“Well,” deadpanned the priest, “that was the most emotional rehearsal I’ve ever done.”
The details of the last wedding rehearsal I attended are blurry, obscured by the veil of tears that flowed freely from the minute I set foot in the chapel. Seared in my heart, however, are the memories of the bride and her father both weeping, exchanging joyful glances as they practiced their walk up the aisle for the following day, toward a bridegroom equally radiant and also overcome with emotion. The tears as the Maid of Honor presented the bride with a spiritual bouquet from friends and family; as the couple stood hand in hand, the words of their vows nearly ready to burst forth from their lips; as the priest showed them where they would kneel, saying, “this is one of the only opportunities of your life to be this close to the consecration.”
A wedding feast is truly that--a banquet, a taste of heavenly joy. It wasn’t until this particular rehearsal that I considered the deep significance of the hours preceding the feast, as well: if a couple’s actual wedding day is anticipation of eternity, then the rehearsal has the potential to be anticipation of the anticipation. A few hours where the distance between heaven and earth seems not so far, and when excitement over the union to come is so palpably real. Quality time with the bride and groom in a more intimate setting than tomorrow’s reception; time to worship and rejoice.
My constant crying at this rehearsal was like being pushed out of myself to the very surface and heights of life.
I found myself surprised by how emotional I still felt the following day at the wedding Mass, struck all over again with beauty and tears. I hadn’t been emptied yet. I cried again during the procession, the vows, the dedication to Our Lady, their first kiss as man and wife. During their first dance to Matt Maher’s “Set Me as a Seal,” during toasts and during a bubble-filled departure. I cried the first time I visited their new home. I teared up again each time someone asked me what the wedding was like.
What is it about this love that made me constantly overflow, unable to contain myself?
It’s become my belief that every couple takes on particular charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, that develop and flow forth from their love: the gifts of hospitality, of empathy and suffering for others, of service, of creativity. At this wedding, for me and for so many other guests, there was the gift of tears. A love so visible and free, as if no one else were in the room, it felt nearly impossible not to be pierced.
The Gospels illuminate the significance of tears. The sinful woman who bathes the feet of Christ with her tears, whose sins are forgiven; Jesus’s own weeping over the death of Lazarus. Both instances convey a preconception shattered--that mercy is conditional, and that Christ’s humanity doesn’t show sorrow, respectively--and a wall come down.
Crying is an invitation; letting others see us as we are and inspiring resolve, a moving forward. Something raw, something anointed.
A wedding feast, then, where bride, groom, and guests find themselves in tears is an occasion of true seeing, of meeting each person where they are. Pure and holy love leaving a long-term imprint on those who witness it.
If the tears come on your wedding day, let them. Whatever charisms you and your spouse are gifted with, embrace them. Ask the Father to reveal to you the gifts he wishes to share with his children and your wedding guests, with you as the instruments. Cry out his love, outpoured and unfettered.