Goin' to the Chapel: Three Connubial Conundrums

As recent readers of this blog will know, I am going to be officiating my cousin Hans's wedding next month. I am not a real minister, obviously, and I have no responsibilities for this wedding beyond showing up and saying a few happy words, but I have been thinking (just for fun) about what I would say to the young people (ha) if I were a real minister and they actually did come to me for premarital counseling. And because I have no personal experience of marriage to draw upon, I have basically been thinking about what I would give them to read.

The list includes novels like Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler, Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, Middlemarch by George Eliot, and Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers; short stories like "Tell Me a Riddle" by Tillie Olsen and "The Bear Came Over the Mountain" by Alice Munro; poetry: "A Valediction Forbidding Mourning" and "The Good Morrow" by John Donne, or "Ordinary Life" by Barbara Crooker; plays: "The Lady's Not for Burning" by Christopher Fry (or maybe "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" if I'm feeling mischievous and/or cruel); and nonfiction, most especially the excellent Parallel Lives by Phyllis Rose, or any of those "getting to know you" books so they can ask lots of questions of each other and make sure there aren't any last-minute dealbreakers. ("What do you mean, you want our first child to be named 'Cherry Garcia'?")

Then once the book or play or whatever is read, I would ask questions: "How would you define the marriage(s) in this book? Are they 'good marriage(s)' or 'bad marriage(s),' and what makes them so? How would you two react if you were faced with the situation this married couple faces? Let's talk that through." I am not sure how useful this would be for Hans's and Megan's long-term relationship, honestly, but at the very least they'd get to read a good book together, and do a little thinking about what makes a marriage work. Any other suggestions for good books on marriage, or books that feature fascinating marriages?

The second wedding issue that's been on my mind this week: My most excellent church, Park Slope United Methodist, recently reaffirmed its commitment to a nondiscriminatory marriage policy -- that is, until our gay and lesbian congregants can be married by our pastor in our sanctuary, no one will be married by our pastor in our sanctuary. Thus we all feel the weight of exclusion and share the burden of the anti-gay policies of the United Methodist Church. It's an amazingly brave stand for the church to take (and apparently one that costs us money, too, as we can't rent out the church for weddings), and I'm very proud to be part of such an incredible congregation, even as I'm sad that I probably won't get to be married there in my lifetime. If you'd like to hear more, NPR recently did a terrific little piece on the church policy: http://homepage.mac.com/macairl/FileSharing11.html.

And lastly, I am officially shopping for a Hot Minister dress. It has to be pretty and proper enough for me to make a respectable officiant in Iowa, but interesting enough that I would want to wear it again afterward in New York; elegant, feminine, flattering to my slightly weird figure (no strapless), less than $150 -- and not white, obviously! Fortunately for me, dress shopping is my favorite kind of clothes shopping, but I'm not finding much that fits the bill. Let me know if you have any suggestions.