published on her site, Modern Married.
One of the unexpected blessings of starting this blog has been getting to meet amazing, inspiring people (like you!) and today’s featured guest, Rev. Hannah Grace from GraceCeremonies.com
She has such a deeply heart-felt approach to helping couples celebrate their wedding, I thought she was the perfect guide to teach us what to do if we are writing marriage vows for a wedding, vow renewal or just want to recommit to each other with a sacred ceremony of two.
In this interview, she shares her approach to helping couples discover what their hearts want to say and how our wedding vows can establish the foundation for the choices we make as a couple for years to come.
REV. HANNAH: After 10 years working in retail (specifically handcrafts and fine jewelry) I experienced a very unexpected calling to become a minister. I listened to the call and decided to attend an Interfaith Seminary, even though I had no idea where this new path would lead! During my training it became clear that I wanted to minister (literally, to serve) people during major life transitions like birth, death and marriage. It’s an amazing honor to be with people during these times…every day I’m grateful I heeded the call to do such meaningful and fulfilling work.
MM: You perform wedding ceremonies all the time. What advice do you find yourself giving to couples over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: I’m consistently reminding couples to be themselves.
For instance, almost every couple I meet with starts by saying they have no idea what kind of wedding ceremony they want. But, without fail, within an hour of conversation we have the whole ceremony sketched out.
They thank me for figuring it out when all I’ve done is make space for them to tell me who they are…and from that place their desires and preferences, their visions and hopes become clear.
It comes up again and again and again, especially when it comes to writing their wedding vows. I remind couples, “This is your wedding. This is your life partner. Don’t worry about what other people think. What do you need to say?”
I feel like sometimes people just need permission; to be told that who they are is perfect.
REV. HANNAH: We’re all here on the journey of a lifetime, passing through various milestones that change and shape our identities.
Ceremonies help define and sanctify the chapters of our life, providing an important opportunity to nurture our connection to each other, our families, communities and ourselves.
Sadly, many people think ceremonies only belong to religions, but that’s not true at all! I’m consistently amazed to see how ceremonies, even something as customary as a wedding ceremony, create a potent container within which the meaning of life passages can be experienced, witnessed and honored.
MM: Tell us about modern wedding vows. How are they different? The same? Are there some popular ones you use over and over again?
REV. HANNAH: As modern weddings have gotten more unique and personal, so have the vows.
Couples no longer feel like they “have” to do it a certain way, or that they must use the same vows.
Many of my couples don’t even share their vows with one another until the actual wedding. (And then there’s my husband, who spoke his from the heart, on the spot!!)
I’ve had a few couples that initially said they wanted to use traditional wedding vows (“For better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”) but once I provide them with samples of alternative vows, they all have chosen to either write their own or personalize one of the samples.
I have yet to have two couples use the same vows.
One thing that’s stayed the same, I think, is that the vows are the most intimate part of the wedding. Looking into your partner’s eyes, pledging yourself to them for life…it doesn’t get much better than that!
MM: Most of our readers are already married and might want to renew their vows – what is your advice for them?
REV. HANNAH: If a couple had a traditional ceremony, they likely used standard wedding vows.
Renewing your vows is the perfect time to speak from the heart, from knowing each other so deeply, and from staying together through good times and bad. It’s easier to allow for honesty (Yeah, there were some hard times in there!) and for humor.
Sometimes couples can be challenged by how to encapsulate their feelings about their partner in wedding vows. I’ve found this simple, 5-minute exercise is a great way to help them get started:
For the first minute of the five, find a spot – preferably outside or somewhere you feel relaxed, undistracted and grounded – and simply breathe.
For the second minute, ask yourself, “What 10 things do I appreciate and admire most about this incredible human being I am about to marry/I am married to”?
Breathe some more.
For the third minute, write them down, smiling with a full heart.
For the fourth minute, look at that list and see if there’s anything else that comes to mind. Offer gratitude. You’re both so lucky!
For the fifth minute, let go of the list and surrender to the moment. Breathe.
Okay, you’re done!
REV. HANNAH: The wedding vows are truly the heart of the ceremony. Sure, everyone the couple loves is there and I get to say important things about marriage and there are beautiful poems and music and great clothes and flowers and hair… But if you take all that away and leave only the vows, it’s still a wedding. Even with my formal blessing and their family and friends as witnesses, it’s really about the exchange between those two people.
I tell couples that when they take their wedding vows, they actually marry each other.
It’s where they take ownership of the marriage they will create together.
The vows are the foundation of the choices the couple will make, every day for the rest of their lives, to stay married.