At least here on the Cape, it has. It’s May 5th and I had to go put a sweatshirt on before I started writing this morning. I married a lovely couple a short two weeks ago on the beach at Herring Cove, and when I got to the part about “now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other,” I looked at these two poor women turning blue together and we all had to have a chuckle.
But weather notwithstanding, spring is here, and if you’re considering getting married in PTown this summer, now is the time to get your reservations, because guesthouses, inns, and my calendar are all filling up fast!
As more and more states are recognizing marriage equality, you may wonder why coming to Provincetown to get married remains a Good Idea. After all, many of you—thank God, the Goddess, the Universe—can now be married in your own home states. And in many cases, I think that you should.
But destination weddings are really a pilgrimage of sorts, aren’t they? Provincetown holds a very special place in many people’s hearts. For some of you, it represents the first time you were able to walk down the street holding your lover’s hand. For others, it’s simply where you first met. And celebrating Massachusetts as the first state to stand up and declare itself for equality is a moving and (I think) important statement for all of us.
Coming here to be married means standing behind the courage of the Commonwealth, showing that you recognize what it did at a time when it was extremely politically difficult to do so—well, that’s a thank-you of sorts as well, isn’t it?
And frankly, even if that doesn’t touch you, then our beaches, our twisting narrow streets, our whales and our lighthouses must surely convince you!
So … please come to Provincetown in the springtime, to paraphrase the song. We’re here, and we’re very happy to see you. And when you get married … get married in PTown!
There are a lot of good reasons to write your own wedding vows. The most obvious is that they’re personal, they reflect you—both as two persons and also as a couple—and they can reference thoughts and events that are special and unique to you. They also serve to tell your guests a little about how you’re viewing the ceremony and perhaps give them a glimpse of your journey together. In a sense, personalized vows serve to tell each other why you’re there.
In my experience, when asked if they wish to write their own vows, many couples panic. And there’s really no need to! Follow the simple steps below and see if you can’t create something beautiful, lasting, and special for your wedding day. (And if you’re still stuck, remember that I’m available to help!)
The first thing to do is be sure that writing your own vows is something in which the two of you are equally invested. Often one partner really wants to do it, and the other partner really doesn’t! If ever there was a time for clear communication, this is it. Talk to each other. Make a list, if necessary: what are the pros of writing your own vows, and what are the cons? Which of you feels most strongly about it? Which of you is willing to compromise?
What I’m going to suggest here is that you do your vows together. This isn’t the only way to do it, and you can certainly look at the steps below and go through them on your own. I know that many couples want to surprise their soon-to-be-spouse with vows that have been kept secret; that is, of course, your choice. But it’s my view that if you’re looking at making a commitment to lifelong intimacy, that commitment should be something that’s shared. Your mileage may vary!
Once you’ve decided to do it, set aside an afternoon or evening: this isn’t something that should be jotted down in the car, while cooking dinner, or ten minutes before you have to leave for work. Make it a special time: put on some music you both love, reserve a glass of champagne (for when you’re finished: drunken vows don’t look so great the next day!), get comfortable. This is one of the most intimate things you’ll ever do in your relationship, far more intimate in some ways than making love, so acknowledge that and take care to make it a special time.
Have lots of paper and writing utensils nearby, because you will no doubt want to jot ideas down as they come to you. A laptop is fine also. A tape recorder works if you’re not a writing sort of person/couple.
So you’ve taken the first step. You’ve decided you want to write your own vows. Now you have to think about what it is, exactly, that you want to say to each other.
- How did you meet? How did you feel when you met? Was it love at first sight, or did love develop slowly?
- What is the single most wonderful thing about your partner?
- Where do you hope to be 10 years from now as a couple?
- Is there something about your partner that drives you crazy, yet that you can both laugh about?
- How beautiful is your partner in your eyes? Go on, try to put it into words!
- Has your partner ever said anything to you that’s stuck with you, that you find profound and/or significant?
- Imagine your life without your partner in it. Say something about how different that life would be from the one on which you’re embarking.
- What do you most enjoy doing together? What makes that activity special?
- Did you ever dream of getting married? How does the vision you had of marriage match up to what your partner is offering?
- Remember what the vows are for: words of commitment to each other. How would you like to commit yourself to your partner?
Now take a look at your answers to those questions, each of you individually. Are you starting to see a form develop? Is there a way that you can put this marvelous story into words? (Again, if you can’t, it’s not a problem: send me your notes and I can weave them into vows you’ll love.)
Then again, there’s the …
Mad Libs Approach
Remember Mad Libs? Paragraphs in which you needed only to fill in the blanks provided with random nouns, verbs, and adjectives, to create a funny little story? Well, this isn’t random, and it’s (maybe!) not funny, but it’s a viable approach if you feel overwhelmed by the whole process.
(Name), you are my (best friend / one true love / the one I want to spend the rest of my life with / your choice of words). Today, I take you to be my (spouse / wife / husband / life partner / your choice of words). I promise that I will be (faithful / worthy of your trust / worthy of your love / your loving partner / your best friend / your choice of words). I vow to (honor you / cherish you / love you / respect you / laugh with you / cry with you / support you in your goals / your choice of words; this section can include as many phrases as you want), (for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live, or whatever else makes sense for you).
No matter how you do it, writing your own vows can be a wonderful and memorable way to personalize your special day. And when you get married … get married in PTown!
Earlier this week I gave you some examples of the kinds of traditional wedding vows you may wish to choose for your wedding. Today we’ll look at some less-traditional ones.
I take you to be my partner.
To have and to hold from this day forward.
I give to you my unending love and devotion.
