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Making your ceremony your own

August 9, 2011
A sacred moment via Green Wedding Shoes

One of my favorite things about weddings is when the ceremony reflects the personalities–and the relationship–of the bride and groom. When they choose to do something different, incorporate a unique element, and create a celebration all their own. But I also love tradition {you know this} and the solemnity of participating in customs that are centuries old.

Because of this, my fiance and I chose to do both–include the old and new. We’re following the traditional structure of the wedding ceremony–and the order our pastor is used to–and repeating vows from the Book of Common Prayer. You know how they go–To have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish until death do us part… There’s something very sacred to me about repeating the same words cited by all of those who have entered marriage before me.

But we also thought it would be special to incorporate our own words too. So, when we exchange rings we’ll recite the familiar statement–I give you this ring as a symbol of our vows and commitment to one another–then add a personal pledge to each other. We’ll finish with–With this ring, I marry you. Our pledges will be secret until our wedding day. I need to spend some time thinking about that one, ya think?!

Vows in calligraphy via Martha Stewart Weddings

At the beginning of our ceremony, we’re including a Declaration of Intent for our families. Instead of my father giving me away, our pastor will ask our families to stand and will charge them to uphold our marriage, to pray for and encourage us, so that we may fulfill the vows we make to one another. It’s one of my favorite parts. Because a marriage can’t survive on its own. You need community, family, and friends to support, encourage, and remind you when times get tough. Am I right?

What else? We’ve decided to take communion together after we’re “officially” married {after we’ve done everything we legally need to do to be married} as a symbolic act of our union. During that time, our friend {also another pastor of ours} will sing one of our favorite songs and the two couples who have mentored us throughout the course of our relationship will pray over us.

When it’s all said and done, our hope is that our guests will see our hearts reflected through our ceremony. We wish it to be uplifting and touching but also sacred and solemn–as we both firmly believe that we are choosing to enter a holy {and at times challenging} commitment. And it’s important to us that we participate with our guests in the act of marriage. As Elizabeth Gilbert writes in Committed {citing David Hume}, “It is the witness, then, who becomes the living seal of the promise, notarizing the vow with real weight.” A pretty important role if you ask me.

Handwritten vows via Once Wed

There are so many ways to make your ceremony your own. And it’s my belief that you should make it your own. Because it’s so much more than some words you have to repeat before you get to eat and dance the night away. It’s a symbolic act. And a legal one as well. It’s your promise to marry, to care for, to protect and cherish the person standing by your side. My favorite perspective of the ceremony of marriage comes from, you guessed it, Elizabeth Gilbert:

I thoroughly recognize that ceremony is essential to humans: It’s a circle that we draw around important events to separate the momentous from the ordinary. And ritual is a sort of magical safety harness that guides us from one stage of our lives into the next, making sure we don’t stumble or lose ourselves along the way.

A beautiful description, don’t you agree?


What are the ways in which you’re incorporating {or have!} the old and new in your wedding? What’s been your favorite element in the ceremonies you’ve attended? Was it a poem? A personal vow? A memorial? I’d love to hear.


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