A week from today, our daughter will be marrying.
People ask me how I feel about that. "How are you doing?" they ask, as if they suspect I'm dreading the day or that, like Tevye, I'm going to break into Sunrise, Sunset at the wedding.
But, at present anyway, no such bittersweet emotions well up within me. My wife and I (and our son) like our soon-in-law, he and our daughter are happy together, and, after all these months of preparation, my wife and I are both ready to say, as the Mercury astronauts used to before liftoff, "Light this candle!"
I'll be co-presiding over the wedding with a friend. She, her husband, and I graduated from seminary together. Our families have spent a lot of time together through the years. The wedding will be in the facilities of the congregation where my friend is a pastor, as will the reception.
The kids wanted a no-frills wedding. That includes a small guest list. "We want our friends to be there, Mom and Dad, not yours," our daughter told us.
That was fine with us. After presiding over tons of weddings in the past twenty-one years, I can tell you that one of the worst things that parents do is turn their children's weddings into their weddings. Mothers of the bride seem particularly prone to this. Maybe it's because their own mothers did the same thing to them and they feel the need to compensate for what they missed out on. I have seen many a M-o-t-B dictate the particulars of their daughter's weddings to the point that several brides have sought me out for counseling and encouragement. "If I kill my parents now," they ask, "would it be justifiable homicide?" (Actually, none of them have asked that. But they've probably wanted to.)
My wife and I have taken a completely different approach to wedding preparations. This is not our wedding, after all. The bride and groom, to their credit, are more focused on the marriage than the wedding. Simple has been the watchword and that has made it easier on all of us. As my wife has said many times in the process of going over the guest list and working out details, "Can you imagine how hard this would be if this were a big, formal wedding?" I shudder at the thought.
Our daughter asked for only one of the standard-issue, money-eating wedding expenses: A dress the cost of which would make a downpayment on a nice empty nest villa for my wife and me. I gasped when I heard the price. But after I'd recovered, I told my wife, "She's asking for nothing else. We can go all-out on this one." It turns out though, that I had no idea what "all-out" for a wedding dress is and that our daughter had actually picked a dress that's on the lower end of exorbitant.
But, as to the event itself: How will I feel? Yesterday, before a meeting of the Boys and Girls Club board of directors on which I serve, one of the other members told us that his son had been married last weekend. "I didn't tear up or get sad at all," he said. "I was just happy. They love each other and are happy together. So, why should I be sad?"
My wife has been saying, "If I do get sad, it won't be because I dislike what's happening. She's marrying a wonderful guy who loves her very much. Any tears will be from considering the passage of time." I think that's right.
Frankly, when all is said and done, I suspect that my prevailing feeling next Saturday night will be relief that the many months of anticipation are done and the new marriage can begin. I think the couple will feel that way, too.
But there's one other emotion I'll be feeling: Confidence. From the moment my wife informed me that she was expecting our daughter and three years before that, our son, I've presented a prayer to God almost daily. It's gone something like this, "Lord, grant that one day, our children will have and be faithful spouses. Grant that they will have strong marriages, filled with joy and happiness and You. Grant that they will never go through the agony of divorce and that their children and every generation that proceeds from them will know You, follow You, and have Your joy and presence in their lives."
I don't know how God intends to answer that prayer as the generations unfold. But for now, from my perspective, God seems to be doing okay with that request. And that, folks, makes me very happy.