Father-of-the-Bride’s Speech on the Occasion of the Marriage of Christopher Joseph Ryman to Anna Rachel Ling at Dun Laoghaire Evangelical Church, Co Dublin, Ireland, 15 October 2005

It is my duty, honour and pleasure to welcome you, one and all.

Before I get to the main event, let me tell you that today there is another cause for celebration.  Today is the 30th birthday of Anne, my daughter-in-law and mother of my granddaughters.  There is a huge card circulating – please sign it. [arrival of a cake from the kitchen and spontaneous singing of ‘Happy Birthday’].
Today, we are witnesses to one of life’s greatest pleasures and adventures and challenges, MARRIAGE.  Some say it is outdated, some say it is just a piece of paper - both are entirely wrong.  

Every Christian father longs for two things for his children.  First, that the influence of the Christian home would encourage them to embrace Christ as Saviour and Lord, and that therefore they would become true Christians.  Second, that they would marry in the Lord, that is, they would marry a Bible-believing Christian.

Anna became a Christian some years ago, as Christopher did too.  And so today we witness the second of these Christian father’s longings, Christian marriage.  Today, we have been witnesses to great vows – they are non-negotiable, non-transferable, lifelong vows.  Indeed, it is a great day. It is both profoundly solemn and also seriously celebratory.  So, I stand before you as a sincerely, happy Christian father – twice blessed.  

Now, let me turn to the groom and bride.  Christopher, welcome to the Ling family.  I must say that we are beginning to like you less and less.  That’s because we are coming to love you more and more!  

Now, what can I say about Anna?  It is very tempting to say lots.  Her brothers would want me to mention all sorts of events.  For instance, there was the school sports, the lost wallet, and the hippo’s teeth, but I shall refrain from recalling any such, and perhaps disappoint you all.  

However, there is one matter I must mention – and it is this.  Anna has been a better daughter to me than I have been a father to her.  For the last 26 years, she has enriched my life deeply.  

This is a time when fathers review their successes and failures.  You will concede that in some areas I (and Wendy) have succeeded – just look at her!  There have also been many failures on my part.  One in particular stands out, and I’m sure Anna will agree.  It concerns having a rabbit as a pet.  For many various and good reasons, I never bought her one – that is, until today!  [large cardboard box with ‘Carry Pet’ stickers on the sides and with hay sticking out of some of the air holes is produced.  Silence while Anna gingerly opens the box – is it? could it be?  No, it is just a lifelike cuddly toy rabbit.  Sighs of relief all round].

When I think of marriage (not just a wedding, which is merely the public start), I often think of a rather strange motif, a wonderful enigma, a delightful way in which the Bible pictures marriage.  It begins with the creational ordinance of Genesis 2:24, showing that marriage is not just a man-made invention, devised during the seventeenth century, or at some other time in history.  Marriage is a divinely-established institution.  This Genesis institution continues right through to Ephesians 5:31, including the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the gospels of Matthew and Mark.  

Genesis 2:24 was read in your hearing during the marriage service.  ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.’  That is, it talks about CLEAVING.  Indeed, the Authorised Version of the Bible uses the word, ‘cleave’.  

What a wonderful English word this is, with two completely opposite meanings.  First, to cleave is to separate, to break, to split, like an axe cleaves wood.  Second, to cleave is also, to join, to adhere, to unite, to stick to, to cling to, like a drowning man cleaves to his rescuer.  

So marriage first involves cleaving, as in separating, as in leaving (as in Genesis 2:24).  It involves leaving the parental home, creating a new, separate independence.  It is leaving previous family to start a new family unit – putting a fresh branch in the family tree of the Rymans and the Lings.  

And second, this leads onto a new cleaving, a new joining together, a uniting to become one flesh – so the two, profoundly, all-embracingly become, one.  

To remind Christopher and Anna of these weighty truths, I have two additional presents for them.  So happy cleaving !!  [two bags are produced – one for Anna contains an 11” Sabatier cleaver, and the other for Christopher contains a litre tub of PVA glue].  

Finally, this is traditionally the time when fathers give advice to the young couple.  Some talk about how the husband should prepare breakfast in bed on the first morning of the honeymoon and then say, ‘See that’s how it’s done, try that for the next 60 years.’  Not me!!  Others, give counsel to the newly-weds about how to manage a joint bank account.  Not me!!  

My advice is much simpler.  It is this, live Ephesians 5, the greatest description of marriage to be found anywhere.

It is profoundly simple. v. 22, ‘wives submit to your husbands as to the Lord.’  All good partnerships need a leader.  And if that is regarded as unrealistic and too unfashionable, then just consider v.25, ‘Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the Church.’  

These are not just pretty aspirational statements – they are commands, to be fulfilled. May God grant you both the wisdom, energy and determination to do just that.  And with God’s help may you accomplish that.  And all the people said, ‘Amen.’  

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