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Soul Sentiments Heartfelt, Powerful, and Magnificently Crafted

Wedding Vows

from the Eccentric to the Extraordinary

P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln

Copyright 2013.

Baybeach Books

A division of PRsuasive Media Visit us online at


Contents j Dedication .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. 4 Introduction .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. 5 Chapter 1: Imagining the Ceremony.. . .... . .... . 13 Chapter 2: Setting the Tone.. . .... . .... . .... . .... 17 Chapter 3: Breaking from Tradition.. . .... . .... . 31 Chapter 4: The Sacred Promise.. . .... . .... . .... . 53 Chapter 5: The Power of Symbols.. . ... . . ... . . ... .70 Chapter 6: It’s Official!.. . .... . .... . .... . .... . .... 82 Chapter 7: Special Additions.. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .86 Conclusion .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. .. . .. 103


Dedication j To our loves – and to love.



Introduction j . The challenge ,


HERE IS AN astonishing and sad reality about con-

temporary weddings. While immense thought and thousands of dollars are routinely given to the bridal dress, flowers, venue, catering, guest list and other tangible details, the most important part of the wedding is prioritized below all these, often completely ignored until the very last minute. We are talking about the words. The vows, toasts, speeches and other sentiments expressed by the couple and their loved ones are, ultimately, the absolute heart of the wedding. Your guests will undoubtedly admire the flowers, enjoy a fine meal, coo over the dress, and maybe even cry at the ceremony. 5

Soul Sentiments But almost every wedding could be more powerful, dramatic and memorable with more attention to the most important component of the ceremony: the expression of loving sentiments. Is there one of us who has not attended a wedding where some spoken component of the event went off the rails? Poor preparation, lack of collaboration, thoughtless or clichÊd expressions, or simply hollow words can cheapen a ceremony that should be enriching and beautiful in every way. Your wedding is certainly a time to host your family and friends with an outstanding meal, to show off your magnificence in exquisite clothes and new hairstyles, to bring together long-unseen loved ones for a day of celebration. Yet what they have come for, above all – and the reason you have invited them – is to celebrate you, the love you have found and the life you are creating together. Without close attention to the words expressed at the wedding by the couple and others, so much potential radiance can be lost. If we do not thoughtfully incorporate into the ceremony and the reception the sentiments that perfectly describe ourselves and give testament to our love, then the wedding really is simply a dinner out with our best clothes. We may be hammering this message a bit heavily, but it needs to be said: The words are the absolute, singularly most important part of your wedding. Almost every wedding has pretty flowers, good food, an exchange of rings, and a party. Your wedding may exceed all others in one or all of these cat-


P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln egories, but the thing that puts a truly unique stamp on your wedding – that says it is about the two of you and unlike any other wedding your guests have experienced – are the words you choose. Your words must be as individual as your love. They must help the guests understand the nature of the couple they have come to celebrate, to more deeply appreciate the people you are as individuals and the couple and family you are becoming. Your words must express the emotions and experiences that brought the two of you to this momentous day – and they must do so in ways that are as beautiful as the flowers the bride holds, as natural as your first kiss as a married couple, as powerful as your love for each other, and as evocative as the emotion in your eyes. Without all of these components, you will have missed the potential for a ceremony that is as meaningful as you deserve. This book is to help you formulate the most important words you may ever speak. You may choose to use some of the selections offered here – we hope that you will – but you may also simply find a theme to pursue, or a kernel of an idea in these pages that evolves into the unique words you were not otherwise able to find. You can also find more advice and examples at In any event, we hope that this book focuses your attention on the importance of the sentiments you express and helps to make your wedding the most memorable, powerful, profound expression of your love imaginable.


Soul Sentiments

. Using this book , We hope this book will serve as an inspiration as you plan your wedding ceremony and seek words that truly capture the love you are celebrating. We have divided this book into chapters, reflecting different components of the wedding ceremony. However, you may find that suggestions we have created for vows might fit better in a toast at the reception, or that a piece we recommend for one part of the ceremony fits better elsewhere. You may find a word or a phrase in one part of this book that resonates with you so much that it becomes the thematic anchor of the vows you create for yourself. In other words, while this book is divided into components, it need not be approached linearly. Sentiments do not always fit into neat boxes. Wherever in this book you find inspiration, we hope that we are able to add to the richness and unforgettable power of your most special day.

