this past weekend i had the honor of officiating my first wedding. it was a queer wedding, a trans wedding, a love story. here are my notes and remarks from the wedding, crafted in collaboration with martha and nissa, the bride and groom.
We wanted to open with a perspective on love from the science fiction classic, Firefly:
‘You know what the first rule of flying is? … Love. You can learn all the math in the ‘verse, but you take a boat in the air you don’t love, she’ll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she’s hurting ‘fore she keens. Makes her a home.’
Welcome to the wedding of Martha and Nissa!
It is a beautiful and powerful thing to be able to witness and support these two in their brilliant love. I am honored to be here, and to affirm before all of existence that love is a transformative force which bends the world towards liberation.
Octavia Butler says God is change. I feel that here. God is also love. Love is the most sacred thing we can learn to do in this life, that we can practice every day, always getting better.
Thank you to everyone here for showing up to witness Martha and Nissa committing to practice love with each other, every day that they live. And we want to take a moment to honor all of those loved ones and ancestors who are not here in body, but in spirit.
Let love fill us all the way up.
(The groom’s brother read from) Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
‘9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.‘
(The bride’s sister read from) bell hooks’ all about love:
‘The moment we choose to love, we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom.
We do this by choosing to work with individuals we admire and respect; by committing to give our all to relationships; by embracing a global vision wherein we see our lives and vour fate as intimately connected to those of everyone else on the planet.
In our society, we make much of love and say little of fear. Yet we are all terribly afraid most of the time. Fear is the primary force upholding structures of domination – it promotes the desire for separation, the desire not to be known. When we are taught that safety lies in sameness, then difference of any kind will appear as a threat.
When we choose to love, we choose to move against fear, against alienation and separation. The choice to love is a choice to connect, to find ourselves in the other.
To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic – showing care, respect knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate – we have to be courageous. Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way. Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic – allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act – know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light. We are not alone.‘
I wanted to take a moment to honor what it means for community to hold love.
I believe we are all love stories unfolding, learning over the course of our lives how to truly and unconditionally love ourselves, and then be vulnerable enough to let someone else love us.
There are a lot of strong love stories between these two merging families. If we are lucky we have the support of our families, friends, and community as a support structure for our love.
There are moments when we get lost in each other and it is hard to breath, and we need friends to remind us to give our love space, air, light.
There are moments when we get lost from each other and need direction and guidance to remember and rediscover our love.
There are moments when we turn our backs on each other, overwhelmed by the beauty or trauma of life, when we need to be reminded to lean back against each other.
There are moments when we hurt each other, and need community to support us to continue to reach for each other and be honest, speak our needs and let love flourish between us.
There are moments when our love reshapes the world around us, and we need our families and communities to step forward with us, to let us know we are not alone in our joy.
Community, we ask you to join us in reading from On Marriage, from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The poem is on the back of your programs, please read the sections in bold.
On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran(community reads the bolded parts –poem to be printed in program)
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Now, before these two vow themselves to each other, we thought it would be great to say a word on what a vow is.
A marriage vow is a Commitment to be with each other through changes. We are each mercurial creatures – it is a sign of health that we are growing, changing, learning. When we vow to spend our lives loving each other, it is not a commitment to the person standing before us, as they are, forever and ever. It is a commitment to witness and love their changing self. To continue to learn and grow and change and allow our beloved to witness us. Forever is indeterminate. It is a way of speaking about the horizon we can see, and whatever is beyond the horizon. It is a commitment to journey with each other, whatever twists and turns the road may offer. To stay curious, present, open hearted, compassionate, aware of and beside our beloved.
Nissa, will you share with us your vows to Martha?
Martha, will you share with us your vows to Nissa
Adrienne: Do you both promise to honor these vows during your life together?
Nissa and Martha: I do.
As family and friends, you form a community of support and love that surrounds Martha and Nissa and will continue to sustain them as they move forward in marriage. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other, and to fulfill their responsibility to love their community. We ask you to enthusiastically stand with them in this love, with these community vows.
I will ask you some questions and if you agree to them say “i will”
Will you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship?
Will you support this couple in their relationship?
At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern?
At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another?
Then it is time for the exchange of rings.
Martha/Nissa, will you repeat after me these vows inspired by the great Al Green?
I am so in love with you.
Whatever you want to do is alright with me.
Cause you make me feel so brand new.
And I want to spend my life with you.
Since we’ve been together
Loving you forever
Is what I need.
Let me be the one you come running to.
I’ll never be untrue.
Let’s stay together.
Whether times are good or bad or happy or sad.
Please place the rings on each other’s hands and repeat after me.
‘I give you this ring as a pledge of my love and commitment to our partnership.’
By the power of love seized by me from the state, I now pronounce you husband and wife!
You may now kiss each other!
Let the wild rumpus start!