A Little Meat, a Little Cake for Lasting, Balanced Love

I recently took part in a delightful wedding that encapsulated all the best aspects of a balanced relationship. Just like other parts of our lives, marriages and relationships work best when we keep our core values in sight and infuse them with simplicity, balance, and appreciation for the everyday miracle of love.

In contrast to the flash and excess of some weddings, Laura and Angelo’s marital celebration was elegantly simple. Without pomp and pageantry, the event’s focus fell naturally on togetherness and sharing. And as a second marriage for both the bride and groom, the union reflected both the blush of romantic love and the wisdom of two souls familiar with the daily effort, compromise, and maintenance that marriage requires.

To begin, my husband Karl and I arrived at the restaurant where the ceremony was being held and placed our offering in the “wishing well.” This accorded with the couple’s request that guests offer encouragement rather than tangible gifts. I liked their idea; I understand that young couples need help to accumulate household items, but by this point in our lives less is more.

Next to the well sat a commemorative plate and an indelible pen. I read the sweet, solemn messages of hope and love already on the plate. I wanted to add something that reflected the essence of marriage but couldn’t find the right words to convey what was in my heart. I decided to wait until later to sign it.

The hostess ushered us into the ceremony area: a small dining room lit by candlelight, a simple altar, and an aisle strewn with red rose petals. There were only a handful of people in attendance, a small congregation of family members and friends. The bride, Laura, and I have been friends since the early 1990’s. I also know her eleven-year-old daughter Sophie but had yet to meet her beloved, Angelo.

The ceremony was brief and heartfelt. Sophie stood at the altar next to Laura in a lavender dress. Laura shone in an elegant off-white gown and smiled broadly as she recited her vows. Angelo, too, exuded pride and serenity. After exchanging rings and words of commitment, the couple poured sand from two separate vials into one larger, heart-shaped glass vessel. This gesture symbolized the convergence of two families into one. I was touched, knowing that Angelo’s family was unable to travel from their home country to attend the ceremony.

After the ceremony, we gathered on the patio as the sun descended toward the horizon. The air was warm and a cool breeze joined me as I circulated among the guests. I reacquainted myself with Laura’s parents and chatted with some of her college friends.

Once the wedding photographer set Angelo free, I introduced myself to Angelo and felt an instant connection. He admired how Laura sustained her friendships over the years. I liked his easy manner, quick smile, and sense of humor. When I told him I hadn’t decided what words of wisdom to write on their commemorative plate, we laughed at his pragmatic suggestion: “Love is forever, as long as it lasts.”

Later, Karl and I were seated close to Angelo, Laura, and Sophie at the large table that filled an intimate, private dining room. Tea lights glowed amidst orchid and lily centerpieces. We ate an exquisite meal, replete with shellfish and grilled meats, cheesy potatoes and delicate wines. The food arrived on platters that we passed around the table; the communal nature of the meal fortified the feeling of camaraderie.

It was a time to appreciate togetherness. Guests clinked glasses to signal the bride and groom to kiss; Sophie and I competed for the record of “most napkin drops”; conversation ranged from movies and music to a good-natured ribbing of Laura’s parents for texting with their iPhones at the other end of the table.

At one point, Karl and I conferred to reconsider what to write on the plate. We wanted to avoid anything overly sentimental—that just wouldn’t suit our perspective on marriage. Karl jokingly proposed the somewhat silly, “Much love to you. Mwah! Mwah! Mwah!” (accompanied by kissy sounds). I liked it: simple, yet playful. I inscribed our message on the plate and embellished it with a poorly executed sketch of two lilies. It’s okay, I thought; imperfection and mistakes are just as much a part of marriage as love and blessings.

An array of rich desserts arrived to complement the finale: a champagne toast to our friends. As the champagne and a lovely cake adorned with orchids was placed before her, Laura spoke of the significance of gathering to share a meal. She cherished having us together at one table to support their vows and the future of their relationship. Angelo thanked us for our presence. On that day, he said, we were his family.

I might not have summed it up in a pithy phrase for the plate, but the experiences of Laura and Angelo’s wedding exemplify the essence of marriage. Along with the other guests, we enacted and embodied yin and yang, the down-to-earth and the sublime, the meat and cake of a life together.

Those brief hours contained the formality of commitment; the strength of family support; the blessing of faith; and the company of youthful energy and practiced maturity. A marriage needs those components to survive. Yet also present were the elements that allow love to flourish: music, flavor, friendship, and a hearty sense of humor.

So here’s my wish for Laura and Angelo and everyone else who vows to make love last. Cultivate simplicity, balance, and gratitude. Laugh at yourself and laugh often. Invite the contributions of your family and friends in all their imperfection. Savor the pleasures of fresh air, food, music, and affection. And much love to you. Mwah!

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