A Look Back: Our Marriage Vows (Part 2)

Our first year of marriage promises reveal more about our personalities and our lives than our vows do, which is why I would love to write vows more similar to these for any future renewal. Our lives moved quickly and before long our focus was again turning, this time to how we wanted to raise our children. Having together broken down and rebuilt parts of each other’s souls before and after our wedding day, by asking the most profound and heart-wrenching questions, we emerged certain of our shared principles and priorities. What we wrote was a manifesto that summed up what it was to be a Catley-Richardson, the new family we had created by joining our names.

This is your life
Do what you love, and do it often
If you don’t like something change it
Question everything
Some opportunities only come once, seize them
Life is not a rehearsal
Enjoy the little things in life – one day you’ll look back and realise they were the big things
When you eat, appreciate every last bite
Travel often –getting lost will help you find yourself
Open your mind, arms and heart to new things and new people
Do not lose faith in humanity
We are united in our differences
All emotions are beautiful
You are part of a family that loves you very much
Life is a precious thing so don’t burn it up start living it day by day
Live your dream and share your passion
Don’t make do, make happen
Strive, don’t settle
Live for love

The manifesto was inspired by Holstee, but I’ve always been keen to have words on the walls of my home, because the written word to me is one of if not the most beautiful, precious human art forms. I incorporated some of my favourite quotations, borrowed from various sources of inspiration in my life, and we came up with a few key statements of our own that were the lessons of our first years of marriage. The manifesto serves to remind us and our children of what we consider the most important truths to keep in mind every day as you live your life. Less than three years on, the manifesto needs updating and improving to better reflect our reality now, so it is a living document.

How far our relationship has come in those short three years. Bubbles and bubbles – referring to prosecco in the bath – has become even more of an us thing, in the bath that we chose in the house we own together, it’s the centrepiece of Jam Jar Spa day gifts from him, and the at least weekly debrief and destress tete-a-tetes. We have embraced the Cotswold country lifestyle and Ben plays cricket when he can. We are absolutely convinced of staycations and local holidaying. We try to live our lives to the full, squeezing as much in as we can at the weekends, keeping in touch with good friends, travelling to see them and family, improving our home and garden, being involved in the community, individually doing the things we love and both striving little by little to realise all of our hopes and ambitions. We love each other completely, without any part of ourselves reserved, unconditionally, for exactly who the other is, openly and freely. When I gave Ben my hand, I gave him my life to keep. And keep my life he does.

Part 1 of the story is here

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

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.

The case for same-sex marriage

Just because civil partnerships between same-sex couples are legal in England we tend to think that marriage has been legalised. It hasn’t. The English law states that marriage is only marriage if it is between one man and one woman. I do not see this only as an outrageous affront to same-sex couples, but as more generally sexist, and as a grave insult to the human rite of marriage. The idea that law may dictate who together enters into emotional, intellectual and physical unity pronounced and celebrated in a marriage ceremony is absurd. The only people fit to choose are those entering into this committment of love, sharing, and lifelong loyalty.

My views on marriage are humanist, that is to say that I view marriage as an expression of our humanity. I can not see marriage in a cynical way, expecting it to fail, or blame it for the church, the law, or society’s failings in its name. Marriage hasn’t had a perfect track record. Many marriages have failed. Marriage has been used as a weapon. It has been used to control and disempower. However, this history and these associations cannot taint the concept of marriage or the wholly natural impulse we have to join together under the banner of marriage.

http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmI am very aware that opinion is divided on the issue, and that not all same-sex couples wish to marry – instead preferring the quite separate option to ‘wed’ in a civil partnership. My case for the term marriage to be applied to all those wishing to express their intentions to share their lives with one or more particular partners is that there is no justifiable reason not to. Objections to certain types of relationships come from societal rather than human concerns. The only concerns worth our considering are limited to the sincerity and seriousness with which the partners in question are approaching marriage and making their commitments to each other. The question is not whether marriage is good for society, but whether marriage is good for personal happiness and fulfilled lives.

