This Writer’s Most Important Assignment To Date: The Wedding VOW

In twenty-five days, I will become a married person.

I could fill one hundred blog entries with all of the beautiful reasons why I’ve decided to marry. I could go on about his kind voice, how he’s been the very best friend I’ve ever known, and how watching his hands move as he talks, eight years into our courtship, still makes me weak. I could go on about how I believe in partnership, and that the right ones can make us better than we are on our own – more compassionate, more patient, more creative, more open-minded – but this blog is not about me, or him, or marriage. It’s about writing. And as I near Wedding Day, I’ve encountered a task that employs my literary sensibilities: The Vow.

It’s funny business writing vows, especially if you’re a writer by trade. (I sense that people have certain poetic expectations.)

“Will she reference any great romance authors of yesteryear? Keats, Dickinson, Neruda, Lawrence? Will she compare him to a rose? An ocean wave? The strongest branch of the oak? The midnight moon on the summer solstice? Will she write it in third person, attempting a distanced, ironic, entertaining account of their romantic evolution? Will she cry…. will she laugh…. will she ever wrap it up?”

All worthwhile writing exercises have guidelines. Here are a few for writing wedding vows:

Guiding Principle 1: It is not a performance. (Or at least it shouldn’t be.)

Guiding Principle 2: It is not an opportunity to showcase one’s writerly prowess. Speak simply. Speak from the heart.

Guiding Principle 3: Don’t get overly personal. Anyone who pretends to care about exactly how you met, or exactly what interests you share, or exactly what he said on your third date that made you think twice, has already pretended to care the first couple of times you told them.

Guiding Principle 4: Don’t try to be funny. Your “audience” likely features a religious octogenarian, and a college pal who threw back a few in the venue parking lot. That’s a tough, varied crowd. A note of levity is fine, but don’t shoot for guffaws.

And lastly,

Guiding Principle 5: Mean what you say.

After all, the MOST IMPORTANT thing a writer will ever write is her wedding VOWS.

With these things in mind, I wrote mine. I cried, I laughed, then I scratched out the lines that prompted said crying and laughing, and there it was: the nugget of truth that I actually wanted to tell him. The heart of what it meant to me, the reason, in concrete terms, why I wanted to go through it all alongside him and no one else.

And this exercise, this divine, wonderful challenge, prompted a new mantra I think I’ve known for a very long time, but, like my vow, have just recently tied down with tangible words:

DRAMA IS GREAT FOR FICTION,

BUT BAD FOR LIFE.

They say the most significant, influential, life-changing decision you’ll ever make is your choice of partner. I concur. But I really, really concur for creative writers. We live in our heads, drown in the lives of our fictional characters, and are often held hostage in a variety of anxiety-producing waiting games. Think of it this way: The average person may wait to hear if they got into college, then got a job, then got another job, then maaaybe a third job, toss in a few opportunities for potential promotions, and that often wraps up the professional lifespan.

The creative writer, if they’re producing work on any regular basis, is often, as in several times every single year, waiting to hear from potential agents, editors, publishers, producers, and reviewers. In many ways, each project is a new job. Being in this regular state of confidence near-collapse, you’d think we’d grow to accept it in stride, but it’s still hard. Our career choice, from creating dramatic content to the dramatic build-up as to whether that content will ever see the light of day, invites enough drama into our lives.

(That’s my finding, anyway.)

So, assemble your cast wisely, and work on discovering creative ways to thank them. For as much as a good man is hard to find, a good man who so selflessly and lovingly complements this wild writer life is even harder.

I’ll close with some (mostly ridiculous) photos of other favorite (very appreciated!) starring “cast members” who threw me one absolutely unforgettable bachelorette party.

xo

A

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