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Quickie Question: DIY Vows or Standard Form?

Let’s face it. The ceremony is the whole reason for all the trappings of a wedding. There’s no particular point to the flowers and fancy clothes and music and all the rest if nobody says some form of I do.

And yet we spend little time here at Manolo for the Brides discussing those actual vows.

There are a lot of people who feel strongly about how those vows should be ordered and spoken. Some believe that the standard, traditional form for their particular religion is by far the best and most meaningful. I can’t argue with that, and I wouldn’t if I could. Others feel that writing one’s own vows shows a level of thought and commitment that can’t be shared by those who repeat vows others have said down the years. Again, I have no argument and wouldn’t raise one if I did.

My feeling is, very simply, that each couple needs to figure this one out for themselves. Traditional or custom, you’re the ones taking the vows and they need to mean something to you.

In my own case, I probably would have preferred to write my own vows. I come from a long line of lapsed Catholics and cultural Presbyterians, and never developed a religious system or faith of my own. I didn’t particularly want to speak words written for people who believe in something I just plain don’t. Still, I wound up researching and finding a set of standard vows I could live with and using those. Why? Because Mr. Twistie wanted nothing to do with writing the ceremony and I wasn’t going to put my words into his mouth. The only thing he wanted to say was ‘I do’ and he probably would have said that to pretty much any vow I had chosen or written. He just wanted to be married to me with a minimum of fuss and feathers.

Sometimes it’s all about finding a compromise you can live with as a couple. And since I wrote the rest of the ceremony, well, I was still getting my philosophy in there. It’s not like I just grabbed someone else’s religion and had my secular officiant deliver it in the woods for a pair of non-believers.

What about all of you? Writing your own? Following tradition? Finding a compromise path between the two options?

Tell me all about it!

Wise Words of Love and Cobain


Okay, they weren’t the ones to actually speak the words. I don’t have any evidence one way or the other about whether either one of them had a hand in writing them.

Still, the other day I happened across their wedding ceremony, and found myself deeply touched by the thoughtful, gentle view of marriage it expressed. In particular, I loved this passage:

May you always need one another, not so much to fill the emptiness as to help each other know your fullness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another. May you succeed in all important ways with each other, and not fail in the little graces. Look for things to praise, often say ‘I love you’ and take no notice of small faults. May you have happiness, and may you find it in making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.

I could wish nothing better for each and every one of you in your marriages.

With These Words….

As a writer, I tend to think words are pretty important. When it comes to your wedding, the words of your ceremony and particularly the vows themselves will be of considerable importance.

Many couples choose the traditional words of their shared faith for their wedding vows. Some will need to blend two traditional ceremonies, a feat best left to the couple and their officient(s) to work out. Still others will work with their spiritual leaders or secular officiants to create a slight variation on a traditional ceremony.

But if you plan to work outside the box and create your own ceremony more or less from scratch, I’ve got some advice to help you write something that you will find meaningful every time you think about it in the years to come.
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Love Is a Universal Language…Weddings Sometimes Require Translation

I don’t know how many of you are fellow fans of Lolcats, but I find them remarkably funny. What surprised me was the discovery that someone has actually translated wedding vows into Lolspeak.

Of course Lolspeak isn’t the only possible language to hold your wedding in. How about Klingon for my fellow Trekkies?

Of course, these are languages that exist only in imagination. They’re fun to play with and amusing to know, but not really vital in day-to-day life.

But what if a participant – or honored guest – has a significant hearing impairment? That’s a far more serious issue.

This really isn’t a new question. In fact, there are references to and descriptions of weddings involving some form of sign language dating back at least as far as the sixteenth century. For instance, this wedding held in 1576:

…and because the sayde Thomas was and is naturally deafe, and also dumbe, so that the order of the form of marriage used usually amongst others, which can heare and speake, could not for his parte be observed. After the approbation had from Thomas, the Bishoppe of Lincolne, John Chippendale, doctor in law, and commissarye, as also of Mr. Richd. Davye, then Mayor of the town of Leicester, with others of his brethren, with the rest of the parishe, the said Thomas, for the expressing of his mind instead of words, of his own accord used these signs :
First, he embraced her with his arms, and took her by the hand, putt a ring upon her finger, and layde his hande upon his hearte, and then upon her hearte, and held up his handes toward heaven. And to show his continuance to dwell with her to his lyves ende, he did it by closing of his eyes with his handes, and digginge out of the earth with his foote, and pullinge as though he would ring a bell, with diverse other signes.

