...spaceships don't come equipped with rear-view mirrors...

Last Saturday, I celebrated my fifth wedding anniversary. I really can’t express to you all how excited I am to have all these years of happiness under my belt. It is also pretty exciting to look out into the future and see so many more ahead of me – lord willing. So as I’m packing and getting ready for vacation, I took a moment to reflect on these five years and spend some time thinking about how well I’ve done keeping up my end of the bargain. That got me to thinking about wedding vows. Wedding vows are one of those things one never really thinks of until it’s time to get married, and even then, lots of people just figure they’ll repeat the traditional vows the pastor asks one to repeat and call it a life. This, to me, is crazy. Imagine – you’re standing before the most important people in your life, and God (if you’re a believer), a judge, or someone else licensed by the state and making a whole series of promises to someone you love. It’s kind of a big deal. How anyone can enter something of that magnitude without a great deal of forethought is beyond me. In today’s post I want to talk a little bit about wedding vows, share with you my thoughts on them, and of course, get yours.

These days, the vogue thing to do is to either supplement or replace traditional wedding vows by writing your own. It’s easy to see why. First, the definition of marriage is changing by the minute. The age old, “do you take this woman…” or “do you take this man…” doesn’t really ring true for same sex relationships. Also, with divorce rates on the rise, prenups abounding, and folks like Kim K having marriages shorter than the NFL Lockout, the whole “till death do is part” thing is not always ideal for everyone.

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Still, sometimes writing your own wedding vows is not always about adjusting to same gender relationships or giving yourself an “out” if the relationship fails, sometimes, as it was with me, folks write their own vows because they want them to be special and unique to the person they are speaking them to, and to the relationship they’re speaking them for. When writing my vows, the question I considered most was: what core, foundational principals should I etch in stone and place as the bedrock of our marriage?

Here’s what I came up with:

For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of love. I dreamed about what it would be like to care for someone other than myself, to desire someone’s presence more than anything else, to feel that a person’s greatest flaws are as beautiful as their greatest strengths, and to be truly understood by someone. I always imagined what it would be like, but never in any of those dreams did I believe that it would be as beautiful as it is and as it has been these past few years. For that I am truly grateful and I thank you. So, it is with that in mind that I make these vows to you: I promise to love you in the vastest sense of the word. I promise to put your troubles before mine, your happiness before mine, and your life before mine. I promise to always respect you. I promise to always take care of you. I promise to always make you laugh, and I promise to never intentionally make you cry, or hurt, or fear, or lose hope, and if that does happen, I promise I’lll do everything in my power to make those feelings disappear. Most importantly, I promise to make sure that God is most important and at the center of our relationship for the rest of our lives.

Those were my vows. Looking back on them, I wouldn’t change a thing. I remember wanting to keep them relatively short while still talking a little bit about who I was, what I knew and what I dreamed of before I actually found someone I considered worthy of filling my then vacant ‘life-long-partner-in-crime’ spot. I wanted to show how it was impossible for my imagination to conceive what it actually turned out to be like. I wanted my vows to be succinct, honest, loving and hopeful … but also realistic. I feel like I touched all the important bases, God, love, hope, happiness, selflessness and respect while still saving room for all the ways that I, like everyone else on this Earth, fall short of perfection. Because the truth is, while I have made her laugh, she’s also cried (not a whole bunch, but it happens), and while I generally put her happiness before mine, I of course have had my moments of indulgent selfishness. So it goes with her. Sometimes she lives up to every promise she made me that day and sometimes she falls short (I seem to remember her saying something about submitting … but I digress). That’s why we wrote our own vows. They serve not just as the basis of a legally binding contract and not just as the written incarnation of what our relationship is, but also as a constant reminder of what our relationship aspires to be; they are a constant source of motivating inspiration pushing us to always be better for ourselves, for each other, and for everyone who stood witness to us making these promises that day. They are our vows, they belong to us and no one else.

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But enough about me … how bout you all? Do you ever contemplate the things you’ll promise the person you end up marrying? Do you have particular expectations around what they should be promising you? Will you write your own vows to supplement or replace traditional ones? If so, what are some key things you’d like to include?