just write life · marriage

What Makes a Marriage

A few weekends ago, we gave away my nineteen year old sister.

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When you’re the youngest of seven children, it’s perfectly normal to have ten nieces and nephews participate in your big day.

Young, and  as innocent as she is worldly, she’s known for a long time her heart belongs to a four-wheeling country boy I’ve hardly ever heard speak. So my daddy walked her down an aisle of grass amidst a backdrop of autumn, and gave her over to a young man who must have been shaking in his boots when he asked permission.

Because respecting your wife sometimes starts with respecting her daddy.

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I declined the title bridesmaid; after all, there are six of us sisters and I wanted to choose my own dress. But when she asked me how I’d like to participate, I didn’t hesitate.

While the sun shone and the wind blew, with the sky for a cathedral, I spoke about the sacredness of promises made.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Even when Monday morning is running late, and one kid can’t find her shoes, and someone forgot to wash the socks.

Love is not jealous or boastful. Even when you’re right, and he’s wrong.

Love bears all things. Yes, young couple, remember that. Love puts up with temper tantrums and ugly fights that can’t always be undone. Love bears the load of worry and fear and panic when the gurney holds one of you

Or one of your children.

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Love believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. I told them they think today is the happiest day of their lives. Today they’re committing to a physical and spiritual intertwining, and they’re surrounded by family and friends, so today love is easy. Today hope is easy.

But a wedding is really just an ending of the lives they’ve known and the beginning of the one life they will create.

A wedding is not the happiest day.

Instead, that happiest day will come upon you in the most ordinary of moments. That’s the endurance of love. When you wake up and look around and realize you’re surrounded by little people and loads of laundry and life.

12185269_979805842062642_265660025408713117_oOn that day you realize this is what a marriage is. It’s not fancy flowers and yards of lace. It’s not white chairs and first dances.

A marriage is not “I do”. A marriage is “I will.”

A marriage happens because you get up every day and promise that person you love (but sometimes dislike) that you will, all over again. You will when the bills are overdue, and the dishes stack high, and you can’t remember the last time he brought you flowers.

Love never fails.

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Because love is an action, a conscious doing, not a state of being. Love requires work, sacrifice, the molding of yourself to another person. That is how you build a marriage. That is how you create a life. That is how you make your happily ever after.

But these three remain: faith, hope, and love. An endless circle, like those rings exchanged. Love begets faith, and faith begets hope.

And the greatest of these is love.

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A version of this originally appeared in The Northeast Georgian, October 23, 2015.

Professional photography courtesy of Candice Holcomb Photography.

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