This afternoon, family from all over – the family we only see once a year, the other family that we only see at weddings and funerals, the family who has never met my kids – will gather for the first wedding of the grandkids.

Our oldest niece is getting married.

I’ve been watching my brother-in-law through this process, and in watching him, wondering how his brother, my husband, will do if and when it’s his daughter.

Back at the beginning of the month, I was working with a groom in our parish as he prepared for his wedding and we worked out the details of their rental of our activity center. A couple from our parish was helping him, and the wife turned to me as they were leaving and asked me what advice I’d give him on his wedding day.

Most advice, I’ve found, is unwarranted and the source of eye-rolling incidents, so I sputtered and said something jokey and spent the rest of the day thinking about it.

What advice WOULD I give a couple on their wedding day?

But, in considering this, I can’t help but stop…what do I know about marriage, after all? November marks our fifth wedding anniversary, and I don’t pretend to know a lot based on that.

I’ve observed plenty during my years as a daughter, but, again, I’m not sure that my conclusions are worth sharing.

The thing is, I hesitate because I don’t want to be hypocritical and – I have to face it – I want to be heard. After some thought, I decided those are pretty lame reasons, so here goes.

My advice is pretty easy to remember – though hard to practice sometimes – and based on the realities I’ve observed from real-life marriages of people I’ve known and lived with.

Marriage is not – can’t be – a 50/50 proposition. There’s no “equality” in the sense of sharing every responsibility – and that’s how it should be. Marriage is 100/100 all the time, and 80/20, 70/30, 40/60, 10/90 for the specifics. It’s a 100 percent commitment – not based on feel-good times, but on the choice to love through it all. (I’m not addressing the exceptions here…abuse, etc.)

The advice I’ll give our niece tonight, if she asks (and maybe if they don’t)…Be nice to each other. The feelings will change and the human attention span is short and no one is perfect (especially your spouse!).

Some more words of wisdom I’ve found on the topic of marriage (for anyone so inclined):

About the image: Taken by my friend Heather, who captured not only my favorite of all the wedding photos, but also exactly how I wanted my wedding to be – the first of our days together, smiling and laughing.