My elder daughter has been waiting all summer for her uncle’s wedding; as the eventful day crept closer and closer, she started to generate more (and more difficult) questions for me. At first, she was concerned about her wardrobe: could she wear all white, like Cinderella? No. She convinced her uncle to let her wear a veil, actually, the one I wore at my own wedding. It felt so strange to pin a veil into my almost-four-year-old’s hair and then actually attend a wedding; it was one of those rare parental glimpses of a possible future. Maybe I’ll have the honor someday of doing that for her wedding, and then I’ll feel a strange sense of déjà vu because we have been here before.
I love weddings—the overflow of hope and happiness and love. I tried to respond to my daughter’s more challenging questions about weddings (what are they for, mama?) with words like “party” and “love” and “whole lives.” My husband, meanwhile, contributed that there’s great food at weddings. It’s true, the food at my brother’s wedding was great, but we didn’t know that it would be at the time of the question. I initially dismissed my husband’s answer (seriously, the food?), but I realize now that he’s on to something. Weddings are traditionally feasts, and that fits right in with the theme of abundant love and joy I was striving for, but bacon-wrapped scallops are much more concrete than my descriptions.
The whole concept of the wedding feast perfectly mirrors the uncanny experience of draping the veil around my daughter’s shoulders. In that instant, for just a glimpse, I could see her as the girl she is and the woman she may become. I stepped into the future, choked back a huge lump in my throat, and existed however fleetingly in the slipstream of time: now and then. I don’t claim to see the future, but a future, one of many potential futures. It’s a peep into a time when the little girl who loves me best in all the world will likely choose someone to take my place. I wonder how many times I will be deferred before we even reach that matrimonial milestone of leaving and cleaving.
Weddings encapsulate time in funny ways, bringing together loved ones from all avenues of the past and catapulting a couple forward into an unknown, unknowable horizon teeming with hope. The couple musters the best of themselves and makes solemn promises, often shaking as they deliver them in front of their chosen witnesses. They stand, frozen in that moment that contains their memories and their dreams, their trials and their triumphs, their pasts and their futures. Two individuals, two stories, become one, casting their fortunes together. They seal the vows with a kiss. And then we feast.
It’s no wonder that Christ’s public ministry began at a wedding where he turned water into wine, good and plenty. It’s no wonder that the church—the mighty church through generations and eternity itself—serves as the bride of Christ. The wedding metaphor represents the same eternally as it does temporally; both bind together hope and joy and love. Both represent a union of unparalleled spiritual intimacy. Both see us at our best, desiring to be better. And though we see but a poor reflection of that perfect, everlasting union here on earth, we see the way that earthly weddings point to an even better feast to come. I don’t know how can I explain that to my preschooler, that beyond happily ever after is a cornucopia of heavenly delights. I only hope that she sees someday what I see when she puts on that veil: the here and now bursting with hope, and a divine hand offering even more.