Why We Didn’t Say “I Do” at Our Wedding

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during most weddings, couples exchange vows and say “i do.” as i was preparing to officiate a wedding of our friends, i learned that “i do” is often said to acknowledge that both people are aware of the agreement to marry each other. however, we never spoke the words “i do” during our wedding five years ago.

when i first met my husband, a friend told me that if you hear him say ‘promise’ that means he will absolutely follow through or he’s telling 100% the truth.

what does this mean? a simple example: he will never promise he’s only 5 minutes away because something may delay him like a train, a fender-bender, or stopping to bring me home a cookie from a cookie stand like we saw in alaska.

after a few months of seeing how serious he was about what he would promise or not promise, i wanted in. we both agreed not to use the word ‘promise’ unless you were 100% certain you could keep your word. we both believe that words are powerful tools and to use them wisely.

after we got engaged and wedding planning was in full swing, we started talking about what we wanted from our wedding ceremony. we were already doing quite a few non-traditional things in our wedding so why not do exactly what we wanted with the ceremony too. when it came down to it, the words “i do” meant nothing to us. sure, we heard them said in movies and at other weddings, but half of those couples got divorced anyway so how much influence do they really have over the couple?

we didn’t want to say “i do” at our wedding. instead, we decided to say “i promise.” it felt perfect and still does.

for our 5 year wedding anniversary, i worked with a family run online shop called Paper Anniversary by Anna V. check out these bad boys customizable cuff-links (there are also tie-clips too).

saying i do during wedding

i worked directly with anna v. herself! she is the owner and designer – she is amazing! she specializes in putting your vows or even the lyrics from your first dance into meaningful gifts! i couldn’t decide if i wanted “i promise” or our first dance song so she sent me proofs for both and eventually i decided that part of our vows would mean more to my husband (i was correct).

she is hooking you up with a 15% off discount by using the code IPROMISE at check out. plus – paper is the traditional gift you give on a one-year wedding anniversary so if yours is coming up, this one is a unique idea (or really any anniversary). have a gander a Paper Anniversary by Anna V. and think about what words you would want to give your husband! it’s a fun thing to do (plus mine arrived 24 hours after the order was placed!)

when i asked my husband about why he decided to start using “promise” as such an important word in his life, he said, “you have to have something you can base your trust off of. the word ‘promise’ is like a signature to those you communicate with that you are going to stay true to your word. at the same time though, a promise is only as good as the person who makes it.” he went on to talk about how vital trust is to every relationship and it is absolutely one of our core values.

in fact, this concept heavily influenced his winning speech at the world championship of public speaking. i haven’t shared it recently so here it is:

yes, i cried. yes, i still cry. yes, i’m so proud of him!

during our ceremony, it was meaningful to us to make the promises we did to each other and also in front of our family and close friends. for us, this was more impactful and meaningful than saying “i do” and i’m glad we made the conscious choice to do what works for us.

even now when he promises something, i know without any doubt in any cell of my being, that he is being 100% honest and will live by whatever is being promised – likewise for when i use it.

think about what words you are using in your relationship to convey your core values and which ones could even carry more weight. i promise you, it matters.


  1. Anna

    September 30, 2015 at 11:09 am

    Chelsea, I’m really an advocate of the idea that each couple has something to bring themselves back to that “happy place”– whether it’s a hug, an inside joke, a look in your face, vows, or just a word. I love how those words “I Promise” have stuck with you and been a common thread in your marriage!

    It was an honor to create your custom cufflinks. May he cherish them for years to come
    Anna V

    • chelsea

      September 30, 2015 at 1:44 pm

      totally agree with you, anna! i think it adds to exactly what the point of a wedding ceremony should be – a connection between the two of you declaring your intentions together!

      my husband was really surprised and is excited about them! ‘promise’ is truly a strong word for us so they came out beautifully!

