Traditional Wedding Vows for the Timeless Couple

Looking to recite traditional wedding vows on your special day? Read on for tips and examples from the Zola team.

By Rachel Varina

Traditional Wedding Vows for the Timeless Couple - couple on train rails
Photo by Unsplash

If, on your wedding day, you want to express your unique story while paying homage to your background, utilizing wedding vows customary for your culture or religion is a great way to tap into tradition.

But crafting these vows isn’t always as easy as picking a passage from a book. Sometimes it takes tweaking and finessing to find words that really resonate. Take your time—this process is a marathon, not a sprint.

And if you’re really feeling stuck, these wedding vow examples can help you get started. Or, take a look at the traditional wedding vows below for more ideas. And always keep in mind: Many modern weddings allow couples to alter the wording slightly to better suit their relationship, so chat with your officiant if you’d like to make any important edits prior to exchanging your “I dos.”

Apache

In Apache tradition, there isn’t normally an exchange of verbal vows. Instead, a beautiful blessing is read to the couple at the wedding ceremony:

“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.”

Baptist

Baptist couples have two options when planning a traditional wedding. Depending on your ceremony, venue, and/or personal preferences, go with whichever version feels best for your wedding day. First, there’s a call and response:

Officiant: "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?"

Bride/Groom: "I will."

Additionally, there’s a short, one-line vow that can be said by both partners:

“I, _, take thee, to be my (wife/husband), and before God and these witnesses, I promise to be a faithful and true (husband/wife).”

Buddhist

The Tibetan Buddhist vows are longer than some other religions, but the beautiful promises create a truly breathtaking ceremony. The couple answers “we do” in unison to the traditional vows read aloud by the officiant:

Officiant:_ 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?”

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 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?”

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."

Catholic

Prior to the actual vows, Catholic couples usually answer (in the form of “yes” or “I will”) three questions asked by the priest:

"_ 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?"

After the questions, the couple then continues onto the wedding vows themselves. These can either be recited, in turn, from memory or can be repeated back to the priest, phrase by phrase:

"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 in health, until death do us part. I will love and honor you all the days of my life."

Traditional Wedding Vows For the Timeless Couple Photo Credit // Unsplash

Cherokee

While Cherokees don’t have an “answer and repeat” style wedding vow, these wedding ceremonies do feature a traditional blessing:

“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 that we sail through life safe and calm as in our fathers' 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.”

Eastern Orthodox

In the Orthodox church, it’s common to utilize silent vows during the ceremony. In the Russian tradition, however, the following traditional marriage vows are spoken aloud:

"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."

Episcopal

While personalized or modified vows are welcome in Episcopal ceremonies, depending on the venue, the language of the wedding itself comes from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer:

"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."

Hindu

Technically there are no "vows" in the Western sense during a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony. Instead, the Saptha Padhi (Seven Steps) around a flame—to honor the fire god, Agni— showcases and binds the promises the couple makes to each other. As they walk around the flame together, they recite the following:

  • 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.
Traditional Wedding Vows For the Timeless Couple Photo Credit // Unsplash

Interfaith

The Living Interfaith Church embraces the teachings of all religions that lead people to seek a life of compassion. If you and your SO come from different backgrounds and want something short and sweet—or want to incorporate non-religious vows into your ceremony—this passage may be a good choice for your wedding:

"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."

Jewish

In a traditional Jewish ceremony, there is no actual exchange of vows; the covenant is said to be implicit in the ritual.

The Jewish wedding ceremony structure varies within Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist synagogues, and also among individual rabbis.

The marriage vow is customarily sealed when the groom places a ring on the bride's finger and says (in English transliteration), "Haray at mekudeshet lee beh-taba'at zo keh-dat Moshe veh-Yisrael," which translates to "Behold, you are consecrated to me with this ring according to the laws of Moses and Israel."

Many Jewish couples today do want to exchange spoken vows, and as such, they are now included in many Reform and Conservative ceremonies.

Reform Vows

"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?"

Conservative Vows

"Do you, __, take ___ to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to love, to honor and to cherish?"

Another version of nontraditional vows is a phrase from the Song of Songs: "Ani leh-dodee veh-dodee lee," which means, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine."

During a traditional Jewish wedding, the couple may say these words (in Hebrew) as they exchange rings:

"I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine."

Along with the ring exchange, they recite the Seven Blessings (Sheva Berakhot). Here's a translated excerpt:

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 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.

Lutheran

Similar to other Christian religions, Lutheran vows are read by the officiant and repeated back by the couple.

“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.”

Methodist

Since Methodist vows are in the form of call and response, the officiant reads the actual vows aloud and the couple responds in turn with “I do.”

Officiant: "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?"

Bride/Groom: "I do."

Muslim

In many traditional Muslim ceremonies, couples don’t recite vows. Instead, the imam (cleric) speaks about the couple's responsibilities to each other and to Allah during the nikah (marriage contract). At the end of this ritual, the couple receives a blessing from the congregation and consents to be married.

If you do choose to recite vows at your Muslim ceremony, here’s a common declaration:

Bride or Groom: "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 husband/wife."

Bride or Groom: "I pledge, in honesty and sincerity, to be for you a faithful and helpful husband/wife."

Non-Denominational

If you’re looking for non-denominational vows that still incorporate a higher power, these can either be memorized and said individually or repeated back to the officiant, in turn, phrase-by-phrase.

"_, 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."

Handfasting Vows

Another option for a secular ceremony utilizes knot-tying as part of the vows. The couple makes a fisherman's knot (that gets tighter with pressure), then says the following, in turn:

“I, _, commit myself to you, _, as (wife/husband) to learn and grow with, to explore and adventure with, to respect you in everything as an equal partner, in the foreknowledge of joy and pain, strength and weariness, direction and doubt, for all the risings and settings of the sun. We tie these knots to symbolize our connection to one another. They represent our trust in each other and our combined strength together.”

Presbyterian

These traditional Presbyterian vows are gorgeous in their simplicity and touch upon the classic lines so many couples have dreamt of saying for a lifetime.

"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."

Protestant

Traditional Protestant wedding vows are the ones most people know from the movies. They can either be memorized or repeated back to the officiant phrase-by-phrase.

"I, _, take thee, _, to be my wedded 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, till death do us part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith."

Quaker

Often referred to as the silent ceremony, traditional Quaker weddings don’t have an officiant or a “giving away of the bride” moment. Instead, everyone worships silently until the couple feels it’s time to say their vows. They then rise together and say:

"In the presence of God and these our friends, I take thee to be my wife/husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live."

Unitarian/Universalist

Known for its universal respect of many faiths, Unitarian vows touch upon some of the classic sentiments seen in Western culture:

"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."