I can't believe it took me two years to write this post. Time flies. Faster than you think. But it's a treat to be able to look back...
I knew from the moment we got engaged that I didn't want a stranger to marry us. The only minister I ever had as a child was busy that one weekend. We thought long and hard about other options but in the end - I knew what I wanted.
My wonderful friend Maor who is singularly the best speaker, writer and thinker I've ever known. Together, the three of us sat down over a few nights to create a ceremony that reflected our past, present, future, spirituality and love.
I documented it here because it ceaselessly brings me joy to relive those memories. And hopefully, it can serve as a reminder to anyone getting married that your ceremony can be whatever you want it to be. You don't need to read from a specific book (although it's cool if you do), you don't need to recite any specific words. Make your day about your true selves.
The music began to play as people took their seats.
Before the wedding party entered, Dan walked my mother down the aisle to make her feel as special as she truly was that day.
Our prelude music was "The Book of Love" by Magnetic Fields.
Our processional music was "The Ship Song Instrumental" by Nick Cave. It played as the groomsmen and bridesmaids walked down the aisle.
My adorable nephew and niece were picture perfect and took their job so seriously. It was immensely lovely to watch them compose themselves before they stepped out to walk.
I hadn't been nervous all day, but as my entrance song began to play, I remember my legs feeling numb. I looked up at my dad and he squeezed my hand. I smiled, and we stepped out together.
My dad gave Dan the biggest hug before we stepped up to the altar, beside our dear friend, to get married in front of all our favourite people.
My dad gave me one lass kiss on the cheek after he helped raise my veil. Through tearful eyes, I could see how happy he was to see me happy.
Maor: Dear family and friends…. good afternoon. We are gathered here today to witness the marriage of Laura Whelan & Dan Lytwyn. My name is Maor Oz. It is an honour to have been asked to preside at one of the most important events in a couple’s life. Thank you, Laura and Dan.
Maor: This ceremony will have many words spoken. In fact, they are the major constituent of this ceremony. There is an order, an organisation, rings, and kisses. But the majority of what this ceremony is, is the use of air, flesh, and finally breath… To create the spirit of this day. The spirit of this day is commitment, and it is with reverence that Laura and Dan have come here to create a master piece of commitment, with us as witnesses, and with words as their material.
Maor: Laura and Dan are drawing in breath to the deepest part of their being to extract and create this spirit that you can all bear witness to. I ask of all of you that you listen to the words... The sentences... The shape of their love and commitment... and let them penetrate your ears, that they may enter you and find their way to your mind and heart. Let these words resonate within you that you may move in spirit with Laura and Dan.
Maor: I would like to acknowledge that there are some who are not with us today in body. Family, friends, and ancestors who have passed on or are ill. Place your thoughts with this person or persons so that may also bear witness to this union in spirit.
Maor: We will now have a reading by Elizabeth Broeke.
Excerpt from From The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach
A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out, and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person, we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.
Excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, while they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes", said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to those who don't understand."
Maor: The two of you have come together because you are both deeply committed to each other. Over the years you have challenged and strengthened one another. You have succeeded and grown as unique individuals both powerful in your individuality and powerful in your unity. Your vulnerability in each other has created this and today, you commit to be vulnerable and supportive to one another for your lifetime.
Maor: Marriage is an outward and public sign of your personal commitment to be husband and wife. You have created this stunning day as a physical and spiritual manifestation of the joy and beauty you experience between you two. You have done this that we may enter, witness, and add support to your commitment. We all know marriage is more than two people standing up here repeating vows. Part of marriage is finding room for the things of the spirit. So I say to the two of you, continue your search for the good and the beautiful in this life.
Maor: Cultivate that flexibility in your marriage that marriage needs to sustain itself. Do this with patience, understanding and a sense of humour. Develop the capacity to forgive and to heal your differences as they arise, day by day. Remember that your love will prevail, as this day bears testament.