  2. Lindsay

    September 30, 2015 at 11:12 am

    This is so sweet, I love the sentiment behind the altered phrase. I agree completely, words are powerful tools and you guys were smart to choose words that were meaningful to you instead of going with the flow “for tradition’s sake.” Very romantic indeed. 🙂
    Lindsay recently posted…20 Good Reasons to Judge Me

    • chelsea

      September 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm

      thanks lindsay for your comment! glad to know you value words as powerful tools too (of course you do, you avid writer!) 🙂

  3. Erin @ Very Erin

    September 30, 2015 at 11:43 am

    I love this! First of all, I think that’s so romantic to change the typical ceremony to something that meant more to the two of you. Also, I think that says a lot about your husband that he uses the word promise so carefully!
    Erin @ Very Erin recently posted…6 Lifestyle Blogs That Keep Me Inspired

    • chelsea

      September 30, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      totally agree about it saying a lot about my husband, erin! honestly when i first heard how close he held the word ‘promise’ i almost couldn’t believe it (so of course i tested him and sure enough – he passed) 🙂 thanks for your comment!

  4. chelsea jacobs

    September 30, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    I love love love this.
    chelsea jacobs recently posted…Goodbye September, Hello October.

    • chelsea

      September 30, 2015 at 1:48 pm

      thanks chelsea! we wanted something more meaningful for both of us 🙂

  5. Elyse

    September 30, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    So sweet! I agree completely, words are powerful tools and you two were smart to choose words that were meaningful to you instead of just going with tradition!
    Elyse recently posted…Highs and Lows of September

    • chelsea

      October 1, 2015 at 11:49 am

      thanks eylse! i never really thought his intensity around the word ‘promise’ would make it’s way into our marriage like it did but i’m so happy that’s the case!

  6. Rachel G

    September 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    How cool that you chose a word that had such a special meaning for you guys! My family’s kind of the opposite–if we say “True story”….we are definitely 100% lying, and if we say “I promise”…we are probably lying. My mom started it, don’t blame me…ha!
    Rachel G recently posted…An Announcement Concerning the Blog

    • chelsea

      October 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

      haha well as long as everyone is on the same page that it’s not a true story!

  7. joey

    October 1, 2015 at 4:23 am

    I absolutely love this! (And your blog name is genius)! I believe we said “I will” instead of “I do.”

    • chelsea

      October 1, 2015 at 11:50 am

      thanks joey!! i’m excited to check out your blog too and i like that you said “i will” – changing things up!

  8. Audrey

    October 1, 2015 at 7:02 am

    I read all your posts, Chelsea, but sometimes I can’t think of anything to say right away so I navigate away and forget to come back and comment 🙁 That happened yesterday after I read this one.

    K and I said “I do” when we got married and it meant enough to us, but I really like how you and Ryan personalized your commitment. A couple that was relatively close to us just went through a divorce and it made me sad that when it came to all the “noise” surrounding their relationship, they didn’t choose one another. That’s kind of been our new thing- I will always choose K, no matter what. It’s nice to have a saying that so personal to your relationship 🙂
    Audrey recently posted…End of September Movie Update

    • chelsea

      October 1, 2015 at 11:52 am

      oh my goodness, you’re so awesome audrey! thank you for always reading (and always commenting…it makes me smile when i read your contributions) 🙂 thanks also for coming back around!

      i think that’s great that you and K said “i do” because it meant something strong to you both! i often think couples never really consider it (and i truthfully probably wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for my husband’s intensity around ‘promise’). that has to be so hard to have your friends going through a divorce and more that they didn’t choose each other anymore 🙁

  9. Morgan Gifford

    October 1, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    This is so adorable. I love the idea of “I promise” rather than “I do”. Such a sweet sentiment, with so much special meaning.
    Morgan | theradwife.blogspot.com
    Morgan Gifford recently posted…1000 IN 1 MONTH

  10. Vivien

    October 2, 2015 at 6:20 pm

    I love this post! I think it’s great that Ryan and yourself personalized it in such a way, and the much deeper meaning for yourselves knowing the weight behind your promises. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few guys saying “I promise” and not following through on it, and my disappointment because it felt like they didn’t put nearly as much weight on the promise as I did. I think it’s absolutely wonderful what you guys did 🙂
    Vivien recently posted…Why I Almost Vowed to Never Enter a Tall Tales Contest

  11. Drew

    October 15, 2015 at 6:38 am

    That’s a powerful word, ‘promise’ my wife and I did use the traditional ‘I do’ but we both mean I promise. What a wonderful way of expressing it on your Big Day.
    Drew recently posted…True Lasting Joy – What makes you happy?

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