This past weekend, I was at the wedding of my friend Kenneth Wong. For those keeping track, this was wedding number seven. The wedding was at a country club up in the El Cerrito hills. The couple made clever use of the outdoor space by giving guests bubble guns, filling the air with bubbles.
Ken and Elaine are both musical people, and in fact met decades ago in choir. There were little touches of music everywhere, from tables marked with musical notes rather than numbers, to paper flowers formed with sheet music, to musical arrangements done by the groom himself.
But what I’ll always remember is the giving of the wedding vows. Ken and Elaine chose to go with traditional vows. As Ken was repeating the words, he started choking up. I could feel a measure of his joy to be standing there, saying these promises to his new bride.
The beauty in these vows is that they transform obligation into joy. The promise to continually serve, honor, and cherish another can be difficult. Marriage is in many ways a binding of freedom, a cutting off of certain liberties. Yet it is in binding these freedoms that a greater freedom comes forth: a freedom from callousness, from selfishness, from indifference. To love another this way is to experience the privilege of being called to a greater version of oneself. When Ken was reciting those promises, he wasn’t thinking about all the times in the future that he may be tempted to not follow through, to give in to fatigue or self-centeredness or apathy. He was instead filled with joy at the prospect of doing so.