I’d Do It All Again

Today is the 18th Anniversary of the day my bride walked down the aisle to be by my side. It was a beautiful May day on the eastern shore of Virginia. All of our families and most of our friends were there, and later that day when we headed off to our honeymoon, nearly every detail had unfolded exactly as planned.

Since that day we have, spawned four children, owned three houses, churned through nine different cars, and two dogs. My wife and I have served more meals, wiped more butts, washed more clothes, and driven more miles than either of us could possibly count.

We have been blessed with fulfilling jobs, supportive families, good friends and amazing neighbors… but none of what I’ve written so far is the tale I mean to tell.

We were married in a tiny little Catholic Church in Onley, Virginia. The yellow “Fire Marshall” sign on the wall listed the building’s capacity at 120… 118 souls were there to witness the blessed event.

MarriageWhen the mass got to the homily, the priest looked out over those gathered and said, “You are all welcome to listen, but I’m going to be talking directly to these two for the next few minutes.”

There was a polite chuckle across the room of aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents and friends, whose ages ranged from 3 months to 90 years. The priest continued with a few things about love and commitment, but then he got to the crux of his message. He looked directly at my bride and me and said:

Steve, put Emily and her needs above all things, even your children. Emily, put Steve and his needs above all things, even your children. If you both do this, every minute, of every hour, of every day going forward, all the other challenges in your lives will take care of themselves.

He was so sincere and so serious as he spoke to us, I briefly forgot we were at the front of a packed church. In that moment we were the only three people in the world.

The homily ended, the mass continued, songs were sung, communion was received and before we knew it, we were off to the reception. In my in-law’s back yard overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, drinks were poured, food was grilled; and shrimp, clams and oysters were served in a volume normally reserved for the rich and famous.

Speeches were given, toasts were made and glasses were raised over and over again, until it was time for us to leave. As we drove off to our honeymoon on Nantucket, we both knew we’d just had the best wedding ever.

However, I have always drawn a clear distinction between “having a wedding” and “getting married.” Over the sound of the tires crunching down the quarter-mile clam shell driveway, we held hands and knew we’d pulled off both.

I have seen many people spend thousands of hours, and tens of thousands of dollars to “have a wedding” with little or no regard to what it actually takes to be happily and successfully married. But no matter how meticulously planned a shiny, fancy, magical wedding is, marriage boils down to the same two words required by anything worth while… hard work.

When we attended our “Pre-Cana” before we got married, we chose a 36-hour intensive weekend class at a local retreat house. The format went like this:

  • The group would listen together to a presentation on a topic
  • Prospective husbands & wives would go answer questions on that topic separately
  • Each couple would then discuss their individual answers together before returning to the group for further discussion

Each cycle took a little over an hour. About half way thorough the weekend, during a break, Emily was in a bathroom stall when two other women in the group came into the bathroom. With incredulity dripping from her voice one of them said:

Can you believe the subjects they’re having us talk about? I mean, do they want us to fight ALL weekend?

In fact yes, they do. Pre-Cana is considered a success if the process results in the marriage going forward. It is also considered a success if the process clearly illustrates the couple shouldn’t go through with it.

Jobs will be stressful, children will be difficult, schedules will get crazy and money will get tight. No married person out there will argue with me on this.

The key is how you handle the tough times when they come, and for this we have been blessed with the words of Father James Lloyd. I will repeat them:

Steve, put Emily and her needs above all things, even your children. Emily, put Steve and his needs above all things, even your children. If you both do this, every minute, of every hour, of every day going forward, all the other challenges in your lives will take care of themselves.

For those of you who are not married, give this idea serious thought when falling in love and choosing a spouse. If you’re not convinced you both can pull it off, you might reconsider your next steps. If you are married, think about the tough times and how far off you were from what Father Lloyd suggested. I can only speak specifically about my own marriage. That said, I ask you to think about it.

I can say with absolute certainty, the most trying times in our marriage have come when one or both of us failed to follow Father Lloyd’s instructions. Yes, we’re both human, but we both agree the key to success in marriage is rooted in taking care of each other.

The practical meaning of “putting another’s needs above all else” is different for every couple, but deep down I have no doubt you know what to do. Marriage is not a 50/50 split of responsibilities, but rather a team dedicated to a common goal.

I started writing this on a Boy Scout camping trip with my youngest son. Boy Scouts regularly choose to do challenging things as a unit, as a team. Climbing a mountain is something they do, and along every trail there are difficulties, challenges and even moments when they’re not sure they’re going to make it. However, once they get to the top and can look back on what they overcame, the next action is often looking into the distance for a higher peak to climb. Marriage should be no different.


I saw this on a t-shirt at a store near where I was camping with the Boy Scouts – The happily married will understand.

Today we celebrate eighteen years of success. It hasn’t been perfect, and it has been hard work, but it has by far been the best thing I’ve ever done, and continue to do.

Eighteen years ago today we were married with no children in the house. That lasted one year and one week. Next year our oldest will head off to college and five years later all four will be gone, ushering in yet another chapter.

Every day brings joy, surprises, challenges, giggles and tears, and given the choice…I’d do it all again.

The priest who married my wife and me, Father James Lloyd, is truly an amazing human being. Here’s a little video illustrating the point.

Copyright © 2017 – Stephen S. Nazarian – All rights reserved.

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3 thoughts on “I’d Do It All Again

  • Shortly after we were married (50 years ago), my wife found a wall hanging with the words: “The key to a successful marriage isn’t finding the right spouse, it’s being the right spouse” – another way of saying Father Lloyd’s advice. Not easy – especially in today’s world stressing the importance of “self worth”. But if you do it right, being the right spouse and feeling good about yourself are complimentary actions.

  • Steve, first of all, Happy Anniversary! What a wonderful essay and a timely one for me! Our newlywed daughter, Meghan has to be alone for six days as her husband, Chris is going to celebrate a Bachelor get together with “his forever friends.” She spoke to me yesterday about how she “hates” when Chris is away for so long and she is already being moody about his leaving. I read your beautiful essay, watched the video and recalled the very words that Father Jim Scwartz said to Meghan and Chris on their wedding day. He advised them that they should always see the words of St. Paul of love being kind, considerate, never boastful or jealous etched on each of their foreheads. Your Father Loyds advice goes hand in hand with St. Paul’s letter written to the Corinthian’s so very long ago. I have forwarded your blog to Meghan. We miss you back here in Penfield! Hello to Charlotte!

  • Steve what a wonderful article! I hope people that your advice. This world needs more people to have marriages like yours.
    Happy 18th Anniversary and may you be Blessed with many more.

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