Throughout our youth, most of us devote a great deal of time to answering the question, “Where do I belong?” The need for a tribe—a community of connected, caring people whose traditions help us build our individual identity—is as old as mankind itself. It’s shaped our evolution as a species and propelled us to create artwork, literature, and mythology in order to capture the unique spirit of our customs and traditions.

In a world that feels increasingly divided with each passing year, it’s worthwhile to ask ourselves where this group connection, this sense of community, begins. What is the anchor that binds us together, uniting young and old alike? What propels us to overcome our differences and work together? Most would say this process starts within the family, but behind every family, there’s a love story—one that leads to marriage.

On the day when a couple—like Sandy and Elie, the beautiful Lebanese bride and groom pictured here—gets married, two families unite, for perhaps the first time. Stories are shared, new friendships are made, and the bedrock of a support network for the couple is laid down. Distant relatives are brought closer to the heart of the family, and relations who have not seen one another for many years are often reunited. Family members who, in the past, had their differences, will often smooth things out and forgive one another, moved by the spirit of love that pervades at a wedding. Friends, too, are an essential piece of this forming community; when you make a friend a part of your wedding ceremony—a bridesmaid or best man—he or she feels like a part of the family for perhaps the first time. Even myself, in shooting this Maronite wedding photography in Cyprus for Sandy and Elie, had a moment of fond recollection and connection: It turned out that Sandy’s wedding dress was made by an acquaintance named Cynthia (owner of Something Blue Boutique), whose wedding I had also photographed.

It’s the marriage ceremony’s ability to connect not just couples, but also families and whole communities, that lies at the heart of the Maronite traditions seen in Sandy and Elie’s Maronite wedding photography in Cyprus. For Maronites, a group of adherents to the Catholic faith who dwell in Lebanon, wedding ceremonies involve a beautiful ancient tradition known as the “Crowning.” Bride and groom do not simply exchange vows and rings; at the end of the ceremony, they are crowned King and Queen by the presiding priest. This symbolism sends a powerful message: A married couple is not an isolated unit, but instead, man and wife preside over their own little “kingdom” of home and family. As the website Maronite Heritage explains, “The Mystery of crowning reflects the mystical wedding that eternally unifies Jesus and the Church. Crowning signifies the beginning or establishment of a new kingdom which is based on mutual love.”

Crowning also represents the victory of Christ—and the power of love—over destructive influences like anger, greed, and envy. In this way, it anchors each couple, family, and community in the principles of fairness, generosity, gratitude, forgiveness, and acceptance. Sandy and Elie’s Maronite wedding, like every Maronite wedding in Limassol, reminds us that a better world starts here, with us, reaching out to connect with one another. Only in doing so can we fully realize our blessings and create a little bit of paradise on Earth.