Around here we've been talking about marriage -- about the "What does this mean?" (Fellow Traveler is picking up on this Lutheran stuff.)
To me, like my other theological kinfolk, marriage isn't a state of being that's magickally conferred by the Church upon a couple, but rather a life partnership that the couple enters into; the Church's role is simply to affirm, in Christ's name and on behalf of the faith community, the goodness of the partnership that's already there.
Well, of course, for couples like us a complicating factor in this scenario is the fact that a good percentage of the Christian faith community, as evidenced by the Sturm und Drang in our denomination and our experience in our own congregation, doesn't think that our partnership is good or right; to the contrary,they think it's something evil and horrible, that somehow threatens the integrity of their own committed relationships. Well.
How does a couple react to this? Say, "Well, we don't need you either," and just exchange rings in our living room, sans witnesses from the wider world? Or do we find a sympathetic clergyperson who can be the Church for us as we exchange our vows?
We are actually having something of a difference of opinion. We both feel that we are already in a committed life relationship; that it's "all over but the shouting." For Fellow Traveler, this is enough; we speak our vows to one another at home some quiet, special day, and that's it. Maybe it's just my church geek background, but to me it's important that someone -- someone -- else from the Body of Christ be present to hear these vows.
To me there is more than a little irony in the fact that popular culture -- everything and everyone from Britney Spears to The Bachelor to the wedding-bling industry -- trivializes heterosexual marriage to the point of absurdity, while couples like us, people who get it, who understand what a committed relationship is and are willing to enter into this endeavor publically with God's help, find it so difficult to do so; it becomes a worrisome, exhausting thing instead of the happy celebration it should be.