MC and I have a longstanding practice of giving each other little presents like matchbox cars and toys with relevant lyrics or poetry. I once gave him a teeny tiny wolf with a note that read "Beneath the bee bop moon/ I'm howling like a loon/ For you," which is a line from the T.Rex song Mambo Sun. But we both discovered after a few gifts that for two writers, hunting for the perfect passage from someone else's work to express your feelings, while an art in and of itself (and the soul of the mixtape), is counterproductive. We could both always write something better ourselves.
That's basically the approach we took to our wedding vows. We didn't have any readings from other sources, and despite a pervasive spirituality in our household, neither of us subscribe to a religion that would specifically dictate our ceremony. So we wrote our own vows, and afterward, a surprising throng of guests spent the rest of the night asking for a transcript of the ceremony. Since our wedding, to us, was an act of sharing, we decided to go ahead and share.
Our beloved friend Anya officiated for us. She wrote the beautiful opening pronouncement herself. I wrote the small section she read after MC's portion, discussing the laurel leaf pattern on the rings. I only point this out so that Anya herself doesn't get blamed for the blatant Joseph Campbell lift I shamelessly included in that passage.
By request: you can view the transcript of our vows as text (as opposed to the images above) here, if you click "read more," below:
It’s hard to be here on a day like today and not be completely thankful and full of awe. We are excitedly here to watch these two wed. And how amazing it is to get to a day like today? So many small details had to come together.
If Cammila’s mother had taken a job somewhere else in the country or Matt’s grandfather had chosen a different wife, where would we be? We have gone down innumerable paths and made so many choices that lead us up to this point it’s easy to discredit how wondrous this moment we’re in is. And if we go even further back, you have to keep in mind that our ancestors were the cream of the crop. They were the strongest, the smartest, and, obviously, the most attractive and from that each of us can count ourselves to be part of a fortunate crowd. And even more so fortunate for knowing these two.
The Greeks have four different words for our one word love: storge, philia, agape and eros. You might be most familiar with eros -- it’s what we know as the couple’s love, but translates specifically to the intimate love one has for a lover. It is fiery and passionate. It is what we see in Ilsa and Rick or Jessica and Rodger Rabbit.
Storge is known as familial love or the natural affection one has for a child or family member. It is deep and compassionate. Every time you see someone pick up a crying child and put a superhero band-aid on a scraped knee you are witnessing storge.
Philia is the way one feels for a friend. It is the sort of love that comes from a knowledge of self and self-need. We need philia-love because it drives us to be better and do better for ourselves and our fellow man. And lastly there is agape. Most often you see this defined in terms of God and religion, but to be a bit broader, it refers to the selflessness and charity of love. It’s the motivation behind every kindness.
Standing here before you, I can confidently say that the English comprehension of love is enough for Matt and Cammila. They don’t need these separations: they are clearly fiery and passionate towards each other, have created a deep and compassionate family, are knowledgeable in their selves to love out of betterment and still be selfless and charitable. And the best part is that all of this is that it is so intense and infectious that I believe we are all here today because their love for each other bleeds into our lives. That we are here to share back what we feel emitting from them.
Now that I’ve rambled on about what love is, why don’t we give the couple to tell each other how they feel? Cammila?
Time, we know, isn't linear, we just perceive it that way. So I have loved you forever, and I always will. But the entanglements of earthly life aren’t so simple, even Cupid and Psyche had to face angry serpents and three headed dogs in order to be together. But I knew from the instant you saw my tears that day that I would pass any test, complete any task to be by your side. I’d steal the golden fleece, fetch a box of beauty from the underworld, stare down all naysayers and bullies who doubt the ineffable power of true love with my fingers gripped around the base an aluminum baseball bat. Neither of us was ever blind or naive to what we’d have to go through to be together, and yet there was never even a second of doubt. From that first moment we shared together on the bench, there was no denying everything about us. This was forever. We were born for this.
And how could I possibly deny it? You're the best person. You're my favorite person. You're my brave, protective hero, ever ready to step out in front, to shield me from the wind. You're my sweet, tender poet, so feeling of everything there is to feel. You're my passionate lover, always packing a flirtatious sentiment even if we’re both exhausted. You’re my dearest friend, smart enough to best even my wit, always brimming with worthy thoughts and perspectives that I hadn’t considered. And always prepared to engage, to talk and talk and talk, to be a flame that moves me to the moment, calling me home to the here and now.
