This service was prepared and written by Howard and Rhonda. It was a pleasure to be asked to participate:
Welcome friends, families, and honoured guests. We are here to celebrate love. Love organizes our large and sometimes unpredictable world. It is that which enshrines and ennobles our human experience. It is the basis for the peace of family, and the peace of the peoples of the earth. The greatest gift bestowed upon humans is the gift of love freely given between two persons.
All of you are present today because you, in one way or another, have been part of Rhonda’s or Howard’s life. On behalf of the bride and groom, a hearty welcome to all. Today we witness a marriage that began years before Rhonda and Howard even met. The world of Toronto’s social change advocates is a very small one it seems and for years Howard and Rhonda attended many of the same demos, workshops and meetings without ever connecting. This was a good thing because Howard was then married and otherwise occupied.
No, this was a marriage that began in cyberspace. On Facebook to be precise. And it, as many relationships on Facebook begin, with a posting. Rhonda posted the lyrics of Leon Rosselson’s “The world turned upside down”. Howard commented on the posting. And Rhonda thought to herself, “oh no. Another left academic!” But through their comments on postings, then in emails, and finally at the Vesta lunch counter they met and decided to go down the street together. And today we here to celebrate as Rhonda and Howard go forth together to continue to turn the world upside down.
Today, two among us, who have stood apart, come together now, to declare their love and to be united in marriage.
The words we say today have no magic or prophetic powers. The power of the wedding vows is merely a reflection of a reality that already exists in the hearts and minds of these two people. Rhonda and Howard, nothing I can say, or nothing you can say to each other, will ensure a long and happy, satisfying and committed marriage. Only your love for one another, and your integrity to make your commitment real, can do that. In a traditional Jewish wedding, the couple stands under a canopy with no walls. The canopy or chupa is held upright by four thin pieces of wood held by four friends of the couple. The canopy signifies that all ceremonies and events take place under a common sky. The lack of walls shows that all human events even the most important are open to the winds of nature and time. And the four slim “pillars” held by four friends show the importance of friendship and community even at the beginning of the most intimate and personal of journeys.
But as you can all see Rhonda and Howard do not stand under a canopy. They stand together in front of friends, family, and comrades, protected by wishes and hopes of all those who have come here tonight to be those pillars for Rhonda and Howard.
At this time Howard and Rhonda have chosen to read a poem to each other.
Rhonda reads the Marge Percy poem:
Why marry at all?
Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?
Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?
Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.
Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.
But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.
Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.
This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.
Howard reads the Pablo Neruda poem:
One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII
Translated By Mark Eisner
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
Now, Rhonda and Howard will commemorate their marriage by lighting a Unity Candle. [Rhonda and Howard walk over to candle.]
Light is the essence of our existence. Each one of us possesses an inner glow that represents our hopes, our dreams and our aspirations in life.
Rhonda and Howard have chosen as their Unity Candle, a havdalah candle, a scented candle composed of separate strands that are braided together. The distinct strands represent your lives before this day, individual, unique and special. By each of you lighting the strands that make up this singe candle you symbolize the union of your individual lives. [Place the candle back into its holder — join hands and remain near the candle.] As this new flame burns undivided, so shall your lives now be one. From now on your plans will be mutual, your joys and sorrows both will be shared alike.
Exchange of Rings
Do you Rhonda accept Howard, as your husband — joining with him today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care — honoring his growth and freedom as well as your own — cherishing and respecting him, loving and embracing him in times of adversity and times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”
Please repeat after me:
With this ring / I thee wed. / Take it as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your wife.
Do you Howard, accept Rhonda, as your wife — joining with her today in matrimony — offering your friendship and loving care — honoring her growth and freedom as well as your own – cherishing and respecting her, loving and embracing her in times of adversity and times of joy? If so, answer now, “I do.”
Please repeat after me:
With this ring / I thee wed. / Take this as a sign / of my everlasting / and unconditional love / with all that I am / and all that I have / from this day forward / as your husband.
Love freely given has no giver and no receiver. You are each the giver and each the receiver. The wedding ring is a symbol, in visible form, of the unbroken circle of your love, so that wherever you go, you may always return to your shared life together. May these rings always call to mind the power of your love.
Rhonda and Howard, in the presence of your family and friends who have joined you to share this moment of joy, you have declared your deep love and affection for each other. You have stated your wish to live together, always open to a deeper, richer friendship and partnership. You have formed your own union, based on respect and honor. Therefore, it is my joyful responsibility to officially acknowledge your union as “Husband and Wife.” You may now seal your marriage with a kiss.
Final Blessing for Your Marriage
May the glory which rests upon all who love you, bless you and keep you, fill you with happiness and a gracious spirit. Despite all changes of fortune and time, may that which is good and lovely and true remain abundantly in your hearts, giving you strength for all that lies ahead.
Introduction of Bride and Groom
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to present to you for the very first time and last time: Mr. and Mrs. Howard and Rhonda Tessler-Sussman !