I adore officiating weddings in the “W” Hotel (Westin Hotel) at Union Square. John, the banquet manager, is a great guy. The staff is both friendly and perfectly able to orchestrate a wedding. And, most of all, I love the acoustics in the classically designed ballroom. I find that a microphone acts as an invisible barrier between the guests and myself. I also find that I am slightly less expressive, as I must constantly remember to keep my head a certain distance from the mic. It’s not that a microphone detracts from the ceremony overall; it just changes the emotional dynamic. Anyway, having officiated there previously with eighty guests present, I felt fairly confidant that I could simply project in the presence of Helen and George’s 120 guests. Fortunately, my decision was right.
Due to some unforeseen family emergencies in the few months leading up to their wedding, Helen and George pretty much left the ceremony content up to me. They selected vows and gave me lots of sentiment to work with in our two meetings. But they did not revise the content of the ceremony itself. I used a “cycle of life” theme through which sweetness and bitterness — and paradoxes (not to be confused with “contradictions”) in general — interlace and yet help us find solace in the knowledge that peace will return. This seemed to resonate with George and Helen’s experiences and beliefs. In the end, I felt delighted and relieved that family and friends — as well as George and Helen themselves — seemed to enjoy the ceremony so much. Here is a part of the personalized part:
As your wedding announcement reveal, quintessential urban life presents a legion of ephemeral, even paradoxical, encounters. These include… a dilapidated carnival with views of towering coops alongside the ocean; playgrounds for dogs, children, and adults alike; surreal commerce and trained artistry; a pianist stroking meticulously the keys of a piano a few steps from opening and closing subway car doors; architectural landmarks still persistently admired and used by locals and tourists; and even fragrant remnants of natural beauty float in black tubes on dusty, hectic city sidewalks. If we are lucky, astute, and brave enough, these fleeting moments enrich our lives.
Helen and George, you met in such an old-fashioned urban way – at work. Semi-caustic comments did not thwart George from feeling drawn to you, Helen. Yet, it took another permanent feature of urban life to unite you as a couple – a layoff. When Helen learned that George’s tenure ended, she took a significant risk and called him for what she presumed would be a date. To her surprise, when they met, George’s acceptance seemed predicated on his need for employment contacts. Then, relaxed George casually proposed attending a concert as an additional component to the evening. Later that night, he confessed his attraction. So began your love story, which flourished and continues to flourish as the inspiring joys (and slightly less desirable eccentricities) of the everyday unfold before you.
I closed the ceremony with a passage from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte:
I have for the first time found what I can truly love—I have found you. You are my sympathy—my better self—my good angel—I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring oflife, wraps my existence about you—and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.