A few weeks ago, my girlfriend made the mistake of ordering the movie The Next Three Days for our Friday evening entertainment. If you haven’t seen this “horror” film, allow me to share the basic premise without spoiling it for you. Elizabeth Banks plays a sweet, devoted wife and mother who gets into a nasty fight with her boss one afternoon at work (who hasn’t been there?). That night, the boss turns up dead. Next thing you know, the cops are busting into Elizabeth Banks’ kitchen and hauling her off to jail, while her toddler screams and her husband, played by Russell Crowe, watches in horror.
The duration of the movie basically consists of Russell Crowe devoting every waking moment to getting his wife out of jail. I’m not just talking about hiring a good lawyer and selling the house to pay for legal bills. This guy has his walls covered in maps of the jail and surrounding areas. He documents the daily routines of the prison guards in painstaking detail. He even resorts to befriending ex-cons who he believes might be able to lend some insight on how to break someone out of jail. That is true love, if you ask me.
I won’t tell you how the movie ends, but I will tell you this: The second the credits rolled, I turned to my girlfriend and said, “When we get married, I am writing that into our wedding vows.” I could tell by her face that she had no idea what I was talking about, so I clarified: “If I am ever falsely convicted of a crime, you have to promise that you will devote your life to getting me out of prison.”
I’ll admit I have a slightly exaggerated (and completely unfounded) fear of being in jail. But, the more I think about this, the more I have become convinced that my wedding vows will include a clause about “springing me from the clink.” That brings me to this week’s topic: whether to write your own wedding vows or stick with the traditional script.
I happen to like traditional wedding vows. “For richer or poorer, in sickness and in health …” We’ve heard these vows recited thousands of times in real life and in the movies. They are comforting and timeless – kind of like the national anthem or a classic rock song we can all hum along with.
On the other hand, I see many compelling reasons to write your own wedding vows. For starters, it’s a great way to put a personal stamp on your ceremony and give your family and friends some insight into your unique love. You can share an anecdote about your courtship, reveal a few of the things you love most about your wife-to-be, and make a statement about what being married means to you.
Promising “to love and cherish you all the days of my life” is sweet and all, but let’s be honest – it’s vague. Maybe, like me, you have some specific requests you’d like to work into those vows. “I promise to love and cherish you all the days of my life – and I will pick up the dog poop, carry the heavy things and pretend I like your best friend until the day I die.” Now we’re talking. Obviously, you don’t want to turn your wedding vows into a stand-up comedy routine, but I think a few playful lines that give a glimpse into your relationship could be perfectly appropriate.
Wedding vows are also a prime opportunity to tell the world what makes your wife so special to you. Has her positive outlook on life inspired you to accomplish something you didn’t think you could? Did you know that you were really in love when you realized it doesn’t bother you that she presses the snooze button 19 times before getting out of bed in the morning? Does it mean the world to you that she still greets you at the door every night after work? Whether it’s something big or seemingly small, use your vows as a chance to tell her (and everyone at your wedding ceremony) exactly why you love her. It will be memorable for everyone.
Or maybe you want to add some personalized details about how you intend to “love and honor” one another. If you’re avid travelers, perhaps you might insert something like, “I promise to be your partner in adventure and look forward to discovering the world with you.” Or, if supporting one another in your careers is something that is important in your relationship, you could add a line like, “I vow to always be your biggest cheerleader and have dinner ready when you get home from work at least three nights a week.”
I think virtually anything is potential fodder for personalized wedding vows, as long as you adhere to a few basic guidelines. You want to keep it tasteful, of course. Talking about your lady’s skills in the bedroom, for instance, might be a tad uncomfortable with grandma sitting in the front row. You should also be mindful of focusing too much on inside jokes. You will have an audience, after all, and they should have some clue what you’re talking about. Finally, make sure you and your sweetie are on the same page, so to speak. If she delivers a four-minute tear-jerking speech and you come back with something short, sweet and humorous, your wedding will quickly get awkward – and you might leave your guests wondering why you’re even getting married.
There are plenty of resources available online for people who want to write their own wedding vows. If you’re not sure how to get started, try this simple framework from TheKnot.com. It’s a good step-by-step guide to writing personalized vows that will be meaningful and memorable.
On my wedding day, all I want to hear is: “I love you. I refuse to believe you could do anything wrong. I don’t want to live without you. I will risk everything to be with you.” In other words: “I promise to spring you from the clink.” To me, that one little phrase pretty much says it all. Just kidding. Kind of.
How did you personalize your wedding vows? What unique promises will you make when you get married?