Civil partnerships and marriages may differ legally but within a humanist wedding ceremony they are treated with http://www.rainbowsugarcraft.co.uk/shop/Cake_Toppers.htmexactly the same degree of respect and are looked on as having exactly the same status. What is more, I will most certainly refer to a same-sex partnership as a marriage if that is how the couple see their union. Even if the lived experience of marriage and civil partnership is the same, the symbolic distinction matters to me. Humanist wedding ceremonies are chosen for their symbolic significance, and while they can be used to mitigate the inequality of the legal situation, I would still like to see same-sex marriages given the legal status and recognition they deserve. Couples who feel unaffected by the distinction may not see this as an issue. Not everyone wants to fight to be allowed to marry, while to them marriage seems to be conforming to a repressive and outdated institution. Not everyone can see a reason for calling civil partnerships ‘marriages’, but I hope that every thinking person with a regard for human happiness can see no reason not to.

Click here to read about the British Humanist Association’s campaign for legal humanist weddings and legal same-sex marriage.

Making an Entrance!

Following on from yesterday’s post about the significance of holding onto something as you walk down the aisle, today I’m exploring options for making an entrance with a difference.

Who gives this woman…?

The overwhelming majority of Brides still choose to be given away by their Dads. For many Brides, their Father is the ideal person to escort them down the aisle. Long gone is the traditional meaning of being given away. Brides are no longer considered property (or burden) to be passed from man to man. Still, many of us feel that is important to be given away by our Fathers as a show of their blessing and approval of our marriage and choice of Groom.

There are many reasons why the Father may not be the obvious choice for this very important role. Some Fathers will be sadly absent. Other Brides may feel another member of their family played a more significant role, or is a more fitting escort on their wedding day. In choosing our escort(s) we should honour those who have brought us up, those who have shaped us, those who have been there for us and provided us with support and guidance. I personally wanted to honour my Mom as well as my Dad by asking her to walk me down the aisle. The idea being they hold an arm each. If the width of your aisle doesn’t allow for this, do as I did and ask your Mom to walk down the aisle with your Maid of Honour.

Mothers often fall into the conventional slot that is made for Mother-of-the-Bride, without thinking they can take part in wedding ceremonies in these kinds of ways. Just ask what each traditional element means to you, and invite whoever means most in that regard to be a part of the tradition. Traditions are created by regular people, and there is nothing but ourselves to stop us creating our very own new family traditions.

The French have a lovely tradition of the Mother of the Groom giving him away to the Bride. I think this act has the potential to have a powerful effect on all those involved. If, as all rituals should be, it is enacted with an appreciation of why it is being done. Marriage is undeniably a watershed moment where the key players in a newlywed couple’s lives change places forever. The wedding ceremony is the perfect opportunity for those key players, generally parents/guardians and spouses, to acknowledge this handover of power, and the resulting shift in priorities. A father’s daughter becomes a married woman. The most important person in her life becomes her husband rather than her father. A mother’s son becomes a married man. The most important person in his life becomes his wife rather than his mother. Love is not lessened and no less respect or regard is felt. This is simply what marriage requires. Acceptance of inevitable and necessary change is essential to family harmony.

http://thepunypundit.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/father-of-the-future-brides/

Going solo…

Many couples incorporate a unity ritual into the main wedding ceremony but don’t think to start the ceremony with one. If you are not escorted down the aisle but instead enter alone, this serves to highlight your togetherness at the front. If you both walk down the aisle alone one by one, this only heightens your individual nature before coming together in marriage. There is no reason why the Groom should wait for the Bride at the front rather than make an entrance himself. If it is possible to enter the room at the same time from opposite directions before walking down the aisle together, this can be very symbolic of couples who already feel unity before marriage whilst acknowledging that you are coming into the marriage from different places.

