Being quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times is pretty cool. Having them get my advice so wrong is not.
See, conservative syndicated columnist Betsy Hart is planning her wedding, and contemplating her wedding vows. In her latest column, she says that wedding vows are "promises before God to do certain things." No problem there; I agree with her, as long as you're talking about religious weddings. The problem is that she says vows should only be those promises, period.
She says, "A friend helped me to clarify why personalized vows make me flinch: They typically make the commitment of marriage about one's feelings for the other person right now, not about a covenant promise before God for when the feelings aren't there: It may be cute at the moment that a bride is the only one laughing at her own jokes, but there will come a time when that same trait sets her husband's teeth on edge and "forever" starts to seem like a really long time -- and, by the way, what about the days when she is not so kind or beautiful? And there will come a day, maybe a season of them, when the bride here doesn't feel loved by her man at all at that moment, and wouldn't choose him again."
In service of her theory, she quotes some of my advice from Personalize Your Wedding Vows in 6 Easy Steps. To make her critique easier, she deftly avoids the parts that talk about promises and commitment, and sticks to the fluffier questions like, "What is the single greatest thing about the person you are going to marry?" I wonder how she'd answer the question, "What does marriage mean to you? Why do you want to be married?"
See, it's true that wedding vows are essentially covenants - not just to God (if you believe in God), but also to each other, your community, and yourself. But taking the time to explain the reasons why you are making those covenants can be incredibly powerful. And while many people say traditional wedding vows having carefully studied and considered them, adding your own words makes sure that all witnesses know how carefully and passionately you mean those words.
And the crux of her argument - that personalized wedding vows won't help you in hard times - is just false. A meaningful wedding ceremony is a crutch for the future. When you are fighting with your spouse and feeling lost, rereading your vows can be a way of refinding your path to love. It is precisely in those moments of driving each other crazy that you could use a little reminder of why you vowed to love, forever.