“Promises are made to be broken” so the saying goes. Aren’t vows akin to promises?
Doesn’t the North American divorce rate provide the proof in the pudding that vows do get broken – not to mention the other divorcing couples around the world who seem to have forgotten that the “death do us part” refrain was something they said not too long ago?
Still, even if vows were going to be broken, they’re still very much a part of a marriage; at least it is comforting to know that when vows are expressed during a wedding ceremony, the marrying couple was sincere at that time, and considered the institution of marriage as an everlasting and fixed asset of their future. If the world goes haywire once in awhile, why shouldn’t couples do as well?
Divorces and separations happen everyday; in spite of this, however, vows make up the core essence of a couple’s love for each other. Vows are the words that put a nice, finishing seal to a contract, an inherent element of the marriage ritual. Besides, you have to admit, when you attend a wedding and listen to the spoken vows of both the man and woman, that’s when the tears come flooding. When the groom speaks his words of love and commitment in his shaky and crackling voice, something pierces at your heart and you start to feel fuzzy all over, like watching a very romantic film unfold before your eyes. That’s when the silence in the church becomes deafening, when everyone stops talking so they can take it all in: the words, the texture of the voice, the look in the couple’s eyes.
Vows are the most emotional moment of a wedding ceremony. And Cupid’s not giggling about it.
It would help if we could veer away from tradition and just “walk the talk” when expressing a vow. It would be so refreshing to hear the bride say:
“Hey dude, I dig ‘ya. I promise to love you, iron your shirts, cook you a hot meal, and not nag you to bring the garbage out, in exchange for a credit card with no spending caps, half the house, and 85% of your stock options. We can discuss your company pension at a later time, subject to confirmation.”
See if that type of vow would trigger a teardrop. Stark truth, isn’t it? But, let’s not get carried away. A wedding vow is a wedding vow is a wedding vow. Respect for tradition reigns!
If the modern and 21st century vow has no place yet in today’s ceremonies, how do we craft, slice and dice our wedding vows?
Writing your Vows
Writing your vows entails some hard work. You need to put on your thinking cap and choose your words carefully. You’ll probably go through a dozen revisions until you’re absolutely certain that the finished product reflects the REAL you. Take heart, though. No matter how difficult it is to filter the words, vows are traditionally brief. That’s why they speak heaps of eloquence – the fact that they’re brief make them that more special.
If you find you’re at a loss for words, go into the web and cyberspace will provide some guidelines. Your vow can be a straightforward pledge, a romantic poem, a prayer. Some couples even choose an appropriate quote.
If you look at a sample of wedding vows – they share some common components. For example, in a Catholic and Jewish wedding vow, the acknowledgement of a husband and wife is evident (“I take you as my lawful wife/husband”). The promise to love and cherish each other is another component. The third component is the “forever and ever” part – equivalent to the “death do us part” segment of most vows.
As long as you have these three components which essentially make up the vow, you can word it to suit your tastes. Just remember, however, that no matter how modern our society is, the “dude” vow that we mentioned earlier hasn’t earned its rightful place – especially in a church.
If you happen to be Quaker, your vow would be similar to the Catholic or Jewish wedding vow: God and friends as witnesses are mentioned, the promise to cherish and the “as long as we both shall live” parts are also integral to the Quaker wedding vow.
Before you sit down to draft your vow, use these tips. Putting on some soft, meditative-like music might help. Try to ease your mind away from the office regional meetings and let it enter a poet’s mind.
- Pick out a central idea: shy away from the notion of romantic love for a change because it is an overused, clichéd theme. Perhaps you can focus on your turning point – that particular moment when you realized you couldn’t live the rest of your days without her;
- Allow yourself to daydream for a few minutes: close your eyes and pretend you’re in the company of angels who are blowing their trumpets and smiling down at you because you found the love of your life. Ah, guardian angels of my youth…;
- Then narrow down your central idea. The central idea that predominates of course is love, that your future spouse is the one person you’ll have at your side the rest of your life. By narrowing it down, ask yourself “why” – why did you choose her? Her sense of humor, her sense of justice…?;
- Write down your thoughts just like you’re speaking to your spouse; let the words flow naturally and effortlessly;
- Read the vow aloud. Is it you, does it sound like you mean it and is it the classical and accurate representation of your love? You may want to practice saying the vow in front of a buddy. If he starts to giggle, don’t worry. It’s most likely not the vow itself he’s laughing at, but the fact that he never thought of you as the marrying type and it’s making him nervous…
When you’re satisfied, be sure you show it to the officiant who will decide whether or not it is appropriate. Nine times out of ten, most personalized vows are acceptable, as long as they do not deviate radically from custom and norm.
Wedding Vows -Use Action Verbs!
You may choose a traditional, non-traditional or religious vow, but you can replace some oft-repeated phrases and words by injecting more dynamic verbs so that the vow doesn’t sound like a stale or rehashed version of an old and tested replica from bygone days.
Here are some verbs that may add that bit of zing…
Endeavor / ponder / take over / attend to your needs / fulfill your desires / motivate / encourage / refresh / inspire / laugh / face the challenge / drive / plan our future / participate / be your ally / nurture / respect / color (our lives) / take responsibility for / be your hero and true partner / support
You wouldn’t want to sound like Shakespeare unless you really are huge fan of his works, but sometimes very old English isn’t well understood by the younger members of your wedding entourage.
Plus you wouldn’t want to sound like an intellectual snob either!