Here's to the newlywedsGetting married is akin to setting out on an endless ocean voyage with only one other passenger onboard. At least that's a good standard for picking a mate. Make sure you're compatible best friends, and start figuring how to navigate through all conflicts and challenges, the inevitable storms and doldrums.

Many seem to put less effort into selecting a spouse than they would in picking a new pet, and see both as disposable whenever they become inconvenient.

In our culture and others in which divorce has become commonplace, we've been instilled with an entirely false idea that marriage should always be fun, a first date without end. And it should be fun sometimes, but it isn't always. You can hate each other's guts once in awhile, or even be bogged down in mutual despair from time to time, but still love one another and drive on through to another brighter day.

I'll get teased, but I confess to sometimes voluntarily watching Dr. Phil, the TV family counselor. Without getting all doped-up on sentimentality and sensitivity, he listens calmly, and then cuts through all the cover stories people concoct to shield themselves from taking responsibility for their own actions and lives.

He doesn't pretend everything can be worked out every time - we're all humans, not saints or angels. But I think Dr. Phil agrees with this bit of ancient Hebrew wisdom: "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life ... Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest."

Work at it, rejoice in it, and really listen to each other - you ain't going to live forever.

I Once was the kind of horrible best man that brides write advice columnists about (sorry again, Jenny). Another Bible quote assures us "There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not, " and I've surely tested that proposition. (I hasten to add not to the extent of, say, Jules in Pulp Fiction.)

In the context of marriages, the sins I'm inclined to admit to at present include bringing my Labrador retriever and making up my toast at the spur of moment after too many beers. So it was a pleasure attending a wedding last weekend where everyone had practiced their lines, though I do recall seeing a dog at one point.

My friends Kathryn Brown and Andrew Picken had one of the best weddings I can recollect or conceive, bringing together scores of friends and relations from across the country to the lawn and home of Steve and Brenda Forrester in Astoria Saturday afternoon. Dozens of kids and babies mingled with people up into their 90s. Even if marriage is a voyage for two, Kathryn and Andrew are accompanied by an energetic and loving crew.

Ocean fishing last Thursday with Andrew and his medical school friends was a good reminder, too, of some complementary wisdom about marriage. It's necessary to maintain some space for yourself, for your own interests and enthusiasms. Being married doesn't mean ceasing to be an individual. Kathryn and Andrew somehow make each other more complete in charming and refreshing ways, two interesting people whose marriage will be more than the sum of its impressive parts.

September's a popular month for weddings on the coast (Donna's and my sixth anniversary is coming right up), and my friend and advertising manager Sondra Nash will be marrying her beloved, Jim Eaton, at Oysterville Church Saturday.

Speaking from personal experience, Oysterville's a wonderful place to be married, steeped in history, tradition and inspiring scenery. The old church, schoolhouse and elegantly simple (but awfully expensive) residences up and down Territorial Road are as close as Washington comes to England's Cotswolds.

Sondra and Jim, too, make a great couple. I hope Oysterville's enduring strength will rub off on them, as it did Donna and me.

A marriage is one of those great, ultimate reminders of the turning gears of time, of the power that flows from generation to generation among the hopeful and brave.

Here's to the newlyweds.

- M.S.W.

Matt Winters is editor of the Chinook Observer

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