When I received my friend Meredith’s copy of The Wedding Ceremony Planner, I scoffed at the subtitle: “the essential guide to the most important part of your wedding day.” “Most important”? Pshaw. The most important part is having fun and celebrating with your friends and family and spouse. Isn’t the ceremony just the part where the guests look over the program again and again hoping to find something else to entertain them while waiting for the bar to open? [Yes, I was (am?) that asshole.]
But I realized around the time we started looking for officiants that I actually did care about our ceremony. Specifically, I didn’t want it to feel inauthentic. The thought of hiring an officiant we did not know and following their script for how to marry two people made my stomach sour. It felt dishonest an impersonal and those are the last things I wanted for the beginning of my marriage.
So when I sat down to write our ceremony, it was with an oven-fresh consciousness of the importance of that script. Importance means high stakes, which means pressure.
There’s Too Much Out There
A lot of wedding blog posts about writing the ceremony suggest reading other people’s ceremonies and cobbling yours out of the best parts. And I think that’s fantastic advice for a lot of people, but that strategy did not work for me. I had my two dozen tabs open with ceremony scripts from all my blog friends’ weddings and all their blog friends’ weddings, and I’d see ten variations of the same sentence, and I’d find myself completely at a loss for choosing which version I liked best. It was overwhelming. So I closed all my tabs and put away all my wedding books and started with a blank Word document. I thought this would work for me because…
I’m a Writer
[Ed. note: I wrote this post before today's APW column on writing vows went up, so similarities are coincidental and embarrassing because I do not have ANY degree in writing, because last time I checked you can't get an MFA in Blogging. YET!]
Maybe the most important lesson of my year+ of wedding planning is that I love writing. I needed this blog. I needed to get my words back after law school beat all the creativity out of me.
Part of the reason I love writing is I know I am good at it. In particular, I am good at writing about big emotions and major life events. I wrote and delivered my father’s eulogy and IT KILLED. I could have made Clint Eastwood cry with that thing.
So writing a kickass wedding ceremony should be easy peasy lemon squeezy, right? It’s a much happier subject and I am not writing it through the haze of recent orphanization. Shouldn’t these happy loving words just pop out of me like a rainbow out of a waterfall?
Well, they didn’t. I had very high expectations for my work so everything I wrote sounded too hokey or too glib. I became very familiar with my backspace key. I’d drink a huge glass of wine to try to loosen the words and I’d think “no wonder so many writers end up alcoholics.”
What Do I Know?
You know that writing advice cliché “write what you know”? This was my problem with writing a wedding ceremony. I’m no expert on marriage. I’ve never been married. I’m not even an expert on love! This is my first time in non-sad love. When a wedding officiant makes a speech about “mawwidge” at a wedding ceremony, they’re speaking from a position of expertise that really glosses over their clichés and cheesiness. I’m just some dumb kid getting hitched to a dude she’s over the moon about.
And there. That was it. I needed to stop trying to make our wedding ceremony about why love is great and marriage is important. I needed to make it about us. I can write about us in my sleep. Once I understood that our ceremony could be about why WE are in love and why WE are getting married instead of chasing after universal truths about the experience of love and the institution of marriage, writing the ceremony became 1,000 times easier. Not EASY, because see above, but DOABLE.
After my wedding ceremony actually happens, I’ll post the text to this blog, and maybe I’ll be one of those links in someone else’s post about how they patched their ceremony together. Or not, because it is so specific to us. Whatever! But to you junior engaged people out there, just know that writing your own ceremony is hard, but you can get through it. You just need to find what you (and your partner, and maybe your families, and maybe your religious institution… yeah, this is really, really hard) want your wedding ceremony to be, be true to that, and it will all come together.