Tracy and I wrote our own vows in 1976. Perhaps that is not quite accurate. We had a "scripture duet" that we worked hard on. I can still recall her in her wedding gown saying "She does him good and not evil all the days of her life" before the assembled multitude. Okay, we did not know then that Proverbs 31 was going to become a cliche. So sue us. But seeing that we called it a duet, maybe those weren't the vows. If so, I don't remember the vows. Maybe they were Catholic Standard Issue for the time. The ceremony was very much an expression of our new faith, even though we had both been raised in the church with some seriousness, she Marian Medal in Girl Scouts and valedictorian at Notre Dame Academy, and I still considering three Protestant seminaries with parish ministry in mind. If we had to do all over again, we might do just the same.
And yet, both of us were medieval and renaissance literature trained, anglophilic, and deeply respectful of tradition. Why we thought we could improve on the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, I don't know. It still rings powerfully and captures everything in poetic and concise fashion, doesn't it?
For better, for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health
So long as we both shall live.
We used the standard vows. I should look them up sometime to see what I promised to do. I barely remember that whole day, it was so exciting.
Denominations that have had a long time to work these things out come up with similar stuff in the end, though the poetic nature is often very different. The Baltimore Catechism, Luther's Small Catechism, and the Westminster Confession have important differences. But boy, they look awfully similar in their main points.
I like the old 1552 Book of Common Prayer lines: With this ring, I thee wed; with my body, I thee worship; with all my worldly goods, I thee endow.
I don't remember our vows. We were both atheists, so the service was vaguely traditional but stripped of overt references to religious faith, or even a deity, which didn't at all bother the Unitarian minister. I do recall that I walked halfway up the aisle unaccompanied, then my husband-to-be walked down the aisle to meet me halfway before we both approached the altar together. Despite all that, we're both quite traditional in our marriage in many ways: consistently monogamous, married 38 years, joint financial accounts, all property thoroughly merged regardless of whether Texas law would otherwise have treated it as community or separate. Although I was the primary breadwinner, I took the "with all my worldly goods I thee endow" part seriously even without having heard the phrase at the time. The idea of stockpiling separate property in preparation for a divorce never appealed to me.
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