If your son and his fiancée asked you to officiate at their wedding service, what would you want to be sure to say–to them, and to all who witnessed their union? In July, I had the amazingly joyful opportunity to ground the beginning of Stella and Tim’s marriage ceremony with these remarks.
Stella and Tim, you decided to be married beneath this magnificent oak tree. How wisely you have chosen! Oaks have always symbolized strength and endurance. Their leaves and bark can be used for healing. Their fruit, the familiar acorn, provides food for hundreds of species of insects and animals. The ink used on many medieval manuscripts, perhaps even some that you will hold and study, Stella, was created using the galls that grew on oak leaves. Oaks, which adapt easily to a variety of soil conditions, are considered one of the best shade trees.
As we all receive the gifts of beauty and inspiration that this oak is offering, I would like to suggest that you consider how your marriage can mirror this oak. (For those of us who are married, we may want to also do this!)
Oaks are known to have extremely deep taproots that both hold them firmly in place and help them to find the water they need to live. As I look out on the faces of the family members that have come to support you, I see a deep taproot of love that will help to stabilize and nourish your marriage.
The trunk of this tree provides the stability for all that grows from it. The base of your marriage is your shared experience. You are two individuals, but you are also one couple. As the years pass, your union will always be growing just like the trunk of this tree, and thus always supporting the rest of your lives.
As our eyes follow the trunk of this oak upwards, we see both how it reaches for the sky and how branches extend from it. You two have shared interests, values and dreams, but each of has other personal aspirations and desires for your life that you will want to continue to explore and develop. Just as the branches overhead are connected to the base of this tree, so those parts of you that reach beyond each other will have a life of their own, yet will be connected to who you are in relationship to one another.
The wonderful canopy of leaves that is offering you shade reminds us of how your relationship can be a great gift not only to you, but also to your friends, your family, your community, and the world. What you create together has so much potential to bless others—something I know you care about. If you allow it to be so, your marriage can be a shelter and a place of rest for many.
Oak trees produce thousands of acorns every year. Like oak trees, marriages are meant to be creative. If you want and are able to have a family, we all wish and pray for this joy for you. But I am thinking far more broadly about the potential of your union to bring into being projects, relationships, art, organizations—whatever you two will imagine and work towards together. Each year a new batch of acorns is produced—may your relationship be full of continual creativity and generativity!
Finally, there is a vital part of the oak tree that we do not see: deep within it, there is water running from the roots to the leaves. Without this water, and oak trees can need up to 50 gallons of water a day, the tree will suffer and eventually die. God, too is unseen, but it is God who animates and nourishes all of life. As you allow God to freely flow in your marriage, you will experience vitality, growth and beauty.
Tim and Stella, you have chosen to be married beneath this awesome oak tree. May your marriage always mirror its strength, endurance, fecundity, beauty, and vitality!