Hawk Feather Farm, Little Compton, Rhode Island, September 15, 2018
I’m Chas Freeman, Bay Adams Hudner’s uncle and Clay Prescott Wiske’s uncle-in-law to-be.
Before the ceremony gets underway, let me ask you to show your respect for the bride and groom by turning off your phones and not using them to text, make, or receive calls or to take photos during the ceremony. Please leave the photos during the ceremony to the professionals. Their photos will be shared with you as soon as they are ready.
Welcome to Hawk Feather Farm.
This is a place of spiritual significance to the Hudners, especially to Bay’s mother, my late sister, Hope, and her husband, Bay’s father, Mike. Today it becomes a special place for Carol Clay and Prescott Wiske and the Wiske and Clay clans. It’s a spot that’s already important to Clay as well as to Bay. We are about one hundred yards from where they first became engaged. They have not disclosed what else they may have been engaged in at the time.
I am happy that Bay’s longtime neighbor and friend, the Reverend Bob Brooks has graciously agreed to bless their union at the end of this ceremony. But Bay’s mother, Hope always insisted on having what she called “spares” — failsafe extras. That would be me.
Here’s what’s about to happen. I will share some brief remarks on marriage in general and on this marriage in particular. Then I will invite three readers each to share a passage selected by Bay and Clay. After the readings, Clay and Bay will make statements to each other, and exchange mutual vows and rings. All present will then be invited to participate in affirming the marriage, after which Reverend Bob Brooks will bless the newly minted husband and wife.
Now, the couple will join us.
Clay, with Carol and Prescott
Bay, with Mike
You may be seated.
I’m here today, like the rest of us, to help Bay and Clay carry out their commitment to marry. Bay and Clay have opted for a somewhat pagan ceremony, albeit with familiar touches and a loosely Episcopalian structure. To this end, I have applied my mind – well, at least my credit card – to the mysteries of Pastafarian theology. I am now an ordained minister of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster; whose symbol is full of holes. I now don … and doff … his holey hat to make everything official. [dons and doffs colander]
As we Pastafarians imagine the Flying Spaghetti Monster himself might say, Clay and Bay have boiled long enough on the stove of unwedded passion. They have softened and become inextricably entwined, but not so much that that they would stick on the ceiling if you could toss them there. I am here to certify that they are now al dente. They are ready for all the sauce and seasonings life can and no doubt will bestow on them as a married couple.
Clay says he was smitten by Bay when they met. He was with her when she showed both her depth of character and her love for family by dropping everything to spend her mother’s last year with her and her father. This was an irrefutable instance of behavior exemplifying everything one might hope for in a spouse. Bay says she was taken with Clay’s assuring presence and sexy radio voice. She was soon bowled over by his incomparable kindness, broad curiosity, and incredibly thoughtful approach to life. More than anyone she has ever met, Clay unfalteringly applies himself to taking care of everyone around him.
They each bring out the best in the other. They make each other laugh. They have become intent on raising a family together. Clay has already learned the three words that are key to a lasting bond between the genders: “you’re right, dear.” This is a union that is right.
The joy of this moment is great. It will live in memory in days and decades to come. But, talk to Bay or Clay and you will discover that they think of marriage as a state not to be entered into lightly but with considered judgment and solemn commitment. In their decision to join their lives, they seem to me to exemplify both virtues.
Love may begin as an emotion compounded with lust. But, if it’s real, it can grow into a decision to place another’s happiness above one’s own. Bay and Clay have made that decision. Marriage is how they are affirming it.
Caring for someone else even more than you care for yourself makes you vulnerable, of course. It takes two to form a couple, two to finesse the inevitable friction so that affection endures, and two to sustain love. But marriage can be a fortress for unique intimacy and trust between wedded souls. Many here can attest that, with mutual commitment, a man and a woman can cheer and comfort each other all the years of their lives.
This is what all of us wish for Bay and Clay. This is the future I believe they seek together. I plan to ask them about that in a few minutes.
Before I do, however, some of Clay’s and Bay’s family and friends will read to us.
Stone Wiske, may I call on you first?
