Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bret and Lucie's Wedding!!

Now that I have some down time, I figured it’s time to blog about my brother’s wedding. It was this last Saturday, and it was an incredible event! My brother (Bret) has been living in Prague, Czech Republic for roughly the last 6 years. During most of that time, he’s been dating a very sweet Czech girl named Lucie Fricova. Almost every time we’ve seen Bret when we’ve traveled to Europe or when he’s flown home, we’ve seen Lucie as well, and thus have had many opportunities to get to know her. She’s an incredible person, so we were excited and supportive of Bret when he told us that he proposed to her last Valentine’s Day. Well, the day came yesterday, and it was a great celebration.

We arrived in Prague about 5 days before the wedding, and spent time doing a combination of sight-seeing and helping Bret and Lucie with various items to prepare for the wedding (mainly my dad and I getting fitted for our tuxes with Bret, but there were other small things). This was our third trip to Prague, so we didn’t feel the need to do a whole lot of sight-seeing around, but it is an incredible city, and I highly recommend anyone go to visit. Most of my extended family was not able to come, other than my oldest aunt and uncle from PA. But many of my parents friends from their care group/bible study from PCC were able to come out! We were joined by Don and Marian Block, Bill and Ute Hayes, and Phyllis Brown. All of our actual relatives are in the Midwest and on the East coast, so these other folks are like a second family to Bret and I, so it was wonderful to have them there to celebrate.

Prague Castle

My dad and I with the Prague Golem
Tyn Church in Old Town Square

My parents and I

Dinner with Lucie's family

The wedding itself was at a castle about an hour’s drive outside of Prague in a place called Krivoklat. It was the first day-trip date that Bret and Lucie went on together, so it was a fitting location for them to get married. It’s a small charming town, and the castle is very cool (most of us were able to get a great tour of the castle the morning of the wedding). They got married on a pathway on one side of the castle, underneath an archway. While the weather wasn’t the greatest at the start of the day, the clouds and wind mostly cleared up by the time of the wedding, so it was very nice and comfortable outside. Lucie looked beautiful, and all of us were incredibly joyful about the whole thing.

Some shots of Krivoklat Castle

The happy couple

We could take James Bond on!!

Czech weddings are quite interesting. The Czech Republic is predominantly atheist, which is ironic considering how many cathedrals there are in Prague. Like most of Europe, they have a very rich religious history, but Communism really does do a lot to wipe out any sentimentality towards religion or spirituality. I often explain that in the US, most people will say they’re spiritual or that they believe in God. In the Czech Republic, people aren’t even all that spiritual. Most don’t bother to take the time to have any concept of God, let alone Jesus. The worldview is really simple – just enjoy life and be a good person. It will probably be another generation or two before any sense of spiritual renewal among Czechs becomes prominent. Needless to say, Lucie is an atheist, and Bret likewise doesn’t have any faith beliefs or practices that are part of his life. So, when they asked me to speak at their wedding, I knew it was going to be a unique experience.

Because of the lack of religion, the typical Czech wedding is more about the legal issues of marriage than anything else. Love and relationships are definitely talked about, but what’s most highlighted are the legal bindings of marriage. The person that performs the ceremony is a registrar who works for the government, someone who has no personal relationship with the bride and groom. But Bret and Lucie wanted their wedding to be more substantial, which I think is part of the reason why they asked me to speak. The wedding was done with a translator, and I spoke in between the portions where the registrar spoke.

Bret and Lucie asked me speak at their wedding maybe 6 months or so ago, so my ideas for what to say had been marinating in my mind for a long time. I told Bret that out of my own personal convictions, I had to talk about God in my message. I didn’t mention Jesus, but I talked about how God has created us to love and be in loving relationships, and that God helps us to love when we fall short (if you want to read my message, it’s posted here). Finally about a week before we left for Europe, I sat down to write the wedding homily, and emailed it off to Bret and Lucie to make sure it met their approval. They approved the first draft, absolutely loving it! I was amazed, as I expected that I would have to write 2 or 3 more drafts. Lots of prayer went into the writing, my speaking, and ultimately into how it was received by everyone, but particularly Bret and Lucie. Thanks to all of you who were praying about this, the fruit of it came through incredibly! Everybody enjoyed the message, as I received a lot of encouraging compliments from our friends and family, and from many of Bret and Lucie’s friends and family. During the reception afterwards, I definitely had a lot of fun but interesting conversations with people about Christianity, but more about my desire to be a youth pastor. Most people there think I want to be a priest!

After the ceremony, we moved on to take pictures in the castle courtyard and then the reception. The family and wedding party had a special dinner separate from everyone else. We had a fabulous dinner, but the rest of the guests’ buffet options looked quite good as well (they were slow roasting a whole pig and served it!) During our dinner, Bret and Lucie had to eat the soup out of the same bowl, and had a large bib wrapped around both of them! I guess that’s the Czech version of the bride and groom feeding cake to each other. It was pretty funny. Both my dad and my uncle gave toasts, but who knows if Lucie’s family understood or not (the translator from the ceremony said his job was done for the day!).

Eating soup with a giant bib!

Cutting the cake

After cake, the dancing began. Bret and Lucie’s choice in music was also interesting, because Bret’s not really a fan of mainstream pop or rock and roll music (mostly industrial, electronic, and drum & bass). He loves DJ-ing, and had one of his friends run the music. Not too many of the songs were really dancing songs, but Bret and Lucie and others managed to work with it. Early on, they played a few traditional Czech polka songs, and a man who was a longtime friend of Lucie’s family was a very good dancer. Bret and Lucie, meanwhile, faked it, and then polka’d right out of the room together!

