Last Sunday Steve and I sat down to chat about the contents of our actual wedding ceremony (oh, that). We’d had the pleasure of meeting with our officiant, my former youth minister Paul, back in the spring. He’d given us some information about the traditional order of service and vows, and we’d chatted about some of our plans for readings and ceremony music then. But we’d had yet to sit down and look at his notes and our notes and really think about what we wanted to say to each other, word by word, other than “I do.”
Steve refilled his coffee, I my tea, and we sat across from one another at the dining room table, with a view of the park across the street from our new home. The sun shone through the window where a cat had taken up residence, and the dog lay on the floor between our feet. I was prepared for lots of mushy sentiments and maybe even some teariness. What could be more romantic than spending a Sunday morning planning your wedding ceremony with the love of your life?
Actually, it turned out to be kind of like writing a syllabus.
Those outside of academia may not relate to the comparison, so allow me to borrow from my father’s description (he taught chemistry for over 40 years): writing a syllabus is kind of like putting together a puzzle. You have goals for the course, and you have all these pieces that need to be part of the course to help students reach the goals (readings, papers, etc.). You have to figure out how to fit all those pieces together in a logical order that will engage students and “flow.”
Both Steve and I are equal parts traditional and unconventional, so we want our ceremony to reflect that balance, honoring tradition while also making things our own. We debated where it made the most sense to insert the unity flower ceremony—before or after the readings? Close to or far removed from the vows? As we discussed edits and possible orders of the readings we’ve selected, we realized we had to consider where people would stand and traffic patterns, too. We even drew a map to help us figure it out.
We’re not academics for nothing.
We did have some fun thinking about our music selections, though much of that was for the reception rather than the ceremony. Who knew you could Google “good cake-cutting songs” (well, who knew you needed one?) and actually get multiple top-20 lists? I wasn’t sure whether to be more amused or horrified that Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” was not only a popular choice for cake-cutting but also bouquet-tossing. Um, ouch?
I’d originally thought Steve and I might write our own vows, having recalled that my brother and sister-in-law had done so. I recalled one phrase from theirs I liked in particular: instead of claiming “until death do us part” (so morbid), they’d said “until the stars fall from the sky.” I offered that phrasing to Steve, but he wasn’t buying it.
“I can’t say that,” he said.
His outright rejection surprised me. “Why not? It’s so poetic.”
“I’m too much of a realist to say that. I don’t think I’ll still be around when the stars fall from the sky, so I can’t promise that.”
I kind of hope our world doesn’t implode in my lifetime either, so I understood his reasoning—though I still love the metaphor. In retrospect, I suppose I could have reminded him that the stars (again, metaphorically speaking) just fell from the sky last week during the Perseids meteor shower. Then again, maybe an annual event isn’t the best image to evoke for a lifetime promise.
We hadn’t known, until we perused the materials from our officiant, that there were four or five sets of traditional vows from which to choose. Some didn’t suit us, but several had language we found appealing. Instead of composing our own vows from scratch, we’ve selected one of the traditional sets, with a minor tweak or two. We’re writing something ourselves for our unity ceremony (and lest you’re wondering, it does NOT include sand). We were also quite taken with something we saw at the wedding we attended a few weeks ago: the bride and groom each wrote a brief letter to one another prior to the wedding, and the rabbi read the statements aloud as part of the ceremony. We’re hoping to incorporate a similar ritual if possible, though the key to doing so will be having our officiant participate, because if I tried to read a letter myself, I’d dissolve into a blubbering mess.
Our morning meeting wasn’t absent romance altogether: we shared some sweet smiles and hand squeezes as we talked about what to say in our unity ceremony, and I did get a little teary as Steve and I read bits of the passages about love we’ve chosen aloud to one another. The truth is I choke up, some days, merely thinking about a moment in our ceremony—walking down the aisle with my dad, exchanging rings with Steve, saying our vows. I have no idea how I’m going to get through the day itself without multiple iterations of tears.
I’m headed out later today to do a trial run with my makeup artist. Guess I’d better ask her about that industrial-strength waterproof mascara.