What is so pleasant as these jets of affection which make a young world for me again? What is so delicious as a just and firm encounter of two, in a thought, in a feeling? How beautiful, on their approach to this beating heart, the steps and forms of the gifted and the true! The moment we indulge our affections, the earth is metamorphosed; there is no winter, and no night; all tragedies, all ennuis vanish; all duties even; nothing fills the proceeding eternity but the forms all radiant of beloved persons. Let the soul be assured that somewhere in the universe it should rejoin its friend, and it would be content and cheerful alone for a thousand years
[Ralph Waldo Emerson, essay on Friendship]
Peter Gevalt, may I now call on you?
There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.
[John Steinbeck, in a letter to his son Thom]
Dan Street, may I ask you to share a reading?
And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.
Clay, would you like to tell Bay what you feel and intend?
Clay: I am grateful for the sparkle in your eye; and I love that you bring comfort and happiness to everyone around you.
I am grateful for your intelligence and maturity; and I love that they are well counter-balanced by your sense of adventure and a bit of mischief.
I am grateful for your devotion to your family; and I love that you have a heart of gold.
I and grateful for your infectious laugh; and I admire your ability to squeeze as much joy as possible into every day.
I love that you celebrate other people’s successes; and I love that you do so with genuine joy.
I feel honored and lucky to be making this lifelong commitment to you today; I promise to put your happiness above my own, and to do everything I can to make each day better than the last.
Bay, would you like to tell Clay what you feel and intend?
Bay: My Wonderful Clay:
I love you; I respect you; I admire you. You’re a better person than I am, and I’m so lucky to learn from you.
I’m grateful that you have a kind, loving family who have welcomed me so warmly, and I love that you make them a dear priority.
I’m grateful that you care so much about your friends, and I love that you’re the one so many of them turn to for support.
I’m grateful that you are so capable, and I love that you are kind and generous with your abilities.
I’m grateful that you are so intelligent, and I love that you choose to be curious about the world.
I’m grateful that you’re funny, and I love that you always want to make me laugh.
I’m grateful that you’re so observant, and I love that you communicate these reflections so well.
I’m grateful that you’re a pizza and ice cream monster, and I love that you always share.
I’m grateful that you spoil me with flowers and little gifts, and I love that you do the same for so many of my friends when they could use a boost.
I’m grateful that you’re thoughtful and sensitive, and I love that you use those traits to be considerate of others and helpful to those in need.
I’m grateful that neither of us ever wants to hurt the other, but I know that inevitably we will, and I love that we will honor one another by working to make our wrongs right.
I generally like to think that we should all live for ourselves, and do right by others – but over the past few years, I’ve realized that I also want to live for you, and for our children, too.
I’m grateful that you love me, and I am completely overwhelmed with joy and good fortune that you want to marry me. Thank you for sharing your life with me.
We are already devoted to each other, and we are already partners.
But today, through this covenant of marriage, I vow to opt into every day of this ongoing, ever-evolving, utterly insane project of a lifelong partnership. I will forever carry in my soul, through our lives’ peaks and troughs, that we stood here today, loving each other wholly, anticipating our future, and running toward it hand in hand.
Bay and Clay, would you now face each other and hold each other’s hands?
[Clay and Bay, seriatim]: I promise to do my very best to honor all that you are, and all that you become. I promise to support you through the joys and frustrations that will inevitably come our way. I promise to do everything I can to make each day of your life richer than the last. I promise to lighten your load however I can, and to ask for your help carrying my own. I promise to nurture our marriage and your personal growth as I strive to grow myself. I promise to love you the way you deserve to be loved until the day that I die.
Bay’s cousin Kendall Reiss, who is a gifted jewelry designer, used wax from Hope Hudner’s bees to cast two rings, using the lost wax method. Kendall, will you come forward and help Clay and Bay affirm their vows by exchanging the rings you made?
[ Exchange of rings.]
If you care to, you may now kiss each other.
[Bay and Clay embrace and kiss each other.]
Now that Bay and Clay have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands, the giving and receiving of rings, and a kiss, I pronounce that they are husband and wife.
[Bay and Clay, to the onlookers]:
Will all of you, our friends, family, and loved ones, do us the honor of supporting and advocating for our marriage over the course of our lives?
May I now ask the Reverend Bob Brooks to bless the newlyweds?
The Lord bless thee and keep thee.
The Lord make His face to shine upon thee and be gracious onto thee.
The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee and give thee peace.
This happy ceremony is now adjourned.