Planning and Remembering Weddings, Part Two

Dan Allender and Rachael Clinton continue their conversation on planning and remembering weddings and unpack the idea that weddings reflect both death and resurrection and, much like life, great joy and deep sorrow.

Dan opens this episode by acknowledging that Rachael will soon be moving away from a city that has been her home, life, and place of nurture. While her wedding holds immense joy, it will also hold incredible loss as she leaves the place she has called home. So, how do we enter into an event that is, on one hand, both magical and stunning, while on the other holds loss? Dan references the verse that states when we marry we leave our mother and father, which also brings with it a sense of loss and even a death of sorts that is not often mentioned at weddings.

Rachael talks about the heartache and loss both she and her fiance bring to this wedding, and the theme of death and resurrection that is a part of their love story and, she notes, will probably continue to be a part of their life.

Rachael: “So, how do you enter a day that is a celebration that life and goodness that has come in the land of the living when it also holds tremendous heartache and part of the meaning of it is a loss?

She loves that the transcendence, the holiness, the goodness, and the joy of a wedding comes in the “dirt,” in the midst of real life. Rachael explains she has been making space for all of the emotions that accompany this changing season so as not to be threatened by the sorrow that comes. In one sense letting the grief and sorrow be present allows the joy to taste even sweeter.

Dan: “I don’t think many people live a kind of incarnate dailiness with the reality of death and resurrection, that we are meant in every portion of our lives to bear the scars of death and the promise of the glory of resurrection.”

Death and resurrection are often simultaneous, especially at weddings, and Dan surmises that’s what makes many of them “insane.” The sense that death accompanies new life is present, but many cannot name it for themselves in the midst of the profound joy of the moment. Marriage is the context in which you and your spouse become who you are meant to be—it is not an event you enter into unless you plan to be changed.

Dan then asks Rachael how these themes of death and resurrection influenced how she and her fiance will create their ceremony.

In a practical way, Rachael recognizes she has had a shorter engagement which inevitably means one has to be willing to let go of certain things there is no time for or people who will not be able to attend. There have been moments of “you can’t have it all, so can you let some things die so other things can have a profound sense of life?”

Rachael: “Can we make space for each other’s sorrow without it feeling like a threat to our relationship or without it feeling personal?”

Following the wedding itself, Rachael knows there will be grief around the fact that she’s leaving her home. There will even be grief and loss felt around leaving her mother and father, though they’ve lived miles apart for many years.

Dan: “If you’re not disappointed, you’re not actually anticipating heaven, but in that it doesn’t have to be “you’ve failed me” it is in large measure because they’ve not begun to address that every core, beautiful, event that gives us a taste of eternity cannot be what eternity will one day be.”

During their ceremony, Rachael and her fiance want there to be honesty to the complexity, for people to be troubled by hope and beauty as they have “a love story that speaks to life unfolding in the midst of heartache and ruin.” And for many, this does require courage—to be willing to grieve that these events point to eternity and that we can’t yet hold what we’re most meant for.

Rachael: “If we can grow our capacity to bear that agony … then we can go to an event like a wedding, something that brings blessing and honor, and let our hearts be open to change, to experience the Spirit in a way that will not necessarily feel good because it will draw us deeper into those places of the profound tension of our faith, hope, and love.”

Listen to the first episode of Planning and Remembering Weddings.

You may also enjoy reading Integration as Holiness, by Abby Wong-Heffter.