Wedding toast

Monday 26 June 2006This is more than 17 years old. Be careful.

My twin sister Sarai got married over the weekend. I gave a toast (twice!) for her, but it was kind of impromptu. It was a good toast, but it left me thinking about other things I could have said, in particular, on the nature of marriage.

The funny thing about marriages is that they start with weddings. Marriages and weddings are very different things. Weddings are formalized rituals. Even the most ardent individualist feels the tug of the ingrained cultural icons. A bride in a white gown, a groom in a tuxedo, marching down the aisle, and so on. We all put on our finery and conform to our roles. A wedding is a public ceremony conducted in front of dozens or even hundreds of people.

But marriages are a private matter. The husband and wife decide for themselves how they will conduct it. Of course there are societal pressures, and roles to fill, but they are far more diffuse. The demands on a couple living their lives together for decades are great enough that they will have to negotiate their own terms for it to work.

A wedding is a short event, six hours or so, a whole weekend if you really go overboard. In the scheme of things, it’s over in the blink of an eye. Even taking into account the long planning period, a wedding is a tiny fraction the length of even a short marriage.

But a marriage is for a lifetime. No amount of planning can take everything into account. The Bridezilla mentality that demands perfection in every detail of the wedding simply can’t work for a marriage. Too much happens over the years, too many factors are out of your control, there are too many unexpected turns in the road. As a couple, you have to be flexible, and learn as you go. You have to stay in touch with each other to understand where you both are steering the partnership.

So my advice: listen to each other, listen to yourself. Decide what you want. Do what you need to do to make it happen. You and your sweetie can decide together on the ground rules. Love each other, live and be well. Mazel Tov.


I can only disagree on one small point, that a marriage starts with a wedding. My marriage started long before the actual wedding. In the later half of this year we'll pass our seventh wedding anniversary, and one day after that our time together post-wedding will finally be longer than our time together pre-wedding. The wedding itself is more about family and tradition (and the legal part) than the actual marriage.
Very nice essay Ned! Mazel Tov on your sister's wedding. She is lucky to have such a nice brother to give her a toast. At my own wedding my father-in-law, a well-known speechmaker, started his toast with the provocative quip "Marriage is like a meal with dessert served first."
Two lessons about marriage: It is surprisingly happy, and surprisingly hard. You find these amazing moments where something fun or great happens, and you smile a little, and then you realize that the person that created that moment isn’t going anywhere, and you can always count on that. And there are moments were something difficult happens, and you realize you’ve commited to a lifetime of it.

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