Wedding vows are promises a couple make to each other during their wedding ceremony. Wedding vows are often reflective of various religious practices, but are not legally required for a marriage service, nor are they included in all religious or traditional marriage ceremonies.
In contemporary Western society, wedding vows are a common inclusion in wedding ceremonies, and are generally regarded as the most beautiful, intimate, and heartwarming portion of the ceremony. Spoken aloud from one partner to the other, wedding vows describe the love felt between the couple and voices their intentions—in front of a room full of witnesses—for how they plan to think, feel, and act towards each other during their marriage.
There are many different types of wedding vows to choose from, including varieties for all types of religions and denominations. Couples should consider these three different levels of authorship when thinking about how to approach their wedding vows:
For some couples, the type of wedding ceremony you have will determine the type of wedding vows you can choose from. If you are getting married in a house of worship by a priest, minister, rabbi, or other religious leader, then you may be required to use the traditional marriage vows of that religion. If you choose to have a civil ceremony, however—officiated by a justice of the peace or an individual ordained to perform marriages—then you have more freedom to choose the wedding vows that speak to you.
If you have your heart set on a particular set of vows, or would really love to flex your creative muscles and write your own, but plan to get married in a house of worship (like a church, synagogue, or mosque), talk to your officiant. The policies surrounding wedding vows might not be strict, or he or she may be willing to work with you to come up with an arrangement that feels right for you.
When it comes time to actually choose your wedding vows, sit down with your partner and discuss what types of vows you’re most comfortable with. Look through the examples below, think about the vows you’ve heard at weddings you’ve attended, and decide whether you want to use (or modify) a set of traditional vows or write your own. If you’re modifying traditional vows, draft up a version of the vows you’d like to use and share it with your officiant.
If you decide composing unique wedding vows is for you, read our article on How To Write Your Wedding Vows.
Writing your own wedding vows is a personal decision for every couple. You might love the freedom to express yourselves in your own words, or you might be terrified at the idea of having to put your feelings into words on paper (and then share them with everyone you know). Here are some questions you and your partner should ask each other when deciding whether you should write your own vows:
Based on your responses to the above questions, it should hopefully be clear whether you and your partner are up to the challenge of writing your own personal vows, and whether doing so will help you accomplish your goals for your vow exchange.
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about how long wedding vows should be, but most traditional vows run anywhere from 15 seconds to 1 minute per person. If you’re writing your own vows, remember that what’s most important is what you say, not how long it takes to say it. Whether it takes 30 seconds or 3 minutes, make sure you keep your vows focused on expressing all that you want to share from your heart. This is your moment: don’t cut it short because you’re worried about boring people, but don’t pad it just to take up time.
The most important thing when considering the length of your vows is to make sure your and your partner’s vows are roughly the same length. If you’re working with an officiant on the ceremony script ahead of time, he or she can help provide suggestions to even out your vows so that they match in duraton.
Traditional wedding vows follow a specific format that varies by religion. Reciting the wedding vows (or their equivalent) symbolizes the moment when the couple commits themselves to each other and forms a married union.
Many of the different religious wedding vows below can be recited in a variety of ways:
In Catholic ceremonies, couples will be asked three questions by the priest, to which they answer “yes” or “I will.” They then recite one of the sets of vows below.
__and __, have you come here freely and without reservation to give yourselves to each other in marriage?
Will you honor each other as man and wife for the rest of your lives?
Will you accept children lovingly from God, and bring them up according to the law of Christ and his Church? ...
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 do 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.
These vows are only recited in traditional Russian ceremonies, as other branches of the Orthodox church call for silent vows or prayers.
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.
The closest thing to traditional “vows” in a Hindu wedding ceremony are the Seven Steps (the Saptha Padhi), which the couple take together around a flame to honor the fire god Agni while reciting the following promises:
Let us take the first step to provide for 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 strong, 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.
I,_, take you, _, to be my wife/husband. 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.
I, __, take you, __, to be my wife/husband. To love and cherish, from this day forward, and thereto, I pledge you my trust—for as long as we both shall live.
_, I now take you to be my wedded wife/husband, to live together after God's ordinance in the holy relationship of marriage. I promise to love and comfort you, honor and keep you, and forsaking all others, I will be yours alone as long as we both shall live.
Jewish wedding ceremonies vary from rabbi to rabbi, and between Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative synagogues. Traditionally there are no spoken vows: the exchange of rings is the moment which symbolizes the couple’s commitment to each other. Two prayers are commonly said during the ring exchange, one more religious and one more contemporary:
Haray at mekudeshet lee beh-taba'at zo keh-dat Moshe veh-Yisrael. (English translation: Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel.)
Ani leh-dodee veh-dodee lee. (English translation: I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine.)
In addition to the ring exchange, many Jewish ceremonies also include the Seven Blessings (Sheva Berakhot), which the rabbi will recite. Here’s a translation from Hebrew:
Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, gladden the beloved companions as You gladdened Your creatures in the garden of Eden. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who gladdens this couple. Blessed are You, Adonai, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, loving couples, mirth, glad song, pleasure, delight, love, loving communities, peace, and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard ... the voice of the loving couple, the sound of the their jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the couple to rejoice, one with the other.
