When you hear the word ‘vow’ you may immediately think of something weighty and binding, a solemn promise or commitment, an oath or a covenant. This is certainly the sentiment expressed when it comes to marriage vows. Most couples, who take the momentous decision to move their relationship up to the next level and get married, are aware to some extent of the seriousness of the step they are taking. Such a serious and significant step calls for some kind of statement or ceremony to mark the defining moment which moves two single people into the whole new world of married life. But what are the vows really all about, and why is it necessary to make marriage vows? These questions and more will be discussed as we consider how you can make the most of your marriage vows.
Reasons for making vows
Vows are made in order to have a lasting record of what was agreed upon. Marriage vows are a formal recording of a special covenant being made between two people. As each one expresses their words to one another, a contract is sealed and there is a sense of crossing over a line from one state (of singleness) into another state (of being married). Marriage vows are an opportunity for a couple to make promises to one another, and to declare their intentions for the future, how they plan to live with each other in the months and years to come. In order to formalize these vows, they are usually made in public, before a priest or some other officiant, as well as friends and family. In this way the marriage is legalized, in the presence of witnesses. On the official document the signatures of both spouses as well as two witnesses is normally required.
Whether to write your own vows or use traditional vow
The next question to consider is what form the vows will take. Should you stay with a traditional version of the wording of marriage vows, or should you compose your own words? Nowadays, it is becoming a very popular option for wedding couples to write their own vows for each other. This gives them the freedom to express their promises and intentions in their own words, rather than repeating words that someone else has put together a long time ago. Besides the sense of freedom that comes with creating your own vows, it can also give a greater sense of ownership, if you have written the words yourself. And of course it is much more personal.
Say what you mean and mean what you say
Whether you choose to go the traditional route or write your own vows, the most important factor is that you say what you mean, and mean what you say. After all, that is the purpose of making a vow, and especially when you are putting your signature on it, you need to be sure that it is exactly what you want. Imagine if you were entering into some kind of legal contract with a business partner, or signing for a mortgage at the bank, or any other significant transaction – you would make very sure that you knew exactly what you were signing for. How much more in a marriage – when you make your marriage vows, you need to be very sure that what you are saying is what you want and what you intend to fulfil to the best of you abilities.
Important elements of the marriage vows
Although the wording of traditional vows may seem a bit formal and off-putting for some, the sentiments expressed are indeed worthwhile and worthy of respect and consideration. In fact, if you were to choose to write your own vows, you might like to use the basic elements covered in the traditional vows as a guideline to cover the important aspects of what a marriage covenant means.
Here is a brief description of five of these elements showing their significance and application.
To be my wedded spouse
This shows recognition of and respect for the marital status, that you are going to be married rather than just living together, and you will now be called Mr and Mrs.
To have and to hold, to love and to cherish, from this day forward
Companionship is one of the greatest privileges of marriage – the fact that you have a best friend to live with all the time and do stuff with everyday – someone you love very much and whose company you would choose and enjoy above anyone else. When it comes to a practical application of these words, love is very much a verb, rather than merely an emotion. When you love someone you will go out of your way to serve and help them, to see that they are well cared for and protected.
For richer or poorer
It is well known that financial issues are one of the biggest struggles in marriages, so this part of the vow says that regardless of your financial status, you will stay true and faithful to your spouse. It shows that money and possessions are not to be compared with the immeasurable value of a loving relationship.
In sickness and in health
Even if you are blessed with good health on your wedding day, sooner or later some kind of sickness is sure to come your way as this is a normal part of life. By including this in your vows you are anticipating and promising that you will not let any kind of sickness or circumstantial misfortune make you change your mind about the one you decided to marry.
Till death us do part
These are the words that speak of permanence and durability – that you will stay with each other faithfully until one or both of you pass away. Just as the wedding ring is a symbol of eternity, so your marriage vows speak of the lifelong commitment that you are making to each other.