“I’m pregnant!” or “I won mega bucks”, mean life changing events. Last month, when I asked Linda, a future bride, if she needed an outline for their ceremony she said, “We just want to get married. Bring whatever.” I said No. I had done that once and the words were hollow; we all felt ill-at-ease. When you put effort into seeking out beloved authors, stirring poets and historical verses, everyone wins! Linda and Matt (after finding their words) held hands under a majestic covered bridge. Her eyes glowed when she heard the words spoken that evoked memories and tugged on heart strings. The groom even purred.
I started to look up suggestions to share – but stopped. Don’t search the internet… Search your hearts. You both know the musicians you sing to, the authors that have changed you, the proverbs that your mother speaks, and the poets that knock you off your feet. Use these!
Get to know your Justice of the Peace and allow them tidbits of information that they can incorporate into the opening of the ceremony. One wedding I officiated, eight women were pregnant and I included that in my opening. Another, set in the backcountry, a set of grandparents had never slept in a cabin before. We included a bit about their trepidation. Make it personal and catch people’s attention right from the start. Similarly, here are a few more suggestions.
There are numerous variations; religious or not, with tweaks on the standard variation. Googling Traditional Wedding Vows yields 38 million results! Queen Elizabeth II used traditional vows to marry Prince Philip in 1947. She insisted on including “to obey,” even when close family questioned her choice. I personally struggle with the “til death do us part” part, but if you don’t, use it.
Write four or five of your own vows. Make these solid and value-based. Avoid “I’ll walk the dog every morning,” or “I’ll bring you coffee in bed.” After being married for 19 years, these vows won’t hold meaning. Explore your deep feelings, and let the vows express the integrity of your relationship. You can convey these in a repeat after me format, or read them all yourselves with an I Do at the end.
Privately write down what you mean to each other and read it during the ceremony. This works better for elopements or smaller, more intimate weddings. They are usually too personal for your Uncle George to listen to. Be careful to avoid the “Christmas Gift” effect. When one person puts it all on the line and the other one holds back, there is an uncomfortable feeling of inequity. Skip this if one of you isn’t comfortable putting emotions to words.
It is worth the time and effort to make your ceremony unique. Your friends and family know you. They want to hear the spirit of the wedding seep through the words that the JP, or the reader(s) speaks. After many ceremonies, people will come to me and say “that ceremony really spoke to us and felt like the couple.” Words do have weight. Use this in your favor and have fun with it. If you need some help overcoming writer’s block these tips might help. You can ask your JP for some guidance, too.
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Jean Lee is a Justice of the Peace in New Hampshire. Being a JP suits her lifestyle, as she gets to travel to do cool things. She combines her skills from her adventurous life to make couples’ ceremonies the BEST! Whether on Mount Washington or Lake Winnipesaukee, your wedding is yet another adventure! Find Jean’s and other adventurous JPs’ profiles on findaJP.com.