In my early twenties, I remember believing that words had the power to achieve anything.
I could convince my friends to forego studying just by simply asking them to hang out.
I could change the course of a person’s trajectory by encouraging them, or cutting them down when they tried something new. I could trick people into thinking I was more than I was by the things I could say I could do. The world was malleable, and words were the hammer to make it bend. Still to this day I tell people I built my first robot when I was 8 years old. What I don’t tell them was that the robot was a mail order robot with a myriad of instructions, or that when I actually tried robotics engineering I was a below average failing student. (To be fair, I still finished the course and actually had a job; I just wasn’t passionate about it)
In my late twenties I started to realise that words could only go so far, that actions had the power to reach people who aren’t even listening to you. Seeing people buy their own houses, get their dream jobs, achieve their fitness goals; that spoke so much more loudly to me than anything I had heard before. I still remember the euphoria of buying my first car, it was something that really I hadn’t grown up dreaming about but being able to do it was liberating.
The joy we feel from hitting milestones far outweighs the admiration one feels from bragging about achievements at a dinner party. And when success follows success after achieving so much more by doing, we give so much power to action that we sometimes stop listening to words.
Now in my early thirties, one would argue that both matter. How you act, and what you say both work in harmony, they need to pair to effectively communicate. Talk is cheap and so I think as we’ve grown, we’ve learnt to look at the person we are listening to as well. There’s a trainer at my gym who is completely out of shape, that I’m sure he is still stronger than me and more fit than me. But when he’s screaming at me to go for another rep, or to pick up the pace, I do find myself sometimes thinking, why do I need to listen to this guy?
How does any of this relate to weddings? Well the beauty of weddings is that it’s a day where both words and actions are valuable.
The day all your friends and family stop to listen, while also watching you literally change the course of the rest of your life. It’s significant. Nowhere else in the world would a mother be able to command the attention of 200 people than on their son/ daughter’s wedding day, nowhere else in the world would people literally sit and watch an hour of signing a contract and shed a tear, or enjoy being in a dark room while watching their friends dance. Weddings are a stepping through a threshold from being partners to spouses, it’s a celebration of all the two have experienced in their life that has brought them together to this moment, to finally be bounded. It’s a day we listen. Those days are increasingly far and fewer between as we start to listen and listen less and less.
Whilst a practicing catholic myself, who was mandated to stick to the standard wedding vows; I must say I have a deep affinity for people who write vows themselves. Admittedly I am slightly jaded by the How I met your Mother episode when Barney was getting married, “every vow you make on your wedding day, you’re bound to break,” and literally ticking off every vow that is frankly an impossible promise to keep (whilst still admirably ambitious) I myself still find I’m ever drawn to this part of the day.
I know I know, I’m literally being paid to listen to people’s vows, but it’s still a favourite moment in the day of mine. It’s seeing how each person uniquely loves another person, trying to be everything the other both needs and wants; and vowing to commit to giving a part of themself for the happiness of the other. It’s beautiful because it’s what I believe makes a marriage successful (or at least I hope so). This serves as a beautiful reminder to me, who genuinely cares very deeply about my marriage. I’m insanely blessed to have a career where I come out of the day, more in love with my wife than when I started.
Thus, in a world where we listen less and less, I’d like to share the most beautiful vows I’ve ever heard in my life (for me at least). Like I said, vows are really a reflection of how a person uniquely loves another; and maybe these really resonated with me because that’s how I aspire to love my wife. But for those of you keen enough to listen, here they are:
I have found the one my soul adores.
The one I have been waiting for my entire life.
In the presence of God and those around us, there are some promises I wish to make.
I wish I could promise you the world, but the world isn’t mine to give.
What I can promise you is my world, everything within it, for better or for worse.
I wish I could promise you riches, but even wealth will disappear one day.
What I will promise you is a life abundant in love with joy and sorrow, as Christ gave me.
I wish I could promise you smooth sailing, but these winds aren’t mine to control.
What I do promise you is to stay the course of you in sickness and in health, to remind you we’re always in safe hands.
Lastly I wish I could promise you forever, but someone infinitely greater than me already has.
What I can promise you
Words are powerful, actions are too.
But when both are used in harmony they really do have the power to change one’s life.