Wedding for

Marlene Tise and Pat Mahoney

Unitarian Univesalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula

September 6th, 2008



Love.  What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful it has altered the flow of history, calmed monsters, kindled works of art, cheered the forlorn, turned tough guys into mush, consoled the enslaved, driven strong women mad, glorified the humble, fueled national scandles, bankrupted robber barons, and made mincemeat of kings.  How can love’s spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable?

Diane Ackerman


Love is something eternal – the aspect may change, but not the essence.  There is the same difference in a person before and after she is in love as there is in an unlit candle and one that is burning.  The candle was there and it was a good candle, but now it is shedding light, too, and that is its real function.

Vincent Van Gogh



It was only a couple weeks ago that Pat and Marlene contacted me to ask me if I would do their wedding.  A quickie little meeting last week and here we are a mere few days later standing at the alter.  Talk about your impulsive, impetuous kids?!?!   


The truth is that they were ready long before anyone else in our current culture was ready to celebrate their vows.  In fact, after we had scheduled their wedding for earlier today we found out that one of our congregation’s oldest and most beloved members died and we needed to schedule the memorial.  And because we knew it was going to be a fairly big and boisterous affair and we might not be able to get everyone out in time for the wedding.  And as I was picking up the phone to call and ask if we could push the ceremony back, someone stopped me and asked, ‘Can you just do that?!?  Can you delay someone’s wedding like that?’  I said, ‘Well, the state delayed it for thirty years!  I’m only asking for an hour!” 


I should make a correction.  The state ‘tried’ to delay this for thirty years.  And I should go even further to say that what we do today, while solemn and legal and – honestly, - my best shot at making honest women of these two – what we do here today is perfunctory in the eyes of all that is truly meaningful, just and holy.  For in truth, Marlene and Pat understand the truth -- that their real anniversary of their vows takes place in January and just crossed 30 years.  They were kind enough to humor me and help me feel somewhat necessary in this scheme – even if the truth is that they’re just in it for the benefits. 


What happened those many years ago was clearly a solemn promise.  And it is that promise and what has been behind it, that I want to celebrate tonight.


Usually in weddings, I try to pull wisdom from the ages to offer the couple.  But given the track record of the ages and the track record of these two, I’ve decided to reverse that.  I’d like to take what wisdom I’ve learned in my conversations with Pat and Marlene to convey to the ages, what it might benefit by paying attention to.


I think The institution of marriage should pay attention to three things from Pat and Marlene’s life.  Those three things: Honesty.  A willingness to let go of things that don’t work and work for things that do.  And an ability to expect you will get what you really want.


Pat and Marlene met in June of 1978.  Pat was friends with JT Mason who told her about a dance that was happening down at the PG Art Center.  It was a women’s dance.  And apparently one of the major owners of the arts center was a woman whose last name was Dyke.  And there are some who think that she had gotten such a hard time with her last name that when she heard it was going to be an all woman’s dance – and then it finally dawned on her what that might mean – she said she couldn’t have that in her art center.  So the dance was moved to someone’s home. 


When Pat finally arrived, Marlene was the one who had agreed to stay behind and notify late comers that the dance had moved.  And since that moment there was the spark of attraction.  They’d each met others, but there was something that seemed to draw them together.  So much so that Pat wanted to ask her out. 


So, after a couple more times of casually running into each other, Pat decided to ask Marlene out for coffee.  “I don’t drink coffee,” Marlene said casually.  And that was that. 


Honesty is not always one of the easiest things in a romantic relationship.  Especially when we have a habit of asking questions where we are only fishing for one answer.  It works well when mixed with a little savvy.  And intuition.  Indeed, just by itself, it can sometimes be what we call, ‘brutal’ honesty.  But it is also the thing that – much deeper into the relationship – comes in very handy. 


Marlene and Pat have come up with something they call ‘The Rules’ that have helped them get through 30 years together.  And one of their paramount rules is that when you get to the hard part – the conflicts – where the rubber meets the road – you stop and ask each other ‘on a scale of one to ten, how important is getting your way this time?’  And you have to be honest!!!  If you can really look in your heart – and be honest – it will work.  It’s worked for them.


