After Matthias and Frank had greeted everyone, we read Psalm 146 in English in a responsive reading style, with men saying one part and women saying the other parts. Then we sang selected verses from the German song Geh aus, mein Herz, und suche Freud (Go out, my heart, and look for joy).
Then there was a prayer, and we transitioned over into the unity candle ceremony. This tradition is not done here in Germany, so Matthias explained a bit to the guests what it represents. We decided to do it a bit differently than the traditional American style. Normally, mothers light them at the beginning of the ceremony, as they are often the first ones to come into the church in the processional. But because we didn’t have any bridesmaids or groomsmen, the only people who came in were Matthias, my dad and I. (That’s a German tradition to have the pastor walk in front of the bride and groom on the way in.) So we had our mothers light the candles at their seats, and when Matthias gave them the cue, they stood up with their lit candles, walked them over to us and handed them directly to us. They gave us a hug and went back to their seats, and then Tobias and I walked over together to our bigger candle and lit it together.
The kids apparently hung out in the aisle quite a bit, where I guess they could see better. This picture of some of the girls staring is so sweet! From the left we have Luise (Tobi’s cousin’s daughter), Clara (Tobi’s goddaughter and niece), Liv (Tobi’s other cousin’s daughter), and Cäcilia (a daughter of a friend of Tobi’s). I didn’t really realize the kids were back there until at one point Clara came up to the front, right next to Tobias and I, and said, “Ich will nur gucken.” — I just want to look — and then she stood there for a few seconds until her dad came up and brought her back to her seat. Hah. And then Liv’s little 1-year-old brother, Lennart, toddled up to the front at one point during the sermon and sat down by the unity candles for a while before he went back to his seat. Funny kids!
We sang the remaining verses of Geh aus, mein Herz and then my best friend Peter came up to do a reading. I’m not sure if this is common in the US to have sort of a “wedding motto” (Trauspruch in German)…I hadn’t heard of it until I came here. But it’s common here to choose a Bible verse as a wedding motto, and we chose Romans 12:12, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” So Peter read our Trauspruch in Romans 12:9-16a (in English). It’s a simple verse, and easy to remember, yet it holds so much meaning for all of life, in both good and bad times.
After Peter’s reading, Tobias’s orchestra friend Peter came up and played a beautiful song on the cello, accompanied by Igor on the piano. He played a piece by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy called Auf Flügeln des Gesangs.
After that, Matthias gave the sermon in German. He had prepared a translation in English to stick inside the programs for my family and for people who didn’t speak German. He talked about how Tobias and I had met, and shared details about our lives and what we like about each other. (This part made me tear up a bit because it was so personal and sweet!) In fact, because I love this so much – I’m going to share here the English version that he wrote:
In the beginning was the word. Then, in 2007, Rue Blanche. The third Sunday after Easter. Read from the Old Testament: And God said, let there be light: and there was light. And the light was good.
And the word was made flesh. Then, in Paris. In the lovers’ city. Sunshine. Spring. Place of desire.
Sarah: exchange student from the US. Elegant in black. Curious. Her head full of vocabulary, French and German. Tobias: photographer from Germany. Energetic. Focused on images and theology.
Perfect scenario. Launch of a scene play. First act. Woody Allen would not have directed better.
Dear Sarah, dear Tobias,
in the beginning: word and flesh, coffee and waffles, picnic at the canal. Your home far away, your future wide open. A vast sky over the city of love. And there is a phrase written in this sky: Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer. A phrase. An imperative, categorical. Not yet to be seen, but already there.
Goodbyes, detours, intense talks — communication by all channels available: Skype, text messages, Facebook, letters, phone calls, visits.
And then Paris, again. Night train to Hamburg. Hamburg, another city in the heart of Europe. A place for different movies, but not a bad place for love either…
And then: a crossword puzzle, just before Christmas. No answer, but a question: DO YOU WANT TO MARRY ME? Christmas with the parents in Maryland. And then there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good.
You have promised to each other. And you know that you need God’s blessing for your life as a pair. Since to marry means to claim: we do have more courage than we usually think we have. We talk about tomorrow although we sometimes do not understand what happens today. We promise more than we can safely guarantee.
I like how you trust in life. How you trust in new paths worthy to be taken. How you trust in your faith, which is living and growing.
Your wedding motto has room for the whole life and all your love. Paul puts all his wisdom into this sentence. Taken away the faith in God’s good intentions, there are just two alternatives: hope or tribulation. Rejoicing or mourning. Though, both can find a place in prayer. In prayer, high-flying hopes can cool down, and tribulation can take a breath.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. It means: you have the best intentions. Though you are not the masters of your love, your marriage, and your life – what luck! All you do is embedded into the goodness of God. You do not have to reach all your goals, you do not need to achieve new records. You do not have to be the best chefs and lovers. You do not have to appreciate everything the other one does. It is sufficient if you care for each other, carry each other, forgive each other. This is already a lot — and enough.
In year six of your history you are here, in front of your families and vis-à-vis the altar — as beautiful as the summer and the stars. And God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.
And we — we are truly joyful, and with our best wishes, we commend you to God’s good intentions. May God’s blessing be always over you.
What wonderful, sweet words, and well spoken by our good friend. After the sermon, we sang an English hymn, God is Love. And then it was time for the vows. Tobias said his vows in English, and then I said mine to him in German.
I take you, Sarah, to be my wife. To have and to hold, to honor you, to treasure you. To be by your side in sorrow and in joy, in good times and in bad times. I will love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.
Ich nehme Dich, Tobias, zu meinem Mann. Ich will Dich lieben, Dich ehren und Dich schätzen. Ich werde bei Dir sein in guten wie in schlechten Zeiten, in Trauer und in Freude. Dieses verspreche ich Dir vom Herzen, an allen Tagen meines Lebens.
(All photos from our lovely photographer, Annette Schrader!)