I was musing about my single status in an e-mail to a friend when I mentioned something I've been contemplating. "We have sponsors for baptism, people who publicly promise to support us in our growth in faith. Why don't we also have sponsors for marriage, which is one of the most important relationships of our lives?" I asked my friend.
I counsel couples seeking marriage and officiate at their weddings. I watch other couples, studying their relationships to learn what it means to be married and how a good marriage is built and sustained. I admire several couples' marriages. Someday I want what they have, and I intend to seek their wisdom and experience about how to achieve it. I'd like them to be sponsors or mentors for my marriage, if I am blessed with the opportunity to join my life with another.
I need to learn how to be married. That includes more than the practical things of sharing living space and household chores. I need to learn the less tangible aspects of marriage, such as how to grow together in faith, trust, love and commitment. Even if I never use this knowledge for myself, perhaps I can pass it on when I help couples plan their marriages.
Most wedding parties include a best man and a maid/matron of honor — people who are important to the bride and groom, who witness their vows to each other. What if the wedding ceremony also included sponsors for the bride and groom — at least one couple who would publicly promise their support and guidance for the newlyweds?
The sponsors' vows could follow the blessing of the newly married couple and before the prayers, using these or similar words:
"We promise to you, (names of bride and groom), before God and in the presence of these witnesses, that we will pray for you, support, guide and encourage you in your marriage from this day forward."
The couple and their sponsors would determine how these vows are fulfilled. For myself, I would hope we would get together regularly, both for fun and for prayer and support. I envision this as informal marriage counseling before major problems arise. This is counseling from the pros — people who have already built strong marriages.
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