I’m not anti-love, anti-romance, or anti-marriage. I married my husband because it made sense for us. It was something that meant something special to us about being bonded together in a sea of chaos and unpredictability. And we wrote our own vows, in fact the entire ceremony, because we wanted to define exactly what this meant to us, not what it meant to our parents, a religious group, or our co-workers. It was a declaration of exactly what we meant to each other, what our hopes for our future were, what our strategies were for coping under stress, how we intended to be strong for the other, how we were going to celebrate each other’s amazing uniqueness. There is simply no way that traditional vows could have encapsulated all of that for us. It would have seemed lacking, like a balloon without air.
HuffPuff had a thought-provoking article asking, “Are our wedding vows antiquated?”
I believe that our traditional wedding vows may be not serving us well at this point in time when we are all filling multiple sets of shoes and have so many competing demands. To review this premise we need to first look at the traditional vows.
Traditional wedding vows: I, (Bride/Groom), take you (Groom/Bride), to be my (wife/husband), to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.
My first question is where is the author getting these traditional vows? From a religious ceremony? A legal one? If they are religion-based, which religion? This sounds to me more like what you hear in the movies, and real people don’t get married in those fantasy sequences. However, the author does go on to say that most vows are outdated and not applicable and that people are delusional if they think those vows will actually become the glue that holds them together when the mortgage is late, a tree has fallen on the house, you haven’t had sex in three months and you just found out your dog needs an expensive surgery.
I agree with her but not exactly for these reasons. Why would you ever quickly mumble through any traditional vows? Wouldn’t vows be a lot more meaningful if people wrote their own? Wouldn’t it help if they were directly tailored to our personalities, struggles, shortcomings, and individual relationship rather than some bulk, one-size-fits-all, general mold?
I remember when Kate and William got married, not because I particularly cared about a young couple an ocean away but because I’m aware of pop culture and I open newspapers. People were so titillated that Kate was refusing to say the “obey” portion of the vows. A collective group of fists rose triumphantly, pumping up in the air, with a world of people chanting, “You go girl.” Everyone was so excited they couldn’t help but squeal about what a modern woman she was.
I say, Bah humbug. If that’s the most unusual thing you do in your wedding ceremony, you’re pretty robotic. Seriously, who uses words like cherish and hold? Are those phrases you and your partner would ever utter to each other under any circumstances? I’m not saying the vows have to blast away any romance and focus on the dirty details like pledging to wash the crust off the forks before you load them in the dishwasher or promising to keep the bathroom door closed when you cut your toenails. In our culture we put these giant bulky fantastical notions on weddings, we think they are the pinnacle of coupled bliss. We think they are the ultimate home run for happily-ever-after devotion. So why don’t we write our own vows more often?
And really don’t give me the “It’s tradition excuse.” Give me something tangible, real, personal and meaningful for you. Tradition is what allowed men to beat their wives, child labor to proliferate, women to burn at the stake as witches, mentally slow children to be institutionalized at birth, priests to sexually abuse without challenge, black men to be lynched in public, etc. Tradition is just another way of saying, “Well this is what I do because it’s what everyone before me did even thought I have no idea why they did it.”
We wrote our vows. Maybe others don’t because they don’t consider themselves a writer. You don’t have to be a great writer (believe me those traditional vows weren’t written by Shakespeare) but you should have thought about what you want out of this ceremony and more importantly your marriage. I bet you could easily articulate what you don’t want: infidelity, dishonesty, a cold shoulder, obtrusive nagging, selfishness, etc. You get the idea. YOu clearly have expecations for what you hope for and what you don’t want. If you plan a wedding, you’ve thought about an open bar, a guest list, the location, the cost, what you’re wearing, your shoes, if there will be music, so is it too much to wonder why people don’t think about writing their own vows?
From our ceremony:
Life is a beautiful mystery. We are here today because many wild and profound events occurred in order for these two to be born, for their parents to be born before them, their grandparents before that, and their great-grandparents, and all the others back into time. It took so many past moments of others falling in love and starting families to end up where we are today, with the two of them promising themselves to one another. You two must not forget the unique reasons that brought you together and that will help you stay together. As you move forward, vowing to be true to one another, you carry on a noble tradition of selflessness, romance, and courage.
In expressing your private affirmations before this gathering, and before me as your legal witness, it is my pleasure to announce that you are partners in life from this day forward. You have married each other through your own design and determination, and we have been your witnesses. May you become a loving family, among the infinite wonders of the universe, and enjoy the precious blessing of peace in your new life together.
You may now begin this next stage of your magnificent journey with a kiss.