Wedding vows are the heart of any wedding ceremony and are what makes a marriage legal. Vows are promises made by a couple to one another with an ordained officiant, judge, or elected official presiding. Wedding vows can take many forms. There is the traditional “I ___ take you ____ to be my wife. To have and to hold ….”. With traditional vows, the officiant reads the couple each line which they then repeat. The vows can use religious or secular language depending on the couple’s preference.
The advantage of traditional vows is that they have a poetic structure, have stood the of time, and will be familiar to friends and family attending the ceremony. The disadvantage of traditional vows is the same – they are familiar and have been recited by countless couples over the years.
Which vows to use are a personal decision that I discuss carefully with each couple.
Some couples choose one of the contemporary alternatives I present to them, which they can tweak or modify. As an example, one couple might choose the words “till death do us part” while another might prefer “as long as we both shall live”.
Other couples choose to write their own vows. When a couple writes their own vows, they can either read them to one another or they have me read the vows that they have written, repeating them line by line. I try to steer couples away from memorizing and reciting their personal vows. Weddings are very emotional, and couples run the risk of forgetting or getting tangled up in their words.
A popular option is for couples to supplement their vows by writing Love Letters to each other. The Love Letters are written (and rehearsed) beforehand, unknown to the other, and then read to each other prior to exchanging their vows. The Love Letters become a keepsake after the wedding and give context and the foundation for the vows which couples are about to make.
Whatever vow option a couple chooses, they should be ones that express who they are, what they’re committing to, and has everyone celebrate the life that they are about to share.