I didn’t become opinionated about marriage vows until after I got married and attended weddings where the vows weren’t done to my liking.
Take, for example, my biggest pet peeve about marriage vows — when ministers rehearse the vows during the rehearsal. After sitting through a rehearsal where the couple literally said “I do,” Erich got up and said, “Well, we don’t need to come back tomorrow.”
Another pet peeve is when the minister feeds the vow to the couple: “I, So and So.” Pause. “Take you, So and So.” Pause. It irritates me when the minister, who has talked too long and made too many lame jokes already, cheerfully and loudly says these sacred vows as if people ought to pay attention to him instead of the soft-spoken couple, who are, of course, never miced.
My friend says it makes her feel like the minister is getting married to the couple. I don’t feel quite the same way, but yes, it’s awkward. One minister got around the problem by whispering the vows to the couple. I loved that. All ears were on the beautiful couple, and the pauses emphasized the sincerity and commitment in each line of the vow. Well-done, minister.
Since I didn’t know about this whisper method, Erich and I read our vows. (Erich knew that if he tried memorizing his, he’d forget it right as he opened his mouth.) We chose to read traditional marriage vows for our wedding. Erich, the traditionalist who never considered an outdoor wedding as an option, wasn’t interested in writing personalized vows.
And me? Frankly, I was afraid of writing our wedding vows. Three reasons:
(1) I didn’t want to look back on my wedding vows and cringe at the writing style.
(2) I didn’t want to make promises I couldn’t keep. Promising to laugh at all his jokes, treat him with kindness, and greet him with a smile each day — well, I don’t laugh at all his jokes; I’m not always kind; and I definitely won’t be smiling all the time.
(3) I once attended a wedding where the couple declared their love for each other rather than promised their love to each other. I’m not sure that counts as marriage. Does that count as marriage? It might not count as marriage. I didn’t want to risk it.
So I ended up reading off a folded piece of paper, glancing into his eyes and back down, the words I had longed to say: “I, Bailey Elizabeth Bergmann, take you, Erich Michael Steger, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in plenty and in want, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.”
But that vow to my beloved came after a vow we made to God — a prayer we read together, compiled from Scripture. It made the point that our vows weren’t just to each other before God; our vows were to God before each other. Plus, it got rid of that long pause where the reader comes up, figures out how to turn on the microphone, and fumbles through 1 Corinthians 13.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
We invoke your name and your presence over us as we make our marriage vows.
May we cleave to each other, transforming dust and bone into one flesh.
May we be faithful to one another, always intoxicated by the other’s love.
May we submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind; doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility counting the other more significant than ourselves; looking not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of the other; having this mind among ourselves, which is ours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
If you bless us with children, may we not exasperate them but bring them up in the joy of the Lord.
May we govern our household with wisdom. Bless our work; feed us with the food that is needful for us, lest we be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” or lest we be poor and steal and profane the name of our God.
Whatever comes in our marriage and our future life, let our hearts say, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.” Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, yet we will rejoice in the Lord; we will take joy in the God of our salvation.
For this reason, we bow our knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of your glory you may grant us to be strengthened with power through your Spirit in our inner being, so that Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith—that we, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
“That’s too long,” Erich told me.
What can I say? I’m a writer. I’m wordy. Hence, I didn’t write my own marriage vows.
What did or will you do for your marriage vows? I’d love to know!