The other piece is the willingness to let go of what doesn’t work and work for what does.  Fairly early on in the relationship there was a little bit of tiff between Marlene and Pat.  And Pat was hurt.  The kind of hurt that flies right past sad, even past mad – right into the territory that I’ll call ‘stinkeye.’  You know that kind of place.  That kind of feeling.  And so Pat was stuck there – like we all get – and she was stomping around the house giving Marlene, ‘the stinkeye.’  And Marlene noticed this.  And she stopped.  And she turned to Pat and she asked, “are you trying to make me feel bad?’  And Pat stopped in astonishment at the honesty (remember honesty?) and admitted, ‘well, yea.’  And Marlene asked, “Why?  Why would you want to make me feel bad?”


And this led to rule number two – which I found out is really their primary rule: Always – ALWAYS – protect your partner and her feelings.  Watch out for your partner’s feelings and do whatever you can to help her have the ones she wants to have – not necessarily the ones you want her to have. 


This makes it a little easier to be happy.  But just in case these two don’t do it for them, they have one more rule: the 4 hour rule.  Each of them gets four hours a month.  Four hours where they can ask for whatever they want – I’m sure there are some reasonable limits – and the task of the other is to summon every iota of excitement humanly possible to fulfill that wish. 


In other words, it’s not enough to trudge through it begrudgingly.  For instance, if Pat asks Marlene to go to church with her – not one of Marlene’s favorite things – but Pat sometimes enjoys company - Marlene can’t just say, “okay… we’re going to church now…”   She would say, “O boy!  Are you ready for church yet?  Can we sit in the front row?  Can we stand in that long line and shake the minister’s hand?’


Honesty.  Willing to let go of things that don’t work and learning to expect that we will get what we want.  These are the kinds of things that the institution of marriage should really look into.  Because, the truth is, if more people could understand them, you’d hear couples able to say a lot more than, “I love you,” and “you’re beautiful.”  You’d hear them begin to say, “I need you.”  “I will be there for you.”  And, “you can count on me.” 

That’s what the institution of marriage needs.  And that’s what Pat and Marlene have been offering for 30 years.  And like Diane Ackerman said, it doesn’t fit all neatly into one word.  It’s not a simple recipe – add water makes it’s own sauce – kind of answer.  Maybe the truth is that the institution of marriage still isn’t ready for you. 


Well, that’s their problem.  Because we’re ready for you.  And we say, it’s about time.



I would like to remind all of us who are here that their success has not come entirely from their set of rules.  But by a few of the rules that we threw in too.  Like 1. Showing up and celebrating with them in the good times – milestones are important and need to be marked by a reverent community.  2. Understanding in the tough times – getting this far in a relationship is hard and we all need support.  And 3. Honoring that at the heart of any promise made by two people there is risk, vulnerability, tenderness – and everything matters - nothing is ever put out to be taken for granted.  You are here to listen to their vows, know their hopes and dreams, extend good wishes and be reminded of the love and commitments that are part of your own lives.  For in so doing you will be the kind of community that will help their love live by the rules.   Give them a cheer when everything is going their way and give them a shoulder to lean on when it isn’t.  Will you be those people for them - do all in your power to uphold these two in the promises thare are undertaking?   they are about to undertake?  If so, please respond, with great enthusiasm, “WE WILL!!”



In preparing for this day and the speaking of their promises, I asked Sara and Marcin to take some time to put down in words what was in their heart as they approached this day and the speaking of their promises to one another.  In short, I asked them to write old fashioned love letters.  In the letters I asked them to respond to three questions: why they were ready to marry; why – among all the people in the world – they have chosen one another; and how they hope to live out the promises they make this day.  They have allowed me, now, to share with you some of what they said.



