photo: Dave Pickford
We have had a range of reactions upon announcing our engagement but I don’t think anyone could be more surprised than I was the day I proposed to Andy. Except perhaps Andy. This wasn’t a thing we had ever talked about, it had perhaps been pondered but not in an anxious way, it certainly wasn’t an issue, or even for that matter a topic. We had started discussing plans in terms of a life together, a partnership, sharing, giving and taking.. following first one’s dream and then the other. We had talked about kids, jobs, sailing, and our mutual aversion to picket fences. There was a fuzzy vision ahead and that was enough.
Then something happened, the stars aligned, the ch’i exploded, the groundhogs did a tap-dance and whales shot extra high, I don’t know what… but from that moment on the world changed subtly in brightness or hue, and new energy started flowing beyond our understanding or control.
I have learnt a lot about the process of marriage in the last few weeks, or maybe months, and have a fresh view of the institution that I formerly scorned, or at least ignored. Marriage is not, as we like to think, the bringing together of two people, but rather, the bringing together of two lives. And my life, like Andy’s, is primarily made up of the people in it. Thus, against our expectation or initial planning, a Wedding came into existence.
I would not be who I am, or have done the things I have, were it not for the powerful and wonderful people in my life. My family who always support me, wherever I go in the world, and for however long. My friends, who analyse, advise, share their opinions honestly on decisions, and know me so well that they often know before I what decision will be made.
I know for Andy it is the same. He could not be so footloose and fancy-free, so apparently void of possessions and ties, were it not for an absolute and solid foundation in family and friends. They are and always have been there for him, emotionally and practically. They enjoy his presence when he is around, and accept his extended absences like one accepts a bird flying South in winter. He will come back when the time is right but no-one, not even he, knows when that will be.
Those who know us best were rightly surprised when we said we were getting married. It was not on the list of things to do, it was not part of our Grand Plan. But since that first toying with the idea, since that first experiment of seeing what it might feel like, our way has been paved with flowers. And that means a lot. It feels right, it feels good, it’s even been fun.
The process began with an email, grew into a concept, and two months later became our first conversation. All that time it remained a closely guarded secret, but all that time a seed was growing. It was a time for contemplation not of weddings, but of a marriage.
The process of getting married starts with a question, is followed by an answer, and then grows into a Thing. That Thing becomes more real with each associated action: telling family, making plans, inviting friends… right up until the day you sign in a book, receive a certificate, exchange rings, and make speeches.
I never before appreciated the importance of this process. I never understood why people have long engagements. Now, I understand a bit more. The day after the wedding, the long process of getting married ends, and the marriage itself begins. So in many ways the process is a time of preparation.
Now I am starting to understand ceremony, ritual, and public exchanging of vows. Marriage is not just about the joining of two people, it is about the joining of two lives. And thus those loved ones in our lives, people who have invested in us emotionally both through childhood and friendship, are also in some way emotionally invested in our marriage. It is humbling.
We do not know where this marriage will take us, what adventures we might see, or how it will end. It is humbling to think that with these rings, we carry not only the commitment of our spouse, but also the support of our collective friends and family. And that is why it is, after all, important for all to gather on this day.
We hope that our lives will contain adventure and exploration. We hope to see whales, listen to birds, experience the power of the ocean, and the magnificence of mountaintops. We hope to live to the fullest, and inspire and encourage each other to fulfil their dreams. These rings, this marriage, and the friends and family gathered, are in some ways the only stability that we take on this adventure. For me, that is the most important thing.