The Wedding of Tina
The Wedding of Tina (Yu-Ting) Huang and Bernie Hsu
May 13, 2006 - Vanderbilt Mansion, Dowling College, Oakdale NY
God bless the Grace Church Junior Highs! Again. They simply will not let the old dray horse in the pastures of Connecticut while away his remaining years without several last hurrahs. The latest celebration over which I was privileged to preside featured Dr. Bernie Hsu and his bride, Tina Huang. Bernie is a very busy and overworked intern anesthesiologist at Downstate Brooklyn. Tina is an accountant. Their apartment is on Berkeley Place in Park Slope.
Barbara and I left home at 6:45 AM to catch an 8:30 ferry from Bridgeport to Port Jefferson. The rain was abundant. We feared for the outdoor wedding toward which we were headed. Wonder of wonders, halfway down Rte 112 to Montauk Highway, the sun broke out. And it stayed out, warm and bright, shining down upon the bride and groom, family and guests, in the interior courtyard of the Vanderbilt Mansion, once the Long Island home of the Commodore's grandson, now part of the Dowling College complex.
More or less at the appointed hour, 11:30 AM, the harpist played "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" and "Canon in D" and the bridal party processed through the assembly to the landing of the steps to the banquet hall. Bernie and Tina's parents escorted their children. The service was conducted around a small table covered with a linen cloth.
The ritual was standard United Methodist. Bernie's sister, Dr. Kitty Hsu (internal medicine) read the Scripture, from John 15. My message to the bridal couple was entitled, "Words to Love By":
Over the past fifty years of marriage, I have learned a few time-tested phrases that will facilitate your life together through the ups and downs that touch every human relationship, the married one no less and sometimes probably more than other human connections we have.
One of my favorite phrases for Barbara, the patient woman who has endured me for half a century, is “Yes, dear,” which TV has co-opted for a sitcom. “Yes, dear” can be said in different ways. With a hint of exasperation bordering on sarcasm. With mock eagerness. With simple directness. You can with “Yes, dear,” convey agreement/obedience/compliance, take your pick, and at the same time sound affectionate... even as you keep the twinkle of independence in your eye. Say it with me, Bernie, “Yes, dear.”
Tina, you will want a similar phrase to use on Bernie. I suggest this one, “You’re the boss.” Even when he really isn’t. Please, those of you who are feminists, don’t blanch. Men need to think they are the boss and have control of the TV remote… even very modest and self-deprecating men like Bernie. You can say it, “You’re the boss,” with the same hint of exasperation as Bernie’s “Yes, dear.” With a knowing smile. And you’ll help him to feel that he is important. He knows he is important in the operating room, but in the living room he may sometimes have his doubts. Say it with me, Tina, “You’re the boss.”
Of course, the very best words you can give to each other are those celebrated over and over in songs popular and classical, in poems and plays, in church too. You know what it is, right? Say them with me, but to each other, “I love you.” I commend to you the example of a couple from Grace Church, married for more than 50 years, the parents of five children, and a dozen grandchildren. George told me one evening his secret of an enduring marriage, that each night before going to sleep he would turn to Ruth and she to him and say, “I love you.” Whatever the arguments of the day. Whatever the emotional bruises suffered at the words of the other. All that was carefully laid aside as unnecessary burdens and the magical, wonderful, faithful words were said each to the other – say them with me – “I love you.”
Which is the practical application of the passage Kitty read for us just a few moments ago, about the love of God, how generous and complete it is, and our love for each other, undergirded and inspired by that eternal love, should be generous and complete, especially for a wife and husband. For, as I taught you years ago, Bernie, in your confirmation lessons, our love for God, the first and greatest commandment, you know, heart, mind, and soul, is to be expressed in our love for each other, the neighbor, yes, the nearest and dearest neighbor supremely, the one with whom we share our life in the living room, kitchen, and bedroom.
Yes, that’s the best phrase I have learned and heard and said in the intimacy of marriage for the past half century, say it with me, everybody, “I love you.”
And God will bless your marriage. We shall and do too.
Immediately following the ceremony the guests entered the mansion for cocktails and an elegant, overflowing appetizer table in the library. Some of us drifted onto the lawn for a better look at Great River as the sun shone on and a pleasing breeze wafted by. In due time the bridal party made their entry into the great room amid applause. The bride and groom embraced in the first dance. The best man, Joe Debiec, another anesthetist intern, lifted a champagne glass and toasted his friend Bernie and bride offering a gentle story about Tina's capture of Bernie's heart. A sumptuous three cuisine - Pacific Rim, Spanish, and Ocean - followed... as if we hadn't already eaten too much!
Bernie asked me to offer the blessing before the meal. Here's what I prayed:
Great God in highest heaven and in the hearts of those who love you, grace with your presence this gathering, these families, these friends, and, especially, this bridal couple, Tina and Bernie; that our joy, begun in matters of earth may be suffused with the glories of heaven. Sing with us the songs of gladness. Feast with us at the table of life. Listen in with us to the conversations and laughter which accompany this celebration. And, through it all, give us to know and believe that what we do on earth does count in heaven; that our loves are, can be, the expressions of your love for us and for all the world. Bless, doubly, triply bless, Bernie and Tina, with long and loving lives, filled with purpose and amply punctuated with good times of travel and leisure; that this journey they take together through time to eternity may at the last deliver them to your house with many rooms happy for the journey from here to there, in the name of our Lord Jesus, in whose love we are all kept and nurtured. Amen.