You’re my creative genius, you’re my own, personal rock star. Something I never really experienced before I found you is that when you’re really in love, your partner’s talents don’t intimidate you or threaten you, they delight you to your core. Your natural gifts and your dedication to music are such a pleasure to me, if I were Psyche I would plead to Aphrodite simply to let you sing me to sleep every night and wake me playing your trumpet every morning.
You’re also my most trusted critic. There are no games with us, at least not unless we both feel like playing. I trust you and I trust us, enough so that when you tell me how a paragraph could be tighter or a chorus could be stronger or I could be nicer, I’m glad you told me. You bring out the best in me, and you make me strive to be a better woman every single day.
You’re the best daddy in the whole world, patient and loving and energetic and devoted and cognizant - - never, ever passive. You’re never willing to let parenting be a default activity that you punch in on simply because you’re in the room. You’re down on the ground, or at the desk, or in the pillow fort, deciding consciously at every moment just how to best prepare this beautiful, wonderful little creature that you brought into my life, how to not need you.
And maybe best of all, as a parent and with all things in life, you possess the greatest surplus I have ever seen in another person of the truest and best currency that any human being can really possess: the willingness to grow, the eagerness to evolve. So many people shrink from change -- and they’re all doomed. You walk up to each task, each obstacle, hungry to learn, happy for the chance at self betterment, and let your pride be damned.
I’ve never felt seen or heard by anyone, compared to what it means to be in the same room as you. I never knew anyone else lived inside this dimension with me, until I met you. My love for you is bigger than me, it's a portal into highest plane, the most pure and powerful thing. You're stylish, and you're hilarious, and you're genuine and you're so cool, you're so cool. I love you because of who and what you are, but I also love you simply because we're lucky, because we're blessed. Because it turns out, the Divine had True Love in mind for us, and all we have to do is endeavor to deserve it every day.
I promise that I love not just your soul in this particular state, in this particular body, I love the man you're going to be, the body you're going to inhabit, the cells that make you up, the spirit that wears it all as dressing. I promise you unconditionality, to be your safe place, a home base that’s free of shame or judgement. And I know I can give you that because you, who are so innately and constantly keen to advance, can be trusted with it.
I promise to be humble, to own up to it when I’m dumb, and when the traits that make me adept at survival sometimes make me crappy at domestic partnership. I promise to be patient and kind.
I promise not to take you for granted, to remember what we were given even when life is hard. I promise to keep signing up to take that ride with you every single day. I promise to keep being the fighter pilot between the two of us, to be grateful that you’re such an awesome tactician, and to switch jobs sometimes, as we teach each other more and more.
I promise to be the superheroine goddess you apparently believe me to be. And I promise to remind you as a matter of course that you are the leading man, the rock star, the royal jester, the great American writer, the outlaw-badass-cowboy-gangster, john mclane defeating-the-terrorists-in-no-shoes casual man of action.
I promise to close out negative space between us, to see you, as you so singularly see me, even if the business of life would like to get in the way. I promise to be bound to you with little, golden, existential threads. I promise to be more than a sylphid that blows through your window to whisper you to sleep, with stories about sweetness and wild things. I promise to be your Valkyrie, I promise to be your baby, your girl, your partner -- for life and longer.
Anya: Matt, would you like to say a few words?
I awake to
thoughts of fairies
buried in deep briar
mythic girls who prick
and spring with intent
gathering bulbs I have planted
on Summer days
when heat and flat sun
needle my neck
and blind me with purpose
Cammila, with the magnitude of all I feel for you, I could say that words are not enough. But the thing is, my love for you is so knoweable, that words, as you always implore me to consider using when making a point, are exactly enough. You are simply the most intelligent, the most thoughtful, the most creative, the most capable and the most loving person I have ever met.
