Wedding Vows

Hearts and promises...

Hearts and promises…

Like most couples, at the instant we met we were child-free. However, unlike younger couples, we would not be child-free for several years while we cemented our relationship and planned for the future. Three hours, at most, would separate us from school pick-up time and the resumption of parenting duties. As our children unsuspectingly practiced for their Nativity Plays, we sat outside a cafe and talked. It was November, as I recall, and our words came out in puffs of smoke which mingled with the steam from the coffee on the table.

It was a small sliver of time in which to be our independent adult selves, to focus on each other, like any new couple. Yet on this occasion and the many that followed, our conversation focused often on the kids; we found a mutual pleasure in sharing stories about them. There was no ‘me’ without my daughter, no ‘him’ without his son, and no ‘us’ without the both of them. Right from the beginning, there were four of us. As the children meandered through their school day, they didn’t know it and neither did we, but we were beginning to dream a family into existence.

Five years later, we sat down to plan our wedding service. We wanted to acknowledge the importance of the children, without making the entire day about them. After all, they will actually leave home one day, and our union will outlast the family unit we are creating. I flicked around on the internet for ideas about involving children in weddings. In the US, there is a ‘family medallion’, a patented idea which seems to be fairly popular. It comprises three engraved circles which interlock to symbolise the couple and the child (ren), and is sold with wedding vows for children (also patented). We decided that these were too commercialised, and I wasn’t sure about the Venn diagram symbolism. The circles seemed more representative of a couple with a baby, than our shape-shifting family. Rather than three interlocked circles, we feel like planets orbiting one another – moving independently, sometimes out of sight of one another, but always returning to the same point, linked by forces we cannot see (like hunger, that undeniable force that brings them to the dinner table every day).

The children are fast heading for puberty and the creation of their own mini-universe, already beginning to struggle for independence, and so now doesn’t seem the right time to get them to promise commitment to an extra parent. I was even less convinced when I read this heart-rending comment on an internet discussion forum: from someone who had been overjoyed to get the family medallion as a child, only to be disillusioned when the marriage broke down:

‘It taught me that promises can be broken,’ she said ‘and I felt responsible for the marriage not working, as if I hadn’t kept my promises.’

This testimony reminded me that promises should not be bandied around like sweets; they are too heavy a burden for a child to carry. Yet, for my Intended and I, who have chosen to make promises on this day, it is important to show that we are committing to one another’s children as well as each other.

I carried on clicking through vows and comments, had a brief laugh at the idea of my daughter promising to obey my Intended, before finding these words:

‘I was not there when you took your first steps, but I promise you now that I will love and support you in every step you take in your life.’

This seemed to say just enough, but not too much. There is an acknowledgement that we are not the birth parent, and a simple promise – one that asks nothing in return. I felt that I could keep this promise, regardless of what happened between my Intended and me.

More clicking, and I found the necklace (above) and this beautiful thing from notonthehighstreet.

Dog tags and promises...

Dog tags and promises…

The pieces of jewellry on this page are made by Dizzy; we think that Best Man will like the dog-tags and Chief Bridesmaid the necklace, engraved with something short and sweet. Hopefully they will keep them and treasure them, these symbols of how far we have all come since that cold November day, back in the mists of time.

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The Wedding Script

Much of life follows a script, from proscribed polite responses to more subtle unspoken rules about what should and shouldn’t be said. Every so often, I get an irresistible urge to deviate from the expected response, particularly when in interviews or a work situation. I describe this as ‘being original’; bosses unfortunately tend to describe it as ‘being inappropriate’.

Yet when it comes to my wedding, my behaviour is right on cue. I find myself shouting at my Intended in typical ‘Bridezilla’ fashion:

‘You are showing NO INTEREST in the wedding, and it was YOUR IDEA in the first place!’

This argument was so clichéd it could have been following a special wedding script. Imagine my dismay on picking up one of the wedding magazines that I have been flicking through, to find the subheading

‘Is your fiance showing no interest in the wedding, even thought it was his idea in the first place?’

I was following a wedding script, and not even a good one; I had picked the most banal line from the whole wedding magazine! Am I really so suggestible, I wondered? What is it about a Wedding that gives rise to so many stereotypes, and why is it so hard to avoid conforming to them?

As we found when looking around wedding venues, wedding coordinators (or sales advisors, as they never call themselves) refer often to wedding tropes, explaining to the groom that the wedding is ‘all about the bride’. They talk about weddings as highly orchestrated, almost choreographed events, each separate constituent referred to in capital letters and prefaced with The: (The Guests, The Toast, The Flowers), which makes it sound somehow scary as in my head they were our friends and family, some booze and some flowers. Too much formality could bring on an embarassing attack of original behaviour from me.

As we were struggling to picture our wedding in the hotel we had chosen, we widened our search to include the local golf club. Red patterned carpet shrieked at red patterned sofas as we mounted the stairs, past the stair lift, into the bar room with its well stocked bar and faint aroma of leather, cigars and manly sweat. We opened the doors out onto the balcony which looked out over the golf course, now colourful with autumn leaves.

‘The golf course is out of bounds,’ said our guide ‘we are not insured for people getting hit on the head by golf balls.’

‘You can put the cover on the pool table and put your buffet on there,’ he explained.

On the way out, we stopped to look at the stair lift.

‘Kids are not to play on this, they keep breaking it. We did cover it over with a black bin bag for the last wedding, but it didn’t look too clever. We’ve ordered a proper cover now.’

We had never heard any of these lines before. As we left the building, golden leaves swirled around us like confetti. We laughed, turned to one another and said, in (unrehearsed) unison

‘I like it.’

When we got home, we began to discuss how we could decorate the golf club so that it would look like the scene of a wedding. My Intended actually began to search for other local venues and caterers on the internet, with an enthusiasm he had not shown earlier. I felt relief that these onerous tasks were no longer to be left to me alone.

It seems that the chance to write our own wedding script was what we had needed all along.