Wedding Rehearsal

My husband and I will celebrate twenty-four years of marriage on May 17th, which is tomorrow.
Bruce, as most of my friends and co-bloggers know, was my professor before he was my husband. I got free tuition when I married him. He was thirty-four and insecure. I was twenty-nine and damaged. On one of our early dates, we went to the temple. I quietly prayed that we would be able to do sealings after the endowment session–a rather odd request, I know, but it seemed terribly romantic.

So there we were in the Celestial Room, and a worker entered and quietly announced, “We need couples to do sealings. Can anyone here help?” I congratulated God on his quick work, and told Bruce we ought to accept the invitation. He looked panic-stricken. But he said yes. Then, on the way to the sealing room, he nervously told the sealer that we weren’t married. “Oh,” the sealer said, “that doesn’t matter. Aren’t you going to get married?”

“That’s not decided,” said Bruce. He was starting to sweat.

“You look like you should be married,” said the sealer casually.

Soon, there we were, at our wedding rehearsal in the temple.

Bruce was so frightened of marriage that I believe he had to actually picture himself as a groom, and had to put a real face on his bride. As it happened, my face wasn’t what he had long imagined. He had wanted an olive-skinned, dark-haired beauty, not a pale redhead with barely visible eyebrows. I suspect I met only a few of the qualities he had on his checklist (he’s never told me). Nonetheless, there I was, and we were rehearsing.

Today, the day before our twenty-fourth anniversary, we just returned from the temple, where we served as the witness couple. No nervousness now. Bruce is a bishop, and I am still a redhead. I think if he made out a new checklist, it would be completely based on me. That’s because I’d write it. Marriage works that way–a few little compromises, and sometimes the complete surrender of your own agenda or the way you had always imagined things would be.

I think rehearsals are good things. I consider that I’m rehearsing for death as I stand at the veil–but a death that has no fear or pain attached, only faith and hope and eternal promise. I am rehearsing for glorious roles beyond this life as I put on my ritual clothing. Of course, the rehearsal is nothing like the real thing. Just as “playing house” only hints at what family-making really involves (“Let’s make this really interesting and pretend that the baby has an eating disorder!”), so our other rehearsals perhaps accomplish only one truly important thing: they allow us to imagine ourselves in a place or a relationship that is otherwise beyond our comprehension, perhaps even beyond our will.

Comments

  1. Margaret, that is a fantastic (if sweat-inducing for Bruce!) story.

  2. (also, congratulations on 24 years!)

  3. I have sweet memories of that day too–but my memories differ slightly from those of my vividly imaginative, award-winning fiction writer wife. Obviously, it’s hard to remember all the details. But I don’t remember feeling panic-stricken when we were invited to do sealings; I was pleased. And I don’t remember sweating. But I do remember telling the sealer (when he asked if we were getting married), “We haven’t decided that yet.”

    I also remember feeling a good, strong, peaceful spirit while we were taking part in the sealings, and I took that as an indication that doing this in our own names would be a good thing. It was a helpful event in getting me ready for the real thing. I’m not sure I’d ever thought of it the way Margaret puts it, but I think she’s right (or should I say, of course, as always, she’s absolutely right): doing sealings helped transform marriage from an unnerving abstraction into an imaginable possibility.

    By the way, about the olive-skinned, etc., thing–that actually wasn’t a firm part of my list. It was one among many possibililties I was open to. But it took Margaret’s stunning beauty to make it clear to me what I really wanted.

  4. FYI, Bruce couldn’t negotiate that brilliant line of diplomacy twenty-four years ago.

  5. Researcher says:

    What a lovely post and comments. Congratulations on your anniversary!

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    My favorite was “You look like you should be married.” Ah, the casual wisdom of the temple worker. He had a well-attuned eye, and I’m glad you had the wisdom to make it so. Congratulations on the anniversary!

  7. Felicidades, Margaret.

  8. Congratulations, and may you have many happy anniversaries to come.

  9. lovely. thanks. congratulations.

