A Look Back: Our Marriage Vows

Three years ago tomorrow, Ben and I said ‘I do’ in an incredibly simple garden ceremony half as long as the average ceremony I have been composing for couples over the past two and half years. I know I would compose a completely different ceremony for us if I could do it all again. But how different would our wedding vows be? And more importantly have we been living up to those vows? These are the promises we made to each other:

I promise to keep myself open to you,
To let you see through the window of my world,
Into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
I promise to trust you and honour you.
To laugh with you and cry with you.
I will love you faithfully,
Through the best and worst,
Through the difficult and the easy,
Completely and forever.
Come what may I promise I will always be there.
As I give you my hand to hold,
So I give you my life to keep.

Not long after we returned from our Honeymoon, we found and moved into a cottage in a village which opened up to us the lifestyle we enjoy today. That home and that village came to define our first year as husband and wife. It felt like our shared life started there. It was there that we really found who we were as a couple, and discovered our shared dream for our future. In our jubilation and to help us to cherish each other and our lives there we agreed further promises to live by day to day.

We pledge to have bubbles and bubbles at least once every two weeks and give thanks for our blessings
To explore on foot the village and surrounding countryside once a week – on Sundays if possible
To meet for a drink in the pub every Friday
To buy our meat from the local farm and to try the local oil
To go swimming in (nearby town) once a week
To have people over at least twice a month
To attempt to grow veg in the garden
To improve the lawn and garden
To go to (nearby towns) for shopping
To holiday close to home
To watch village cricket on Saturdays
To share the cooking and washing up
To always smile and greet fellow locals

When we wrote our wedding vows we were still getting to know one another having only met 18 months earlier. What shines through our wedding ceremony and wedding day in general is our relief and elation that we had finally found one another, that we were more than soul mates, we were perfect for each other, and that we really wanted to marry each other and be together, in each other’s pockets, for the rest of our lives. Click to read the rest of the story

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Ceremony Music: make or break tips

1. Choose someone reliable to be in charge of setting up and starting and stopping the music
2. Make this their one and only job so they are there when needed and there is no delay in music starting
3. Test any equipment well in advance, not just the morning of the wedding
4. Try out volume levels for entrance, exit and mid-ceremony music
5. The volume for the exit song needs to be louder than other ceremony music, get a few people to clap and cheer over it and turn it up even louder

6. Mid-ceremony music needs to be low enough to talk over and be heard if used during Celebrant speaking
7. Mid-ceremony music may need to be looped so test how smoothly your chosen song can be repeated
8. Instrumental music is best for mid-ceremony whether or not the Celebrant is speaking over it
9. If playing music to be sung over see tip no. 5
10. Choose rousing, exhilarating music for the exit song to best fit the relief and elation of the Bride and Groom

11. Never abruptly stop a piece of music, always fade out gradually
12. Leave your background playlist on right up to the second the entrance song is started to avoid an awkward silence which heightens tension and nerves and makes time go ever so slowly (see tip no.2)
13. Start the exit song the second the Bride and Groom kiss or the Celebrant has stopped speaking – whichever is sooner
14. Start the after ceremony music as soon as the exit song finishes
15. Don’t assume the person in charge of the music will think of these points even if they seem like common sense, don’t assume anything, write instructions, and rehearse!

Symbolic gifts for anniversaries

I haven’t come across a definitive list of the traditional gifts or symbols associated with different wedding anniversary milestones, but this is one I’m happy represents the British consensus quite well.

1st – Paper
2nd – Cotton
3rd – Leather
4th – Linen
5th – Wooden
6th – Iron
7th – Copper/Wool
8th – Bronze
9th – Pottery
10th – Tin
11th – Steel
12th – Silk
13th – Lace
14th – Ivory
15th – Crystal

Ben and I celebrate our third anniversary next week and I haven’t bought him anything, much less anything in leather. Like many couples we can rarely justify spending money on ourselves or each other. Afterall, we’ve got each other, and back massages are free! Yea we’re happy and don’t need gifts to remind us we are loved, but I do love to buy Ben gifts, even if there’s no occasion. He deserves little treats and surprises and it makes me so happy.

For our first anniversary we bought each other papercut design cards, papercut being an ‘us’ thing. Last year we didn’t exchange gifts but we decided to have another baby, who we bought plenty of things made of cotton. I love the idea of us buying ourselves a joint gift. Something for our bedroom or bathroom, something we’d use every day, for each anniversary. It’s ideal that the list of traditional anniversary gifts suggests objects of quality and craftsmanship. Anniversary gifts are among those gifts you’d like to cherish and hand down to your children. Objects that come to define your home and space and lifestyle. We value handmade pieces, prefer unique and unusual pieces, and I love anything with a past and a story.