Maor: You have triumphed with each other, helping one another find healing and seeing the world anew. Continue to lead one another down that way. We all celebrate with you and congratulate the two of you for taking this official step of a legal marriage. The two of you are confirming to each other your genuine love for the other, and also your desire to remain totally committed as life partners.
Maor: Pat Jermey will give a reading on the meaning of marriage.
Why Marriage? by Mari Nichols-Haining
Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body...
Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won’t hold them against me,
Who loves me when I’m unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me...
Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night
With someone who thanks God for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold...
Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship...
Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements...
Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole…
Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage...
Because with this understanding
The possibilities are limitless.
Maor: Lisa will be reading Ruth 1:16-17 in Ukrainian. A translation can be found on the back of your program.
(We were laughing in the photo because Lisa apologized for making a slight mistake in Ukrainian and Ken commented that nobody would have even noticed since no one else spoke Ukrainian.)
А Рут відказала: Не силуй мене, щоб я покинула тебе, щоб я вернулася від тебе, бо куди підеш ти, туди піду й я, а де житимеш ти, там житиму й я. Народ твій буде мій народ, а Бог твій мій Бог. Де помреш ти, там помру й я, і там буду похована. Нехай Господь зробить мені так, і так нехай додасть, і тільки смерть розлучить мене з тобою.
But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”
Maor: Laura & Dan have come to enter into a state of matrimony. They will each give their consent to the other, they will exchange solemn vows, and in token of this, they will each give and receive a ring. I will now ask you to turn to and face the community who are gathered here to support you in this union.
Maor: These are the faces of friends and family who have helped you grow into the people you are today and who have helped lead you down this path together. We are your proud makers and keepers and want nothing more than to see you two continue growing and for your powerful relationship to thrive. Take a moment to take in all this love and support that surrounds you on this day.
Maor: Laura and Dan, please repeat after me your declaration of commitment to each other.
Dan, you have chosen Laura to be your wife. Will you continue to love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her alone as long as you both shall live?
Maor: Laura, will you take Dan to be your husband? Will you continue to love him, comfort him, and honour him, forsaking all others, being faithful to him alone as long as you both shall live?
Maor: In the presence of all your family and friends, please read your solemn vows you have written for each other.
Danny, When I was a little girl, I would stare up at the stars whenever I felt lonely or sad. I wondered if there was anyone out there who would understand me wholly and completely, who would quell the storms and who would be the other half of my heart I always felt like was missing.
I would wish on every star that looked down on me that someday... you would come along. In every moment of darkness, there was a light calling me on. Guiding me home. Guiding me to you. Every breath I took was to keep me on that path. Every tear, every smile, every triumph and every failure.
I remember the day we met, you sat down next to me and smiled. That smile... From the minute I saw that warm smile of yours, my heart melted. I could barely keep eye contact as we spoke. I was so nervous and remember that when I left, I hardly was able to remember what you looked like. I just remembered that smile. I took the long way home and as I walked, I felt as if the stars that had watched me my whole life, were shining above me, brighter than ever before. Our first dates were so much fun. It felt like meeting a long forgotten friend, not a stranger. You felt like that something that had been missing from my life all those years, and I knew I never wanted to be without you again.
You make the days brighter, my laughter stronger, my pain gentler, my smiles wider and my love unending and eternal. You helped me find a part of myself, lost for many years, so deep inside, only your love could find it. Every breath in this world is sweeter because I get to wake up beside you and that handsome smile you greet me with every morning.
I promise to share your joys and comfort you in your sorrows, to be your strength as you are mine.
I promise to nurture your passions as they are a window for others to see the amazing and talented man I see every day. I promise to take on any challenges because I know together there is no mountain we cannot climb (unless it is a literal mountain and then I promise to eat snacks and take pictures of the mountain with you down below).