  10. I might send this blog to some of the missionaries I’m writing. No missionary can predict what a mission will really be like–and in our culture, every one has rehearsed the missionary role. Every missionary will go through the shock of how much harder it is than they had imagined, how much more fulfilling (at moments), and how different from the images they had when singing “I Hope They Call Me On A Mission.”

  11. congratulations and thanks for sharing!

  12. Latter-day Guy says:

    Re: 10, I was just discussing this with a co-worker at the MTC this morning. He told me how in his apartment there are five guys: 4 returned missionaries and one pre-mi. He and a roommate (who served in England and Greece, respectively) were discussing mission life, which was quite different from that experienced by the other two RMs in the apartment (who served in Ogden and Brazil, and baptized a million investigators each). Upon hearing their discussion, one of the other RMs asked them to only discuss the positive aspects of mission work, for the sake of the one who hadn’t yet served. They honored that request, but I think that this tendency does many missionaries a disservice. I remember talking to an Elder once who told me he had asked his Bishop about what a mission was like, while filling out his papers. The Bishop replied, “Do you really want to know?” The Elder nodded, and then the Bishop said, bluntly, “A lot of it is going to suck.” I am actually really grateful that I knew some people who were willing to tell me the same thing before I left for my mission. It made the transition easier, and prepared me for reality.

    In any case, this post was lovely. Thanks, Margaret, and happy anniversary!

  13. Margaret, that was a fantastic read. I made a point of reading the whole post out loud to my wife as we sit here on the couch.

    CONGRATS!

  14. Scott B says:

    >”am actually really grateful that I knew some people who were willing to tell me the same thing before I left for my mission. It made the transition easier, and prepared me for reality.”

    This can go overboard, though. I am reminded of the one person I met before going to the MTC who had served in Finland. When he heard I got my call to go there, he said the following (as written in my journal):

    “Finland bites. The weather will bite you. The daylight and darkness problem will bite you. The people will bite you. The food will bite you. But most of all, the language will bite you. I will never forget the day that I went into the grocery store after being in Finland for about 9 months–it was like 3pm, pitch black outside, freezing-butt-cold, and I couldn’t even figure out how to ask the clerk if they had any more of the butter I wanted. Everything–and I mean everything–will bite you.”

    With that introduction, I was less-than-thrilled.

  15. Awwwwww….. Congrats you two lovebirds.

  16. Congrats and what a fun post to stumble upon. I was actually one of Bruce’s roommates while he was working on his PhD (yes, I realize that is quite a long list). As I recall, he had a major crush on another one of his students who’s name also began with M. Hmmm, interesting.

  17. Steve Evans says:

    Get a room, you two!

  18. Naismith says:

    This was really lovely.

    I think it is a shame that more couples are not allowed the opportunity to “practice” like that. I wasn’t endowed until right before the wedding, and part of the wedding stress was that since I had no earthly idea exactly what was involved, and since I’d heard it was a sexist, subservient service, I went into my wedding with only a maybe 50% expectation that I really would go through with it.

    If I didn’t like what I heard, I would say no thank-you and walk out. I didn’t really care what his parents would say, how it would embarrass them in front of their friends, etc. It was my life.

    If they were going to withhold that knowledge from me until the sealing, it was the only sane choice, to my mind at the time. And still, 30 years later.

    My elder daughter went on a mission and so attended sealings before her own, but I will certainly insist on that opportunity for my other daughters before they are married.

    Nobody should be put in that position, of being expected to sign a contract that they haven’t been given an opportunity to review first.

  19. Margaret — any chance you have an identical twin sister who’s single and strangely attracted to odd fourty-something geeky guys?

    This kind of post can be unintentionally frustrating.

  20. Natalie says:

    Congrats!

  21. Elouise says:

    Over the years, BYU has had a number of outstanding husband & wife faculty couples–that is, couples in which both persons taught at BYU. Bob and Francine Bennion and Madison and Deborah Sowell come quickly to mind. But surely way, way up there where the spotlight shines brightest stand Bruce and Margaret Young. Congratulations, Margaret and Bruce, on your anniversary! You are not only a credit to BYU, but jewels in her crown.

