Cheerleaders

I have weddings on the brain. This summer, we’ve been to three, my husband has officiated two of those, and some friends of ours have recently gotten engaged. That’s not even mentioning the way that my newsfeed takes on a distinctly matrimonial feel every weekend.

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 My brother and his wife. Photo Credit: Melissa Yocum Photography

I’m nearly seven years removed from my wedding. There was no such thing as Pinterest or hashtags back then. Mason jars were still only used for jelly and our photographer didn’t even offer us digital copies of our pictures. A lot has changed in the wedding world.

One tradition that has become a little blurred came to mind at the wedding we were at this weekend. I arrived early because my husband was officiating and just picked a seat near the middle. A few other friends arrived and sat next to me for a bit until someone told us that we should scoot across the aisle so that we would be on the bride’s side. Of course, I knew what they were talking about; the traditional bride’s side/ groom’s side thing but we all thought that tradition had gone the way of scaffolding on wedding cakes.

I understand the meaning and tradition behind this practice. In fact, we had a bride’s side and groom’s side at our wedding. As the years have gone by though, I’ve realized that I have a bit of a hard time with the implications of it. In my mind, on my wedding day, my family and friends were adopting Scott as their own and his for me. We were becoming one so there was no way that they could be there only for me or only for him.

In my mind, there’s no room for division on a wedding day.

There will come a time in any marriage where disagreements will be had, fights will be picked and that beautiful bride and handsome groom will pick a side. She’ll have her thoughts and he’ll have his and tensions might run high in the moment and that’s when they will look to those people in their lives to support them.

That’s when all of those guests will come to mind and those same guests will have a choice, will they pick a side or will they support the couple as one, as a team?

Because that’s what a marriage is. A team sport that only allows two players on the field. They are both on the same side, both play offense, both play defense, they wear the same number and move in lock step. The roster began and finished on their wedding day and from that day forward, they are teammates working toward the same goal.

That wedding day had a lot of other people there too and although it may look like it, all of those people sitting in the audience were not spectators. They are not on the team but they don’t sit idly by and watch the show either.

They can be one of two things: hecklers, or cheerleaders.

A heckler is the friend that points fingers at the one who is wrong. They say things like “how dare he?!” or “I would end it right now!” Hecklers allow for division, for time outs, for laziness and fumbles, and they wallow in the mistakes on the field. Hecklers are the people that pick a side and never leave it.

A cheerleader though is something different all together. They are on the field with you, pulling for your marriage. When you’re tired, they don’t let you quit. When you haven’t had a winning season, they remind you of the times that you did, the ones where love and life were easy. They are loud with their praise and their support is strong. But here’s the most important thing about a cheerleader, they cheer for the team, not the players.

A cheerleader doesn’t pick a side. They pick the couple.

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Now of course, I’m not saying that if you’ve gone to a wedding and sat on either side, you are not cheering the couple on. The problem comes later.

Later when the white dress is boxed away and all the cake has been eaten. When kids have entered the picture and not so nice actions speak louder than words. Later on, when that couple has seen just how perfect and just how imperfect the other person is and when love becomes a choice instead of feeling.

Those times are the equivalent of fourth and long with 30 seconds left on the clock. When every thought, every move counts and when exhaustion is threatening to take over. It’s in those moments that the cheerleaders shine.

Encouragement is powerful. It brings hope and energy, life and purpose back to the game. A cheerleader in your marriage will remind you that you play for a team not for yourself and that you picked that teammate for deep and unending reasons. A cheerleader knows what’s on the line and sees the imperfections, but chooses to shout the good with their every word.

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Photo Credit: Melissa Yocum Photography

That’s the kind of friend you want in your life. One that isn’t going to fuel the fires of rage and exhaustion. A friend that looks at you in those moments of your marriage and says “I know it’s hard but you’re on the team. You can’t quit now.” You need a friend that loves you and your spouse so that when either of you messes up, they can look past it and help you do the same.

Every marriage needs cheerleaders. Every couple needs people that see them as one, someone that’s there for both of them, and that won’t choose a side. The game will get rough, but cheerleaders remind you to keep your head up, and play for the win.