I have been beneath the wedding canopy with more than 600 couples. I say something unique to each but I also say the same thing to every one of them. It is worth remembering on Valentine’s Day and every other day, too.
Here's what I tell them:
Those of us who have been married for a decade, or two, or five know a secret about marriage that you do not know. That secret is -- today does not really make you married. Today is your wedding, not your marriage. Marriage is not something that happens to you on one particular day or in some particular place.
Today, you just glimpse the potential you have for human fulfillment and love. The rest, the marriage, takes time. Marriage is a fabric woven from the tiniest deeds of daily kindness day after week after month after year after decade until someday, God willing, you will stand on the side of the marriage canopy to watch your own child become married. There will be a moment then when you look into each other’s eyes and realize in a way deep and profound, that your wedding has truly become your marriage.
Remember that most cultures have a folk tale of some kind whose motif is a man or woman who goes searching for buried treasure. The story almost always involves a long and perilous journey after which the searcher returns home empty-handed, only to discover that the sought after treasure was at home all along, hiding in plain sight. Marriage is a lot like that. The real richness of it comes from recognizing and protecting something that you already have.
Almost everything comes and goes in a marriage. Apartments, condos and houses come and go. Jobs come and go. Money comes and goes. Health comes and goes and we pray comes back to us again. Even children, as your parents are so bittersweetly aware of today, come into our lives but leave them to begin their own lives and their own families.
The world changes, our bodies change; almost everything comes and goes in a marriage. But if one thing remains, then I can make you a very special promise. That one thing, is your deep and trusting friendship. Protect your friendship with all your might.
How? How do you protect your friendship? I learned long ago as a husband, a father and a man, that the most important things are said with the fewest words: “I do. It’s a girl! Yes. No. It’s a deal. He’s gone.”
So I want to share three very simple sentences with you, each with only three words. If you can remember these simple words and say them with sincerity in your hearts, I will make you that special promise. So first, those three simple sentences each with only three words.
The first is one of the most difficult things for most people to say. “I, was wrong.” It is so hard for so many of us to say. And yet, your marriage will depend almost entirely on your capacity for forgiveness and forgiveness is only possible after those three words have been spoken.
The second, “Please forgive me.”
And last, “I love you.”
“I was wrong. Please forgive me. I love you.” Say those simple words, mean them, and your friendship will flourish. Say those simple words, mean them, and I promise you, your wedding will truly become your marriage filled with love come what may.