  22. Wow–what a sweet tribute from one of Bruce’s and my favorite people: Elouise. I should say that there’s a little story about Elouise and us as well. While Bruce was still in his scared-to-death phase of our courtship, Elouise greeted him in the halls of the English department with the words, “May I wish you joy!” Bruce asked what she was wishing him joy for, and she said, “I thought you were engaged.” He said that we weren’t engaged–THAT HASN’T BEEN DECIDED!!!–and Elouise said (as I recall) “You look so happy that I had just assumed… Well, may I wish you joy in the decision!”

    Blain–my brother-in-law was forty-five when he got married. The sad truth is that you’re right at the age when many marriages fail and disappointed women (usually with a child of two) start considering the possibility of trying marriage again. Be patient. Geeks are cool–especially if they’re over forty.

    Steve–Lighten up, Man!

  23. jjohnsen says:

    The comment by Bruce is a great addition to the OP, and “We haven’t decided yet” is a brilliant line.

  24. Congratulations and many happy returns!

  25. Great story. Congratulations on 24 years.

  26. 22 — I’m afraid you misunderstood the nature of the frustration. I’m not yet in the marriage market, although those days are coming relatively soon, and the frustration and despair of those days are still before me.

    This frustration is the simultaneous awe at the pieces of who you are that you reveal in what you write and the understanding that there is no way that you will be available when I do cross into the world of dating, and, what’s worse, that there’s no reason that you should be. Thus, wondering if you have an identical twin with the proper odd attractions.

    I guess I’ll have to hold out for my next-life proposal I’m going to send to Mary Ellen Edmunds.

  27. Margaret,

    Congrats! I love seeing you around town in random places, like Albertson’s on Friday.

  28. lamonte says:

    Margaret – this is a great story and I love this part of it, “Aren’t you going to get married?” “That’s not decided,” said Bruce. He was starting to sweat. “You look like you should be married,” said the sealer casually.”

    Folks at the temple have such a great sense of spontaneous humor (my favorite kind.) My wife and I serve as ordinance workers at the Washington DC Temple and on a recent occassion we were looking for a wtness couple before we started the session. One tall, slender young man approached the door to the ordinance room and the sister’s endowment dirtector (Is that the right term?) said, “Is your wife here tonight?” to which the now obviously single, young man replied, looking at the sisters in the room, ‘I don’t know. She might be.”

    .

  29. Bookslinger says:

    The sad truth is that you’re right at the age when many marriages fail and disappointed women (usually with a child of two) start considering the possibility of trying marriage again. Be patient. Geeks are cool–especially if they’re over forty.

    Amen sister. There are plenty of temple-worthy and marriage-worthy/eligible single moms in the church. One challenge is that most of them devote literally all their spare time to their kids, and don’t put themselves in the dating pool, and never go to Single Adult events. They can’t make Friday evening or Saturday singles’ events because they’re driving their kids to/from activities; and they can’t make Sunday evening Singles firesides because they’re taking their kids to church stuff on Sunday evenings.

    My thinking is that if married parents get a sitter and take one night a week off for a date night, single parents could do that same thing, even if it’s a group thing.

  30. Great post! My husband and I also got a chance to attend the temple together as we were dating since we both had served missions. The prayer circle is our special tradition that always brings sweet memories. Congratulations on being featured in Mormon Times today. http://www.mormontimes.com/mormon_voices/emily_w_jensen/?id=7833

  31. Bookslinger says:

    In these parts, if two single people were seen on a date at the temple doing proxy sealings (and not as part of a Single Adult group activity), the rumor mill would report them as engaged before they got back to their home stake.

  32. Neal Kramer says:

    Bruce and Margaret are a true power couple. They sing lovely duets, take on way too many projects, try to raise children, serve in the Church till the cows come and still have time to be friendly and supportive.

    I am blessed to know and love them.

    Congratulations! The improbability of this wedding still strikes me as a true gift from God to all of us.

  33. Thank you, Neal. You are so kind–and such a good man. I wish you all good things, and hope you know how grateful I am to know you.

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