An Engaging Ceremony

Last summer, I went to a very traditional wedding: stained-glassed windows coloring and diffusing the light, the priest commanding the audience with his noble presence, the flowers framing the scene, the bride and groom posing picturesquely.

And next to me in the pew was a fellow guest, bent over his cell phone, sending text messages to his friend.

Although texting is, by far, pretty high on the thermometer of wedding rudeness (up there with playing tic-tac-toe on the wedding program or having a thumb war with your date), his obvious disengagement left me wondering: How many people are equally bored with the ceremony but just too polite to do anything but look forward and smile blithely?

And to the ceremony’s credit, there was nothing explicitly wrong with it. There were readings and vows and a kiss—the things that make a wedding a wedding. But they were all the familiar things: With this ring, I thee wed. Love is patient, love is kind. To have and to hold from this day forward.

Once you’re in your twenties or thirties and have heard the clichéd phrases for the twentieth or thirtieth time, your brain loses focuses and starts to wonder, “How much longer until the reception starts?”

When it came time to plan my own $2,000 wedding, I didn’t want to fall into the same trap. I didn’t want my guests sneaking Suduko into the ceremony.

I wanted a ceremony that engaged the audience—that inspired them to listen and reflect. I wanted them to think “Wow, that was great,” rather than, “Thank goodness that was short.”

That’s why Matt and I decided to write our ceremony from scratch. Basically, we invented our own symbolic gestures that were both more interesting because they were novel and were more representative of us and our lives.

wedding quilt ceremony

  1. Quilt-Wrapping: Instead of signifying unity through a candle lighting ritual, we were wrapped in a quilt made from the fabric of friends and family to signify unification, the warmth and support of friends and family that are needed to sustain a healthy relationship, the comfort we bring to each other, and the bond between us that will continue to develop. On our wedding website, we asked guests to send us a small piece of fabric. Then—thanks to the help of another internet tutorial—Matt and I turned them into a quilt.
  2. Tree-Planting Ceremony: Instead of reading something about how love takes effort, we planted a resilient Live Oak sapling to represent the growth of our love and symbolize that marriage—like a tree—requires constant nurturing and nourishment.

We also wrote our vows from scratch. We decided to follow the following format: “I love you because…” followed by: “Because I love you…”

  1. Matt, I love you because you make me laugh out loud on a daily basis, like when you come up with alternate names for our dog, Hoss, such as Hoss-tage, Hoss of Pain, or Hoss-car Myer Weiner.
  2. I love you because you challenge me to be a better person, like when you made me promise to tell the Penske truck people that we scraped the moving van.
  3. I love you because we create adventures together, like Halloween scavenger hunts or road trips out West.
  4. I love you because you care so much for other people that you inspire all of us to be more caring. You do things like put toothpaste on my toothbrush and leave it out for me or come home on the worst day of winter with slippers and a Chia pet herb garden.
  5. I love you because I smile every time I wake up to you and when I come home to you. We play together, brainstorm together, create together, read together. Your hand always feels comfortable in mine.
  6. Matt, because I love you, I promise to treat you the way you want to be treated and with the respect you deserve. I promise to build trust with my words and actions. I will be your cheerleader, your nurse, your editor, your therapist, your teacher, your student, and your partner in adventure. I will deeply appreciate all of your positive qualities and not let the passage of time dull that appreciation. When life challenges us, I promise to focus on the resiliency of our love. And if I stumble and fail to live up to my promises, I will look you in the eyes, hold your hands, and apologize with sincerity. I will be my best for you.

Yes, we worried that we would freak out our families (Matt’s is Irish-Catholic and mine is Presbyterian). But in the end, people said it was so beautiful and sincere (even our families).