The love we were promised in fairytales was never something for us to find. It has always been something for us to create.Tyler Kent White
Many of my couples choose to write their own personal vows – and even those who decide to use traditional vows usually entertain the idea of personal vows.
A couple of weeks prior to their wedding, couples oftentimes will shoot me a frantic email wondering if I’d be willing to take a look at their vows since they aren’t sure if they’re “good enough.”
And then, there are those grooms and brides who simply wait to the last minute – literally the last minute – to compose their vows, hoping that the god of their childhood will grant them unexpected inspiration!
These days no one is sending me their vows as the vast majority of weddings have been put on hold, postponed by several months or longer.
While you and your partner can’t enjoy a food tasting, feel table linens or smell flowers, what you can do is reflect on your vows.
Sheltering-in-place with your partner or even in separate locations is going to bring those vows to life in ways you may not have been able to imagine before.
The traditional vows are traditional because they are simple, powerful and direct in their wording:
I promise to be true to you
In good times and in bad
In sickness and in health
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
I always am thrilled to stand before two people and witness them gift each other with some variation of these words.
The mystery of it all.
I have not officiated a wedding since before we were advised to shelter-in-place. In the days since, I’ve reflected on what weddings will be like when we return – not to an “old normal” but to a new normal.
How will having lived through a pandemic influence the kind of vows couples offer each other? The sentiments as well as the depth of those sentiments.
Here’s the thing –
Have you ever lived with your partner in circumstances like these?!
- What are you learning about yourself?
- What are you learning about your partner?
- What has surprised you?
- What has reassured you?
The wise poet Mary Oliver wrote,
Instructions for living a life:
Are you paying attention to your partner in ways you’ve not done so before?
Have you been astonished – for good or for not so good?!
When you do have your wedding, and you will, that day will celebrate all your days together AND, in a special way, will celebrate the gift of insight you received during these mad-crazy upside-down days.
I maintain that your postponed wedding will be a heightened experience BECAUSE the two of you lived (and grew) through a pandemic together.
LIVED through it – not simply scrounged through it.
We don’t know what life will be like in the future. We certainly didn’t know prior to the pandemic – BUT back then there were what we called guard rails. Those have been chipped away at.
So, here is the truest of truths – a truth we can barely imagine –
When you and your partner finally gift each other with your vows, you will be pledging to love, to be true to each other, in a world that you will, in one way or another, help recreate.
What are you vowing?
Well, the answer to that question can be seen and felt and heard in how you are living TODAY as you shelter-in-place.
How are you giving shelter to your partner?
Can you recognize what they need?
Can you tell them what you need?
I’m not sure you can get married post-pandemic without acknowledging what you together experienced in the days of sheltering-in-place.
These days you are now living through ARE the good times and the bad, the better and the worse.
The “you” of the pandemic is the person you vow to your partner.
Ours has always been and continues to be –
A world of uncertainty.
A world of illness.
A world of death.
A world of invention.
A world of generosity.
A world of courage.
A world of determination.
A world of hope.
How do you help your partner live in this world?
How does your partner help you live in this world?
Who do you pledge to be in this world?
What do you pledge to do in this world?
THAT is the vow you are being asked to gift to your partner.
THAT is the vow family and friends will have waited to bear witness to.
Your words – your vows – will be balm to our hurting hearts.
I love you not because of who you are, but because of who I am when I am with you.