I promise to love you unconditionally and with unwavering warmth and joy. I promise to watch wrestling with you for as long as you're watching. There’s a little kid inside of you that the little girl inside of me has been waiting for her whole life.
I promise to make our house our home and fill it with food to feed your heart as well as your belly. I promise to be your lover, your best friend and your devoted partner for the rest of time as we grow old together.
You are my light, and you’ve shown me more love than I ever thought was possible. There is nowhere in the world that fills me with more comfort than in your arms. There I am home, there I am whole.
Laura, for so long, I had an image of love in my head. An image, out of focus, of a person, some person, I was striving to find. Never for a second did I ever think that that person ever truly existed. Until one fall evening a few years back, I sat next to a stranger on a bench. It was you. A stranger that could have been anyone. But it was you. On a bench that I could have easily passed by. But it was you.
With one look into your eyes, that image of love that I carried for so long came instantly into focus. Laura, you embody everything I had ever hoped to find in another person. You support me in ways I never thought possible.
When I’m impoverished, you enrichen me. When I’m broken, you repair me. When I’m adrift, you steer me. When I’m dark, you illuminate me.
You are the brightest light in my life, steady and vivid amidst a sea of strobes.
When I was a kid, I would often dream about my future. Where I would end up, how I would get there, and who it might be with. And for some time while growing up, part of me started to feel like I was astray. I felt like I had let that kid down, like I had lost a piece of that dream, that I wouldn’t amount to who I aspired to be.
But after you entered my life and we’ve forged a love that’s so miraculous, I feel like that kid is finally proud of me. You’ve unlocked the person in me I always hoped I could be.
Laura, the love I’ve found in you is like nothing I’ve ever thought possible. And it’s on the back of this remarkable unity that I make these promises to you. I promise to never stop listening, to always be receptive, to forever be within reach with an open mind and open heart.
I promise to continue honouring your trust, to never deceive you. I promise to embrace your dreams and passions, because through them your soul shines.
I promise to fight for you, in whatever the world may hurl our way, I will always have your back and defend your spirit. I promise to be that steady bright light that you are to me, never dimming or weakening when you may need it most.
And above all else, I promise to honour you with the love, care, and support you so wholly deserve. These are my promises to you, Laura, my beloved, my equal, my pysanka.
Maor: Liam, may I have the rings please?
Maor: Dan, Repeat after me... I give you this ring, as a symbol of our marriage. I pledge to you my love and respect, my laughter and my tears. With all that I am, I honour you.
Maor: Laura, Repeat after me... I give you this ring as a symbol of our marriage. I pledge to you my love and respect, my laughter and my tears. With all that I am, I honour you.
Maor: Laura & Dan have given their consent and made their marriage vows to each other. May the happiness you share today be with you always and may every word you have pledged here be a living truth in your lives.
Maor: Friends and family, to conclude this ceremony, will the designated witnesses please come forward and sign their names to the certificate of marriage as Sarah Patterson & Joel Swagerman will provide musical accompaniment.
Sarah & Joel sang an acoustic version of one of my favourite songs, "Hysteric" by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, complete with an original last verse which Sarah wrote about our relationship. While we didn't get a recording on the day, we do have a recording from before the wedding.
Maor: In the presence of all of your family and friends it is my honour and delight, to declare you henceforth to be husband and wife. You may seal your vows with a kiss.
Maor: Family and friends… May I present to you for the first time, Daniel & Laura Whelan Lytwyn.
We walked back out to the music of "Sail Away" by The Rapture.
Our wedding guests threw confetti cones filled with roses and lavender. I smiled more than I ever thought would be possible.
Minutes later, it was all over. Before the reception festivities began, our wedding party and guests gathered on the lawn for a big group photo.
But before we went to greet them Dan and I took a few minutes alone together. We took a deep breath, savouring the moment, taking in every heartbeat, every face, every tear and every smile of those around us. I closed my eyes to give him a kiss, and when I opened them, there he was. My husband. Always and evermore.