I was a professional speaker for fifteen years and have written and given speeches to audiences of fifteen to fifteen hundred . On July 25, 2020, fully six years after my retirement, a worldwide catastrophe called Covid-19 presented me with the opportunity to officiate at the marriage of my only son to his beloved. I consider that opportunity to be a personal miracle, and the homily that follows to be the speech of my life.
Because of the pandemic, Geoffrey and Alicia chose my garden for their wedding. It wasn’t their first choice or their second choice, but it was a great choice!
Tending these gardens in anticipation of this long overdue wedding, it occurred to me that gardening is a wonderful metaphor for marriage. It can be beautiful, things can go wrong, it’s all worth it. A marriage requires care and attention and commitment, just like a garden. A garden teaches patience and gives pleasure, disappointment, and heartache, just like a marriage. Both require hard work and bring great joy.
My gardens, that I have been calling the “wedding gardens” in anticipation of this day, are perennial gardens for the most part, which means that with loving care, the plants come back year after year, more robust and lovelier. And just like a marriage, attention must be paid to the garden’s needs in order to enjoy its beauty and fragrance. Not everything blooms at once in the perennial garden; the romance of the blooms can ebb and flow. The color and the vibrancy may wax and wane, but over time the perennial garden puts down deep roots, just like a marriage.
Maintaining a garden teaches the same skills needed for maintaining a marriage. A garden teaches patience and responsibility, attentiveness, consistence, and just plain soldiering on, sometimes. Four short weeks ago, eight oak trees fell around the spot where we now sit. They blocked the driveway and crushed the lilacs. The wetlands overflowed and drowned the plants. Last year there was drought. One year, Hal sprayed the weigela with Roundup instead of Neem oil. Night before last, the deer chomped the buds off nearly every daylily that was ripe to bloom for the wedding. Jeff and I have cleaned up messes, moved plants, and triaged these gardens for 20 years. It’s hard work and the result is beautiful.
Alicia, you have already cultivated your wedding garden with your tolerance for Geoffrey’s Jedi nature, your generosity, and your unwavering optimism in the face of adversity. It thrills me to see your unabashed love for your groom!
Son, you have already planted your wedding garden with your firm values, your selflessness and gentleness and your tireless care of Alicia when she is ill. It is heartwarming to see your absolute delight in your bride!
Dearhearts, you have already sown the seeds of a beautiful wedding garden that will put down roots and mature into a lush and lasting marriage garden.
Geoffrey, you wanted me to find an appropriate quote from Tokien, and as I searched, there it was. “Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
Your parents have given advice:
From Deb: “Love and marriage are choices, so remember to always work out your problems.” Yes! Like marriage, sometimes, gardeners have to treat for problems in the garden. Things go wrong: Insects, and fungus and black spot and drought. Treating them is a choice to make the garden lovely. Solving garden problems can be difficult and messy, but you have to solve the problems to experience the beauty.
Charlie’s advice is, “When you have the chance to be right or to be kind, always be kind.” Yes, I guess you can plant a hydrangea in the sun, but a shade plant sure won’t thrive in a harsh environment. (Geoffrey, everyone who knows you knows how you LOVE to be right. Regardless, I know you to always be kind.)
Kathy advises, “Always remember the reasons you fell in love, and make sure your partner is your best friend, no matter what.” Yes! Gardeners work on bloom times and color schemes – what goes together – and, like wives and husbands, compatibility.
My Jeff (as opposed to your Geoff, Alicia), whose hard work is responsible for much of these gardens, has advice not about the gardens, but about the gardeners: “Every day tell one another that you are beautiful and appreciated and loved.” Yes! You tell a garden that it is beautiful and appreciated by caring for it in the way that it wants and needs. You tell the garden it is loved by the things you do for it, every single day.
My advice is to find ways to honor yourselves as a couple, as well as each of you as individuals. Everyone revels in the gestalt, but gardeners appreciate that each flower has its own needs and contributes its own beauty. Flowers in the garden cooperate and complement. They are parts of a greater whole.
Alicia and Geoffrey, you have already planted your wedding garden, and now you will tend your marriage garden. Approach your garden with reverence! Rudyard Kipling wrote, “Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees that half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees.”