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Uncommon reading for a wedding

November 21, 2019

My sister invited me to give a short reading at her wedding this summer.

In searching the web for suitable material, I encountered the same twenty-ish familiar passages again and again. I struggled to find something both new and meaningful for the wedding guests to hear.

I eventually stumbled on an intriguing excerpt from the book-length essay Gift from the Sea by the aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh, beginning:

When you love someone; you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is impossibility. […]

That excerpt wasn't what I wanted, but I found the book in a public library and from multiple of its chapters spliced together a three-minute piece that I was happy with:

The oyster has fought to have that place on the rock to which it… clings tenaciously. So most couples in the growing years of marriage struggle to achieve a place in the world. It is a physical and material battle first of all, for a home, for children, for a place in their particular society.

In the midst of such a life there is not much time to sit facing one another over a breakfast table. In these years one recognizes the truth of Saint-Exupéry's line: "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward in the same direction." For, in fact, man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction, they are working outward [like an oyster bed growing over the rock].

Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base... Marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually… many bonds, many strands… making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of… many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow-growing devotion and, playing through these, a constantly rippling companionship.

It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of a lack of language, too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges.

[115 years ago] the German poet, Rilke… foresaw a great change in the relationships between men and women, which he hoped in the future would no longer follow the traditional patterns of submission and domination or of possession and competition.

He described a state in which there would be space and freedom for growth, and in which each partner would be the means of releasing the other. "A relation... of one human being to another…”, he said, “And this more human love… infinitely considerate and gentle… will resemble that which we are with struggle and endeavor preparing, the love that consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other."


Lindbergh's essay is dated by a specifically heterosexual idea of marriage. That is not the only way in which it has aged awkwardly.

We know now that she conducted an extramarital affair with the same Antoine de Saint-Exupéry cited in the passage above! Saint-Exupéry is himself the origin of a popular wedding reading.