what is most important
i am sometimes asked how to make a distinction between that which is important and that which is most important. it seems as though this question is being asked with greater frequency and urgency as we are confronted with the ever expanding ability to be “always” present to the never ending stream of tasks/information/forms of communication/people/possibilities that our worlds now offer us. when we can accomplish three things at once, why wouldn’t we? if we don’t HAVE to make a choice, why should we? by multi tasking and foregoing the need for making conscious decisions we live as though all things are the most important thing. i wonder if this isn’t muddling our brains and cheapening our experiences. sometimes one thing really is more important than another and, when we are forced to admit this and live accordingly, i believe we are grown, stretched, matured, formed. recently, this truth was driven home for me in a surprising way.
twenty two years ago i received the gift of being present with my dear friends paul and judy as the first of their oh-so-amazing children was born. daniel arrived, wrinkled and pink, and was lodged immediately into my heart in a way i can’t describe. separated by geography and full lives my connection with daniel was limited to occasional trips to visit his family and pictures at christmas and valentines day. when word arrived that he had proposed to his precious friend i couldn’t help but gush at them both on facebook, offering to do anything from cleaning bathrooms to assembling decorations to make their wedding easy and wonderful. amazingly, they accepted my offer and emails, photos, texts, and facebook messages began flying. by the time i arrived in illinois to pack up the u-haul of funky furniture, lawn games, photo booth supplies, and more we were planning on using to transform a michigan barn into an outdoor wedding wonderland i felt intimately connected to these two beautiful souls.
anyone who has hosted, been to, or even simply heard about a wedding in the last 10 years knows that they are rarely “let’s have cake and punch in the church basement” affairs any more. there are craft stores on every corner (of the city and the internet). endless internet searches yield eternal options for all things wedding. pinterest has amped up the options for do it yourself amazingness and along with that has come the reality that every wedding decoration, outfit, and/or ceremony tweak could turn you into an instant celebrity. it’s easy to fall into the trap of considering how the event will look via it’s tweets, hashtagged instagram photos, and facebook posts rather than planning a ceremony that has meaning, intention, and relational depth as the most important part of the planning.
daniel and erin had done a fantastic job of focusing on both the intimate reality of what the day would be accomplishing (marking their forever commitment to each other) and the fact that those closest to them were going to be gathered together and should get to play. donuts and cider after the outdoor ceremony, lawn games with areas to lounge and visit, an interactive collaging guestbook, s’mores at the fire pit. they wanted their friends to get to encounter each other. there were also plenty of personal d-i-y touches: braided yarn to drape on the trees near where the ceremony would be held, jam for each guest to take home, little rag “waving pennants” to shake when they kissed. daniel is a noted wedding photographer and he and erin have been to plenty of picture perfect weddings. they had attended to the details.
the day before the wedding the michigan fall provided a lovely setting for an outdoor rehearsal where sundresses and smiles were aplenty. as the day closed, however, the weather appeared to change. as night turned to morning many of us became glued to whichever weather source displayed the fewest rain drops during the hours leading up to and including the ceremony. when we arrived at the barn, it was misting heavily. soon, mist became rain and we could no longer find forecasts that pleased us. while event space coordinators and family members and friends all speculated and postulated about how the day might go, daniel and erin stayed cool and calm.
one by one things needed to be moved inside. the cool welcome windows they’d painted. the ladders filled with funny photos, embroidery hoops, and tule. the lawn games were put back in the u-haul and the wedding photographer moved the action inside. as the time for the ceremony inched closer daniel and erin needed to make a decision. every one assumed that they would simply move the ceremony inside, to the barn, saying their vows either between the banquet tables where dinner would later be served or on the dance floor. it was raining steadily by then, the attendants had no coats or umbrellas, the musicians had instruments that shouldn’t get wet, the ground was muddy with no cemented aisle, erin had, of course, had her hair done. what bride doesn’t care about her hair? especially in the age of instagram, facebook, and pinterest.
at decision time (one hour before the wedding was to start) all but the actual ceremony items had been moved inside. the last decision needed to be made. the clouds were not lifting. where would they say “i do?” i pulled daniel and erin aside and asked them where they wanted to get married. without even missing a beat, and looking up to a face full of rain, erin said, “i want to get married outside.” when i went to tell the others there were looks of surprise and wonder yet no one argued. sure, the decorations were important, people’s fancy wedding outfits were important (especially the women’s shoes which would sink deeply into the mud being created by the rain), the train of erin’s elegant gown was important, people’s warmth and comfort were important, but none of these things were the most important.
as people arrived at the barn, shaking off the rain they’d collected as they ran from their cars, they looked at me oddly when i told them not to get too comfortable. it was obvious that not everyone was instantly excited about heading back out into it. once we were all gathered i simply asked everyone to look around, to see what a beautifully assembled group we made. i shared that erin and daniel’s wish was to be married outside and reminded them that, as the most important people in their lives, we had the power to make that wish come true and that that was most important. far more important than looking dashing in the photos later.
let me tell you, not a single one of their devoted friends or family looked disappointed. we all cuddled up, headed out, and witnessed two young sages who cared not about what had been simply important all the days leading up to this one (the garlands, the fire wood and s’mores that were now packed away, the hair styles that had been meticulously created hours before) but, rather, about what was most important...saying what they needed to say and hearing what they needed to hear to and from each other in the setting that felt most true to who they were. as they emerged from their “i do’s” with muddy hems, soggy shoes, and raindrop/tear stained faces i don’t think a single one of us present was thinking about how we looked.
now that the photos are up on facebook it’s easy to forget how clear the most important thing was in that moment. it’s easy to look at my wet hair and running mascara and say “i look terrible” rather than to recognize i was so deeply present when that photo was taken that how i look did not and does not matter and to remember that i got to be a part of a sacred moment that, unlike a photograph, can never be taken away. i’m so grateful that this is true and grateful that a record exists so that i can remember that giving up the important for the most important has rewards that no facebook album, instagram shot, or tweet can ever embody.
daniel and erin...you showed deep love and grace and maturity on that rainy day and you gifted everyone present with an experience where what mattered most was us and you and each other. where we were able to move past ourselves to create a shared space around what was truly most important...a community brought together. and boy was it fun...
the happy (soggy) couple...courtesy of deidre lynn photography