And I heard something that sounded like a huge crowd, like rushing water and powerful thunder. They said, “Hallelujah! The Lord our God, the Almighty, exercised his royal power! Let us rejoice and celebrate, and give him the glory, for the wedding day of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. She was given fine, pure white linen to wear, for the fine linen is the saints’ acts of justice.” Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Favored are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb.” He said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
Revelation 19:6-9, Common English Bible
My wedding dress rustles in the guest room closet as I gently set it in the back for safekeeping next to the spare bed frame and some as yet unopened boxes. The cat enjoys chewing on the leftover flowers that still grace our coffee table and the list of thank you notes we’ll need to write gets longer every day. Our little duplex is full of sweet, gentle reminders that life is forever, beautifully changed since November 14, not the least of which is my gently snoring husband sleeping next to me with a purring cat at his feet.
Our marriage is a delight (we’ve been at it for over a week now, so we’re basically experts. If you need any sanctimonious relationship advice from two totally unqualified pros, keep an eye out for our best-selling book hitting stores this holiday season. We’re confident it’s gonna be huge.), and the wedding and its surrounding festivities came together perfectly. Each event–the rehearsal dinner, the bachelor and bachelorette parties, the pre-wedding brunch, the breakfast at Grace Place, and the big day itself–reflected precisely what we hoped it would: the love of God radiating out of every pore of our people, the ones who made us who we are and brought us together.
But the build-up to it was the worst. Weddings are a hot mess and a half. In the panic of the final preparations and recognition that there were still approximately 8,207 details left to attend to in about a week and a half, I wondered why God picked such a funny metaphor for heaven.
We think of weddings in fairy tale terms, but all the shiny happy celebration doesn’t just happen. It takes a stupid amount of work and money to get all that nonsense in the right order and the right time with everybody more or less clear on their role in the whole shebang. My circle of friends and family are in the middle of a rash of nuptials at the moment, so we’ve been all “I Do” all the time for quite a while. At one of many bachelorette parties this year, I hugged a girl I’d just met as she talked about how miserable her wedding planning had become.
“Thank God!” I shouted. “I’m so excited to be married to Matthew, but I feel like it’s not normal to end up crying this much while planning the freaking thing.”
“Oh it’s totally normal.” she assured me. “It’s the worst. I cry once a week.”
It is so much work y’all. Every time it came up in conversation during the 14 months we were engaged, someone would inevitably joke, “Wouldn’t it be a lot easier to just go by the Justice of the Peace?” YES! Yes, it would. I threw the idea of eloping out there roughly 15 times, but no one would go for it. “Do you want to be the one to tell our mothers?” Matthew would ask. “It would kill your grandmother,” Mom assured me. You do actually want to get to share this with all those pesky people you love, you know, the little voice in my head would remind me.
Still, it’s a lot. It is an exercise in “what’s weird in our family?” because all the quirks, the traditions, the latent who-offended-who-thirty-years-ago all comes out to play. All the aunts and cousins had to get together at a college friends’ big day to convince her grandmother that no, her grandchild’s wedding was actually not the correct time to have it out with the woman her husband left her for decades ago. Jesus take the wheel.
Big days stir up big feelings and our people don’t always know what to do with them so they drink too much and make awkward speeches, they insert themselves into conversations and decisions that have nothing to do with them, they fixate or fall apart or otherwise make a nuisance of themselves. And other times they rise to the occasion, put on their big girl panties (or big boy pants, as the case may be), and blow us away with their capacity to hold it together on our behalf.
Regardless of how well prepared we feel for any or all of this, though, things go awry. We agonize over the invitation list, dying hard over not inviting everyone and/or wondering if a case could be made that it is socially acceptable overlook a select few. Then the invitations don’t all get sent out on time, some come back unopened, some wind up hand delivered the week of. You cry when you check the RSVP list and discover that some of your dearly beloveds can’t make it, and then cry again with joy when the long shots manage to get off work or book a last minute flight to help you tie the knot. Really, there’s just quite a lot of crying.
The point being, weddings are such a process. They’re a huge commitment, much like the marriages they begin. To pull off something as big as the party God has in mind takes an insane amount of planning with tedious attention to detail and the exhausting but essential task of managing the feelings of all those we hold dear in this world. You have to call and call back and send ALL THE EMAILS and clarify with vendors and participants over and over, ensuring that they get the invitation to join you in this once in a lifetime space. It has me thinking of how God calls to us time after time, “We have already been over this dear one. I want you to celebrate with me. I want you to be part of this, and I’d like your help to plan this shindig. Please come. Here’s what I’d like you to do.”
Inevitably, some come openhearted and eager to serve. Others don’t show up at all. This is to be expected. Never fear, God is familiar with improvising. After all, Christ’s first miracle was saving a reception that ran out of wine. It reminds me of a certain someone I know who jumped behind the bar when a bartender didn’t show up at her friends’ son’s reception so she kicked off her heels and did her best to get the right beers in the right hands. See, weddings are about the bride and groom, but they are also very much about their community.
The number of people who chipped in to make sure that my dress was delivered from the store where we bought it in Atlanta, the rehearsal dinner video included shots of each member of the wedding party, the communion set from our friends at Woodland Community Church made it onto the altar with the elements before the service started, our change of clothes for the big exit was waiting for us in our hotel room after the reception, and on and on and on… Each of these people reminded us how completely and undeservedly loved we are. They made it possible for me to stand in a corner room of the narthex of our sanctuary, listening to my big brother sing my friends and sisters down the aisle, and to simply smile, breathe, and pray before making my entrance instead of worrying about a single one of those pesky details or plans.
Favored are those who have been invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb, indeed. And even more so, those who have been in the thick of it enough to help behind the scenes, those who get to assist with the inviting, the loving, the hospitality of it all. There is so much richness in the work of a wedding, reflecting the beauty of two lives (two worlds, really) weaving themselves together to celebrate a new kind of life. Whether it’s two people or two realms–the human and the holy–the day is but a culmination of relationship, a crescendo of love in a carefully crafted symphony composed note by note over time. The wedding sounds the first notes of it; through the marriage it plays out into eternity.