I’m what is often called a “pastoral officiant.” In short, I do mostly weddings and funerals, and other life celebrations of one kind or the other.
On a recent Saturday, I was called to officiate at the wedding of a particularly nice couple, who were getting married despite ferocious opposition from her parents. The groom was African American, his bride was Anglo, her daughter was multiracial, and they are expecting a baby — a detail that had sent her parents into a moralistic rage.
Each half of the couple was well-mannered, well-educated, well-spoken, gainfully employed, and completely serious about the commitment they were making together. Her grandmother and aunt were on hand. His parents and godparents had accompanied him. Everyone in attendance was gracious, kind, and loving — in direct contrast to her parents, who refused to attend, had made absolutely ridiculous threats and statements, and kept their supposedly treasured daughter in tears on what should have been a happy day.
I sat with the bride for awhile as she blinked back her tears. I said to her, “Nobody has to get married these days. It isn’t required in many people’s minds. You two are exchanging vows because you love each other, you want your children to be raised in a stable home, and you believe you are ready to make sacred promises to each other and God. If that isn’t reason enough for happiness, then nothing is. Don’t let anybody destroy the joy of this day for you and Allen. And don’t let anybody cast dispersions on your innocent children.”
When she and her groom walked down the path of the little garden where I waited to marry them, they were both smiling. And I thought of what her parents had denied themselves because they wanted to “teach her a lesson.” They won’t have memories of their own daughter looking beautiful, and smiling into the face of a very fine man. They didn’t get to see their six-year old granddaughter help me with the rings, and turn the pages of my book. They won’t have any firsthand memories at all of what was a sweet and sacred day.
But most of all, they won’t be able to erase the memory of them that now everybody has — even I have it, and I have never met them face to face. To all concerned, they are the ones who abandoned their daughter and granddaughter, and would not take the high road. But most of all, they are just losers.