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Make your vows significant

Wow them with your dreams. Cecil Pinto gives advice on modifying the traditional wedding vows.

In the old days, when most folks were illiterate, the priest used to put forth the wedding vows to the couple in the form of a question and they would individually reply in the affirmative. “Do you, Constance, take Ubaldin as your lawful…”. “I do!”

As more and more people started getting educated it was decided that the couple could very well read out the vows themselves. “I , Lorraine, take you Felix, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” That’s it. Less than fifty words in one lovely, easy to memorise, sentence. But till date every Goan groom and bride I know has not bothered to learn these words by heart and they would rather write it on small slips of paper that they read from during the ceremony. Could this be a result of a flawed education system that makes it almost acceptable to take similar slips of paper into examination halls?

I personally know very articulate couples who memorised, and delivered in style, lengthy speeches when replying to the toast at the reception. What is it that makes us all insist on perfection in the décor, catering, music and other such stuff at the nuptials and at the reception, but give scant attention to something as important as the wedding vows? For sure while the vows are being exchanged the bride is more bothered about the extraordinary attention her younger sister is getting with her cleavage revealing dress while the groom is just hoping that his cousin Joao Inacio is not going to turn up with his entire extended family for the reception. The caterer was after all charging on a per-plate basis.

Under such circumstances I find the new trend in couples writing their own wedding vows not only refreshing but so much more meaningful. Now, while making suggestions on unique and contemporary wedding vows, let us also try and retain the flavour of the original vows.

To begin with “to have and to hold from this day forward” obviously refers to sex, foreplay and afterplay. In this modern world, where pre-marital sex is the norm rather than the exception, I think this is rather quaint and dated. Wouldn’t this sound more appropriate? “to make love to, and with, as before, but this time singularly and regularly not just depending on convenient venues, weekends and public holidays”.

Now what exactly is meant by “for better or for worse”? Wealth and health is covered later in the vows. Could they have meant good and bad moods? Remember these vows were thought up centuries back when pre-menstrual tension, post-pregnancy depression, male middle-age crisis and such psycho-somatic conditions had not yet been discovered. Every inexplicable change in behavior was attributed to evil spirits. So what they meant is even if one was in a bad mood one must put a pretense of being happily married. I don’t see why. There will be times when things will not be hunky dory. So what? As Khalil Gibran famously said, “But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.” So that part could perhaps be better written as, “for the times when you need your space I will give it to you before you explode and say really crappy stuff about my family”.

What do we have next? “for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. Precious little one can do to improve upon these words, but a mention of remembering to pay medical insurance premiums in time would not be out of place. The concept of ‘insurance’ as we have it now did not exist in the medieval period. If one was struck by a financial or medical calamity it could very well be the death of a relationship, if not the death of one or more individuals. With convenient modern financial and medical insurance such drastic results can be avoided. My friendly neigbourhood agent tells me that with some shrewd planning once can even walk away very profitable using insurance as a form of investment.

Finally, “to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part.” Sure, sure. There’s no denying that. But what about children, and their upbringing. Or lack of children and artificial insemination and surrogate motherhood? What about pesky in-laws and religious differences? And being the victim of a downsizing exercise in your workplace? And pre-mature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, frigidity and infertility. Is surfing the Net for erotica being unfaithful, and on par with forwarding risqué SMS jokes to friends of the opposite gender? When did a Maruti 800 become obsolete? So what if Joe migrated to Australia? Why does a Goan married woman have to dress like a Las Vegas show girl when going for a wedding reception? And isn’t changing the gas cylinder a man’s job?

Most importantly, what happens after death? “Darling will you marry again if I die?” This is the question none of us is ever able to answer honestly.

Modern life with its attendant complications brings in so much that can jeopardize a marriage. Unlike the days of old, when there was not much choice on what to fret about, and definitely fewer channels on Cable TV. A couple getting married today is entering a minefield and should give deep thought to what their priorities are and how much they are willing to compromise. Every step of any partnership is a compromise, marriage especially so. How much each one is willing to give in is the question. I’m not suggesting that wedding vows should be lengthy and legal like a pre-nuptial agreement, but I strongly suggest the couple privately vocalize to each other well in advance what their needs, wants and dreams are. And putting a little of these unique dreams into vow form will make the wedding ceremony so much more meaningful.