Just three weeks shy of my 5th birthday I was the flower girl in my Auntie Edith’s wedding. I wore a pretty blue dress and black patent leather shoes. I began planning my own fairy tale wedding right away. I had a lot of the details figured out for a long time: a Christmas wedding, red bridesmaids dresses, my bridal party, the musicians, the scripture readers, flowers. In fact, in all my planning, the only thing missing was the groom. And if you had known of my plans from an early age and were in attendance that wintery December day, you probably didn’t notice any surprises.
Often when I talk with newly engaged couples I offer them this advice: In your planning, be careful to plan for your marriage, not just your wedding. The wedding lasts only a few hours. Your marriage lasts a lifetime.
When Jeff and I were planning our wedding we decided to use traditional wedding vows. This was a piece of advice that had been passed along by my sister Pam. It was suggested that by using “common” or traditional vows that in the future, when you are attending a wedding and these vows are repeated, that they will remind you of the vows that you made to your husband/wife on your wedding day. As I have sat through the weddings of many family and friends I listen carefully to the couple as they repeat their vows to each other. Each time I am reminded of the vows that I made to Jeff on our wedding day. Being reminded of these vows gives me the opportunity to reflect on how well I am doing at keeping my end of the bargain.
Depending on my season of life, listening to a couple recite their vows hits me in different ways. The most vivid memory that I have is during Peter and Caitlin’s wedding. And believe me, I was completely blindsided by my emotion. As Peter and Caitlin vowed “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for as long as we both shall live” it happened. Emotion came over me. Not those beautiful tears that can often be seen at weddings and that can be quietly wiped away. Nope. I started to cry big, heaving tears. You see, it was just a few months earlier that Mom had died. I had just watched my Mom and Dad live out those very vows, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health for as long as we both shall live. And it struck me. Hard. Those vows are big. I mean, really BIG. (To be honest, even writing out the memory of this has filled my eyes with tears.)
Every year on our anniversary I write out my wedding vows to Jeff in his anniversary card. Here’s what they say.
I take you Jeff to be my wedded husband
To have and to hold from this day forward
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health
To love and to cherish and obey, ’til death us do part
I dedicate our marriage and our home to the Lordship of Jesus Christ
I pledge to you my undying love and constant faithfulness
I ask God’s help in keeping this solemn vow
I think that our vows are pretty standard when it comes to wedding vows, but let me tell you this… there have been times when I have looked at these words and thought “really? I vowed all that?” No wonder I asked for God’s help in keeping this vow.
When was the last time that you thought about your wedding vows? Did you write your own or use a traditional script? Do you remember them at all? Could you find them if you tried?
More than that, how are you doing in keeping them?
Last week, Jeff and I celebrated 10 years of marriage and truthfully, I think we’ve got everything covered. Better/worse, richer/poorer, sickness/health. But if I’ve learned anything over the last 10 years it’s this: speaking or writing out these words every so often is pretty easy. It’s the living it out, everyday, that is the challenge. I continue each day to ask God’s help in keeping this solemn vow right to the very end “’til death us do part”.
With Triumphant Joy,