In my ongoing reflection of the premarital counseling process, I want to say a word about “the vows”. A few years ago, I started affording people the opportunity to write their own vows. You can thank television for this decision. That’s how they do it on TV. Name me a popular sitcom in the past 15-20 years where the love interests don’t spend an episode trying to “write their vows”? The guy can’t do it, because guys don’t write touchy emotional stuff. Watching football, drinking beer, they wait until the last minute before trying extemporize their feelings. The woman writes a sequel to war and peace. Hilarity ensues. People came to me wanting to duplicate this experience. I began to offer and mention the possibility of writing vows early on the counseling process. Most couples don’t go this route. They are comfortable with and drawn to the traditional language of “having and holding”.
Writing your vows isn’t a bad exercise, even if you don’t intend use them. You do, however, force yourself to think about the promises you’re making. The act of putting pen to paper gives one pause to think, “What am I committing to in front of God and these other people?”
If I had to rewrite the marriage vows of the United Methodist Church to reflect what I’ve learned in my own life and 16 years of full time ministry, this is what I would say:
Do you take this person…
In their bad habits,
In their annoying moments,
With their pre-existing baggage,
In times when they will let you down
In times when emotional distance is a frightening reality,
In times where you cannot deny their abundant imperfections,
In times when they say the dumbest, most hurtful, careless things,
In times when you have to look through couch cushions for money,
In those times that your body and mind cease to work at all,
-as long as you both shall live?