A recent trend when announcing engagements and weddings is to use the term “We are saying yes to forever,” rather than “We are getting married.” While some might see this as cute or romantic, I find it hopeful and inspiring. What may have started as a catchy hashtag could have a profound effect on the perception of marriage. The idea of forever is counter-cultural today; in a world where a new cell phone is not expected to last more than three years and a job is no longer considered a lifelong commitment, forever is a long time. Instead of the wedding dream ending with a bride or groom walking down an aisle, the goal is a life together. Forever conjures up a vision of long-range plans, rocking chairs on the porch and holding onto each other with well-worn hands.
My husband and I are now married 32 years, and many of the dreams and plans we created before we married have been played out in wonderful ways. New hopes, dreams, and plans have replaced them, but one original remains unfulfilled. I dream (my husband will say I strive) to be an old married couple. In my work as a marriage and family minister, I take joy in working with and witnessing older, married couples. I watch the news for coverage of milestone anniversaries. When an older couple is walking across the parking lot at the food store, I watch in delight as they lovingly support each other into the car.
The planning for the annual diocesan Marriage Jubilee is one of my favorite duties. I enjoy talking to couples when they call to register and hearing how long they’ve been together. It is beautiful to watch the couples as they file into the cathedral for the event, especially those that are accompanied by children who beam with pride as they help them into their pew.
Making our dream a reality is not without hard work. My husband and I continually remind each other of ways to achieve our goal of growing old together. We try to help each other stay healthy and happy, we make our relationship a priority, we talk to older couples for inspiration (I keep watching them in malls and parking lots), and we pray. We view our sacrament as a living sign of God’s love in the world and attempt to honor it the best we humanly can. Will we be blessed to achieve the dream? I pray every day that we do. So far, saying yes to forever is exceeding my expectations.
Mary Fay is the associate director of Marriage and Family Life Ministries for the Diocese of Albany.