This one’s a little self-indulgent, so please… well, indulge me.
My sister Emily got married last weekend. It’s still kind of weird to think about—my little sister, the girl I used to torture endlessly (and believe me, she gave it back), now has a new last name. We’re both old.
I had the honor of officiating my sister’s wedding. As it turns out, in Massachusetts (where the wedding took place), anyone with $25 can become a justice of the peace for a day, and can legally solemnize a marriage. So that’s what I did. Somehow, this is perfectly legal. Or so I have been assured.
So of course, I had to write a speech. I took two cracks at it, full of poetic proclamations about the nature of love, before I realized that I had no idea what I was talking about. I’ve never been married, I’ve never had to build a relationship day after day, year after year. I’m the last guy you want giving you advice as you start off on the journey of marriage.
So I did what any good reporter would do. I went to the experts.
I talked to people I know who have been married for some time, and who know how this thing works. And I asked them what they would say to a couple just tying the knot. None of the words here are mine—I'm just a conduit. But everything here rings true and real to me.
As a little tribute to my sister and her new husband, I present to you the advice I presented to them, on their wedding day.
Marriage takes work. People just starting out as newlyweds should be aware there are going be fights, possibly over stupid things, as you get used to this new arrangement. That doesn't mean you're doomed. It means you're normal.
Whatever issues you have, big or small, commit to working through them together. Say thank you. Say I love you. Hold hands. Look at your wedding photos on your anniversary.
Don't be afraid to admit when you're wrong, even when you're not.
Practice empathy. Resist stubbornness. Do not go to bed angry.
Find a hobby that doesn't involve your partner. It's OK to do things on your own sometimes.
Don't forget what made your partner fall in love with you in the first place. If it's your sense of humor, always work on being funny. If it's your intellect, keep reading. If it's your hot body, well, eventually you're screwed.
Contribute in unexpected ways. Cook even if it's not your thing; take out the garbage once in awhile even if it's normally your partner's responsibility.
Space is good, hiding things is not.
Listen. Trust. Compromise.
Buy into the concept of commitment as honorable and worthy, and never consider anything else. Make a decision to be true and faithful, and live in such a way that your partner never doubts it.
Be willing to talk through all disagreements, and recognize that fluctuating social mores notwithstanding, the husband is given the final say in all discussions by simple virtue of his being a man. His final say, specifically, shall be "yes, dear."
The greatest part of love is not the words you say on your wedding day. The greatest part of love is cumulative: it's the sum of the words you say over the course of your life.
Love is a failure as a noun; it only works as a verb. It only works when you breathe life into it. Staring into each other's eyes disappears. You get a job, you have a kid, you have to mow the lawn and get the laundry done. Life is mundane. The only thing that makes a marriage is time, all the good things you do with that time and the way you learn to work together.
One of the biggest parts of being in love with some one is the way you learn this habit of reminding yourself that you love them. Remember that you love them.
Remember that whatever comes along ends. This sounds bad, but the first time a crisis in your lives hits you'll be grateful for it.
Win them over. Always. Sell yourself. Remember this is the most important job you'll ever have and failure is not an option.
Letting people down is a terrible feeling and making them proud is amazing. Try to keep that in mind as choices come up.
You're a team. Fight fair. Keep your eyes on the goals. Remember to care about what they care about. If they get lost, stand still. They know how to find you.
Look forward to your 65th Anniversary.
All else aside, if there's a single key to a happy marriage, it's this: never shower separately.
Thanks to everyone who helped with this speech, and congratulations and love to Emily and Bill.