For The Record, I’m Still Trying: On Unconventional Marriage Vows

Now that nearly two decades have past, I feel like it’s time to set the record straight about my wedding. But before I do, let me just say in my defense that I got married when I was very, very young. Plus, I’d never been to a single wedding before my own.

With that said, it was not my intention to embarrass my  husband during our wedding ceremony. It just kind of happened. In the midst of all the fun I was having that day, being the center of attention and all, I temporarily forgot that a wedding ceremony was supposed to be a serious play, with all the actors sticking to their lines, rather than an improv comedy show.

Here’s what I’m referring to: When the minister said, “Will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to live together in marriage, will you love him, comfort him, honor him, and keep him, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, so long as you both shall live,” I was supposed to say, “I will,” like I had practiced at the rehearsal the day before.

But for some reason I didn’t.


My feminist mother thought it was ridiculous that only my father should get to walk me down the aisle. He knew better than to argue.

“I’ll try,” I said, smiling and shaking my head like it was going to be quite an ordeal, all that trying.

Nervous laughter filled the chapel. My husband-to-be gave me a “behave” look. Then he got me back during the kiss scene of our wedding by being mortifyingly amorous. Touché, Honey, if I’ve never properly acknowledged that move.

Some of you might be gasping in horror at my nonchalance on such an important occasion. You might even call me blasphemous for distorting the intention of the solemn marriage vow. But hey, it was a Unitarian church. Unitarians are open-minded and embrace improv. Or at least they should.

So have I ever regretted saying, “I’ll try” instead of “I will?”


Here’s why: I’ve seen a lot of marriages fail. And all those marriages began with the traditional, oh-so-confident words, “I do” or “I will.” The divorce rate for first marriages in the U.S. continues to be around 50 percent. So the odds of success are not that great.

My parents’ marriage really threw me. They told me on three separate occasions that they were getting divorced. “Sit down, we have something to tell you…”

Three times I prepared myself for two houses, awkward visitations with my father and general emotional upheaval. But then, with the help of a marriage counselor, my parents tried harder and took trips together and the threatened divorce never happened. They began laughing again. I’ve never seen two people try so hard in a marriage. Despite my lingering psychological damage, my parents’ marital perseverance made me realize that it’s possible for some nearly hopeless marriages to rise from the depths of despair if both parties are willing to try.

I wonder if my impromptu “vow” during my wedding came from my protective unconscious since I had seen first-hand both the power of trying in a marriage and the failure of many marriages I thought to be impenetrable. I also wonder if I have tried harder in my marriage than I might have otherwise because I never felt trapped or constricted by rigid, no-room-for-doubt vows.

“Today you’re making it a little difficult, but I’m still trying,” I sometimes joke with my husband.

Every time I attend a wedding I always secretly hope the bride and groom will say, “I’ll try” during their vows. Of course they never do. But wouldn’t it be more honest? Because, really, that’s all any of us can do: try. And sometimes we will fail. But at least we will know that we didn’t give up without trying really, really hard.

I’m grateful for my patient, kind husband. I realize that some grooms probably wouldn’t have responded well to improv at their own wedding. Yet mine shrugged off my antics like a secure, seasoned pro.

Still, like any marriage, it hasn’t been all roses. When September 4th rolls around I think I deserve a great anniversary gift for all that trying, don’t you?


17 thoughts on “For The Record, I’m Still Trying: On Unconventional Marriage Vows

  1. I love it! I am having a very trying morning myself. . .
    At my wedding, our best man, who was 5 at the time, was very busy during the vows burying everybody’s feet in the sand. Until the moment he decided to run away and haul ass down the beach like something was after him. One of the guests graciously pursued and retrieved him. Still my very favorite part of the whole day.
    You totally deserve a fabulous anniversary gift!


  2. Given the number of failed marriages I sometimes think the response should be ‘I will…until I get fed up of you or someone better comes along’! But ‘I’ll try’ is a great response; it makes so much sense.

    ps you haven’t changed one bit from your wedding pic.


  3. I love this! I think all vows should be written with “I’ll try” rather than “I will/do.” Are you still a practicing Unitarian? If I ever get crazy and decide to renew our vows (highly unlikely), I’m definitely going to include “I’ll try.” Like you said, it’s certainly an honest response.


    • I really do think it would be more honest! In theory, I am a practicing Unitarian, yes. I really like the Unitarian philosophy. However I live in the Bible Belt so it is really hard to find a good Unitarian Church here. If my husband and I renew our vows I am going to lobby for both of us to say I’ll try. Today I was teasing him about something and he said, “I don’t think that counts as trying!”


  4. I think they should just change it to “I’ll try” and be done with it. Maybe people will have more success in their marriages if they realise that they NEED to try. It’s an active part of a marriage. That’s probably why yours worked 😉


  5. I think your response was the right one. Every time someone talks about marriage and love, I hear my beloved teacher’s voice saying “marriage isn’t when your love is at its strongest, but rather when you decide to build a home together”.
    Beautiful dress, btw^^


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