Warning: Naughty language ahead!
As a wedding officiant who has performed more than a thousand ceremonies, you could say I know, literally, quite a bit about the business of marriage.
When people learn what I do for a living, I often hear the same questions repeatedly.
What’s the strangest wedding you ever did? Let’s see—there was that time I wore a unicorn mask. What’s your favorite kind of wedding? That’s impossible to answer, but I am always extra moved when a couple gets married because one of them just got a horrible diagnosis and they want to go through the medical nightmare together as a married couple. Is there anything you won’t say at a wedding? I am opposed to using the word “obey” unless it is referring to a mutually agreed upon BDSM situation.
And then there’s this one: Do you ever meet a couple you think shouldn’t get married? To which I reply something along the lines of: It’s not my place to judge. Plus, even if it doesn’t work out, they are doing what they need to do now to get wherever they need to be later.
Because in my own personal experience—I’m twice divorced—my own two incredibly shitty marriages did eventually yield beautiful silver linings.
So while I hope that most folks I marry can find the path to self-growth through less pain than I endured, I am well aware that some marriages over which I preside might wind up getting very ugly down the road. On the other hand, maybe one or both parties will use the attendant discomfort to become aware of better ways to be. My job, in the moment I am doing it, is to help a couple along a path they’ve already chosen to head down together.
I do like that very many of the couples I work with choose from the samples I provide them to work with vows that are rooted in Buddhism. Though the practice itself is not mentioned, I do ask them if they promise to cultivate compassion and patience for themselves and others who are suffering.
But if I had my druthers, I’d go with a totally radical set of vows, words that plainly spell out the inevitably crazy ride for which they are buying a season pass. Here, then, is what I’d most love to hear recited at a wedding:
I promise that when I get really fucking angry at you, I will remove myself from the situation, go run ten miles or get a hotel room or whatever I need to do to calm down. Only then will I come back and discuss my feelings with you.
I promise that if we get divorced I will not be a total asshole to you. And if the best I can do is maintain civil silence, then that is what I shall do. But I swear to you, right here and now, as I promise to be with you forever, that if I am not, then at least I will not spend the rest of my days bad mouthing you.
When I promise to be faithful to you, I understand that even though it doesn’t seem at all possible now, I recognize there might come a time when we get bored with having sex with each other, or one of us has a libido that crashes and burns, or some other sex-related obstacle will appear. And though I don’t necessarily want to start out this marriage as an open relationship, I want to at least promise that if we do have sex issues, then we’ll work together to figure out a solution, maybe an open marriage or acquisition of a FleshLite or whatever. But what we will not do is cheat on each other, conduct secret sex affairs that, by virtue of their secrecy, will guarantee the demise of this marriage and likely nullify the above promises I’ve made to be nice to you even if we do split.
I promise to work on my own shit and get therapy if I need to.
I promise to work together to figure out a way for us to live peacefully with each other’s wildly different approaches to money management.
I promise that if you decide after the fact that you are not a ZPG atheist after all and are, in fact, a religion-happy zealot who has decided you want ten kids, I will divorce you in the most supportive way and encourage you to go do your thing. With someone else. Just please don’t try to drag me into Big Plans that are absurdly different from what we agreed to before we got engaged.
I promise to work super hard to appreciate the crap out of you every day, which I understand is probably the hardest part of a marriage, because let’s face it: when you live with someone every day, it can be far too easy to take that person for granted, then ignore that person, and then resent that person. I am looking you right in the eyeballs, right now, and I am promising you that even if we don’t make it ’til death parts us, well then goddammit, as long as love shall last, I will find at least one awesome thing to love about you every single day.
This piece was adapted from Spike Gillespie’s blog Weddings Are A Racket.
Author: Spike GIllespie
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Author’s own