I’ve mentioned before how much I love weddings. In February, we got to not only attend the wedding of a couple we love, but Tony was asked to officiate! He’d never done this before, and while he has no fear of speaking in front of a crowd of people, this was an entirely different level. He felt the weight of responsibility so heavily that he spent a very long time drafting and writing out just what he would say. Every last word of it was funny, and personal, and beautiful. As his wife, I couldn’t have been more proud.
When it came to the vows, he struggled with how to handle it. You see, George and Erika are not exactly traditional. I mean, I don’t know any other couple that’s had their engagement pictures feature an ax and a rooster.
Rather than a big formal rehearsal, we just had them over to our house for dinner to review the main parts of the ceremony and to have them practice and make edits to their vows. Tony pulled some of the most beautiful and traditional vows expecting them to make changes as they saw fit. He led them through the practice round and as they held hands, gazed at each other in our living room, and repeated Tony’s words, they beamed with love and admiration for each other. When they finished, Tony handed them a pen.
“Go for it. Change whatever you want. This is your wedding and this is just a draft. We want these vows to be yours.”
George and Erika looked at each other and Erika shrugged. “I don’t have anything.”
“Neither do I,” said George, “I think they’re perfect.”
They beamed some more and I don’t think either of them caught the surprised looks on my and Tony’s faces.
Just a few days later at one of the most wonderful weddings I’ve been to, they exchanged these vows that have been recited between husbands and wives over many, many generations. They meant them, and we pray they will keep them. There really is something so significant in the vows we make on our wedding day that none of us who have ever been married can yet understand on the day we make them.
I take you, my beloved, to have and to hold from this day forward.
For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.
To love and to cherish, all the days of my life.
When Erika is in a good mood. When she shines radiantly with love for him. When she is kind and funny just the way he likes her. When George is thoughtful and responsible. When he is simultaneously affectionate and sarcastic, just the way she likes him.
When Erika is disrespectful and selfish. When she is tired and irritable. When she feels insecure and acts jealously. When George is thoughtless and rude. When he betrays her and disregards her feelings. When he is arrogant and prideful.
Of course, Tony didn’t go into so much detail during their ceremony. Still, this is the reality of the promise they made to each other that day. This, or some version of it, is the reality of the promise we all make when we marry. To take the whole person, not just the parts we like. To take them on their hardest days, not just their happiest. To believe in them when they do not believe in themselves. To honor them when they act dishonorably.
For Only as Long as I Feel Like It
In Karen Swallow Prior’s article in The Atlantic entitled “The Case for Getting Married Young,” she explores the phenomenon of our generation marrying later in life than the generations before us. She notes as research shows that, though the wisdom seems apparent for each of us individually to finish our education and fulfill our vocational dreams before we commit ourselves to another person, this wisdom has not made for lower divorce rates. In our culture, we have shifted from marrying one another out of social and economic advantages to marrying for companionship and emotional love. While I couldn’t imagine it any other way, the disadvantage seems that, if we marry from emotion, we may only stay married because of emotion as well. I love the way she puts it as she describes her own marriage of over three decades that: “It was not the days of ease that made our marriage stronger and happier: it was working through the difficult parts.”
So, I go back to the traditional vows. I see nothing in the language that says “unless.” There is no caveat for our day-to-day emotions. There is no exception for the season when a wife holds down the fort and raises children alone while her husband is serving in the military elsewhere. There is no room for exit when either husband or wife loses their job, loses their motivation, gains weight, and starts smoking. For better or worse, we say.
We don’t say, “For better or worse, until you become really controlling about money.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, unless you feel insecure when I go out alone with my friends.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, as long as you continue to advance in your career.”
We don’t say, “For better or worse, until you weigh more than you do on our wedding day.”
For better or worse. We take each other not only as we stand on our wedding day, but through all of the changes that we will absolutely go through as we move through life together. We hope for better, we truly love through worse, and we #staymarried.
P.S. If you liked this post, you may also like to read 25 Things To Do Before The Wedding. If you think these could benefit someone else’s marriage, please consider sharing. You can use the social media buttons at the top or bottom of this post. Also, if you’re new here, welcome! You might like to check out why we started this blog and my first entry to get a little background. Thanks for stopping by!
Photo Credit: Nostalgia Photgraphy