1 of 4
2 of 4
Alex and Scot Procanin Photo courtsey the Procanins
3 of 4
Sarah and Kent Brockwell with Sarah's son Photo courtsey the Brockwells
4 of 4
Patrick Brady and Keisha Dillard-Brady Photo by Steh Roberts Photography
The Rev. Alane Cameron Miles wrote her own vows for her wedding 20 years ago; she says it served as an excellent example of what not to do. "It was too long, too personal, and I sobbed through the whole thing," recalls the Unitarian Universalist minister.
Since then, she's had some practice, officiating hundreds of weddings in Richmond and around the country for which many couples chose to write personalized vows. Some want to write from scratch, while others draw inspiration from different sources.
"For English majors in love, adapting vows from cherished poems is a favorable option," Miles says, although she jokes that she is "so over" The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. If you are planning to pen your own promises to each other, Miles offers some suggestions on what to omit: "exes, your sex life, your shared dog or cat, and anything that is about the other person's family."
For three years, Alex and Scot Procanin, both 25, hid their relationship. They met in 2008 when they were stationed in Minot, N.D. — he as a staff sergeant, she as a senior airman — and since he was her superior, they weren't allowed to date.
"We always say we're not the normal couple," Alex says with a laugh, adding that they kept the cuddling and hand-holding to a minimum. "It's torn a lot of couples up, but it did the complete opposite for us."
In August, Alex left the military, and the two were married in her hometown of Richmond in October.
They were both raised Catholic, but they wanted their vows to be more personalized than the traditional Catholic wedding vows, so they chose to write them themselves.
"We wanted to have us in the vows," Scot says. "We wanted to be a part of it."
A week before the wedding date, they sat down at their kitchen table in North Dakota to write their vows.
"The original plan was to sit across from each other and write down what we like about the other person, what we like about what they've done to us, and what we would like for our future in the relationship," Alex says, but an hour later, they were both staring at blank pages.
Brainstorming and writing together helped the couple. "I think it made it better because we were able to talk about each other to each other and kind of go over everything," Alex says. "It made us closer."
Before they went to sleep that night, they'd written their vows for each other, together.
"Some of it was kind of funny, some of it was cute and sweet and sincere," Alex says. "At the end, we both finished it the same. We said, ‘Thank you for marrying me. I love you.' "
When Sarah Brockwell met her husband, Kent Brockwell, she already had one special man in her life — her son, J.P. Clifford.
"I told myself a long time ago that I would never introduce anyone to my son unless I knew I was going to marry him," Sarah says of her 9-year-old.
Kent, 32, and Sarah, 34, met in April 2009 at a party in the Fan after an alumni game for VCU rugby players. Sarah's younger brother, Danny Clifford, played rugby with Kent, and Sarah was the designated driver for the night. "One of his friends gave him a swift upper-cut to the groin and I felt bad for him, so I gave him my phone number," Sarah says with a laugh.
After a few phone conversations, Sarah invited Kent to come to her apartment while J.P. was at school, but when J.P. got off the school bus, Kent had to leave.
It wasn't too long, however, until Sarah knew she wanted to introduce Kent to her son. "It was really quite
immediate," Sarah recalls. "By the second date, we kind of knew."
Kent met J.P. on his eighth birthday, May 12, 2010.
"As soon as I met J.P., I knew I had locked myself into something bigger than anything I had ever done before," Kent says. "It was a hard decision for a guy who had been a bachelor for awhile, but it seemed like a solid piece that I needed to have in my life."
On April 28 the next year, J.P. joined the couple at the altar.
Kent and Sarah wrote vows for each other, taking guidance from For As Long As We Both Shall Live, a book by Thomas Fritts. After reading their vows to each other, the couple turned to J.P. and promised that they would commit to him as much as they were committing to each other.
"J.P. is just as much a part of it as the two of us are, so he had to be included," Kent says. "He was integral to the entire ceremony and the entire decision."
Recounting the Romance
In late December 2007, Patrick Brady, a police officer from the South Side, finally worked up the courage to ask out Keisha, a criminal defense attorney, at the Manchester courthouse.
"When he first asked me out, I said, ‘I need to process that,' and walked away," recalls Keisha, 36. In April 2011, she married him. "So in my vows, I said, ‘I'm glad that I stopped processing with my head and gave in to my heart.' "
Patrick, 34, and Keisha Dillard-Brady chose to write vows for each other because they wanted their wedding to reflect the journey of the past few years they'd spent together.
In the vows he wrote for his wife, Patrick mentioned the first time they held hands, and their first kiss in Shockoe Slip.
"It's our marriage," Patrick says. "So it was important for me, when I was writing them, that it was about us."
They wrote the vows separately and didn't share them with anyone until the day of the ceremony. Keisha's vows were longer than Patrick's, but she says she was happy with the decision to wait until the day of the wedding day to reveal the promises.
"I didn't want to put any parameters on it," Keisha says. "I wanted to do them separately so that I wouldn't be influenced by what he was thinking and he wouldn't be influenced by what I was thinking."
In addition to writing their vows, the couple asked one of Keisha's friends to officiate the ceremony. "She was there when we went out on one of our first dates," Patrick says. "Little did I know, two and a half years later she'd be the one marrying us."