Although both my husband, Mark, and I are Leos, we try our best not to let our fire sign emotions get the best of us (I meditate, he golfs). Even so, when we exchanged vows on our wedding day, we acknowledged the fact that fights inevitably happen. So, we incorporated a truce bell into our ceremony.
We got the idea from our wedding planner, Tessa Lyn, but it’s actually an Irish tradition that dates back centuries. Historically, in Irish families, brides and grooms are given a set of bells to ring after they exchange wedding vows. The functionality is twofold. The bells ward off evil spirits and also remind the couple of their vows long after the celebration is over.
The custom suggests these bells should be placed in a prominent place in the couple’s home. When an argument arises, the bells serve as a reminder of the happiness and promises made on their wedding day. The couple should then use them to signal the end of an argument, call a time out or even just clear the air. Basically, they’re like palo santo, but for relationships.
Both Mark and I are both a little bit Irish (at least that’s what 23andMe told us), but that’s not why we opted to include a bell in our ceremony. We saw it as a way to wipe away the expectation of perfection in our marriage. As well-suited as we think we are, it doesn’t mean we’ll agree on everything for the rest of our lives. (If that were the case, I’d be seriously concerned one of us was a Stepford Wives robot.)
Integrating the bell was also a way to include my mother, who passed away a month after our engagement, in our big day. When I cleaned out her condo I found a Waterford dinner bell she used when I was little. So, when Tessa suggested something “creative like a truce bell” for our non-denominational ceremony, the memory of my mom’s bell ding-ding-dinged in my mind.
On our wedding day our friend/officiant David, initially weary of broaching the topic of arguments during our wedding vows, blessed the bell and said, “Keep this bell in your home and let it be a reminder of happy, peaceful times, should you find yourselves in an argument or going through a tough time.” And then we were married.
Mark (now 33) and I (now 28) lived together for two years before we wed and knew each other for about three years prior to dating, which meant that we marched into marriage having survived more than a few tiffs. One specifically involved him not remembering that I’m gluten-free for the zillionth time and me drunkenly storming out of a pizzeria sobbing—not my finest moment.
Thankfully, since that fateful evening at Dough Pizzeria and Bar, my now-husband and I haven’t had any other gluten-related fights. In fact, the entire marriage has been smooth sailing…except for one thing.
When Mark and I started dating, I was miserable in my career in the entertainment industry and then again at my new job in tech. At the time, the thought of stepping out of the workforce to have kids and become a full-time mom seemed like the perfect end to my résumé, which lacked any real cohesion. That was our plan: We’d have kids soon after marriage, and I would stay home with them. But then I changed industries again and finally found something I enjoyed (this!). And that’s when the kids argument began. I, finally having found a job I enjoyed, wanted to wait, and he, established in his career, wanted to try as soon as possible.
So began the ugliest series of fights we’ve ever had. It would start out with a subtle mention of someone being pregnant and before we knew it, I’d be crying, and he’d be stewing quietly. Deep in the throes of that seemingly never-ending disagreement, one of us would inevitably realize this was no longer productive and would ring the bell. It was an action so simple, yet it held so much meaning in our relationship. With the sound of that bell, we’d immediately remember the important stuff: Life is short, we’d eventually figure out when to have children and marriage is not about who’s right. I’d slink off to a bath, he’d go for a walk and when we had cooled off, we’d kiss and remember when we stood in front of our family and friends and promised to love each other without limitation, kid or no kid.
If marriage is having the same fight over and over, then our truce bell announced the end of the round. It was a fight we came back to time and time again, but eventually we understood each other’s points and found common ground. If it weren’t for the bell, and what it represents, we might still be having that same fight. Instead, we’re celebrating our first wedding anniversary on the same page and getting a dog instead of having a child…for now.