Today, of course, sign language is formalized, though, as with verbal languages, there are regional differences. That means this gentleman was able to say his vows in a recognized language.

If you expect to have members of the Deaf community at your wedding, though, one thing is sure: they’ll appreciate being thoughtfully included in the proceedings. Consider having your vows printed on your program, or even hiring an interpreter to sign the ceremony as you speak it.

Part of being a good host is recognizing and doing your best to comfortably accommodate the needs of your guests. That includes their ability to understand the event as it happens.

This and That About Weddings and Marriage

Swine flu has been big in the news of late. What does this have to do with weddings? I’m sure it’s factored into at least a few couples’ plans…but I know for certain that it’s altered Seal and Heidi Klum’s annual vow renewal ceremony. Each year since they married in 2005, they’ve gone back to the site of their marriage in Mexico to renew their commitment to one another. This year, however, with worries about swine flu, three small children and another on the way, they’ve decided to play it safe and stay home. They will hold their annual ceremony in Los Angeles rather than skip the festivities.

Yearly vow renewals: what do you think? Me? I think I would prefer to save up an idea like that for a major milestone, but if it makes Heidi and Seal happy (which it seems to do), I say more power to them.

Changing plans for a vow renewal, however, is not nearly as traumatic as calling off an entire wedding, as Megan McAllister and Phillip Markoff did two days ago. The reason for the change in plans? Phillip is preparing to stand trial in the infamous Craigslist murder of masseuse Julissa Brisman last month. McAllister maintains her belief in Markoff’s innocence, but her lawyer, Robert Honecker said in a public statement on her behalf that “…she has to take steps to do what she has to do on her life.”

Whatever the truth in the legal case now pending, I wish McAllister well. This is obviously a difficult time for her. She has my sympathy.

On a more practical note, I’m loving a feature of the website Project Wedding. They feature a vendor review section. Simply choose the area closest to you (choose from urban centers throughout the US as well as several major cities in Canada, England, Australia, and the catch-all section ‘other’), pick the service you’re looking for, and read promotional materials and reviews from customers both satisfied and un.

If you’re looking for a vendor, you might want to read up on how different ones in your area do. If you’ve recently used a vendor who is listed, take a moment and let potential customers know how you felt about the services provided.

Outsourced Wedding Vows?

Almost every wedding I’ve been to in the past five years has included some form of original wedding vow… or did they? Apparently, one of the newer ways for wordsmiths to make a little dough is by writing original wedding vows for tongue-tied couples. To me, the idea sounds preposterous, but I also make my living writing. Perhaps services that compose custom vows are a godsend for those brides and grooms for whom words don’t come easily?

wedding-vows

For some time now, there have been web sites that provide pre-written wedding vows for a small fee. Elegant Wedding Vows is one. Wedding Vows Den is another. The content at those sites can be used as inspiration or as one’s actual wedding vows, but do require a degree of personalization. Outsourced wedding vows, on the other hand, are written for you and only you, using details about your life and relationship that you and your intended provide.

The Wall Street Journal recruited a couple to test drive some of the sites that provide this, um, interesting service.

Enchantment Online, a service run by a Florida-based wedding coordinator, provided forms with extensive check boxes, pull-down menus and open-ended questions about their story. But in some cases, the form didn’t allow the couple to specify which information pertained to which partner, making it difficult to complete. Special Occasion Poetry, a service that provides poems for events ranging from weddings to funerals, uses a form that asks about each partner’s traits, hobbies and talents. Ghostwriters Central, run by a speechwriter, asked the couple to answer questions about their history, describe their partner’s traits, and indicate whether specific memories, thoughts, quotes or sentiments should appear in vows; our couple found this service’s questions the most thought-provoking.

The wedding vows from the various vow writers were finished in 6 to 11 days and cost anywhere from $58 (which seems fairly reasonable) to $165 (which seems a tad steep). Would I use a vow writing service? Nope, but like I said, I’m a writer. The Beard isn’t a professional writer — in fact, he pretty much winged his vows on the spot — and still wouldn’t have paid money to have someone else write his vows. As he just said, “If you have to think about all the answers to the vow writer questionnaires anyway, why not just take your answers and write your vows yourself?”

The whole thing feels a little impersonal. After all, there are already standardized vows you can use or even riff off of if you really want semi-personalized wedding vows. How meaningful are your own personal vows going to be if the words you are saying were basically written by a script writer?