I always say that everyone should have a Cammila. You, the natural born scientist and teacher are a walking encyclopedia of useful information from how the body digests plant protein, to how to properly conjugate a verb in a sentence, to how to operate power tools, to how to best present your case to win over a jury, to how to cut in butter to dry ingredients when baking the most perfect fruit cobbler - that will then be unceremoniously gifted to the tiniest and most deserving of possum while it cools on our porch. You are also a veritable fighter pilot when it comes to practically everything that involves quick, incisive action, whether it’s short shifting a manual transmission in heavy Detroit traffic, corralling a highly agitated and grumpy feline who has gotten himself outside at one in the morning, or inventing numerous adventure scenarios while playing Wonder Woman with a 5 year-old girl. Of course, you are just as adept at comforting that same 5 year-old when she has a splinter, or a bad dream or simply wants a big smiley faced hug for no particular reason at all.
You have guided me through some of the most painful and difficult times of my life with unerring wisdom and optimism. Even in times when your own health and happiness were at risk, you were there for me. Although I never required that you prove your love and devotion to me, time and again your actions have stood as affidavit to the immeasurable spirit, depth of character and Teddy Roosevelt size exuberance you contain within your soul. I know, whether its fending off a gang of post-apocalyptic criminal thugs with only a baseball bat and your shouts of, “C’mon, who wants some!”, or simply running your fingers through my hair after a rough day, you have my back. I will always have yours.
Of course, it’s not just your inner beauty that I adore. You are unequivocally the most beautiful woman ever created. I love your cheekbones, the downward curve of your lips, the endless warmth of your dark eyes. You have the warmest, deepest, most inviting and endlessly comforting brown eyes. When I’m not with you I miss the mantra of your eyes. I love the color of your skin in late afternoon sunlight and how it illuminates the tiny golden hairs on your arms. Those little existential threads pulling me to you.
Falling in love with you, was like discovering fairies lived in my garden. You literally inhabit that place in my head where chldren’s books and lost islands and fairies and sea monsters dwell. As soon as I saw the first tear in your eye, I knew I was shipwrecked on the isle of Cammila. You are a fairy beauty pure as anything or anybody I’ve ever known. You are a muse runaway from the clouds who just wants to swing dance in the disco light show that is my life with you now. You are Psyche incarnate.
I once told you that you were exploding into the universe. That I could see how you were on the verge of becoming everything you were meant to be. I said you were a goddess and I meant it.
I have always known that you were the only one for me and I have never for a minute doubted my love for you. My life has led me to you and made everything that came before us, that much more important because it made me the man you love and it showed me the path to your soul.
And then, at the same time, my life starts with you. You once said to me, “You and me, we're wild like children, we were put here for a reason, and if part of that is to draw your wildness back out into the sunlight, then i'm happy to help.”
Cammila, I am wild and open and bright with love for you. You are my heart, my soul, my joy, my body, my future, my past and my ever present and constant purpose for breathing. I am without a doubt, the luckiest bastard on the face of the earth. I know that I am here to love and take care of my daughter, to love and take care of you, and to love and take care of us as a family.
Because I love you, because I cannot be without you, I promise today that I will love you and stay by your side, entwined with your soul forever. Also, I promise to always let you sing at the top of your lungs to every Queen song that comes on the radio. I promise to lay with you in the grass and stare at the clouds. I promise to dance with you every chance I get, and pull you close to me. I promise, despite my tendency to process my thoughts out loud, to endeavor to communicate better and use my words. And then, I also promise to never stop losing myself in the quiet of your endless brown eyes. And yes, I promise, as I did when we first fell in love, that
Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark-cluster'd trees
Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull'd to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!
Anya: Do you have the rings? (Matt produces rings) These bands are inscribed with a laurel leaf, a symbol of the goddess Psyche. Psyche’s story represents growth, ascension, self actualization, and eventual transcendence, hence, she is the goddess of the soul. The Greeks understood that often, the best hope humans have of grasping ultimate truth is through symbols -- though our constant task is to keep those symbols translucent, so they do not block out the very light they were created to represent. Psyche overcame many obstacles in order to finally be given the nectar of the gods, so that she could be elevated to Mount Olympus, where she could marry her true love, Cupid. Though Psyche’s journey and triumph is reflected in the story that brought you both here today, let’s not forget to keep the greater truth of Psyche’s legend in mind; to continue, as partners, to strive ever upward, as long as you wear these rings.
Anya: Cammila, do you take Matt to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in good times and bad, for life and longer?
Cammila: I do.
Anya: Cammila, do you take Matt to be your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in good times and bad, for life and longer?
Matt: I do.
Anya: Then I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss each other! (Cammila tackles Matt, creating a domino effect of falling groomsmen.)