A Bridegroom's Prayer

At our wedding service, we hoped to make clear that Jesus would be at the center of our marriage...

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Rick Hamlin and his wife, Carol, on their wedding day

Thirty years ago today, the 30th of April, Carol and I got married in the little chapel of our church, prayed for by a congregation of friends and family, convening from California to Connecticut.

The church was bit a rundown back then, the stained-glass windows covered with grime, and the neighborhood was pretty dicey, but it was our home church, the place where we sang in the choir, prayed with our good friends and heard sermons that helped us figure out what we wanted to do with our lives.

From this point of view, looking back on things, I’m in awe of the choices we made. Now that we’ve reached the age where our friends’ kids are getting married (albeit our own boys don’t seem to be rushing to the altar), I realize what an imprint a couple puts on a wedding. We did on ours. Even though it was a small gathering of no more than 50 people, I wanted my best minister friend from California to come out and give a homily. And we wanted our local priest to do the service and he wanted his assistant to help. So we had to be matched and dispatched by three ministers, not one.

As for the service, well, yes, we wanted the traditional vows, but we also wanted it to be a rich spiritual occasion. No rushing in and out in 20 minutes. We added communion to the service. We knew that could be awkward for the Presbyterians (my side of the family) in this Episcopal church (Carol’s background), but all were invited to this feast. And we hoped to make clear—did we even say this to each other? —that Jesus would be at the center of our marriage.

Then there was the music. We had musician friends who could sing, but what about the processional? There was the standard “Here comes the bride” tune... but neither of us was crazy about it. What if we came in singing a favorite hymn? We searched through the hymnal and settled on “The Church’s One Foundation.” It must have seemed an odd choice—there’s not a single line about love in it. It’s all about Jesus and the church. But I remember smiling at the verse that goes, “From heav’n he came and sought her to be his holy bride...” Just right for this nervous bridegroom.

Today, 30 years later, we still go to that church (the windows have been cleaned and the neighborhood isn’t dicey anymore). We still sing in that choir. We still listen to sermons helping us figure out what God wants us to do with our lives. And I don’t think it’s accidental that for all these years, in times of sorrow, in moments of stress, in periods of loss, we’re still a very happily married couple. We made choices long ago. We stuck by them. Our faith community has enriched our lives (talk about one foundation). And through it all God has stuck by us.

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