. Who are the vows for? , The guests at your wedding are not an “audience”; your wedding is not a “show.” Regardless of how much or how little interactivity you incorporate into your ceremony and reception, these are not strangers who have come to be entertained. They are here to share with you this life-altering commitment. They are the most important people in your lives and most of them will remain close to you throughout


P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln your marriage. These are the people who have helped form you – your family and friends – and those with whom you will share the important moments in your life as you create a home, become parents, and advance through the decades together. While the wedding day is meant to be a special day celebrating the love of two people, it is more than this. It is a celebration of the families and communities that have made you the two people you have become. Too often in life, we are unable to find the right moment to express our gratitude and love for many of the people in our lives. Your wedding is an opportunity when you have, ideally, all the people who matter most to you in one place. Making it unforgettable for everyone can include expressions of gratitude not just for each other and the love you share, but also for the people in the room who have influenced your lives. This is not a time for sad thoughts, but think about this: The next time you have the opportunity at a major gathering to fully express the admiration you have for, say, a beloved grandparent, they may not be in a position to hear it. You may choose to use your wedding to say the things that you want the people in your lives to know. It’s a small diversion from the main attraction, but it may be a powerful moment they will carry with them forever. It will also tell all your guests that you are a couple who recognize where you come from and that you appreciate the people who helped to shape you. Examples in this book tell you how you can incorporate family and other loved ones into the ceremony and the reception.


Soul Sentiments The day, of course, is about the couple being wed. And the words should be by, for and about the couple. But we have a special obligation at a wedding to find the words that appropriately express the reason for the celebration – our love – in ways that are meaningful not just for ourselves, but for all those who are participating in our happiness. In this book, we take special efforts to consider the content and the audience, in addition to the couple. The day should unfold, in some ways, like chapters in a story. Some in the room will know the story, but others will not. Being inclusive means finding a balance between not boring people with routine details of your history, while making others more fully a part of your extended community by ensuring that they understand who you are and how the two of you came to be.

. Parts of the wedding , Like everything else in the planning of a wedding, the words are more complicated than we might at first assume. Usually we assume there is a ceremony and then a reception, each with their various words. Recognizing the several segments and planning for them appropriately will ensure a powerful impact on the beauty of your wedding and the memories cherished by those who attend. In general, there are two main parts of a traditional wedding, each with some or all of the components below.


P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln Parts of the ceremony: $$ The Procession $$ Welcoming Remarks $$ Giving of the Bride (and Groom) $$ Charge to the Couple $$ Vows $$ Unity Rituals $$ Ring Vows $$ Declaration of Marriage (and The Kiss) $$ Benediction (Pronouncement) and Presentation of the Couple $$ Special inclusions

In this book, we address many variations and possible additions to these components, including readings and the incorporation of family members outside the wedding party, and a great many ideas that are extremely uncommon, but which can add immensely to the beauty of your ceremony.


Soul Sentiments Parts of the reception: $$ Welcoming the couple $$ Emcee remarks $$ Toasts $$ Speeches $$ First dance $$ Special dances $$ Cake-cutting $$ Send-off

This book will offer guidance and examples for each of the ceremony components. Brilliant, innovative and heart-moving toasts, speeches and other expressions of love intended for the reception will be included in a forthcoming book in this series. You can always find additional information on all of these components at After considering the variety of options and determining the sentiments you wish to include, we can almost guarantee that your wedding will be more meaningful and memorable than you even dreamed.


Chapter 1


Imagining the Ceremony

j . The Process ,


IKE EVERY PART of your wedding, the words you

choose must be developed through a process that integrates with your larger themes and suits your personal style. We offer a gentle process to help you find the central ideas you might incorporate into your vows, and then present options that can be adapted based on your discoveries. To assist you in developing the significant themes of your expressions of love, consider the following questions and how your responses might form a part of your ceremony, either as vows or as toasts or speeches.


Soul Sentiments The words and ideas you develop in this process need not be incorporated into the ceremony, but they can lead you into a process of imagining the words and concepts you might want to convey to your loved ones as they join to support you in your marriage. Here are questions to ask yourselves and topics to discuss about the kinds of things you might consider when crafting your vows, then we offer a range of completely unique examples that have only ever been used at one wedding or, in some cases, have never been expressed aloud before. From the questions we present and the examples we offer, we hope that you will create the most meaningful, exquisite description of your own love that makes your day a perfect expression of your commitment. (If you need some help, the authors offer services for tailoring exactly the right vows to make your wedding perfect at

1. Why are we getting married? In our era, most of us do not get married simply because it is expected. A majority of us, now, do not even get married in order to have children within marriage. Simply because you want to spend the rest of your lives together is not a complete answer, because many people are doing that without marriage. Ask yourselves what this process, this commitment, and these words really mean to you as individuals, as a couple, and as part of a community. Try to express that, if not on paper, at least to each other. It is a crucial question and a valuable process.


