Our oldest daughter was married recently. It was a day of celebration. Few things warm a father’s heart any more than the realization that you both like and respect the man who is marrying your daughter. This is especially true when the father has been asked to administer the vows. To do so openly and joyfully, rather through the clenched teeth of apprehension, is a blessing greater than I can describe here.
As a pastor, I have been to hundreds of weddings over the years and know that there are essentially three big dances at the reception. The first dance belongs to the bride and groom. It is a dance of hope and promise, where vows earlier offered verbally are seemingly reaffirmed in movement. In this instance the bride and groom were young and dressed in their radiant raiment, a phrase I reserve for my daughter at her wedding. They were a lovely pair and the crowd was appropriately joyful.
The second dance was the bride and her father, one that I had been preparing for some time only to find that her dress did not allow much of a spin or turn. This was a wonderful discovery since it meant that my poor dancing skills could now be blamed on the dress. The groom danced with his mother as well. They were happy and smiling throughout, and it was a pleasure to watch them. The guests were attentive and even touched because this is a dance of love and appreciation. As a parent you spend years raising a child, a process that is a bit of a dance in itself, and this is the final waltz of those years. Something has substantively changed because of that earlier ceremony and people can see the mixed emotions that are before them.
When the parents returned to the crowd, the party began and everyone danced. The mood was festive and jubilant and the dance floor was full. People of all ages set aside their self-conscious fears and celebrated, which is a fine thing to experience. Then the DJ called for a fourth dance, one that I forgot about or have never observed so closely. He invited all the married couples to the dance floor. As the music played, he began dismissing them. If you have been married less than two years leave the floor,….less than five years…less than eight years. On he went until it was 20, 30, 40 years. At 55 years there were only two couples left. So many things can prevent a couple from reaching a milestone like that, from physical to relational health, so we all circled around to see these decorated veterans dance together. Finally he called 56 years and there was one couple still dancing, my parents. When the other couple left the dance floor, the husband shook my father’s hand. My dad did a fist pump in the air and my mom had a little hand clap as they beamed at each other and embraced. It was terribly touching. It occurred to me that this was, in some way, the best dance of all at a wedding reception. It was the dance of perseverance, of hope fulfilled, of love that stands the test of time and circumstance. The guests erupted in applause, hugged each other and congratulated the bride’s grandparents as they left the floor. It was a celebration not so much of their marriage, but of the love of God found in marriage, the tie that binds and the hope it brings us.