Wedding Vows – Religious or Civil?
For some, writing their own vows adds an element of ‘accountability.’ I have to agree with this, the act of thinking about them, then writing them and then committing to honor them is quite a powerful exercise in itself.
Choosing words that mean something to you both and that are representative of your relationship as it is now and what you would like it to blossom into.
Many aren’t even aware it is possible to write their own vows and don’t also consider it, and just go with the grain, the way it’s always been done. But you do have a choice!
If having personalized vows are important to you, it may influence the type of ceremony you end up having.
The choice between whether you write your own vows or not is SUCH a personal choice. But it is a choice you are able to consider early into your planning and only one that you both should make. So plan ahead, asks questions and do your research to help you make an informed decision.
What kind ceremony do you want?
It might not feel like it, but writing your own vows and having the kind of ceremony you want is entirely at your discretion. YOU can decide. Whether you are religious or not. There are ways to incorporate your relationship, your personalities and/or faith without feeling like you are sacrificing one over the other.
The very nature of traditional, religious marriage ceremonies, mean there is a lot less flexibility over whether or not you will be able to incorporate your own vows in your chosen place of worship.
For legal reasons both the Catholic Church and the Church of England state that vows cannot be altered in any way. Couples who marry reciting traditional vows are not only making promises to each other, but to God, so there is no room to move with pledges. (However, there may be another option, check out ‘best of both’ below)
If you have a Reform (Jewish) wedding, you may be able to discuss with a Rabbi about adding your own personal vows to your service. So it’s worth expressing your wishes early on to your potential officiant about what is or isn’t possible, there are always workarounds!
Check out these sample wedding vows from different creeds and religions to inspire your words at the altar.
Take note of the different ways it is done throughout history and across the globe and learn how to write traditional wedding vows. Whether you’re looking for funny wedding vows, romantic wedding vows, Christian wedding vows, or non-traditional wedding vows, we’ve got you covered with enough of the historically top-rated examples.
Catholic Wedding Vows
Because marriage is largely predicated in philosophies on consent, not just with your partner, but also under God, Catholic Wedding Vows are to be said precisely as written, however, because there’s very little room for freestyling, brides and grooms tend to evoke their precursory “stating of intentions.” Which effectively become their vows.
“I, ___, take you, ___, for my lawful wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death does us part.”
“I, ___, take you, ___, to be my husband/wife. I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.”
Protestantism is different even church to church in many cases, but the basic tenements are the same throughout these Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian vows.
“I, ___, take thee, ___, to be my wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith [or] pledge myself to you.”
“Will you have this woman/man to be your wife/husband, to live together in holy marriage? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful to her/him as long as you both shall live?”
“In the name of God, I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.”
“______, wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wife/husband, and wilt thou pledge thy faith to him/her, in all love and honor, in all duty and service, in all faith and tenderness, to live with her/him, and cherish her/him, according to the ordinance of God, in the holy bond of marriage?”
“I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wedded wife/husband, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife, in plenty and want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.”
“I, ______, take you, ______, to be my wife/husband, and these things I promise you: I will be faithful to you and honest with you; I will respect, trust, help, and care for you; I will share my life with you; I will forgive you as we have been forgiven; and I will try with you better to understand ourselves, the world and God; through the best and worst of what is to come, and as long as we live.”
Hindu Wedding Vows
While it would misleading to say there is one typical Hindu wedding vow, the Saptapadi comes closest. It is a ritual in seven parts, each of which relates to a specific vow made to the bride from the groom. Said beside a fire to honor the god Agni, the “vows” may sound like this:
“Let us make our household a nourishing and pure diet, avoiding those foods injurious to healthy living.”
“Let us take the second step to develop physical, mental and spiritual powers.
“Let us take the third step to increase our wealth by righteous means and proper use.
“Let us take the fourth step to acquire knowledge, happiness, and harmony by mutual love and trust.
“Let us take the fifth step so that we are blessed with healthy, virtuous and heroic children.
“Let us take the sixth step for self-restraint and longevity.
“Finally, let us take the seventh step and be true companions and remain lifelong partners by this wedlock.”
Jewish Wedding Vows
Jewish traditions do not include vows by way of the bride and groom trading short speeches, but instead, they believe their ceremony itself to be an inherent vow. Conservative, Orthodox, Reformed, and Reconstructionist Jews all differ synagogue to synagogue, but not dissimilarly from most American weddings, when the ring is slid onto the bride’s finger you’re as good as married. The groom then says,
“Harry at mekudeshet lee be-taba’at zo Keh-dat Moshe veh-Yisrael,” Or, in English “Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”
Rabbis in Reformed synagogues may say, “Do you,___, take_____ to be your wife/husband, promising to cherish and protect her/him, whether in good fortune or in adversity, and to seek together with her/him a life hallowed by the faith of Israel?” whereas a conservative Jewish Rabbis’ phrasing is more likely, “Do you, ____, take _____ to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to love, to honor and to cherish?”
Muslim Wedding Vows
Muslim men don’t have much of a part in vows unless you count the imam. As a cleric, he is the one tasked with explaining the duties to Muslim couples at the altar. That binding agreement is called a nikah and while it doesn’t traditionally include the pair adding anything, vows to take place in the bride’s recitation of the following “I, ___, offer you myself in marriage in accordance with the instructions of the Holy Quran and the Holy Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him. I pledge, in honesty and with sincerity, to be for you an obedient and faithful wife.” Groom: “I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband.”
