My daughter Kelly got married in June. She didn't want a traditional wedding (thank God), so there was a brief but beautiful sunset ceremony in Redington Beach followed by a big party at the nearby home of her new in-laws. No tossing of garters. No shoving cake in each other's faces. No chicken dance. And no speeches.
I'm not much for toasts, anyway, and there's very little to say other than, "I love you more than life itself. I wish you and Jean-Paul all the happiness in the world. Now go make some grandchildren for me."
But, really, what is the best thing to say to two young newlyweds starting a life together? Well, given that marriage is just about the biggest, scariest and most amazing commitment one can ever make (second to having children, of course), perhaps it would be good to share some words of wisdom from people who have been married for years.
Some of the nuggets below were inspired by friends and family. Some are aimed more at the husband and some at the wife. Most apply to all couples, newlywed or not.
So, without further ado …
• If you think she's beautiful, tell her.
• Make dinner together. Eat dinner together. Go to bed together.
• Your fantasy life should revolve around your wife, not your football team.
• Life is short. Say "I love you" at least once every day.
• The more time you spend trying to change your spouse, the less time you have for improving yourself.
• It doesn't matter what you think you're fighting about. It always comes down to a choice between fear and love.
• Write this into your wedding vows: "I promise to faithfully replace the toilet paper whenever I use the last of it."
• Do things together. Do things apart.
• Career, personal goals and family are important, but nothing is more important than your relationship.
• If you've truly forgiven your spouse for something, you'll never bring it up again.
• Be spontaneously ridiculous and unabashedly silly. Make your spouse laugh. It nourishes your souls.
• No one person can give you everything you need.
• Say, "What can I do for you, honey?"
• He's not a mind reader. If you want him to know what you're thinking or feeling, tell him.
• If you make your kids the center of your universe, there's going to be one massive black hole when they finally grow up and leave.
• If you always have to win the argument, you'll eventually lose the relationship.
• Only if she asks: "No, honey, that dress isn't very flattering." (Not, "It makes you look fat.")
• Find someone to talk to about your marriage, but never talk your spouse down to anyone.
• It's actually okay to go to bed angry sometimes, as long as you agree to discuss it in the morning.
• She's your wife, not your mommy. Clean up after yourself.
• It's not your job to make your spouse happy. (It's not possible, either.)
• Create your own holiday traditions.
• Argue naked. It's guaranteed to keep a minor disagreement from turning into a big fight.
• Just because you know where someone's buttons are doesn't mean you have to push them.
• And, finally, here's a great one from Ogden Nash: "To keep your marriage brimming / with love in the wedding cup / whenever you're wrong, admit it / whenever you're right, shut up."
Tim Rozgonyi is the Times' research editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.