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When I was in my 20s, I always cried at weddings. Even if I didn’t really know the bride and groom and was just there as somebody’s plus one: happy tears without fail. I saw every wedding as the peak of joy – the moment when the crush that became infatuation that became love becomes a marriage. A day when the sun shines on the happiness of the bride and groom as they float gracefully off into the sunset.

Over time, I’ve come to understand that a wedding is a whole lot more complicated than that. Every new marriage is, in some ways, like stepping off a cliff while tied to another person. You think you have a plan, but you really can’t know what life has in store. You’re just trusting that you’ll figure it out. That’s actually a pretty scary concept. All that sickness/health, for better/for worse business is serious.

I also think every new marriage comes with shuffled priorities. Many wedding vows include the phrase “forsaking all others,” and that sounds a little extreme, doesn’t it? But it also has to be true, or a new marriage would never work. Sometimes it means small changes — what you eat for Thanksgiving dinner or what time of year you take a vacation. Sometimes it comes with big, big changes — where you live or how you worship. Big or small, those are changes that can be hard for a happy couple, and hard for their families, too. But it seems to me that all of them represent the first steps toward a new marriage becoming a new family with its own memories and traditions.

So it isn’t just one magical moment, and it isn’t always easy, but a wedding is still a joy. What makes it worth it, of course, is the happiness that two people bring each other, and their willingness to join hands and jump, no matter what may lie ahead. It isn’t a happy ending. It’s a happy beginning — the first of a million steps together.

I was at a wedding recently where the bride and groom could hardly look away from each other, and if they could have been floating, I think they would have been. That sure seems like the right place to start.

To my cousins, Kate and Hamza, may your lives together be a love story and a great adventure. Congratulations!

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