P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln 2. Think of the future. Imagine the two of you in a year, in five years, 10, 20, 50. Consider the broader picture, not only of the family you will have, but the support of the people in the room with you today. What about the shared vision you have for the future, the impact you hope to have not only on each other and your family, but on your community and the world. Are you committed to a cause? Do you intend to realize a major dream together? 3. Remember the first time you set eyes on each other. Was it magic, or were there some hurdles to love? 4. Try to remember the first thought you had upon meeting. How did those thoughts change after a week, a month, a year? 5. Was there a “eureka� moment? Did something happen that made you go snap? Or was it an emotional progression? 6. What are the areas of common interest over which you bonded? Given that opposites often attract, did you bond over differences? What are the things you admire in each other that you lack in yourself? 7. What have you learned from each other in the time you have been together? This could be something about yourself as an individual, about you as part of a couple, about the world, about art, music, animals, anything. 8. Take a few minutes apart and write down a list of words that come to mind when you think of each other. Now write down words you think of when you consider yourselves as a pair. Use a thesaurus if you want. Keep these handy for crafting your vows, they are crucial to capturing your hearts and minds. 15

Soul Sentiments 9. Is there something about each other that most people do not know (something appropriate for the crowd to hear) that might help people understand your affection? 10. Have you shared adversity? Love makes us happy, but adversity makes us strong, and seeing someone’s response in times of crisis is among the insights we gain about people’s most intimate selves. (An example from a beautiful wedding included in this book addresses the unique lessons of shared tragedy that brought a couple together.) 11. What do you most respect and admire in each other? Try to consider things in the context not of how their admirable traits impact you, but objective characteristics that you admire in the other. If you have taken notes through this process, leave them aside for a day. Begin the discussion again after you have had a day to absorb your answers and, without reviewing the notes, talk about the images, words or memories that stand clearest from the process. Write them down. Then review your notes from both days. Try to identify the phrases and imagery that capture the spirit of your union. As you proceed through this book, consider where these ideas or words can be integrated into areas of the ceremony. After you have crafted your ceremony, return to your list and see if there are emotions, ideas, reflections or words that you have not included but would like to.


Chapter 2


Setting the Tone

j . Forms of vows ,


can include a variety of vow forms. As there is almost always an officiant, this person has a role to lead the service and, beyond this, can play as small or large a role in the service as you wish. HE CEREMONY ITSELF

Most Christian and secular traditions in North America have a simple vow similar to this: I take you to be my lawful wedded [husband/wife], to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to honor and love you all the days of my life, till death do us part. 17

Soul Sentiments If you wanted to maintain the form and intent of the traditional, with just a bit of an updating, you could use something like this: Here, among our family, friends and in the presence of all who are precious to us, I unite with you as your lawful wedded [husband/wife]. I promise, from today until death parts us, to love, honor and support you, in good times and in bad, in richer and in poorer, in sickness and in health. I am wedded to you for all my days, and your love is the foundation on which my life stands and I will be that foundation for you. Your officiant can provide you with traditional vows – or you can find them online, or in most other books on the subject. This book is not a comprehensive directory of traditional vows but, quite to the contrary, a treasury of the most exceptional and unprecedented statements of love and commitment in the English language. Here you will find extraordinary expressions that you can use in your marriage vows, your ring vows, in the remarks of your officiant, and throughout your most perfect day. Our one warning is that you must review your intended vows with the officiant. If it is a clergy person, there may be very clear guidelines on the nature of your remarks within your faith tradition. In every jurisdiction, there is a legal obligation to include a particular statutory statement in order to solemnize the marriage. As long as these fairly straightforward requirements are 18

P.J. Keating and Julia Lincoln integrated into the ceremony, in the case of civil ceremonies and most religious services, brides and grooms are welcome to include whatever they choose. At this point, then, it becomes a matter of style and taste. Even more than the expression of your personal style embodied in the many choices you have made regarding every aspect of your wedding, your vows and other sentiments tell your guests in the most intimate way not only who you are, but how you view each other and the commitment you are making to each other, to the future, to your families and to your community. The words you choose define the character, emotion and impact of your wedding.

. Incorporating the Officiant , The officiant – whether a clergyperson, a civil official or a friend – can play any role you choose. Among clergy and civil officiants, many of whom have presided over dozens or hundreds of marriages, the potential exists to become rote. It is up to the couple to ensure that the words, just like the flowers, the dress, the venue and the menu, are exactly what you imagine. Do not leave it to the officiant to assume what you want. Discuss it. Decide on the tone you want (formal, light, traditional, innovative, emotional, inclusive, etc.) and determine with the officiant how to achieve it. You need to realize that, in many weddings, the officiant plays a bigger role (in the sense of face time with the crowd) than


Soul Sentiments by P. J. Keating and Julia Lincoln  

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