Yesterday, I married yet another couple who requested wedding vows posed as questions only. This is not uncommon at all! The multifaceted reasons range from public speaking trepidations to wanting to “keep it simple” to language barriers.
If you review the old Justice of the Peace style marriage ceremonies of yore, you will notice immediately that they were as simple as saying “I will” or otherwise gesturing one’s affirmative consent. Even in religious ceremonies, declaring “I will,” or “I do,” or taking your partner’s right hand is the only mandate to make a marriage binding.
For those who want to enhance their “I do” vows and yet feel a bit shy, consider this idea: one of my couples united a series of responsorial vows with a hand-fasting — a tying together of their hands with a cord, ribbon, or scarf.
Note that except for the vows in which wording is clearly traditional, these are *original*: I created them for my couples.
FAMILY VOW: You enter this marriage with (a) child(ren) not from your union. Today, you pledge not only to give all of yourselves to each other, but to this ever-growing child(ren) as well. Do you promise to be considerate of this child(ren)’s feelings, to be open to her/his/their ideas, and to educate them to the best of your abilities in loving kindness?
1. Do you take this woman/man as your lawfully wedded wife/husband to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, in health, and to love, honor, and cherish for all the days of your life?
2. Do you come here freely, without any doubts, lawful, or ethical impediments, with the express intent to enter this union of marriage? Do you commit with sincere, loving devotion in plenty or poverty, joy or sorrow, and wellbeing or illness from this day onwards? And do you pledge to be onto each other a sympathetic, caring, and faithful companion for all the days of your lives?
3. N, do you take N. as your lawfully wedded spouse to live together in the bonds of matrimony on days of struggle and joy from this day forth? Will you share her/his visions for the future, work to make dreams into possibilities, nurture him/her into strength, hold true to your common values, and appreciate her/him for all the days of your life?
4. N., do you give yourself and receive N. freely and without reservation for as long as time belongs to you both?
5. N., do you give your consent to marry N.? Do you intend to love, comfort, honor, cherish, and care for him/her tenderly during fun and hard times until you share your last sunset and moonrise together?
6. Do you choose each other as life-long companions in tranquility and travail from this day onwards?
7. N., do you accept N., as your lawfully wedded spouse? Do you pledge to love, admire, and comfort her/him from this day forward in hardship or abundance and frailty or strength? Sharing all of yourself with her/him for as long as time is yours, do you offer her/him the adventurous fun of friendship and the patient care of love? Cherishing what you now know and do not yet know about this (wo)man, will you work to increase her/his happiness and decrease her/his burdens? And, wearing this ring everyday to remember your resolve to hold true to these vows always, do you now seek to join with her/him into a new cycle of life?
8. N. and N., do you choose to enter this marriage together by seeking only that which love induces each to give freely to the other and thereto pledge to be faithful and loving companions through life? And do you pledge to care for each other thoughtfully in plenty and want, health and illness, and happiness and hardship as long as time is yours?
9. N. and N., seeking only that which love induces each to give freely the other, do you both promise to live together in the bonds of matrimony in times of smiles and sorrows for as long as you both shall live?
10. Do you, N., choose N. to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband? Do you promise to share her/his joy, lighten her/his burdens, grow with her/him, celebrate her/his achievements, and give her/him the best of yourself now and in the days to come?
11. N., do you choose N. above all others to be your wife/husband? Through the best and worst of times, will you be her/his constant friend, grieve when s/he grieves, increase her/his laughter with your own, advocate her/his interests, honor her/his freedom to explore, try to understand her/him even when you disagree, and strive to mend friction between you? And, above all, will you love her/him with all of yourself?
12. Do you promise to continue to love, honor, comfort, and cherish this (wo)man as your wife/husband for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, and to keep faithful to her/him for all the days of your life? And do you both promise to continue to plan your future together even after the grandchildren descend upon you?
13. N., wilt thou have this (wo)man to be thy wedded wife/husband to live together in the holy bonds of matrimony? Wilt thou love, comfort, honor, and keep her/him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her/him so long as ye both shall live?
14. N., do you promise to love, honor, comfort, and cherish N. as a devoted life-long companion?
15. Do you accept this woman/man as your lawfully wedded husband/wife through every chance and change of life? And do you promise to honor her/him in plenty or poverty, cherish her/him in harmony or hardship, comfort her/him in well-being or illness, and to seek only that which her/his love induces to freely give as long as time is yours?
16. N., dost thou take this (wo)man whom thou dost hold by the hand, choosing him/her alone from all the world, to be thy wedded husband/wife? Wilt thou love, comfort, support, honor, and cherish him/her in sickness and in health, sorrow and joy, and adversity and prosperity, and forsaking all others, remain faithful to him/her as long as ye both shall live?
17. N., and N., if you trace your finger around this circle, you simply return. Likewise, together, you will find happiness in the knowledge that the seasons will come and go and then return constantly. Whether we accept it or not, like it or not, such are the ways of the universe, as it encircles us with a sense of common humanity. If bitterness cast shadows, do you both promise to work on cultivating the sweetness of passion and illumination? If frailty encloses you at times during your shared cycle of life, will you strengthen each other so that you feel the ambition to expand and grow? Do you promise to now join together in a marriage without end? And do you pledge to give your partner unwaivering dedication so your marriage never falters but matures and deepens instead?
18. The oaths you will now exchange forge a binding agreement, a contract: do you both enter this marriage as trustworthy and caring partners with enough mutual fondness to guarantee a life-long attachment by which you will become each other’s appendage? …Do you bring any talisman to delineate your new marriage? Please present these to each other: these are the trademarks portraying your new family. Utere Felix – use with luck.
19. You now wish to offer tokens in pledge that you will fulfill and hold endless your commitment. Do you both promise to make these rings the visible signs of the inward spiritual grace signifying onto all the uniting of your lives in matrimony? Will you make these lovely, enduring signs by polishing them as emblems of a love that cannot be defied, denied, or tarnished? Knowing that once you give and accept a ring you will belong to each other in an inviolable relationship, do you promise to strive to abide in harmony and hope as a married couple?
20. *Do you pledge to help each other develop your minds and hearts with concentrated, enthusiastic compassion as you undergo the delights and burdens of life? *Understanding that we are mysterious to ourselves and each person is a mystery to us, do you pledge to remain empathetically open to each other’s unique opinions and beliefs? *Do you pledge to work for the welfare of others – to apply antidotes to anger and ignorance, as well as to try to engage in acts of selflessness? *Recognizing that external conditions are not smooth and that you will sometimes feel challenged by negativity, do you pledge to try to make confusing circumstances into opportunities for growth? *Do you pledge to not only preserve, but enrich your affection for one another by radiating love? *Do you pledge to reflect in sincere appreciation for all the gifts you receive by giving the very best you have to offer?