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The Hidden Purposes Of Wedding Ceremonies - Part 2: The Wedding Vows

Aug 17, 2007
"You know," David began as he sat down, "these last two months have been much easier for me with the wedding planning. I keep thinking about this change I'm about to make and it affects everything. Like, my mom had picked out some flower arrangements that Janet didn't like so I had a talk with my mom about how I love her but that Janet comes first now and that I am trying to practice that. You know what she said? She said, "I'm proud of you!" I was amazed! Of course she wouldn't budge on the type of champagne she wants to buy!"

"Well, it's a big change for everyone and it takes time and negotiation but making it as conscious as possible helps." I replied.

"Yeah," continued Janet. "I asked my dad if he wanted us to pay for part of the wedding and it was amazing what happened. We actually sat down and made out a budget together about what he wanted to cover. We then agreed that if anything went over that amount David and I would pay the extra. I really realized that I had been treating my wedding like it was Christmas and not taking into account my dad's concerns.

And you know, we both see each other differently now. I want to know the other hidden purposes-you did say we would focus on that today."

"Right, I did. Now we move from the family to the two of you-the reason for the wedding!" I responded.

The second hidden purpose
The heart of the marriage ceremony is the couple being joined. The second hidden purpose of marriage ceremonies is in the exchanging of vows and rings. We make many promises to each other but only a few move from promises to vows. From the traditional taking each other for "richer and poorer, and in sickness and health" to the personalized "I will support your growth", vows are what you are accountable to.

When you pledge your vows to each other in front of family and friends, you are in fact laying the foundation of what will carry you through the "daily ness" of marriage. There is much pleasure in loving and being loved and in setting up life together. The joy of a shared life is what draws people over and over again to the altar. However, it's been my experience that over time, it's in this dailyness of marriage where many couples get into trouble.

There is a lifetime ahead of negotiations and decisions and discovering that your partner really does think and respond differently than you do. On many occasions, I have heard from my clients that "I'm still in this marriage because I made a vow." Vows are what we hold onto when things get rough.

"You know," David said thoughtfully, "when we first came to see you I wasn't sure we'd make it. We seemed so different and she wouldn't do things my way (much laughter). There were days where I just wanted to walk. That might come up again in the future, so I want to make my vows strong enough to keep me from taking the easy way out."

"Well, here's an example of how we think differently, I knew it was rough, but it never occurred to me that we wouldn't be together." said Janet bemusedly. "But I agree, I want some of the traditional vows-they've worked for millions of couples, but I want some that are just mine as well."

"Take your time with your vows, you want to be able to stand on them and stand for them." I responded. "You want to also approach both making and speaking your vows in a special way."

Janet and David looked at me curiously...

When a couple begins the process of creating or preparing to speak their vows, I ask them to bring to each other a compassionate heart. The compassionate heart says: "I'll hear you when you can no longer hear yourself. I'll see you when you are blinded. I'll celebrate not only the triumphs but the dailyness of life with you. I bring you my compassionate heart that has the strength to surrender my pride and the courage to accept deeply your love."

Imagine once again David and Janet's wedding ceremony. As they stand facing each other they bring both deep thoughtfulness, and a compassionate, loving heart to the vows they speak and receive. The power of these vows are then witnessed and felt by all. The vows are sealed in two ways. One, by the traditional exchange of rings symbolizing love unending, and two, by a kiss, one interpretation being that from this day forward they belong only to each other.

"Wow," whispered Janet softly, "gives me goose bumps."

"Yeah, makes me nervous. I think I'd like to wait on the last purpose till next time, okay?" asked David.

"Sure, you both have a lot to think about." I responded. "Begin thinking about your vows but don't be too surprised if the first ones you write are not the ones you end up with."
About the Author
Kathy Ball has been a licensed Marriage & Family Therapist for 27 years & as a minister, has witnessed many wedding vows. She owns WeddingBellAccessories.com, wedding accessories.
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