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Wine box and love letter ceremony

In the ceremony materials I have put together over the years, one of the more recent additions is a ceremony element where couples put love letters they have written to each other into a box with a bottle of wine.  I have seen two versions of this.

In one, the one I prefer, the couple will open the box on their anniversary, drink the wine and read the letters. Then, they will write new love letters and put them in the box with another bottle of wine and continue the tradition on each anniversary.

In the other version, the couple places love letters into a box with a bottle of wine, but they do not open it unless they feel their marriage is in trouble.  If they feel they need to find a way back to the love they once felt, they then open the box and read the letters of love they wrote near their wedding day.

I removed the second version from my materials because I thought it was unlikely that reading letters written in the heady days leading up to a marriage would likely to save their relationship at a fragile moment. I imagine a couple in the midst of a fight or after months of bitterness or apathy reading the letters and thinking they were written by naïve, optimistic versions of themselves, people who knew nothing of the real work of marriage.

Today I ran across something on Facebook that reminded me of the second version. I’ve copied it below.  In the post, a couple was given a gift by a relative and were told not to open it until they had a disagreement. They never felt a disagreement was serious enough to open the gift. After nine years they finally opened it and found two wine glasses and notes wrapped around cash. To the bride, “Go get a pizza or shrimp or something you both like. Get a bath ready.” To the groom, “Go get flowers and a bottle of wine.”

Here is the complete post: “Tonight, we tucked our kids in bed and my husband and I enjoyed a glass of wine on the deck. We were talking about how excited we were to attend an upcoming wedding in Kalamazoo (where we met and went to college) and discussing what would be the perfect gift for the newlyweds. So, I thought back to our wedding day (nearly 9 years ago) and tried to recall the gifts that had meant the most to me. The funny thing? The gift that meant the very most was still sitting in a closet… unopened.

On our wedding day, my husband Brandon and I received a gift from my Great Aunt Alison. On the plain white box was a card that read, “Do not open until your 1st disagreement.” Now, there had obviously been plenty of disagreements, arguments and slammed doors throughout our 9 years. There were even a couple of instances where we both considered giving up… but we never opened the box.

I honestly think that we both avoided turning to the box, because it would have symbolized our failure. To us, it would have meant that we didn’t have what it takes to make our marriage work – and we’re both too stubborn and determined for that. So, it forced us to reassess situations. Was it really time to open the box? What if this isn’t our worst fight? What if there’s a worse one ahead of us and we don’t have our box?!? As my Great Uncle Bill would say, ‘Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn’t get worse.’

All along, we assumed that the contents of that box held the key to saving a marriage – an age old trick – unbeknownst to us rookies. After all, my Great Aunt and Uncle had been married for nearly half a century. So, we thought the box would save “us” – and in a way it did. That box went beyond what I believe my Great Aunt had intended. It was by far the greatest wedding gift of all.

For 9 years (and three moves) that box sat high on a shelf in various closets gathering dust, yet it somehow taught us about tolerance, understanding, compromise and patience. Our marriage strengthened as we became best friends, partners, and teammates. Today, we decided to open that box, because I finally had a realization. I realized that the tools for creating and maintaining a strong, healthy marriage were never within that box – they were within us.”

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