We bless God for creating joy and happiness, bride and groom, mirth song, gladness and rejoicing, love and harmony, peace and companionship; and we thank God for letting this bride and groom to rejoice together.
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.
__, I take you as my wife/husband, with your faults and your strengths, as I offer myself to you with my faults and my strengths. I will help you when you need help, and turn to you when I need help. I choose you as the person with whom I will spend my life.
I, __, choose you __ to be my husband/wife, to respect you in your successes and in your failures, to care for you in sickness and in health, to nurture you, and to grow with you throughout the seasons of life.
I, __ give to you, __ my vow of sacred matrimony. I acknowledge our individuality and respect the natural space that will reside comfortably between us. I promise to bridge that space with open communication, silent understanding and heartfelt compassion. I promise to act loving so as to be loving. I promise to love passionately, argue fairly and support you unfailingly. I gladly accept the responsibilities that come with our relationship. I love you and pledge my fidelity all the days of our lives.
Rather than reciting vows, most Muslim couples listen to their officiant (also known as an imam, or cleric) speak about the significances and responsibilities that come with marriage, including their commitment to each other and to Allah. But for those couples who do choose to speak their own vows, they recite something similar to this common passage:
Bride: 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.
While different denominations within the Protestant church have slight variations to their traditional wedding vows, they are all similar to the following basic example. These vows might be the most familiar to many people.
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.
I, __ , take you, __ , to be my wife/husband, and I do promise and covenant, before God and these witnesses, to be your loving and faithful husband/wife in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live.
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.
Will you, __ , have __ to be your wife/husband? Will you love her/him, comfort and keep her/him, and forsaking all others remain true to her/him, as long as you both shall live?
I, __ , take thee, to be my wife/husband, and before God and these witnesses I promise to be a faithful and true husband/wife.
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.
I take you, __ , to be my wife/husband from this day forward, to join with you and share all that is to come, and I promise to be faithful to you until death parts us.
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 parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
__ , wilt thou have this woman/man to be thy wedded wife/husband to live together after God's ordinance in the Holy Estate of matrimony? Wilt thou love her/him? Comfort her/him, honor and keep her/him, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others keep thee only unto her/him as long as you both shall live?
In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee, __ , to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live.
The Unitarian Universalist Church allows its ministers to have their own control in writing wedding ceremonies, including the vows. Most will be similar to traditional Christian vows; here are some variations.
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 cherish always.
__ , 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?
__ and __ , do you pledge to help each other develop and strengthen your hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, enthusiasm, patience, concentration and wisdom as you encounter the inevitable changes, expected and unexpected, welcome and unwelcome in your journey through life together?
__ , 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?
In a Buddhist wedding ceremony, the couple is making a higher pledge to Truth, and thus may create their own wedding vows that reflect their pledge to reach this Truth together. After reciting the first prayer together or reading it silently, the couple then replies to the vows unison when prompted by the wedding officiant.
Today we promise to dedicate ourselves completely to each other with body, mind and speech. In every situation of this life, in wealth or poverty, in health or sickness, in happiness or difficulty, we will work to help each other to develop our hearts and minds, cultivating compassion, generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration and wisdom. As we undergo the various ups and downs of life we will seek to transform them into the path of love, compassion, joy and equanimity. The purpose of our relationship will be to attain enlightenment by perfecting our kindness and compassion towards all beings.
____ and ____, 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?
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? Do you pledge to avoid becoming narrow, closed or opinionated, and to help each other to see various sides of situations?
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 yourselves, each other, and all living beings, to examine your own minds continually and to regard all the mysteries of life with curiosity and joy?
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?
When it comes time to part, do you pledge to look back at your time together with joy-- joy that you met and shared what you have--and acceptance that we cannot hold on to anything forever?
Do you pledge to remember the disadvantages of ignorance, anger and clinging attachment, to apply antidotes when these arise in your minds, and to remember the kindness of all other beings and your connection to them? Do you pledge to work for the welfare of others, with all of your compassion, wisdom and skill?
Do you pledge to work to develop the wisdom understanding the relative functioning nature of things and the wisdom knowing their deeper way of existence that they are empty of inherent existence? And to remember the laws of cause and effect?
Do you pledge day to day, to be patient with yourselves and others, knowing that change comes slowly and gradually, and to seek inspiration from your teachers not to become discouraged?
Do you pledge to continuously strive to remember your own Buddha nature, as well as the Buddha nature of all living beings? To maintain the awareness that all things are temporary, and to remain optimistic that you can achieve your greatest potential and lasting happiness.
Most traditional Native American weddings do not contain a vow exchange, but the following wedding blessings are read aloud to the couple.
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.
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 ask that our union
be warm and glowing with love in our hearts;
We honor wind - and ask 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 and true happiness as
we forever grow young together. Amen.
Fair is the white star of twilight, and the sky clearer
at the day's end, but she is fairer, and she is dearer
She, my heart's friend.
Fair is the white star of twilight, and the moon roving
to the sky's end; but she is fairer, better worth loving
She, my heart's friend.
You are my husband/wife
My feet shall run because of you
My feet shall dance because of you
My heart shall beat because of you
My eyes see because of you
My mind thinks because of you
And I shall love because of you.