When you are planning your wedding ceremony it is easy to get caught up in all the finer details: choosing your entourage, arranging an officiant and deciding on everything from decor to catering. And when it comes to the actual marriage vows, you may be left wondering which route to go – should you create your own words, and if so what would you say? Or perhaps you would like to go the traditional route and stay with the well known and loved phrases of the original marriage vows as printed in the Book of Common Prayer. These Christian marriage vows have been joyfully and sincerely used by literally millions of couples to seal their love for one another in a beautiful covenant.
If you are not familiar with the words of the conventional Christian marriage vows, this article will seek to unveil them phrase by phrase. Once you have thoughtfully considered each phrase, you will be able to enjoy and appreciate the meaning behind the vows that you will both be making on your wonderful wedding day.
I take you to be my wedded wife / husband
Right up front this phrase expresses the choice and decision of each partner. She is choosing him and he is choosing her. Both of you together have decided to move your relationship forward to the next level of commitment. Of all the people in the world, you are choosing each other, and this phrase is an important reminder that you are taking responsibility for your choices. It is also a beautiful expression of love which can be repeated over and over in the months and years to come as you tell each other “I took you to be my wedded wife / husband.”
To have and to hold
One of the most precious aspects of a marriage relationship is that of physical intimacy. As husband and wife you are free to express your love for one another affectionately, romantically and sexually. So this phrase “to have and to hold” speaks of your expectation, that you are looking forward to enjoying each other’s company in every way, be it physically, socially or emotionally, you will share every area of your lives with one another.
From this day forward
The next phrase, “from this day forward” shows that something completely brand new is starting on this day. You are crossing a threshold on your wedding day, from the state of singleness into the state of being married. You are leaving your old way of living behind and you are starting a new season or a new chapter together in the story of your lives.
For better or for worse
The next three phrases underline the seriousness of your commitment, acknowledging that life has both ups and downs. Things do not always turn out the way you had hoped or dreamed they would, and real life tragedies can happen to anyone. At this point it should be understood that this phrase is not meant to lock someone into an abusive relationship where a marriage partner uses these words to threaten and intimidate you into remaining faithful and present, while he or she treats you badly. Both partners need to be equally committed to these vows, facing life’s struggles together.
For richer or for poorer
You may be financially stable on your wedding day and looking forward to a prosperous future together. But it could just happen that economic struggles come along and hit you hard. So this phrase states that your relationship is about much more than money, and no matter what your bank balance looks like, you will work together to face and overcome the challenges.
In sickness and in health
Although you are probably in the prime of your life when you take your marriage vows, no one knows what the future holds and sickness of some sort is fairly likely, whoever you may be. So the phrase “in sickness and in health” brings reassurance to your partner that even if their body may fail, you will love them for what they are inside, for their soul and spirit which are not bound by bodily conditions.
To love and to cherish
This is the part where you directly express your intention to continue loving each other. As the saying goes, love is a verb, and it is all about actions which back up the feelings. To cherish means to protect and care for someone, to be devoted to them, to hold them dear and adore them. When you love and cherish your spouse you will nurture them, admire them, appreciate them and highly treasure the relationship that you share. Sometimes the phrase “forsaking all others” is included in the marriage vows, implying that you will give your heart exclusively to the one you have chosen to marry.
Till death us do part
The words “till death” give an indication of the permanence and strength of the marriage covenant. On their wedding day the loving couple are saying to each other that except for the inevitability of the grave, nothing and no one will come between them.
According to God’s holy ordinance
This phrase of the Christian marriage vows acknowledges that God is indeed the author and creator of the holy ordinance of marriage. Ever since the very first marriage of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, marriage has been something holy and sacred which deserves honor and respect. When you decide to get married you are doing what God intended for His people, to love one another and live Godly lives which reflect His loving and truthful character.
And this is my solemn vow
This final phrase of the marriage vows sums up the whole intention of the wedding ceremony. This is where two individuals are making a solemn vow to each other in the presence of witnesses and in the presence of God. A marriage vow is something which is legally and morally binding and cannot be easily revoked. Before making these vows, the couple must be very sure that they are prepared to take this significant step which will no doubt set the course for the rest of their lives.