That is the question.
Last night, Patrick and I were out with friends, one of whom is engaged. She’s excited about being married, though cautious. She’s insisting on couples therapy ahead of time, similar to couples seeing a priest or religious counselor before taking the big leap. They’ve been together seven years already, but why get married, why commit now, what will marriage really look like for them? These are all beautiful questions and her choice to seek professional guidance to navigate those waters is wise and passionate.
But there was another question that came up during our discussion. It was whether to have a public ceremony and reception. He really wants one. She does not. I’m guessing she sees them as a little silly. I think she’s got a point regarding receptions. I mean, let’s admit it, wedding receptions can get really out of hand and it’s the reception part that usually causes the most stress and grief.
I told her a small, private reception or dinner would be completely doable. And I told her not to overlook the impact a ceremony can have on a couple. Put as much, if not more, attention into the details of your ceremony – an officiant who is special to the two of you, personalized vows, music or readings that have meaning – and you will feel like celebrating with close friends when it’s over, trust me.
Patrick had similar thoughts before we got married. He didn’t understand why I was bothering with so much detail. He too thought it was all a little silly. But slowly he came ‘round, and when the time came he was so very happy to have a day that was customized just for us. He realized what I knew all along. Not only were we making promises and vows to one another, but the guests at our wedding became accountable and enlightened witnesses, who when seeing the love between us, now support us in the long and hard journey of keeping our marriage alive and strong. It’s as though they took vows that day, too.
Patrick and I were truly changed that day. We had been together six years before we wed, but we felt molecularly changed from the sheer act of making the commitment before God and our loved ones.
I began this blog entry with a slight nod to Hamlet because I believe a good marriage is one that follows the same tenets as good acting. You must actively do. You must approach each day with intention. You must make choices that serve a super-objective. Marriage is hard. I know this is said a lot and most couples haven’t a clue what it actually means until it can be too late. So actively pursue all the support you can.
When Patrick and I have gone through hard times, I vividly remember our wedding day and all the people who believe in us. I call upon those memories, and indeed those dear friends who love us both, to remind me of the vows I made.
So, I’m definitely pro-ceremony. Say “I do” with a little flair and panache. It can be small and intimate, but it’s an important marker in a couple’s life. If you’re making the choice to get married at all, declare it to your close friends and family, too. They will want to support you and love you and be there for you, just as you are for each other.
All the experiences we’ve ever had,
Everything we’ve ever done,
And everything we’ve learned has brought us to this moment.
My heart is so full when I think of the magical way our souls have connected
And how we’ve grown as individuals and as a couple.
Thank you for loving me as I am,
While still leaving me room to become anything I want to be.
With your support and love I found the courage and excitement
To discover and celebrate the woman I want to be.
As I commit to you today,
I promise to support you in becoming all of who you want to be.
I will believe in you and celebrate you.
Your dreams have, and always will be, my dreams too.
I promise to be loyal and faithful to you,
To comfort you and protect you, and to give you my trust.
I believe in the power of our love.
It is strong and honest,
And will carry us through any of the challenges we may face in the future.
I acknowledge and honor our marriage as a joyful choice,
And will commit to it each and every day –-
Always seeing the blessings before the misfortunes,
And always remembering to say thank you first.
Patrick, thank you.
I love you.
You are my angel.
You have shown me and taught me what love really is.
I choose you today to be my wife, my partner, and my best friend.
I promise to listen to you with my whole heart and soul.
And to spend each day getting to know you better.
I promise to support your dreams and to encourage and defend you
No matter what obstacles we may face.
I promise to share my hopes and dreams and fears with you,
No matter how scary that may be.
I promise to stay flexible and to grow with you,
No matter what surprises life may have in store for us.
And I promise to honor and respect you with every decision I make.
I am so grateful for the many blessings we have been given.
But I know it won’t always be easy, so today,
I promise to care for you and cherish you when we are old,
And to love you when you are sick, or worried, or sad, or just really cranky.
When frustration, fear, or anger threaten us,
I will remember this day and these vows,
And act with gentleness, forgiveness, and kindness.
When you fall, I will catch you.
When you cry, I will comfort you.
When you laugh, I will share your joy.
Everything I have and everything I am is yours,
From this moment forth,
I love you, all of you, now and always.