The Freedom of the Wedding Vows
About one week to go until our wedding! After so much anticipation, it’s exciting to finally be down to the last details. We made it back to Wisconsin in one piece, despite several plane delays, an almost missed connection flight, a wine bottle breaking in my suitcase (don’t worry, my wedding dress was not in there), and one lost piece of luggage that we suppose will arrive sometime this week. But all of it was well worth the trouble, and we are both so happy to be back in Wisconsin.
After enjoying a lovely Fourth of July with the requisite fireworks, cheesy potatoes, and family board games, we are now trying to get all the final details of the wedding done, from the seating charts to the music list, from writing our Mass petitions to memorizing our vows. We’re being brave and are going to attempt to say our vows from memory rather than repeat after the priest, or at least that’s the plan for now. We’ll see if nerves get us in the end.
While I’ve heard some people express their chagrin about the fact that the Catholic Church doesn’t allow you to write your own vows, I personally really love the Catholic wedding vows. I think they are very beautiful and say exactly what needs to be said and nothing more, speaking directly to the heart of marriage. The most commonly used form goes something like this: “I, Megan, take you, Juan, to be my husband. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love you and honor you all the days of my life.” Simple, eloquent, and incredibly profound. Without knowing what life will bring, we promise to love each other in a way that imitates the intensity and faithfulness of Christ’s love for the Church as long as we both shall live. It doesn’t get much more romantic than that. And amazingly, that kind of promise isn’t crazy but entirely possible, because love is a choice and because we don’t rely on our own strength to keep our vows but rather we rely on God.
In an almost ironic way, I think it will be an incredibly freeing thing to bind my life to my husband’s like that. After all, in life, we don’t always have a lot of control over what happens. We can work hard and do our best, but we never know when illness or accidents will strike, so we promise to give the other person the one thing we do have control over, ourselves, and most importantly, our love. It’s as though you’re saying that while you can’t know exactly what life has in store, good times or bad, sickness or health, you can, with the help of God and the grace of the sacrament, make a promise about how you will respond in the face of those realities, and that that response will always be love. Unconditionally.
We’ll get to spend the rest of our lives really learning what it means to live out our vows in good times and in bad, and we’re very grateful for the love and support of the many wonderful couples in our family and among our friends. It seems that recently we’ve seen many examples of what those vows mean. This has been and will be an eventful summer in both good ways and bad. This summer, several of our younger married friends and family have welcomed children into the world, celebrated baptisms, and are falling more in love with each other as they expand their little families, try to balance work and family, and work on building up their homes.
We have also seen several couples, both older and not so old, struggling with terminal illness in either their spouses or, even more heartbreakingly, their children. My own grandparents recently received bad news about my grandfather’s health, and they won’t be able to travel to the wedding because of complications.
In all this, in the good times and the bad, in sickness and in health, all I can say is what a beautiful vocation marriage is, what a beautiful gift it is, to live out those vows no matter what, to love someone passionately, to give yourself away in freedom, and to see the beauty of another human soul in a way perhaps second only to how God sees us, and how beautiful to be loved in return in this same way.
Please keep Juan and I in your prayers our last week before the wedding! You’ll be in ours.