What do Wedding Vows Mean Anyway?
That’s the question, “What do wedding vows mean anyway?”
We are thoroughly in wedding and anniversary season and it’s all over my social media feeds. Wedding preparations, wedding photos, throwback anniversary photos. Everywhere! This, and my impending 10th anniversary has made me think about weddings again.
When we were planning our wedding 10 years ago, I didn’t have a lot of opinions about it. I let my mom pick out the decorations for our reception and my mother-in-law planned the one for my husband’s side. I did choose the dress I wanted, but other than that, I was very hands-off. This was partly because I wanted to demonstrate I was no “bridezilla” and partly because I mostly considered the whole ordeal as a means to an end and the details weren’t important to me. Cake? Having one would be nice. Venue? A cultural hall was good enough. Vows? I didn’t know what was going to be said in the sealing and no one would have told me anyway. I figured it was just a bunch of words that would get me married, so who cares?
Really, marriage vows meant nothing to me. You can write your own vows to say whatever you want, but in the end, the courts aren’t going to uphold them like a contract:
“You promised me you’d raise goats with me, but then took that job in that city that doesn’t allow residents to have them! This marriage is over!”
Of course, there’s no-fault divorce for cases like that. But I knew that whatever was said would give us legal rights to file taxes jointly, authorization to visiting rights in hospitals, communal property, and power of attorney. For good Mormons as we were, it also meant sex and possibly children later. I figured the sealer could have said that we were promising to make french toast for breakfast every day, and it wouldn’t fundamentally change my relationship with my husband or really matter. If we ended up eating cereal from time to time, God would probably forgive us. The words in the sealing didn’t matter, just that it happened. After all, the temple scripts have changed from time to time.
I had this view for a while, that is, until the royal wedding for Kate Middleton and Prince William. When they chose to write their own vows instead of following the traditional vows of the Church of England, my wedding world was rocked. I’m not sure why at that particular time, but I suddenly understood what the rest of the world knew:
A wedding is to declare your love to someone else and commit to them in front of all your friends and family.
Five years into my marriage and I realized I never had a wedding. My friends and family could not all attend my sealing. And I didn’t agree with all the promises in the sealing script. I felt cheated. I had not been told, “When you love someone so much you decide to commit to them, you’ll want to share that with all the people you love and care about. You’ll want to have a party and celebrate.” I had been told, “When you love someone and want to be with them forever, you need to sit through this ordinance and say ‘yes’ at the right time. The party and celebrating isn’t important.”
We have been seriously discussing doing a “vow renewal” for our anniversary this year, or more accurately, an actual wedding with vows that we write ourselves and have personal meaning for us. It depends on some finances and if we can get planning.
How was your sealing? Part of me wonders if I’m a fluke and I missed the boat on really understanding why people have weddings because I was married so young. Have you done a vow renewal?