Various dancing shots. Can you tell which ones are the polka ones?

I like this one in particular.

Another Czech tradition that is unique to us is the kidnapping and ransoming of the bride. At some point in the evening, the groom’s friends kidnap the bride, take her to a bar or pub and begin to get her drunk with a bunch of shots. The groom has to come find her and pay the tab to “ransom” her back. Fortunately, Bret knew about the tradition, and only noticed Lucie was gone after about 20 minutes or so. And because Krivoklat is a really small town, there were only two or three possible places where she could be. So they found her pretty quickly before the tab got too expensive!

Sorry that this is such a long post, but it was quite a day, and worth taking the time to tell of the highlights and how special it was. I know for me, it was a great day to see my brother and Lucie get married, as they truly are in love with each other. I’m confident that God spoke and said what needed to be said. I’m thankful for all the encouragement and affirmations I received from my friends and family. I even got to pray for Bret before the ceremony started, something I haven’t done with him for a VERY long time. Everything turned out great, and I’m thankful that God provided and guided and spoke through the whole thing. Who knows, maybe God planted a few seeds in Bret and Lucie’s hearts and minds. Keep praying for them to come to know Jesus. I confess I’ve had my doubts in the past (and sometimes still do) but am hopeful nevertheless.

Bret and Lucie Wedding Message

This was the message that I gave when I spoke at my brother's wedding:

Friends and Family,

We are gathered here today to celebrate Bret and Lucie as they enter a new stage of life together in the bonds of marriage. They have chosen to marry each other because of their great love for each other, because of the commitment to each other, and because they wish to declare their love in the presence of those closest to them. Their relationship has been quite a journey, hasn’t it? Can you believe, Bret, that it has only been about 6 years since you decided to leave everything familiar in the United States and come here to Prague to begin a new stage in life? Did you ever expect that it would lead you here, to marry the woman who has not only become the love of your life, but whom also has become your best friend? Probably not, I assume. Or Lucie, did you ever think that you would fall in love with an American aspiring-artist-turned English teacher? Maybe, maybe not, some people aim very high!

Nevertheless these two found each other. And what has been amazing about their relationship is their commitment that they have demonstrated to each other even from the earliest stages. The quality about Lucie that Bret always pointed out from early on was how sweet and kind Lucie is, and how she desires to take care of people in need, doing so with a grateful heart. There’s a reason she enjoys her work with Unicef. She wouldn’t be so good at it if it she didn’t care so deeply about helping people around the world in need. Their first meeting late one night at a bar in Prague speaks to that caring quality of hers. My parents and I have never learned the full extent of Bret’s (*cough*) state of mind that night, and something tells me we never will! Bret was still new to Prague and had yet to fully learn his way around the city, particularly how to get back home. But Lucie clearly saw that Bret was in no condition to take care of himself that evening. So she did what came natural to her – stepped in and gave a caring hand by opening up her home for him to stay for the night. And after encountering each other enough times after that, their dating relationship began.

Bret also demonstrated a commitment to Lucie early on. When Lucie began having some health problems, Bret stood by her to make sure that she was being taken care of properly. I don’t think they had been seeing each for that long, or if their ability to speak in English to each other was very developed. Bret has often joked with us how Lucie’s English improved significantly in their time together, but his Czech was much farther behind. But Bret knew that Lucie needed someone to help her through her sudden changes. And in the long run, they have helped each other become better people, ultimately learning to love each other through the different seasons of life.

You see my dear friends, we are created to love each other. With all my heart, I believe that God has created each person on this planet with the desire and the capacity to love. It is why we need our families, why we need a community of friendships. God has created us to love, and calls us to show that love in real, tangible ways. We are God’s creation, and because of that, we seek love and desire to show love for each other because of the love that God has for us. Let me read to you a passage that describes what this love that God calls us to looks like.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

This is real love. Love is always shown in our actions with each other. But let’s be honest, we can often make a lot of mistakes along the way as we try our best to love each other. Bret and Lucie have been through many things together, and have worked through them. And they will continue to struggle together. But they are committed to each other, because today they are swearing their total love and devotion to each other, a commitment that requires us to give every bit of ourselves to. And I believe that in the times we are unable to love each other to the fullest degree possible – with patience, kindness, without boasting or anger like those lines I just read to you – it is in those times that God helps us and gives us the ability to love each other when we feel like we have nothing of ourselves left to give! That is how potent and how important love is, and why marriage is such a huge deal.

I like to think of the marriage commitment that Bret and Lucie are making today as a covenant relationship. A covenant relationship is a love relationship that is defined by the most intense commitment, the greatest passion, and the greatest desire to remain together through the thick and thin. It is the kind of love relationship that fails to be captured only with words, but is always being demonstrated in their actions, in their time together, and in guiding each other on this journey of life together. It is a vow that is not and should not be taken lightly. It is the kind of relationship that when you see two people like Bret and Lucie together demonstrating their love for each other and to those around them alongside each other, that people look and say, “Wow! That is real, that is special, and that is good!” I can’t think of a greater calling for two people in love than to make this kind of commitment to each other. And it’s because of this vow, this commitment, this covenant, that Bret and Lucie have so much to look forward to as they enter this new and exciting stage of life together.