photo by John Flanders
On December 9, 2000, I wed Aina Arro. We said to each other “I plight thee my troth” and assorted other things, did the necessary paperwork, and officially began our life together. I sure am happy we did that.
Wedding is the gerund of the verb wed, as in “With this ring I thee wed.” It’s been in English as long as there has been an English for it to be in, and it has relatives all throughout the Indo-European language. It traces to an Indo-European root meaning ‘pledge’. It became Latin vas, ‘surety’ (or ‘bail’). It became the modern Irish noun feidhm, ‘function, use’ (pronounced like “fame,” which has its uses). It went into Balto-Slavic languages meaning ‘lead’ and became the modern Latvian verbs vest, ‘lead’, and vadīt, ‘drive’; Aina’s mother is Latvian, so she would know both of these (and on the one hand, Aina leads me well, but on the other, although she is a very driven person, she has not driven a car even once in more than 20 years). It made it into French as gager, ‘guarantee’ or ‘wager’, and that is also the source of English engage. It also came down to English as wage and wager – and into Dutch as wedden and German as wetten, both meaning ‘bet’. And I am happy to say that getting engaged to Aina was a worthwhile wager, and it has paid good wages.
Wedding, by pure coincidence, is also the name of a district of Berlin. It’s not related. I don’t think we visited it when we were in Berlin.
A wedding is a lovely occasion, both solemn and joyful, expensive and gainful, sober and utterly intoxicated. Quite a few years ago, when Aina and I had been married a mere three or four years, someone I knew asked about readings for weddings. Various ones were suggested, some good, others impossibly idealistic and fraught. I decided to write one. I still like it. Here it is.
A reading for a wedding
Romance is fun but exhausting. Like drunkenness, you eventually tire of it. Every so often you feel like a bit more again, and a little is fine, but you need to be careful that you don’t end up with your head spinning and your stomach lurching, wishing you had been wiser.
It is common but foolish to equate romance with love. Romance is something you can’t ignore when it’s around. Love is like the air: you’re not conscious of it most of the time, except when it’s disturbed, but you would notice its absence in one breath. And holding it back is as bad as having it withheld.
When two people are united, they do not become one, contrary to romantic myth. Two hearts do not beat as one; you will always be surprised and comforted to hear a different heartbeat so close to your ear. Two minds do not meet as one; you will always have disagreements – how could you broaden your own mind without another to force it open? Two souls do not join as one; you will on occasion look over and be surprised that you are actually living with this person, this wonderful, beautiful, frustrating person. Two voices do not sing in perfect harmony, especially not without a lot of rehearsal; the singers try to make music even of the discord, and to learn from the off notes.
If you want someone to join you in the fire, very well; be careful not to get burned. If you want someone to join you on the highest peak, make sure to bring ropes and oxygen. If you want someone to swim with you in the deepest ocean, mind you don’t get the bends. If you want someone to dance with you in ecstasy for eternity, bring water bottles and liniment. Me, I want someone to join me in bed, in the kitchen, for strolls, for dinner, at family events. I want someone who is worth not climbing mountains, swimming oceans, braving fire, or dancing in ecstasy if that’s not what that person feels like doing at the moment, however much I might want to.
I don’t want just a best friend. I don’t want just a lover. I want to be husband and wife.
photo by Warren Harbeck