Your walk down the aisle can represent your final steps as an unmarried individual. Whilst your wedding ceremony will reflect your personality as a couple, and combine elements of your individual personalities, your entrance can be exclusively yours. Instead of choosing entrance music: a wedding march, or processional; instead choose your own personal theme tune. This goes for both halves of the couple. Choosing markedly different music from each other will show beautifully and effortlessly who you are separately and celebrate that fact as your guests recognise YOU in your music choice. The entrance music does not have to be classical. It can be a TV theme tune, a pop song, disco tune, opera, anything. Your individual songs can be cross faded or blended so that they are both separate and as one.

Taking your time…

Whatever music you choose and whoever you choose to enter with, it is important not to rush down the aisle. Walking through your guests should be savoured. Give yourself time to look at and smile at every row of guests. Soak it up and take your time. This is your wedding day and you want to remember Every. Last. Bit.

If you think you might rush on the day, choose music that will slow your steps down. Think of it as a dance. Match your steps to the beats of the song. Don’t feel self-conscious. All eyes are on you, but they should be! No one has anywhere else to be. They are all there for you.

Try not to look at your feet. If you’re worried about this, choose a dress that is ankle length or shorter.

And finally, practice with your escort if you are having one.

More than an aisle…

The first and only thought for an aisle, especially in outdoor ceremonies tends to be the red carpet. If you want carpet, choose a colour that complements the rest of the ceremony and the wedding. For something more personalised, you can get aisle runners that are specially printed with your initials or monogram.

Consider a thick carpet of petals, or outlining the aisle with candle holders, lanterns, petals, or other markers that tie in with your theme, such as seashells or driftwood.

Turn your aisle into a tunnel. Guests can be asked to blow bubbles towards you and upwards, making an arch for you to walk through. Alternatively, guests nearest the aisle could turn inwards and join hands above your head(s) as you walk past them.

http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2011/air-new-zealand-fit-to-fly-with-richard-simmons/

Things to do…

If you’re not holding a bouquet, your hands are free to do any number of things. Likewise, don’t feel that you have to simply walk forwards. If there’s something more active than walking that is an important part of who you are that would lend itself to an entrance, you should do it. Just to throw some examples out there: breakdancing, moonwalking, skipping, riding a horse, pogoing, performing magic tricks, combing your hair. It’s all about expressing yourself.

When you get to the front, consider your options. Who would you like to kiss or shake hands with? Would you like to take a bow? Would you like to pick your Bride up? Again, if it’s YOU, do it. Have the confidence to inject your personalities into these first minutes of the ceremony, and you’ll have set the mood wonderfully for the rest of the day.

Souless Soulmates

When I was putting together my own wedding ceremony script, I wanted to convey to our guests how we felt about coming together as man and wife. Ben in particular felt strongly that you should not enter into marriage being warned that it was hard work, or that you had to take it seriously lest it fail. We both disagreed with the sentiment we often heard at weddings of our peers that marriage should be a time to remember that we are individuals and that entering wedlock should not affect our independence from each other.

Ben and I struggled through our adolescence feeling utterly alone and at odds with the world. When we found each other we found relief that we were not the only ones in the world searching for the other half of our soul. When we found each other we found validation for believing there was one perfect other for us out there, somewhere.

The belief in soulmates is ancient as can be seen in Aristophanes tale of four legged, four armed, two faced human beings being physically cleft in two by Zeus. The story resonates as we ARE our most powerful, our most content when we are joined by our partners, and we DO feel bereft when we are without them.

So how do I square my belief in soul mates with my lack of belief in a soul? Whatever we mean when we talk about the soul is undoubtedly the part of us, the essence of us, the humanity of us that aches for ‘the one’. In both cases we are referring to the complex, as yet ungraspable totality of our physical and emotional existence. We are not really suggesting there is a floating cloudlike soul that lives within us. We do not really believe in ghosts. When we die, sadly, I think we really do cease to exist in any conscious way. Where and how I am buried won’t matter to me once I am dead, but I would like to be buried nonetheless. I would like to buried next to my beloved nonetheless. I would like to be buried as close to him as possible nonetheless.