Cotton: I bought Ben a Liberty print handkerchief for our wedding, a handkerchief he’ll keep and love forever. Leather: the year after we were married we bought an Italian leather super king-size bed, a bed that will last the rest of our lives, we share with our children. Linen: some nice dinner napkins would suit us as we use them every day. Wood: Maybe that year we’ll get round to making our bespoke coat and hat rack with mismatched hooks that reflect our personalities for each the family. Iron: A second fireside companion so each of the downstairs open fires has one each. Copper: copper bathtubs are pretty special and we’ll need a bath when we convert the attic into our master suite, however having just Ebay’d them gosh they’re expensive, I would love copper saucepans instead . Wool: we use throws and blankets a lot both in the snug and on the bed, a Cotswold wool blanket would be perfect.

Bronze: something for the garden. Pottery: maybe we’ll replace our crockery. I’ve been hankering after an Emma Bridgewater hearts milk jug forever. Tin: probably something else for the garden – when in doubt! Tin makes very cute hole-punched candle holders. Steel: We already have a nice cutlery set. I’m sure we’ll find something in one of the nice kitchen shops in Oxford or Witney. Silk: I’m struggling to think of silk items for the home, but I’d start by looking for silk cushion covers. Lace: Like linen, beautiful lace is always something I want to bring home with me from France. I think our Dining Room could pull off a lace table cloth without looking too geriatric. Ivory: Our kids will still be pretty young so we could finally get a piano (if we can make room for one) and it should still see some use as they grow up. Crystal: Instead of the obvious wine glasses, maybe we’ll treat ourselves to an expensive bottle of champagne! Scandalous!

20th – China
25th – Silver
30th – Pearl
35th – Coral
40th – Ruby
45th – Sapphire
50th – Gold
55th – Emerald
60th – Diamond
65th – Blue Sapphire
70th – Platinum

I think it’s sensible to switch to five-yearly gifts of significance once you’ve been married 15 years, but I don’t agree that after a point, a grand gesture every ten years is more appropriate! Anything longer than 50 years of marriage, with so many couples marrying in their 30s rather than their 20s, is bloomin marvellous! All the more reason to celebrate the passing of another five years. If you are fortunate enough to get to 70 happy years together well then you already have more than money can buy – a wonderfully long lifetime of memories.

China: we already have quite a collection of china tea sets, which we plan to use in our tea garden when it’s open, so it would make sense to buy something special for the tea garden this year. The rest of the list is suggestive of jewellery. I know I will much rather buy one of our children a piece of jewellery made of the stones and metals symbolic of our years together as family keepsakes. After all back massages will still be free 🙂

These are a few of my favourite things (about a wedding ceremomy)

As a guest albeit one with the role of Celebrant to play, having an excuse to dress up, wear makeup and jewellery, coif my hair and sometimes even wear nail varnish!
The mad rush to get out the house and into the car with the husband and kids, even though we sometimes snap at each other in the chaos, it’s so us, and I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s an exciting start to the day!
Reading the script and being impressed with myself and thinking to myself, I’m really good at my job.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the hard work of the Bride and Groom and their family of helpers, before any of the guests arrive.
Quirky signs using puns of their names and witty personal touches the Bride and Groom have thought of, such as their cut out faces on a wedding bake off trophy.
Checking out and comparing the toilets.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Nervous Grooms, especially if I can make them laugh; and people wishing the Groom luck.
Hearing the reactions of guests to the décor; and guests taking lots of photographs.
Seeing the wedding rings. Hearing the entrance song.
These are a few of my favourite things.

Seeing the Bride’s face (not her dress) as she walks in and looks for the Groom’s face.
Grooms with huge smiles and tears in their eyes when they see the Bride.
The Bride and Groom exchanging a few words when they are reunited at the front (usually sharing how nervous/overwhelmed they are or hot/cold/tired and how good they both look).
These are a few of my favourite things.

The Bride smiling at me. Guests smiling and crying throughout the ceremony, especially gasps of delight.
The ring and vow exchange because it’s such a personal and tender moment between the Bride and Groom we get to witness.
The fact that the rings hardly ever fit easily and have to be forced on (and how keen they are that the ring WILL go on).
These are a few of my favourite things.

Declaring the Bride and Groom husband and wife and everyone cheering.
Seeing all the love for the Bride and Groom in the congratulation hugs and kisses and photographs.
The parents of the Bride and Groom thanking and kissing me.
These are a few of my favourite things.