A few months ago, I was fortunate to attend the wedding of Marisa Thompson and Stephen Thompson. I have been to several weddings before, but this was my first wedding in an Eastern Orthodox church.
I walked into a beautiful sanctuary, ornately decorated with gold and blue tiles. Icons, depictions of saints and angels, lined the walls. The choir sat behind us, in a raised platform; we could hear them, but not see them, and their sonorous voices seemed to emanate out of the very air. It felt contemplative, solemn, a world away from the San Francisco summer outside.
The ceremony struck me in its order and structure. Marisa and Stephen never spoke; the two priests led the prayers, the choir calling out in response. Every action, every word, held symbolic weight. The music of the prayers imbued them with a vigor that echoed long after the words faded to stillness.
Afterward, I spoke with Stephen. He thanked me for coming and asked what I thought. I told him that it was beautiful and that I had never experienced anything like this before. He mentioned how moved he felt to be engaging in a wedding ceremony that has not changed in its fundamental form for over 400 years.
There is indeed something powerful in this steadfast tradition. These weddings have carried on through the ages and through communities all around the world. Through empires and revolution, colonialism and insurrection, wars and famines, this same wedding ceremony has continued on. As someone who grew up in a community of people uprooted from a homeland that had experienced decades of poverty, oppression, and frenetic transformation, it was wondrous to reflect on the anchoring strength of tradition.
Then we had a wedding reception with tasty food, really funny speeches (seriously some of the best wedding speeches I have heard, although admittedly the bar is not high), and a wonderful time with friends.
Thank you, Marisa and Stephen, for inviting us to be part of your life together. “Blessed is God, who has mercy upon us and nourishes us from his bountiful gifts by his grace and love always, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.”