This Saturday, I got to celebrate my friend Kristin Lee’s wedding to Clayton Parks. Kristin is a friend from my college days. I remember us eating late night snacks together, playing board games together, attending church together. And now I have another memory, of standing with other college friends as we saw her walk up the church aisle to her waiting groom. I didn’t get to meet Clayton before the wedding, but he seems like an earnest and humble man. And if Kristin loves him, he must be a truly remarkable person.
I also noted the beauty of Kristin and Clayton’s union. Clayton is a white man from central Illinois, born and raised in Decatur. Kristin is a Taiwanese-American woman who calls San Jose her home. I was moved when I saw Kristin and Clayton embracing the parents, welcoming a new family member and a new reality into their midst.
But of course, Kristin and Clayton’s wedding was not the only wedding that was on my mind this weekend. On Saturday, In Gaziantep, Turkey, another couple came together to exchange their vows, another gathering of friends and family congregated in celebration. Except for this couple, their day ended in tragedy. A suicide bomber attacked their wedding, killing at least 53 people. At least 22 of the dead were under the age of 14. The bomber himself is believed to have been between 12 and 14. The bride and groom are injured, but not critically. Yet even as their physical wounds heal, the psychological wounds of this horrific event will likely stay with them and their friends and family for a long time.
When I heard about the wedding in Gaziantep, I recalled an interview that I heard with Dr. Farida. Dr. Farida is reportedly the last female obstetrician-gynecologist in eastern Aleppo, which has been ravaged by the Syrian civil war. The interviewer asked whether fewer women are getting pregnant now or if fewer women are trying to have children, due to the siege. Dr. Farida responded that despite the siege, almost every day there is a wedding, and women are getting pregnant. Even in the face of such chaos, life goes on. People get married, and share their hopes and dreams for the future. Mothers and fathers cradle their children, praying for a safer world for their sons and daughters.
I enjoy attending weddings because they embody a person’s hopes for the future. Some people may despise the pageantry and razzmatazz and grandiosity. Some may cast a cynical eye on the couple and declare “I give them a month, maybe two tops.” And I recognize the dangers of the juggernaut of faulty expectations and overblown promises that is the American wedding industry. Yet even through all of that, I still like weddings. A wedding is an opportunity for the couple to declare that no matter what the future brings, that they will be present for each other. That though the path ahead may be uncertain and dangerous, they will support one another. That there is always hope.