For thirty years you’ve been with a woman who said she grew up in a ‘beaver-cleaver’ fantasy small town where things were as they appeared to be – most of the time – and there were people and values you could count on.  She was raised to be a pretty literal, straightforward thinker.  The kind of gal who would bring white bread sandwiches on your first date.  But you showed her.  With your vegetables.  And your different way of thinking.  And your quiet determination to change the world, one person at a time. 


She has tried for many years to tell you that she’s not a people person.  She has put up with, and been grateful for, showing her many of the things she didn’t even realize she was missing in her life. 


“You make me see through windows on the world that I would have walked right past without you,” she says.   “You shake me out of my literal thinking and you have brought a core of moral and social responsibility to our lives that I didn’t even realize had been missing from mine.” 


“Your genuine interest in people and ability to put them at ease and engage them, your fierce loyalty to friends and loved ones have been the cornerstones for many of the wonderful friendships we have supporting us.”

Pat, Marlene adores you for your huge heart and your generosity of spirit.  Your sense of adventure and your uncanny ability to turn potential disasters into amazing memories.  And especially, she loves the way that you can smile at her with your heart in your eyes. 


It is for these reasons that she is willing to continue overlooking the fact that you cover every available surface in the house with your paperwork.  And not complain – much – when you insist on picking the parking spots or routes even when she’s driving.  Or your natural tendency to walk or talk or think at warp speed.


She wants you to know that despite everything that for the past thirty years you have been the love of her life. 


“I (still) remember clearly why I wanted to commit to you in the first place way back then.  You were smart, energetic, scrupulously honest, incredibly interesting, and your smile made my heart melt…


 “I love the fact that we laugh together…a lot…that even in the dark times we can laugh at the world and at ourselves. You bring joy to my life every day,


“Above all though, I am grateful for your steadfast love and your faith in me. The fact that you always see me as a better person than I could ever hope to be, makes me strive to be a better person than I am.  You have always treated me with love and respect, not just by telling me, but by showing me how much you care every day.  You have seen me at my worst, seen my weaknesses and faults and never ever used them against me.  You have created a safe haven for my heart and I cannot imagine my life without you.”


Pat, do you understand the promises that Marlene is making to you this day and the ones she is asking for in return?”



Pat was born with a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world.  Many children who lose their parents early feel insecure.  But being turned loose on 16 aunts and uncles, cousins she was able to feel home almost anywhere.  She never felt particularly needy growing up.  Perhaps that’s what allowed her to so easily intuit other people’s needs and make a difference in people’s lives.


But there was a reason why she fell in love with you so quickly and it wasn’t necessarily your honesty. 


“(Even after 30 years), she writes: I often look across the room or wake up and see you as if only days have passed, the same beautiful woman that I met in 1978; a woman with an amazing intelligence and a wicked ‘notched’ sense of humor.


From our first awkward dance to our last hug I have felt at home.

From you I have learned quiet optimism, patience, moderation and compromise.

I have experienced a profound acceptance, love and partnership.  


Marlene, Pat loves you for many things: our patience and ability to compromise.  Your warmth and friendliness and the endearing way you insist that you are not a ‘people person.’   And maybe most, because you live as though you really recognize how blessed you are to have one another.  These are qualities which make it worth putting up with your resistance to eating vegetables.  For your interesting habit of stopping to think in the middle of a conversation about a question Pat asks and then fading away, forcing her to remind you that you were having a conversation. 


“Over the years,” she says, “we have overcome obstacles that have, at times, seemed to be insurmountable. The things about you (and us) that have driven me nuts over the years are the things that have made you so precious to me. They are the things that have made me grow, have made me more accepting of myself, you and us.”


She closes by listing the most memorable parts of her life:  They are

Our first date, our first Christmas, our first road trip,

The times you helped me study pharmacology.

The times you sat quietly by my side so I could fall a sleep.

Wearing the nursing uniform that you designed and sewed that lasted for a decade

The time you filled the house with flowers and stuffed animals

When you surprised me and replaced the ring I had lost

When your Mom told you that she was glad we had each other

Our most recent date, last Christmas, our next road trip.


