In 2008, I wrote the following and read it during the wedding of some very dear friends. It remains today a good description of my thoughts on marriage and family.
Most of us here consider today's celebration to mark the beginning of a new family, the first steps of a long journey through life, finally joined as a whole, that we get to witness. While I fully respect this understanding of family and marriage, I entreat you to understand and perhaps consider another:
I find more fitting and practical to define family as that group of individuals with whom we, despite their flaws, choose to associate and on whom we spend our most precious commodity: our time. Family, I contend, is something altogether more complicated, powerful, and valuable than mere genealogy. With our every decision to spend our time, we decide exactly who is most important to us, whose absence matters, whose well-being guides our actions, and, thereby, who our family effectively and really is.
So it is with this understanding of family that I consider this groom a brother. Not a blood brother, not step brother, not a brother-in-arms, but a brother quite literally and in its deepest and richest sense, the superlative carrying with it the very same weight as it would had I grown up with him or shared a womb.
A look at the further implications of this understanding of family shows something else interesting, yet perhaps not immediately obvious. As you have all taken time from your lives to come here and celebrate with Aaron and Quinn, you have demonstrated that Aaron and Quinn are very important to you. To me, this means everyone here (with the possible exception of the photographer and caterer - though I'm sure they're very nice) is a part of Quinn and Aaron’s family, related by blood or not. You are here. You are family.
But to my earlier point: I do not believe that today should be considered the beginning of a new family. A marriage is not an accomplishment, prize to be desired, nor achievement to be lauded. It is rather a celebration whereby two people wish to express to their family the love they have for each other. Make no mistake, this a very important celebration, and one to be remembered fondly and sincerely, never to go unrecognized on the annual without harsh spousal rebuke - but still, it is only a celebration. To esteem it for its own sake, I believe, is itself a life-misleading mistake.
Today, nothing new has been introduced; nothing has changed since yesterday, save the date; and little will change tomorrow. The love that is here today was here yesterday, and will be here tomorrow. This ceremony, this reception, this day packed with precious moment that we all share away from our hectic lives to witness, is simply a formal recognition of the special relationship between two people that already exists; a relationship that began long before, and one that will continue through tomorrow.
So today, after the groom has kissed his bride (or perhaps more properly, after the bride has kissed her groom), this evening after the depths of bottles and plates have been tested, and tonight after sleepiness exacts its revenge, nothing about their relationship will have changed, no standing problems resolved, no life-long requirements met, nor huge accomplishments achieved. These two people will remain after today, precisely what they are before us, here, now, today - just, perhaps, a bit older. And so this celebration is largely for us to recognize what the bride and groom already know – that a loving relationship exists between two people about whom we all care so very much.