The Body Sings the Vows

The promises are the marriage


My sister told me, “The vows are the marriage.”

In the final weeks before our wedding, my sister and I made swirling, meticulous lists, arrows zooming like rockets from task to subtask; we took afternoon naps when exhaustion won; we cried; laughed; worried about family’s arrival; snapped at each other; poured golden, tranquil waves of scotch; and scrambled across the Michigan potholes from printers to bakers to paper shops. When I freaked out, again and again, she said, “Don’t worry. It’s just the vows that matter. The vows are the marriage.”

I said, “Okay, okay,” and took deep breaths. But what could I really understand about what she said? The vows are the marriage, yes; and so is the buttercream, and so are the peonies, and so is the dress, silver beads, and creampuff taffeta; and so are the guests, who we hope will get along and dance; and so is the venue, with evening light twinkling clear and cool off the glass greenhouse walls; and so is the champagne, which must be served again after dessert. Right?

No. The vows are the marriage.

When we spoke to each other, he held my hands so tightly my fingers ached. His arms shook. My knees trembled, invisible under ivory tulle. I listened to his voice—my husband’s voice!—an ancient hillside on which I lay, finally rested, soaking up joy. I listened to his voice, certain and clear. I stood twirling in his gaze, his blue eyes as deep and still and bright as a galaxy.

When I spoke, my tears made tiny waterfalls down my round cheeks. I felt them drop onto my chest and run beneath the bodice of my dress. I felt my voice moving in my throat; a new voice, vocal chords playing sweetly like violas and rich cellos. I felt my fingers shake. I felt my weight anchor me, ballet flats firm on the slate floor. I felt as true as a lioness. I felt the summer air on my arms, big arms, and gazed, awed, at him, as I made my promises.

The vows are the marriage.

And in that moment, my body was my home. A spiritual home. A physical home. A temple on the rock, in which a flame of honey began to burn, brighter, warming the coldest, oldest corners. I’ve never been more at home, with him, with his voice, my voice, our bodies a home to each other, our gazes soaring in the inches between our faces. My body carried me to this moment, was singing me through it!

The body sings the vows. The vows are the marriage. And I gave thanks.

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  • BeccaC

    What an incredible piece – the entire second half gave me goosebumps and was beautiful poetry! Thank you for this amazing reminder that the vows are the most important thing on the wedding day, despite what all the checklists say. Also, please write more!

    • Savala

      Thanks Becca! I’m workin on it. :)

      • Lauren from NH

        Yes, the beginning of your blog is inspired and thought provoking!

        • Savala

          Thank you Lauren! It’s been a great way to work through some body drama :)

  • This is so, so beautiful and perfectly captures that ephemeral feeling I felt saying our vows on our wedding day.

  • rabbitdarling

    Oh my goodness desksobbing. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

    • Michelle

      Desksobbing = 100% accurate. Such gorgeous words!

  • Casey Fitzsimmons

    Love this, so true!!! Beautiful writing.

  • River

    This is just so stunningly beautiful. I often tell my love that he is home to me, and this really captures that feeling. Your writing gave me the shivers and made me so pumped to say our vows!!!

    • Savala

      Yay! I’m excited for you because I know how incredible it is! It will just be the two of you, totally in the moment.

  • Cat

    deskweeping, beautiful! Thank you!

  • Amanda

    Oh, wow. I have no more words.

  • Another Meg

    Michigan potholes. Oh man.

  • Moe

    Its been a while since I got teary on my morning train commute. You captured so beautifully how I felt when I made my vows almost two years ago. I didn’t know how to describe that moment other than saying it felt “big”. The tiny room felt enormous and the moment felt trascendent…it was what you describe here.

    Also, it can’t be pinned on Pinterest, put on display at a Bridal Expo or purchased in a boutique.

    • Savala

      Thank you Moe for your kind words! It really is true — you can’t buy it!

  • I love your beautiful writing. Love the imagery, all of it. Wonderful for a Friday morning! And I am *slightly* jealous of the experience you had during your vows. I loved our ceremony and honestly wouldn’t change a thing and was proud of how present I was, but I was in such a floaty fluid space that I don’t remember each vow, each word, as viscerally as you describe. :)

  • ART

    It’s so true, as perfectly perfect as our wedding was, and also as hilariously imperfect (not mutually exclusive, it turns out), my favorite part was the vows and the five minutes after the ceremony when we ran out to the shoulder of the highway and cried and said all the other things we couldn’t seem to write into the vows, but just came pouring out, while strangers honked at us in our wedding garb.

  • June

    I love this. It reminds me of something my brideslady’s dad shared with her: “Don’t just plan for a wedding; plan for a marriage.”

  • notquitecece


  • Hope

    Love this. Thanks for capturing the sacredness of this moment.

  • Agreed 100%. Month after month, writing our vows kept falling lower and lower on our ever-mounting wedding to-do list. Then one moment, kind of in a flash, it hit me that writing our vows were actually our most important DIY project. And I didn’t make another paper chain until we wrote a solid draft.

  • Beautiful!!

  • Kenda Greenwood

    Lovely piece. I hope my vows are half as moving as yours!

  • Kirstin


  • Jessica

    I love this piece! So lovely and perfectly expressed. It reminds me to focus on those sweet parts of marriage, keeping our promises in mind when times are tough. More please Savala!

  • Eulalia

    Ms. Nolan, your writing always leaves its mark on me; I sit with your words and wisdom for some time, then find myself returning to your blog, theladyblooms, to read again and again. What a gift you have – and what a gift you give to your readers! I’ve been married for some time now, but want to thank you for returning me to my own special day. Your sis sounds pretty wise too. ;)

  • Valerie Day


  • Sarah

    This was so perfect. My mom said, similarly, to me “The details are details, the important stuff is important.” I loved this piece so much. Just lovely prose poetry!

  • Melody

    I am truly, deeply moved.

  • Meaghan

    You nailed it, lady. I’ve never quite been able to describe that feeling, but THIS.

  • Sarah

    This is the best wedding piece I have ever read! You are an amazing writer, Lita! I love this piece, and I love that I’m in it with you and I love you guys! Beautiful, just beautiful!

  • Rachael

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It was incredibly moving and incredibly gorgeous. I hope to have these images in my mind as I also speak my vows and feel the true sense of the word home.

  • disqus_H3TOy9iBQP

    Chills. Beautifully stated.

  • This is some of the most gorgeous writing I’ve come across in a long, long time. Thank you so much for sharing this loveliness with us.

  • I loved reading this so much – I identify with that description of the feeling, the physicality, the act of speaking vows, and it’s the thing I remember mostly clearly.

  • Morgan

    Whew. Another APW essay that makes me tear up, in the best possible way. Thank you for sharing this raw, real, beautiful experience. I have that idea to ground me as I look forward to our day.

  • Lisa

    Oh what a moment captured in words! You are so talented, Savala! I want to hear more!

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