(My first chance with coming up for objective, non-religion reasons for marriage in a ceremony speech at an atheist wedding.)
“Why should people get married?” It may seem like a stupid or dangerous question to ask here and now. What if we’re not satisfied with the answer? After all, the cake has been frosted, the dress has been hemmed, the champagne has been bought. Fortunately, the answer is a good one. Also, I think it’s important to think about why people get married, and today, why Jack and Jill are getting married. Because they are inquisitive, and smart and thoughtful, simply appreciating the event isn’t enough. It is critical to think about ‘why’.
I think the question has special relevance in this day and age. Contemporary people can love each other, live together, buy furniture or homes together, have children together and do most things married people do without getting married. For this reason, we have to immediately eliminate answers that are non sequiturs. “We’re getting married because we’re in love” therefore becomes a non-answer because love lives without marriage. I’ve seen it. Jack and Jill have been in love for seven years without being married. Jack and Jill love each other, but that’s not why they should get married.
There are bad reasons that we hear all the time. “It’s what people do” or “Your family expects you to” or “Its part of society” or “it’s a sacrament” or “This is the right time or age to do it” are all wretched answers. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for them.
The practical reasons are admissible but unremarkable. A tax break. Streamlining probate. Some convenience in bill paying and credit applications and insurance and immigration. Decent enough reasons, but not good enough to have a ceremony or a party. Not good enough to justify this beautiful and elegant convergence of everyone who are vital to you, and have that awesome commonality of loving you both so dearly.
This is what I think the best reason is. Getting married is how two people formalize or institutionalize their loving relationship. It’s a mutual agreement and promise to love each other through good and bad, sickness and health, and a bunch of other conditional factors that could shake apart a fallible relationship. What we’re doing here, what Jack and Jill are doing today, is making that relationship unshakable, weatherable, and hopefully near indestructible. Making it familial. Unconditional. It’s a transformation of people who confess to being in love to people who have love integrated into their lives. It’s an ultimate statement of confidence and authority.
As a married couple, you get to take your relationship for granted. I don’t mean that in its careless or selfish context. I mean it more literally, that you can wake up every morning and know that your loving relationship has been mutually and reciprocally granted to you by the other.
Conceptually, it’s like an elegant door that you lock behind you as you go somewhere better. Everything before that door any uncertainty – is in the past. You’re free to go forward without needing to look back. Your new baseline, your new lowest level, your new status quo is already stacked with the authority, confidence, and love of each other.
It’s truly a position of power. It’s a position to move forward and do new wonderful things. It means not having to rethink your relationship on every turn. It’s a way to approach decisions unencumbered with data about your future or intentions. You can face each decision confident with the commonality of your love and a union of your ideas towards each other assumed and accounted for. It empowers you to be excited, supportive and sometimes critical of your spouse. It makes the world easier, and when that happens, you can do more.
I believe being able to be live and love unconditionally, to take each other for granted, is my answer, but I don’t want to suggest that its an excuse to be careless or thoughtless, or to not imagine and confess love every day. Your union is precious and it must be nurtured, esteemed, and monitored with precision and care. Anything that is precious and beautiful and powerful must be handled this way.
I said earlier that love wasn’t a reason to get married. It’s not. But it is vitally important to a marriage. It’s the stuff or the fabric or the concrete, or that gravity that binds the two spirits together. It’s the energy that makes the new unconditional relationship viable and precious and enjoyable and noble and cherished and beautiful and awesome. Its not the reason to get married, but it’s the reason its worth it. It’s the reason its valuable. And it’s wonderful that Jack and Jill love each other.
We’re here today for the ceremony, which is the method people use to get married. The ceremony itself is important. The ceremony is Jack and Jill, and then all of us, coming to a grand consensus that Jack and Jill are going to transform their relationship. Our participation is one of bearing witness, one of contribution, one of agreement, and one of adoration and support. I want to speak on behalf of every participant and witness today: We love you both very much. We enthusiastically support your transformation and union. We are excited to know you and are enthusiastically looking forward to enjoying you, supporting you, and loving you as a married couple for as long as we know you.