I do

by Lorin Michel Sunday, December 10, 2017 8:40 PM

No one really knows when marriage first began though like many things ancient, it likely started with the Egyptians. In fact, The Elephantine Papyri, a collection of documents from the 5th century BC found on the island of Elephantine on the River Nile, found three marriage certificates. In one, the groom was named Ananiah ben Azariah and the bride was called, simply, Tamut. In 2300 BC, the Sumerian culture also recorded marriage certificates.

In the beginning of wedded bliss, people joined together for a number of reasons, most of which had little to do with love. Marriages were often arranged, joining two families together rather than two people, usually for practical reasons. One family wanted something another had and vice versa. Marriages were of convenience and for continuing lineage. In some parts of the world, this still happens, though thankfully not as often in this particular part.

The first record of a marriage license being issued in this country occurred in 1639 in Massachusetts. There doesn’t seem to be a record of who actually got married or why, or why, in that particular year, a license was required. Perhaps it was just something the couple wanted, or maybe it was so that there would be a record of the merger when it came time to sell crops or barter for food.

In the Western world, marriage has evolved to include couples of the same sex. Contrary to popular rhetoric, these marriages have not led to a plethora of people marrying children or their pets though I know some pets who would make better companions than some chosen husbands or wives. Most people seem to understand that things change, societies evolve, people become more tolerant and worldly. Most people understand this. Some don’t.

In the United States, most people get married for love. I have said “I do” twice, though it turns out that the first time I actually didn’t. The second time, I definitely did and do. I was too young to get married the first time. I have come to believe that people shouldn’t get married until they’re in their 30s for several reasons the main one being that I don’t think we know who we truly are or what we really want until we’ve experienced more of life than college. We need to work and travel and form opinions that are based on our own beliefs rather than those of our parents. We need to become our own people. This happens, in my opinion, starting in our late 20s and into our early 30s. We bring more to a marriage when we have become more of ourselves.

This weekend, we traveled to Des Moines, Iowa. I’d never been. Curiously Kevin, who grew up in Illinois and whose brother and sister-in-law live in the state, hadn’t been there either unless you count driving through. It’s not a place we had ever thought about going. When we do go to that part of the country, it’s to visit Chicago, something we haven’t done in years and something we always do at this time of the year. We love Chicago in December. It’s bitter cold but walking the streets and especially Michigan Avenue is spectacular under a near-Christmas sky. We had to change planes in Chicago, at O’Hare, and I felt a curious tug to stay, check in at The Fairmont overlooking Lake Shore Drive, and spend the weekend. Alas, we boarded another flight, a small commuter jet that took us to Des Moines International. Once there, Justin, who had driven in from Atlanta to meet us, picked us up and deposited us at the downtown Marriott in time to shower, change, and head off to a rehearsal dinner. We had come to town for a wedding.

Kevin’s brother Jeff has three kids, all of whom are in their 30s. The oldest, Eric, is 36; the youngest, Ryan, is 31. And in the middle is Laura, who is 32. Eric and Ryan are both married, with children. Eric and his wife, Becky, have two kids; Ryan and his wife, Marissa, have a little boy. It was Laura’s turn to get married.

In downtown Des Moines, a surprisingly wonderful city, reminiscent of a small and cleaner Chicago, the streets are lined with trees wrapped in white lights. Black, metal boxes, flared at the tops and supported by black metal stands, are strategically placed along the sidewalks. Each sports a small pine tree adorned with red ribbons. Wreaths hang above building entrances. In the lobbies, Christmas trees tower and twinkle through the day and night. Christmas music plays everywhere.

The temperatures were chilly. On Saturday, it was 25 degrees. An enclosed skywalk connects much of downtown, shielding pedestrians from the harshest temperatures. We used it for a while yesterday morning as we explored a bit, finally finding the Temple for the Performing Arts where the wedding and reception was to be held. This is the cultural hub of the city, where shows are produced, music is heard, and events like weddings are held. It was a Masonic Temple in its previous incarnation. In xxxx it took on its current persona. It’s a remarkable facility, old, with copper-plate ceilings, and stone columns. In the recital hall, where the wedding was held, the windows are stained glass.

Last night, at 5 o’clock, the ceremony began. The groomsmen ushered in bridesmaids, the ring bearers - Hartley (2) and Oliver (1) - made it mostly down the aisle as Eric and Ryan, both groomsmen, coerced and coaxed their boys forward. Rainey, 6, was the flower girl. Then came Laura, on her dad’s arm, walking toward her groom, Nathan. Glowing and gorgeous, and crying, the release of the tension leading up to this moment. The pastor talked of their choice, of the idea of hiring each other, that their courtship had been a long job interview and that they have both landed in a new career. They would be co-CROs. Chief Reminder Officers, whose job would be to remind each other constantly of their commitment and their love.

I had not heard that before. I smiled at its truth. And as I listened to Laura and Nathan exchange vows, I thought of how interesting weddings are, how much better marriage is, can, and should be, and how “I do” is, can, and should be what life and a partnership is ultimately what matters.

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