No matter your wedding style, or the religious and legal obligations, the wedding vow is the stare-into-the-eyes, let-it-all-out public declaration of love to the person you are about to marry. This is the moment where you are emotionally vulnerable and it’s about as intimate as both of you will be with your clothes on. So don’t blow it.
The type of vow you choose can be decided by the type of wedding ceremony you have and your religious component. Depending on where your ceremony is taking place, there may also be a verbal legal exchange – usually stating that there’s no legal impediment to marriage and you both agree that you want to do this – but that is separate to your equally important personal vows.
Non-Religious Versus Religious Vows
A non-religious wedding can still follow some cultural practices and may have certain obligatory beats to hit. Check with your nearest parent or grandparent. If you choose a civil ceremony performed by a local clerk or judge (at your local civil marriage bureau, for example) you may have to follow some established legal guidelines and keep it simple and all about the business. It’s wise to check with the office before you think about what you want to say.
If your ceremony is with your own wedding officiant, your vows can include whatever you want and you can say them in whatever way you want. Double down on your congratulations.
If you are having a traditional religious ceremony, centuries-old protocols will guide how you get to say “I do” and the religious officiant will give you some guidelines on what you might want to include.
Surprise! Religions Are Different (But Also The Same)
Many Christian vows include words that suggest each partner takes the other “for richer, for poorer”, “in sickness and in health”, and with an acknowledgement of God.
On the other hand, Orthodox Christian ceremonies don’t include vows. Instead, the priest does all the talking while the couple silently exchange rings, wear crowns, walk around a table and drink wine. Sound good? Wait. There’s more. Some Orthodox ceremonies can be so long that some priests actually offer a “wedding express” version of the ceremony that only goes for… an hour. Trust us. We’ve done it.
Similarly, Jewish weddings don’t typically have an exchange of vows although many couples these days do include vows, especially in Reform and Conservative weddings. They follow the broad tradition of commiting to a future together in good times and bad and under the guidance of God.
Muslim weddings, too, don’t have traditional vows during a ceremony. The Imam will explain the responsibilities of marriage and the couple will receive the blessing of attendees. Again, couples today can and do exchange vows and acknowledge each other, the Quran, and Prophet.
If you are having a religious wedding, your priest, rabbi, imam, whoever will be able to work with both of you on your vows. That’s what they are there for (well, one thing, anyway).
How To Write Vows (Clue: Get Help)
Even professional writers will admit that a blank page can be daunting. While you’re not writing a novel, your vows can be one of the most important thing you say to another person with a public audience. So, NO PRESSURE.
Important: Tone is crucial for this part of your wedding ceremony. You might be the life of any party and be wearing a clown suit to your ceremony but this one minute when you address your partner about why she is and will always be The One should be 100 percent SINCERE. Leave the jokes for later.
So, who to turn to in your time of need? Your soon-to-be wife (or husband), of course. If you are stuck on what to say with your vows, do this as a team. Get a piece of paper and write down the answers to these simple questions:
- Why do you want to get married?
- How do you see your partnership evolving?
- What adversity can you overcome together?
- What are your partner’s best qualities?
- How does your partner inspire you?
Regardless of whether you are religious or not, or what religion you follow, these simple questions, answered honestly and together, will trigger universal themes and emotions between you and create a base for your own awesome vows.