My wife Christine and were married just under a year ago – July 4, 2014. I wanted to write post to explain some of the symbolism we used in our ceremony. We come from different cultures, and we wanted to express elements of those cultures in our ceremony. Christine grew up in Guangzhou, China, in a culture steeped with centuries of Buddhist and Taoist thought. I grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, where my family was one of many of German descent that practiced the Roman Catholic faith. We met while we were in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in an environment of rationalism and scientific inquiry. We combined symbols from these three cultures into our ceremony. The basic message we wished to convey is this:
We two are forming a new one.
The purpose of our wedding ceremony was the creation of a new self, a whole, descended from the cultures and traditions that raised us, as we have descended from our parents. It was explicitly a social act; we joined together in front of our families and friends to make our vows to each other. One reason we did that publicly is that we will need support from our families and friends to make our marriage stronger. As such, we included them in our vows. Christine and said “i do” to each other, and we asked our wedding guests whether they would remind us of the promises we have made to each other. They said they would! Hooray!
Our ceremony used two symbols repeatedly – the circle and the line.
We used the circle to represent one pattern which appears in all three cultures: a feminine energy which contains, protects, surrounds and nourishes us. The bridesmaids formed an arc, in a circular pagoda on our altar. They created a circle, a safe place for us to form our union. Hindus and Skihs may refer to this pattern – a protective, generative, surrounding field – as Shakti. Mathematicians might call this a stable equilibrium; a safe, stable place that leads back to itself. Catholics may refer to it as the Holy Spirit. The bridesmaids formed their own arc which intersected the circle of the pagoda they stood in. The circle of women – family and friends – symbolized a safe place to create our unity; a conceptual womb.
We used the line to represent another pattern: a masculine energy, which drives, pushes, acts, and goes. There were two lines of groomsmen; my brothers are on the right, and some of my friends are on the left. In the photo above, the brothers are kneeling, while the friends stand. John, the oldest brother, is in the back, wearing red, the lowest frequency, the deepest sound, the longest wavelength. The ancient protector, the message that carries eons over time, the deepest signal that penetrates through all space. James, the youngest brother, is in front, wearing purple, the highest frequency, the highest pitch, the shortest wavelength, the densest bursts of information, encoding rapid change and the tiniest differences that make all the world.
You cannot choose your family; they are given to us by the long arc of history, the careful hand of god, the wisdom of the tao, the millions of ancestors who found each other with love, surmounting one change after another to fight and evolve and love their way through time to get us to this place we call the present. You can choose your friends. I have chosen these friends on my left to join me, the mirror image of my brothers. Jeremy, my oldest friend, is in the front. He wears purple, just like James – my youngest brother. As my oldest friend, he is best able to respond to the rapid stream of ideas, thoughts, feelings, changes, observations and patterns that travels through and sometimes overtakes me. Aaron, in the back, wears red. Aaron is my newest friend, met through a shared interest in technology and games – those most ancient of connectors. The newest friends result from years of compounding choices; i wouldn’t know Aaron if i hadn’t gone with Jacob to Carolina – and i wouldn’t know Christine, either. I wouldn’t know Jacob if i hadn’t gone to Xavier to study physics and math, and i wouldn’t have thought Jacob was interesting if he hadn’t reminded me of Avishaan’s confidence, friendliness and assertiveness. I wouldn’t know Avishaan if he hadn’t met Bob and David through band – which i started with Jeremy.
You can’t choose your family, and you must choose your friends. The choices you make over your life lead you to the friends you choose. Meeting Aaron required me to make an unlikely combination of choices throughout my life; choices that depended on the friends i had already chosen and the family i had not. In that sense, the newest friend is made through the oldest choices. Also, Aaron has red hair, and i wanted James and Jeremy to be standing beside me. The idea here is that the male friends and family represent two different lines – both of which pushed together to form the point where the union is formed. The unstoppable momentum of billions of years of cosmic evolution, coupled with just two decades of informed choices, leads us up to this point – at the intersection of choices made by Christine, Me, and all of our ancestors, surrounded by protection and love. The bridal party had all the colors of the spectrum, to represent totality and unity; our aim and goal.
We have been married for almost one year. In this year, we have grown, and learned, and experienced much. We are grateful to our friends and family who’ve supported us along our journey. Thank you, everyone.