Now that I’m starting to think concretely about our ceremony, I’ve arrive at the question of vows. Namely, do we do them at all? And if so, what kind of vows would we use?
As I’ve mentioned before, we plan to use the structure of a Jewish ceremony as our base. A traditional Jewish ceremony doesn’t actually include any vows. It does include a declaration that the groom (and bride in an egalitarian ceremony) make when they exchange rings. But there are not promises, no stating of “I do” or “I will.”
Surprisingly, those words have become important to me. I guess it’s indicative of my assimilation into American culture. But I’ve always thought that the point of a more public wedding ceremony, for me at least, was to promise things to each other in front of our community. And saying, “I do” makes it feel like a wedding to me. Also, neither Steve nor I speak Hebrew, so it feels important to me to declare something in English, which we both obviously understand. Thirdly, I really want to include some English wedding tradition in the ceremony to represent Steve’s background. And lastly, without thinking about it, I wrote the invitation wording to say “as they exchange marriage vows,” so clearly, the vows are important to me on a subconscious level.
So, it looks like we will be doing some form of English vows. The second question to consider is that of writing our own vs. using established tradition vows. I have been to weddings of each kind. Vows that the bride and groom have written themselves add an intimacy and personal touch to the ceremony that is incomparable. They are touching and romantic. They give the wedding guest a window into the relationship that everyone is celebrating that day.
Traditional vows, on the other hand express the fact that, by getting married, the couple is joining in an established institution, with all the weight and support of history. Established vows that come from the bride and/or groom’s culture have personal meaning. And I think that in an intercultural wedding, using vows and traditions from each culture help initiate the other person into that culture. They also help bring the two sides of the new family together, where each is represented.
As you can see, there are definite advantages to each. So I think it really comes down to personal preference. The truth is, Steve and I (especially Steve) are fairly private people. Neither of us is particularly comfortable with confessing all of our most intimate feelings in front of a large crowd, even a large crowd made up of our friends and families. Also, the traditional English wedding vows (which, of course we would modify somewhat) sound like something straight out of the movies to this Jewish American girl!
In case it hasn’t become clear by now, it looks like we will be including some semi-traditional English vows into the ceremony, probably to then be followed by the Jewish exchanging of rings. I think it’s the perfect way to represent both of our backgrounds while still staying true to our beliefs. This is shaping up to be a truly intercultural ceremony.