Eastern Orthodox Wedding Vows
You may have never heard of this next style of vows from various Eastern Orthodox churches, but that is because they are silent! Almost more similar to a prayer, traditional Russian brides and grooms are expected to recite to themselves their voluntary participants and obligatory responsibility to love and serve one another under God. But in the event they decide to let the audience in on their private practice, they’ll sound something like ”I, ___, take you, ___, as my wedded wife/husband and I promise you love, honor and respect; to be faithful to you, and not to forsake you until death do us part. So help me God, one in the Holy Trinity and all the Saints.” In Nondenominational churches that sounds more like, “I, ______, take you, ______, to be no other than yourself. Loving what I know of you, trusting what I do not yet know, I will respect your integrity and have faith in your abiding love for me, through all our years, and in all that life may bring us.”
Unitarian Wedding Vows
For Unitarian Universalist marriages, the minister will scribe and lead the vowing. But the style and even much of the phrasing for Unitarian Universalist vows is influenced heavily by broader Christianity,
“______, will you take ______ to be your wife/husband; love, honor and cherish her/him now and forevermore?”
“______, will you take ______ as your wife/husband, will you pledge to share your life openly with her/him, to speak the truth to her/him, in love? Will you promise to honor and tenderly care for her/him, to encourage her/him fulfillment as an individual through all the changes in your lives?”
“______, will you have this woman/man, ______, to be your wedded wife/husband, to live together in marriage, will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, so long as you both shall live?”
“______, do you take this woman/man, ______, to be your wife/husband? Do you pledge to share your life openly with her/him and to speak the truth to her/him in love?
Will you comfort her/him, honor her/him and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in joy, so long as you both shall live?”
(I will.) – From Rev. Edward Searl, Unitarian Church of Hinsdale, IL
Native American Wedding Vows
For Native American Apache Indians, there is no ritual vowing from the couple themselves, but they are blessed with the following invocation:
Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth. Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness, and kindness that your connection deserves.
When frustration, difficulties, and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives — remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
Cherokee Native Americans similarly omit bride and groom speeches but may recite along with this prayer,
God in heaven above, please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and pray that our union is warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship—that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony, as we grow forever young together. Amen.
Buddhist Wedding Vows
Perhaps the couple's approach is that of the Tibetan Buddhists. In their ceremonies, couples simultaneously speaking the answers to questions asked by the officiant shows unity and togetherness. For instance,
“*Bride and *Groom, do you pledge to help each other to develop your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom as you age and undergo the various ups and downs of life and to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity?
Bride/Groom: “We do.”
Officiant: Recognizing that the external conditions in life will not always be smooth and that internally your own minds and emotions will sometimes get stuck in negativity, do you pledge to see all these circumstances as a challenge to help you grow, to open your hearts, to accept yourselves, and each other; and to generate compassion for others who are suffering?
Bride/Groom: “We do.”
Officiant: Understanding that just as we are a mystery to ourselves, each other person is also a mystery to us, do you pledge to seek to understand ourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?
Bride/Groom: “We do.”
Officiant: Do you pledge to preserve and enrich your affection for each other, and to share it with all beings? To take the loving feelings, you have for one another and your vision of each other’s potential and inner beauty as an example and rather than spiraling inwards and becoming self-absorbed, to radiate this love outwards to all beings?
Bride/Groom: “We do.”
So if you aren’t sure what you and your beloved should say consider how the most tried and true practices have done it, and if that doesn’t work, put a pause on tradition and speak from the heart! Or, forget everything and when in doubt you’ll be married in no time if you just say, “I do.”
Civil Wedding Vow Ceremonies
Check with your celebrant that you will have the freedom to write your own vows. Most civil celebrants will automatically provide basic options for non-religious vows for you to choose from. If you don’t want to regurgitate template vows, you are within your rights to express that you would like to write and exchange your own, most celebrants will happily allow you to do so, in addition to the legal declarations you need to make that are required by law.
H For full free rein, you may wish to choose to have a bespoke or humanist ceremony, where your entire wedding ceremony is tailored around you, your love story and what feels important to you both, from the script and storytelling, right down to the traditions, rituals, and vows. A humanist or bespoke ceremony is also a charming alternative if you are both from different faiths and want to have a ceremony that feels inclusive of all faiths and even to those who are not religious.umanist or bespoke ceremonies
Best of both worlds
Depending on who is marrying you and where you might be able to incorporate both traditional vows with some promises. This might suit you if the sanctity a religious ceremony is important to you. You could recite traditional vows in your chosen place of worship and round off the ceremony by sharing some “promises” as a reading instead.
Or vice versa – if you like the creative freedom of a non-religious ceremony with music and personal vows of your choosing, you could incorporate a religious blessing after a bespoke, civil, or humanist ceremony to integrate your faith too. Oh yes, you can.
Always ask what is possible, as just because it isn’t openly advertised, doesn’t mean you can’t change things around a little.
Make it personal
The beauty of writing your own wedding vows is that you get to really explore what is important to you both, what your relationship means now and what you hope for each other in the future. It is quite a powerful exercise writing your own vows and then committing to them in front of all your friends and family. Quite magical.
How often do we get to write each other the love note of all love notes! To express ourselves in such a scared way is a joy. Even though you know how much you mean to each other, somehow placing pen to paper adds another hidden depth and you might surprise each other with what comes out!
It goes without saying (no pun intended!) writing and reciting your own wedding vows will add your stamp, make your own mark on your ceremony and it will definitely make it stand out from the rest and more importantly hold value to you and only you.
Whatever you decide to do, be your gorgeous, lovely selves! Research, ask questions, think outside the box and make an informed decision. Enjoy!