Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Age-Old Lesson of the San-San-Kudo

Saturday evening, I officiated Leah and Daniel’s wedding ceremony at the Dallas Museum of Art. Here are the remarks I shared with them and their guests, which drew on an aspect of Daniel’s heritage:

One of the oldest Japanese wedding traditions is the San-San-Kudo. In this ritual the bride and groom take turns sipping saki three times from three different cups for a total of nine sips. Hence the name of the ritual, which literally means "three-three-nine." Odd numbers, specifically three and nine, are considered very lucky in Japanese culture. This ritual's symbolism is simple, yet profound. The hope is that the couple will find good fortune in life, but as all couples also have challenging moments, it contains an implied prayer that they be blessed with a spirit of understanding and cooperation.

When you first meet Leah and Daniel, you might notice, that they are a little different. I mean, for one thing, with Daniel, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise, and Leah, well, I hope she eventually comes out of her shell. (Not really…)
Seriously, though, what Leah and Daniel exhibit is really no different than any other couple. If you think about, if you didn’t know better, the idea that two people, from different households, with different backgrounds and having had different life experiences could come together and become one unified unit, might seem preposterous. So, how do you make it work?

Well, you do what Leah and Daniel did. You learn. You put some elbow grease into your relationship. You talk, you listen, you work on yourself, and you learn together. Why? Because, as Leah and Daniel will tell you, that makes you both better for it, as individuals and as a couple. In this context, I love how Leah describes Daniel’s effect on her. Listen to this; it’s like poetry. “Daniel is grounded and calming. He keeps me based solidly in reality… He validates me… He clarifies my world view and does it with infinite patience, humor, and love. I'm lucky. And now I'm crying. Damn it.”

Years ago, one of my mentors shared an insight with me: The ideal marriage does not really create anything new. It validates what is already there. It makes it official. This is what Daniel says, “Marriage… declares… a partnership which already exists... We’ve been together long enough that I know that I love Leah…” Ah, but listen to the rest of what he says; this is the kicker. What is marriage, in fact, if it is not creating something new? It is, in Daniel’s words, “making a promise to Leah in front of friends and family to continually work on and nurture our relationship…”

Leah and Daniel understand that the work they engaged in before, does not end today. They make a public promise to nurture everyday what they began creating seven years ago. That, my friends, is the age-old lesson of the San-San-Kudo. That is the lesson of Leah and Daniel to all of us here today.

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