stand together, my love
And to this life my promise brings.

To be the one you want and the one you need,
To give you my strength, my days, my deeds.
I wish to share this life with you,
Wherever its path will lead.

To know that you will ever be there
My disappointments, my joys to share
I wish to take you by the hand,
And only to you my love declare.

To encourage you to be all you can be
To help you search, to see what I can see
I wish to help you fly above the rest
And know our bond will set you free

To share our families, yours and mine
Letting the trees of life entertwine
I wish to honor those who gave us life
And pass the gift to you and thine.

Our promise like a path before us lays
And nevermore to walk beyond these ways
For you shall know my promise is my heart
And this my wish upon our day of days.

Reading:  On Marriage, By Edmund O’Neill (read by Sarah Mehra)

Marriage is a commitment to life – to the best that two people can find and bring out in each other. It offers opportunities for sharing and growth that no other human relationship can equal, a joining that is promised for a lifetime. Within the circle of its love, marriage encompasses all of life’s most important relationships. A wife and a husband are each other’s best friend, confidante, lover, teacher, listener, and critic. There may come times when one partner is heartbroken or ailing, and the love of the other may resemble the tender caring of a parent for a child. Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life. Happiness is fuller; memories are fresher; commitment is stronger; even anger is felt more strongly, and passes away more quickly. Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences, and new ways of expressing love through the seasons of life. When two people pledge to love and care for each other in marriage they create a spirit unique to themselves, which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential, made in the hearts of two people who love, which takes a lifetime to fulfill.

Reading:  The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran (read by Jenn Flood)

You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together but not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Exchange of Vows

Leslie:  Twenty years ago we promised each other that on the path of our marriage we would do whatever it took. In my wedding vows I promised this saying “we shall keep together what share of trouble and sorrow our lives may lay upon us.” I think we have both realized when times have been hard that you don’t know what it’s going to take until you’re tested. And that we didn’t know if we could do what it was going to take. But so far we’ve stayed true to that promise and continued to give to each other the beautiful gift of our marriage. We’ve done this by learning, as a true yogi would say, to find a way to stay, in good times and bad, a way with ease, a way with grace.

So, to honor our commitment to each other
I promise to . . .
Communicate honestly and
Listen respectfully,
To bring my strength to our struggles,
To walk with you through all the changes of our lives,
And to share with you
our stores of goodness and plenty and love.
I pledge my heart to you.
You are my beloved.

Patrick:  Before we married we thought we were doing what we could to prepare for our life together.  Ultimately the most important thing we did to make our marriage a success was to commit to each other.  We committed to love each other, to communicate and share our thoughts, our pains, and our successes, to hold each other and let each other go, and to give each other space to grow.  We committed to share a safe place to be ourselves and we committed to nurture and support each other.  Maybe we didn’t say those things, but we did them.  Because we did, we’ve had a wonderful life together.

So, to honor those commitment to each other
I promise to . . .
Communicate honestly and
Listen respectfully,
To bring my strength to our struggles,
To walk with you through all the changes of our lives,
And to share with you
our stores of goodness and plenty and love.
I pledge my heart to you.
You are my beloved.

Reading: To Have Without Holding, Marge Piercy (read by Susan Madden-Cox)

Learning to love differently is hard, love with the hands wide open, love with the doors banging on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds that thwack like rubber bands in an open palm. It hurts to love wide open stretching the muscles that feel as if they are made of wet plaster, then of blunt knives, then of sharp knives. It hurts to thwart the reflexes of grab, of clutch; to love and let go again and again. It pesters to remember the lover who is not in the bed, to hold back what is owed to the work that gutters like a candle in a cave without air, to love consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively. I can’t do it, you say it’s killing me, but you thrive, you glow on the street like a neon raspberry, You float and sail, a helium balloon bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing on the cold and hot winds of our breath, as we make and unmake in passionate diastole and systole the rhythm of our unbound bonding, to have and not to hold, to love with minimized malice, hunger and anger moment by moment balanced.

Reading:  The Velveteen Rabbit, Margery Williams (read by Bonnie Cochard)

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”  “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”  “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.  “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”  “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”  “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Reading:   “Come Travel with Me,” Walt Whitman, from “The Song of the Open Road” (read by Zoe Wright-Riley)

Listen! I will be honest with you, I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes. These are days that must happen to you; You shall not heap up what are called riches You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve. Come, we must not stop here, However sweet these laid up stores, However convenient this dwelling, However sheltered this port and however calm these waters, We must not anchor here, However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us, We are permitted to receive it but a little while, Come, I give you my hand. I give you my love more precious than money, I give you myself before preaching and law; Will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live.

Unison Reading:        “Simple Gifts,” Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett (1848)

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right

Blessing and Benediction  (Justin)

Leslie and Patrick,
may you have a long, happy life together
and may you have an abundance of all the simple things that truly make life rich.
May you be blessed with determination and courage;
strength and faith.
May your trials be endurable, your hardships bearable, and your sorrows surmountable.
May you be blessed with peace and prosperity;
health and happiness.
May your joys be amplified, your hopes multiplied,
and your love magnified always.
And may the assembled love that enfolds you now
– both the human and the Holy –
be more than a mere memory,
may it be alive in your hearts
and a constant blessing in your lives,
this day and always.
To all here gathered,
may some important part of each one of us
be renewed today for having been part of this celebration.
May you be blessed with peace, safety, security,
and love in your lives,
and may the blessings of all that is Good and Holy
be with you now and for evermore.

Exit/Recessional:       “The Water is Wide”