Column: July Fourth and sundry weddings

careyWhen my family first moved to Rye 58 years ago, there was no official Rye celebration of Independence Day. Before we got a city manager, the City Council may have felt it had enough to do already running the departments of local government without a full-time professional administrator. After all, there was always Playland or the Rye Town Park to visit on the fourth if you did not belong to a private club.

The lack of any Rye Independence Day festivities bothered me, so, upon being elected mayor in 1973, I resolved to see what could be done about it. There was no shortage of talent in town, so all we had to do was to plan an attractive program. Our first thought was to bring the events of the 1770s back home to Rye from Lexington, Bunker Hill, Quebec City and Philadelphia.

There was an event in Rye before the Declaration that presaged Jefferson’s draftsmanship in 1776. A group of Rye citizens gathered in the Square House to vent their anger at the British Crown. Their rhetoric was not as high-flown as that of the future third president, but the passion was similar, and some of the phraseology was so like Jefferson’s as to suggest that he borrowed from it in 1776.

These facts are not generally spoken of, but I do hope that school teachers, at least in Rye and vicinity, use the pre-Declaration Rye Resolution to inspire their students.

At one of our July 4 celebrations in the late 1970s, we were able to portray three Revolutionary heroes who came here from foreign countries, France, Germany and Poland, using local residents with origins in those same places.

Now I switch to another subject, another mayoral privilege, officiating at marriage ceremonies. This is also a judicial privilege, so after my eight years as Rye Mayor were up, in due course came appointment, and then election, as a judge, so the privilege continued. Even in retirement from the judiciary, the privilege survives, and a few days ago I had the joy of acting as the official witness at a splendid wedding, a marriage that I feel will grow and flourish over many years.

I have a file several inches thick with records of weddings I have presided at over the years. Memories flood back as I leaf through the pages. There is one wedding that is not recorded, in which the bride physically dragged the reluctant groom into City Hall. Fortunately, it was after hours, so there were no other witnesses. The man did audibly mumble “I do,” so the new relationship was cemented, legally if not romantically.

Some of the ceremonies were carried on in languages other than English. When the language was Spanish, I had a reliable interpreter providing simultaneous verbatim translation. When it was French, my half-dozen years of schooling in that tongue was all I needed to preside. There was one mixed-language ceremony at which this unforgettable phrase was heard:

“Si quelqu’un parmi vous s’oppose avec juste raison a cetteunion, qu’il le dise maintenant, ou alors qu’il se taise pour toujours.”

Rough translation: “If anyone has just reason to oppose this union, speak now or forever hereafter hold your peace.”

This reminded Pat and me of the stirring admonition voiced  at our own wedding: “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” A more up-to-date version would no doubt warn, “let no one putasunder.”

A German-speaking friend provided me with the following in that tongue in case of need: “Wenn jemand begruenden kann warum dieser Mann unddiese Frau nicht im Stand der heiligen Ehe verbunden sein sollten, dann moegederjenige jetzt sprechen oder fuer immer schweigen.”

Then there was the outdoor wedding near the east end of Long Island Sound, at which I was given a text to sing, beginning with, “To life, to life, L’Chaim, L’chai-im, L’chiam to life; Here’s to the bride and the groom to be, Here’s to the family. Drink, L’chiam to life.”

I make no apology for the spelling or syntax; this is exactly how it was given to me in writing.

I like that, whether or not it is accurate.

I also like the following Spanish text, in which I have changed the names of the parties:“Usted, Luis, toma a Maria como su devote esposa para el bien, por el mal, enriqueza y pobresa, para tener siempre de este dia hasta siempre?” Luis: “Si,acepto.”