Today I solemnly vow to give myself to you in marriage
To have and to hold you from this day forward,
For better, for worse,
For richer, for poorer,
In sickness and in health,
To love and to cherish,
As long as we both shall live.
Without a doubt, the most solemn and enthralling part of the wedding ceremony, and the reason everyone has gathered on behalf of the bride and groom, is the exchange of vows. Whether you are marrying in a house of worship or secular venue or you and your betrothed belong to different faiths or are having an eclectic ceremony that combines tradition and formality with a bit of modern or even quirky trends, this is for the wedding couple the Moment of Truth.
The traditional words we all recognize in the western world originated in the Middle Ages from the Book of Common Prayer, and the following is generally the composition that has been asked of the bride and groom by the officiant for centuries:
“Do you take this (man) (woman) to be your lawfully wedded (husband) (wife), to have and to hold from this day forward for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, honor and cherish as long as you both shall live?” The bride and groom, in that order, answer “I do.”
In a traditional wedding, the bride and groom respond with words along the lines of:
“I, ____, take you, ____, to be my (husband) (wife), to have and to hold from this day forward, through good times or bad, whether we’re rich or poor, healthy or sick. I promise to love, honor and cherish you all the days of my life.”
Various religious ceremonies have their own special wording and rituals that reflect their particular faiths, such as Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Jewish, Islamic and Hindu, to name a few; and within many religions there are variations that have evolved over time. Another kind of ceremony is the military wedding, which blends religious or secular traditions with military protocol. But for the most part, civil ceremonies are becoming more common as those who are unaffiliated with an organized religion or specific congregation have been on the rise for awhile.
When there are not many restrictions, wedding couples can opt to write their own vows, which can range from the charming or quirky to the offbeat or romantic. There are some guidelines to follow when writing one’s own vows, here are mine: (1) Both bride and groom should do so, not just one or the other; (2) coordinate with your officiant, (3) keep the vows short, simple and heartfelt; (4) include the essential elements of traditional marriage vows in your own words and tailored to your own situation(s); (5) edit as you would the most important piece you’ve ever written, because this is it; and (6) commit your vow to memory and practice reciting the words aloud so you feel comfortable saying — and feeling — them on your wedding day. Think of your vows as writing a poem for the one you love. Remember, too, that you may ask your officiant to read your vows for you; our officiant read ours and they were as lovely as if we had said them ourselves.
Immediately following the exchange of wedding vows comes the pronouncement of marriage. Here, as well, in a secular ceremony the couple has some say in the words that are chosen. This is especially true in our modern times when women are considered to be equals with men and when same sex couples are permitted under the law to marry. Instead of “I now pronounce you man and wife,” and “you may kiss the bride,” the officiant may say, “I now pronounce you both (bonded) (united) in marriage,” and “you may share your first kiss as a married couple.”
Whether your exchange of vows will follow tradition or your religious requirements or you and your betrothed write your own special promises to each other, savor this moment as you shared it with your soon-to-be spouse and other loved ones who have gathered to witness this milestone in your life.
Until next time,
Note: The sites to which I have directed my readers are for general information and
examples only, and I am not endorsing or recommending them as the official word
on a subject.