Marlene, do you understand the promises that Pat is making to you this day and the ones she is asking for in return?”



Pat and Marlene, you understand the love that is being promised you by your beloved…   Do you understand the affirmation and support given to you by these gathered people?  Do you understand the widening community that loves you and honors your vows as holy?  Do you understand the sacredness – to one another - of the promises you are about to speak, and the legal-ness of what they mean to the state?  Then catch hands, turn to face one another, and repeat these words after me.



I Marlene / take you Pat / to be no other than yourself / loving what I know of you / trusting what I do not yet know / with respect for your integrity / and faith in your abiding love for me / for the remainder of our days / and in all that life may bring us.


I Pat / take you Marlene / to be no other than yourself / loving what I know of you / trusting what I do not yet know / with respect for your integrity / and faith in your abiding love for me / for the remainder of our days / and in all that life may bring us.



Are the rings present?


It is important to know that these rings are more than jewelry.  These rings are a symbol of your union.  Within them is found the trust, the joy and the strength of your promise to one another.  They are promises forged into a circle – with no beginning and no end.  They are called to symbolize that no matter where you are or what you are called to do you will never cease to be connected.  The real importance of these symbols is not what they convey to others, but what they say to you in the idle moments of your comings and goings – the sense of purpose you feel as you see the ring on top of the steering wheel on the long drive home through the dead of night; the reassurance you feel as you turn it on your finger before going into an important moment.  The importance they have, they have because of what you give them and what they remind you: that you live for more than your own hopes dreams and expectations.  You live because you are part of another’s hopes, dreams and expectations.  May you wear these rings and always remember the other and the promises you make today. 


Marlene, take this ring, with which Pat will carry her promise to you.  And place it on her finger.  And Pat, as Marlene does this, please repeat these words:


This is the ring / with which I see myself / as your beloved / I will wear this ring / And I will always be true


Pat, take this ring, with which Marlene will carry her promise to you.  And place it on her finger.  And Marlene, as Pat does this, please repeat these words:


This is the ring / with which I see myself / as your beloved / I will wear this ring / And I will always be true



Let us join together in the spirit of prayer.   Pat and Marlene we pray for your lives together as friends, lovers, partners and one day, and we pray for the larger families of which you are part.  We pray for passion in your hearts, peace in your minds as well as love and lots and lots of laughter.  We pray for joy - that you may share it with others and for your home - that it be a refuge of understanding with open doors.  We pray that service is part of your promise - to each other and the highest ends of humanity.  We pray for courage when there is pain and for humility when there are long stretches of good fortune.  May you carry the past gracefully with you and forever face the future unafraid.  May all your dreams come true and when they don't may new dreams rise up to take their place.  And above all, may you come to the end of all your days with contentment and gratitude on your lips, saying to one another, “With your help, I have lived the life I had always wanted to live.  With your help, I have become the person I always wanted to be.” May it be so and may you bring it to life for the Glory of God and the betterment of all who cross your path.




All that is left for me to do is to announce your place in the covenant of marriage.  It is a covenant long in the making in this state but always understood and honored by anything deserving of the name, ‘God,’ or ‘religion,’ or even, ‘love.’   You have fashioned this covenant with 30 years of honesty, letting go of what didn’t work and the courage to expect you could find almost all the love you’d ever need in yourself and in your partner.  Your covenant is a great gift to the institution of marriage. 


I ask you here to offer prayers of gratitude for what these two have done and prayers of support as well.   Though barriers are lowered, the challenges they face are not over.  Help them know as they walk into the future they will never walk alone.  And when they kiss, I want you to cheer, and rush forward to congratulate them and scream with such joy that there will be no one in this land who will ever dare to think they can stand in the path of this love with the intention to tear it asunder.  For it is Love’s own covenant.  And it is in your hands.  You may now kiss your beloved.



I am honored to present to you for the first time as legally married in the state of California, Pat Tise and Marlene Mahoney