When Stephanie and I Skyped with one of the two pastors who will be officiating our wedding, we hadn’t given much thought to the ceremony. After nearly nine months of planning every other detail of the reception and the honeymoon, our ceremony was still an empty shell waiting for substance. So, when he asked us, “What do you have in mind?” we didn’t have much to tell him. Which is strange, because the ceremony is the most word-heavy part of the wedding day and I’m a writer.
Perhaps that’s what was so intimidating about it. Choosing the food or where the dance floor will be are important details, but they don’t feel as important as the ceremony. It’s the central moment of the celebration; the point at which we will be joined in marriage. That’s big. We both want it to be just right and so it got put off over and over again in favor of other details.
For me, the ceremony is important not just because it is an important ritual. Words have power. To string the right words together in the right sequence is as close to magic as the human race is capable of. The perfect words can provide a solid foundation on which to begin a marriage. We didn’t want to put any words on paper until they were the perfect ones.
Perhaps sensing that we were spinning our wheels, our pastor advised us not to search for perfection, but instead to make it personal. We didn’t need grand declarations of love or polished prose. We needed to find words that were meaningful to us — words that captured in tiny details our love and our commitments to each other. Instead of saying that I love Stephanie, I may instead say that I love the way she sips at a cup of tea that’s too hot because she doesn’t want to wait for it to cool off.
We don’t yet have a finished ceremony, but we are making progress. The words are falling into place. It won’t be the perfect ceremony. It will be so much better, because it will be ours. The readings and vows will reflect our quirks, our humor and our imperfections. That’s good advice for any writer. Don’t make it perfect. Make it personal.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer and soon-to-be-married-person in Tacoma, WA. You can follow his ramblings here and on Twitter. His latest short story, The Cannibals of Kitsap, is available to read at Creative Colloquy.