The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

It’s wedding season, and since my husband and I work with college students and know so many in their 20s, we’ve been to more than our fair share of weddings the past few months. The title of this article in the New York Times this week caught my attention because we’ve also heard more than a few wedding toasts: “The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give.”

Wedding toasts are one of my favorite parts of the wedding – you get an inside glimpse at the relationships of the bride and groom, and if the one giving the toast has a good sense of humor, it can be one of the funniest parts of the evening. I love that it’s an opportunity to share with the couple a few meaningful moments or thoughts and even some final “advice” for the marriage. But a wedding toast will never say some of the hard, needed things that anyone entering into a marriage needs to hear – all the “and yets” that one will inevitably encounter along the way. I love how this writer put it in the NYTimes:

“I love this person, and yet she’s such a mess. And yet when I’m sick, he’s not very nurturing. And yet we don’t want the same number of children. And yet I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be single again.”

The longer you are with someone, the more big and little “and yets” rack up. You love this person. Of course you plan to be with him or her forever. And yet forever can seem like a long time. Breaking up and starting fresh, which everyone around you seems to be doing, can begin to look like a wonderful and altogether logical proposition…

At weddings, I do not contradict my beaming newlywed friends when they talk about how they will gracefully succeed where nearly everyone in human history has floundered. I only wish I could tell them they will suffer occasionally in this marriage — and not only sitcom-grade squabbles, but possibly even dark-night-of-the-soul despair.

That doesn’t mean they are doomed to divorce, just that it’s unlikely they will be each other’s best friend every single minute forever. And that while it’s good to aim high, it’s quite probable they will let each other down many times in ways both petty and profound that in this blissful moment they can’t even fathom.

But I would go on to say (had I not by that point been thrown out of the banquet hall): Epic failure is part of being human, and it’s definitely part of being married. It’s part of what being alive means, occasionally screwing up in expensive ways. And that’s part of what marriage means, sometimes hating this other person but staying together because you promised you would. And then, days or weeks later, waking up and loving him again, loving him still…

“The way to stay married,” my mother says, “is not to get divorced.”

“My parents were too poor to get divorced,” a friend told me. “And so they stayed married and then it seemed too late, and now they’re glad.”

One thing that I love about marriage (and I love a lot of things about marriage) is that you can have a bad day or even a bad few years, full of doubt and fights and confusion and storming out of the house. But as long as you don’t get divorced, you are no less married than couples who never have a hint of trouble (I am told such people exist).”

In The Meaning of Marriage, Tim Keller states that over 60% of all struggling marriages that endure past 5 years are generally more happy than those who divorce. The evidence seems to point to the fact that happiness is greater in marriages that endure than divorces.

It seems to me that the people who have been married for years and years are always the people that tell you that there were so many times when they could have gotten divorced, or wanted to get divorced, but then they didn’t. And now they’re on the other side and have worked through things that are hard, and their marriage is stronger for it – and they are happy. Andrew and I are only 2.5 years into our marriage, and it is so good for us to hear these things. We want people to share with us their experiences of enduring, of staying in a marriage even when it’s hard, because divorce isn’t our goal. It’s good for us to be reminded that we’ll always be most satisfied in fulfilling that commitment we made to each other.


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