I promise to be true to you, to cherish you, and to share my thoughts,
hopes and dreams with you. I look forward to spending the rest of my life
with you, my best friend. I will love you forever.
I promise to be there when you need me,
to fill your days with sunshine,
to comfort you and encourage you,
to help you reach your goals,
to be your best friend ever and to
love you all my life with all my heart.
I give you this ring, wear it with love and joy.
I choose you to be my partner,
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
as long as we both shall live.
I take you to be my lifetime partner,
secure in the knowledge that you will be
my constant friend, and my one true love.
Name, I take you to be my wife/husband from this time onward,
to join with you and to share all that is to come, to be your faithful husband/wife, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond; a commitment made in love, kept in faith, and eternally made new.
I promise to be there when you need me,
to fill your days with sunshine, to comfort you and encourage you,
to help you reach your goals, to be your best friend
ever and to love you all my life with all my heart.
Name, I love you. You are my best friend and will be forever. Today I give myself to you in marriage to be your husband/wife. I promise to encourage you, to laugh with you and to comfort you in times of sorrow. I promise to love you in good times and bad. I promise to cherish and respect you. I vow to be true and faithful for as long as we both shall live. Because of you, I laugh, I smile, I dare to dream again. I look forward to spending the rest of my life with you, caring, loving and being there for you in all life has for us. I will always be the person that you can trust, talk to and the person that will always understand. I will make my home in your heart. These promises I give you today and all of the days of our lifes. Take this ring as a sign of my faith and commitment. Our love has given us wings and our journey begins today.
So there are a few to give you some ideas about what non-traditional, non-religious, contemporary vows might look like. Use one of these if you’d like, or wait until next week when I’ll show you how to write your own! So stay tuned until then … and when you get married, get married in PTown!
I want to talk a little about wedding vows today, because they are, arguably, the central focus of your wedding ceremony. You may choose to use vows that have already been used in the past; you may choose to have someone write your vows for you (I’m happy to do so!); or you may choose to write your own.
In the next few blog articles I’ll be taking you on a tour of wedding vows, from traditional to do-it-yourself. Let me know what you think!
So let’s start with the most traditional vows …
I, (name), take you, (name), to be my lawfully wedded (husband/wife), my constant friend, my faithful partner, and my love from this day forward. In the presence of God, our family and friends, I offer you my solemn vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals, to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you, and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.
I, (name), take you, (name), to be my beloved (wife/husband), to have and to hold you, to honor you, to treasure you, to be at your side in sorrow and in joy, in the good times, and in the bad, and to love and cherish you always. I promise you this from my heart, for all the days of my life.
I, (name), take thee, (name), to be my wedded wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’til death do us part, according to God’s ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my troth.
I vow to be your faithful husband/wife, understanding that marriage is a lifelong union, and not to be entered into lightly, for the purpose of mutual fellowship, encouragement and understanding; for the procreation of children and their physical and spiritual nurture. I hereby give myself to you in this cause with my sacred vow before God.
I take you, (name), to be my wife/husband and I promise before God and all who are present here to be your loving and faithful husband/wife, as long as our lives shall last. I will serve you with tenderness and respect, and encourage you to develop God’s gifts in you.
Ye are blood of my blood, and bone of my bone.
I give ye my body, that we two might be one.
I give ye my spirit, ’til our life shall be done. (Celtic vow)
You and I
Have so much love,
That it burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them.
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
You are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt,
In death we will share one coffin. (medieval vow)
I, (name), take you, (name), as the love of my life. I vow to be patient with you and the circumstances in our lives. I vow to be kind to all people we come across. I vow not to be boastful of our love or about our accomplishments.
I promise to be proud of you, but not proud in love for though I will strive for perfection, I know I can never reach it. I promise not to be quick to anger, but to think before I speak and act. I vow not to keep a record of wrongs, but to always keep the happy memories alive.
Through God, our love will never fail.
So that’s a great start for you! Next week we’ll look at some less-traditional vows, and then I’ll take you step by step through the process of writing your own vows. So think about what vows you want to say … and don’t forget to get married in PTown!
Most of the couples I marry choose to write their own wedding vows. It’s a wonderful opportunity to say what you really mean to your partner; but for some people, the thought of writing anything is nerve-wracking.
So what are the vows about?
A vow is traditionally seen as more binding than a promise, but promising is really what you’re doing here: promising to be there for each other, to stick around no matter what, to be supportive and respectful and loving to each other. Most vows include a clause relating to exclusivity of relationships. Some include personal references to how you met, what you mean to each other, and why you’ve decided to take this step together.
The vows with which you’re probably most familiar come from the medieval church via the Anglican tradition. First used in Latin in Sarum (Salisbury) and York, the Book of Common Prayer of 1549 contains the following vows: “To have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, ’till death us do part.”
And in some ways, it’s hard to really improve on them, isn’t it? You may want to personalize your vows more, but as a jumping-off point, they do indeed say it all.
Writing Your Own Vows
You can certainly use the text cited above to weave into your own vows. What else do you want to say? Consider including the following:
- where you met, how you felt then
- a special moment when you knew he or she was right for you
- something difficult that you’ve already been through together
- becoming/creating family—-this may be especially important for gay and lesbian couples whose experience of family support may have been less than stellar
- a touch of humor can be appreciated at times like these. One bride assured the other than she will never, ever do the dishes
- perhaps the most important: WHY you want to be joined to your partner. What is the point of getting married? Why is this essential to your future happiness?
Remember as you compose your vows that you will be saying them directly to your partner, not to the officiant. So practice some first. It’s an emotional moment!
Want help in composing your vows? We’re here to help! So … come get married in PTown!